Introduction

Will these plants grow for me in my garden or house? How big will they grow and will they flower? These common questions are asked at one time or another by every gardener. With succulents the answer is simple. They can and will grow and flower for anybody, but not everywhere. What makes for successful succulent gardening is experimentation, one key to success. It is not uncommon to have gardeners trial plants in their garden for their suitability, at times just moving them from place to place to determine the best results. Garden conditions in this book may be similar to your own and help as a guide in determining what plants will most likely succeed in your garden.

Worldwide, where frosts are not too severe or regular, many species of succulents can be grown in the garden. Places include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the southern areas of the USA and Europe. Gardeners worldwide have always been trying to grow plants that may not exactly suit their climate. They are challenged by trying and testing plants to their limits. Those who persevere with experimentation will quickly find their way with succulents. Though many are very hardy and easy, there are just as many that can be difficult and very challenging. A book on how to grow succulents which gives detailed growing information about each plant would require far too numerous regional versions to suit all the different geographical regions of the world. We would rather, as with this book, explore some of the wonderful examples of successful succulent gardening, based on experimentation and common sense gardening techniques. Other literature on how to grow cactus and succulents is easy to find, just visit any public library. Closer inspection and comparison of several of these books may expose contradictions, because each author is biased by his or her personal knowledge and experience which will often be limited to only one country.

Simple answers often do not work. For example, we might recommend that a plant needs a sunny window sill as with lithops ('living stones'). One person's sunny window sill may be totally different to another. How many hours of sun does the window sill get? Two hours, three or maybe more? Is it morning

Success can be as simple as choosing ihe right plant for the right spot. This Echeveria 'Afterglow' is unattended and growing well in full sun.

Success can be as simple as choosing ihe right plant for the right spot. This Echeveria 'Afterglow' is unattended and growing well in full sun.

£ Where and how people use succulents can be very imaginative, often going beyond what most gardening books recommend. Here a mixture of smaller rosette succulents fills the spacings between concrete steps.

sun, midday or late afternoon? Midday sun which exceeds two hours can even kill lithops. If lithops are in small black plastic pots (which will absorb more heat than other coloured pots), the midday sun as well as the afternoon sun can be harmful. Are there any trees or greenery outside the window that may shade or soften the incoming light and heat? The size of the window and window edging, the presence of curtains, the type of glass, and ventilation can make the difference between success and failure. Common sense and an awareness of your own unique growing conditions are much more important than the information on a plant tag or a nurseryperson's advice.

So what about the garden? Do any of the same complex problems exist here? They do, though the garden is a more natural environment for any plant than indoor situations, making it far easier to be successful. It would be fair to say that all plants will do better outdoors than indoors. Where over 80% of all indoor plants purchased will most likely have died within 12 months, over 80% of all garden plants purchased will probably have survived, often having improved in appearance and size. Some succulents have the highest survival rates of any plants whether kept indoors or out.

Aside from experimentation, there are many ways by which people seek to learn about succulents and their care. Often they visit their local nursery or garden centre for plants and advice. Many people who have ventured down this path have found it well short of their expectations. The range of plants available in many garden centres is

£ Where and how people use succulents can be very imaginative, often going beyond what most gardening books recommend. Here a mixture of smaller rosette succulents fills the spacings between concrete steps.

TRODUCTION

Used in modern garden design, the common, old-fashioned Echeveria imbricata is given a new lease of life when planted imaginatively with other plants. Above is a large Aloe arborescens embracing two rosettes of Echeveria imbricata. Another use for E imbricata is shown on the opposite page.

often poor and just as often what is available may not be in the very best of health, and advice, while appreciated, is often lacking in experience or depth of knowledge.

Another common method used to learn about succulents is to buy or borrow a book as a reference work for guidance on names and varieties. Use any cultural advice within all books cautiously! In which country was the book written? Are the conditions for growing them the same as in your country? Are the plants listed in the book available in your area? Often succulent books, with all good intentions, list many plants that are very new, hard to obtain, or rare. As you turn the pages and see something that catches your eye and imagination, you may want one. Often photographs of plants do not have a scale that lets the reader know how big it is or how it grows. Many succulent lovers have fallen prey to photographs of attractive plants only to be disappointed later.

We recommend that gardeners take a walk down streets in their area, look into gardens and see what does and does not grow well. It will not take long before you find succulents of some sort, especially in established suburbs. If it is a nice day, you may well be lucky to catch a gardener in his or her version of paradise. Don't be shy! Gardeners are often good talkers who love to chat (and boast!) about their plants. The local knowledge from such gardeners will be invaluable in saving you a lot of trial and error. Another good way of gaining insight into succulents and their culture is to visit or join a local garden club. Most city councils will be able to help you locate one. Internet listings of clubs and societies in your area can also be tried. Garden clubs and societies are very helpful, even if you do not join but go along to a few meetings with a list of questions. Someone there will have most of the answers or at least know of a gardener who does. They can recommend locally hardy types of succulents and the location of the nearest reputable succulent supplier. Members often bring along spare cuttings to sell or give away. After one or two visits to a meeting you may even want to join up for a year's membership.

The best way of all to enjoy and access succulents, as well as good reliable information about them, is to track down a succulent society. They are not hard to find, and if there is not one where you live, you can still do as many members have and correspond by mail or e-mail. Succulent society members are a treasure trove of information and love to share their interest with like-minded people. If a plant is in a book, and it is available, society members will know where to get it. Succulent society meetings usually have plants for sale at very reasonable prices and also have very good libraries.

Successful growers seem to have a personal relationship with their plants. They read their plants almost like a book by noting the slight changes that succulents exhibit. In early spring shrunken plant bodies begin to swell and sprout shoots. In response to these signs, a good gardener may fertilise and provide

What happens when an old garden is abandoned? While most plants perish, some succulents seem to last forever. These Aloe Jerox still grace the front of this now empty house.

extra water. These succulents usually reward the care giver with good growth and flowers. To feel the soil for dryness, to observe the weather and be vigilant for pests and diseases is not a chore for gardeners who enjoy gardening.

Each and every garden will reflect its own unique limitations as well as opportunities and challenges. In the following chapters, we will look at gardeners who have seen the opportunities and met the challenges. Each of their gardens is very different from the next. This reflects two main points, the individuality of the creative gardener and the garden's unique conditions. While some gardens in this book are on a grand scale covering several acres, others are smaller and one is a diminutive courtyard.

The larger the garden available, the larger the plants that can be grown. It also allows for faster and larger growing varieties to be used. The gardeners who have less room, being closer to a large city, have focused more on the smaller decorative rosette succulents such as echeverias and sedums. It is interesting to note that these smaller gardens are all very tactile in nature and hence people friendly. The larger country gardens seem to have spinier, more dangerous looking types of succulents.

The variety of gardens chosen for this book reflect the garden types that are commonly found in many parts of the world: seaside, suburban, inner city courtyard, small farm, country hillside and hot dry country. What each of these gardeners can grow well in their unique situation may not grow as well in, or suit, one of the others.

While some succulent types can be found in several gardens, most of the gardeners have gathered their own selection of preferred plants which works well for them. A great deal of useful information and many interesting ideas can be drawn from looking closely at how and why these gardens are created and maintained. You will find ideas for problem areas in the garden such as dry areas, under trees, sally and sandy soil, windy-areas, bushfire prone areas, small gardens, shallow soil, steep slopes and bare embankments.

It is one thing for us to talk about all the great virtues of using succulents in the gardens as we have done in our first two books, and another thing altogether to present real life situations as we have done in this book. The gardens in this book are all private gardens, created by the toil of the owners themselves. No caretaker or landscaper consulted, used or needed. Common sense and practicality led these gardeners to develop an interest in succulents.

So why are all these gardeners now so excited about succulents? Because they 'work'. It can be as simple as that.

Sedum morganianum in a hanging basket. Even the experts and their books do not always know how a plant will grow. S. morganianum is said to grow to 1 m in length and yet here the stems are well over twice that length.

Climate extremes

Gardeners have always been challenging plants to perform in their unique climates, at times with extremes that really test both plant and gardener. Here we look at two examples. One is the wet tropics, the other a very cold and wet climate. It is common practice in colder and wetter parts of the world for gardeners to be vigilant when plants are small, covering them from the cold. This is more important in the first year of establishment in the garden. The closer to the ground, the more severe the frost damage will be. As plants increase in size and age they naturally increase their ability to survive without extra care. Where cold climate conditions are harsher still, sensitive succulents, as with some bulbs, are lifted from the ground in autumn and stored in dry places like a shed until spring.

« Singapore Botanical Gardens has a sun rockery in which many succulents can be found growing well. The tropical heat, humidity and rainfall pose their own special problems. Prior to seeing this for ourselves, we would not have recommended growing succulents in the wet tropics.

¿•Yuccas, agaves and sun hardy bromeliads such as Annanui comosum variegaium blend well together in the Singapore Botanical Gardens. To the right is a large Euphorbia laclea with some Casteria species underneath its dense canopy. To the left and centre front is Yucca aloifolia. In the background right is Agave angusti/olia variegata.

11 A raised garden bed of mixed sempervivum species with a central planting of Aloe ansíala.

England has very cold winters with short daylight hours, frequent rain and even snow. This is the same planting as in the above picture; now snow covered after a mid-winter snowstorm.

* Agave americana under snow cover. Only extremely wet and boggy conditions seem to trouble these tough plants.

(Photos on this page by Neville Bell from Glenhursl Cactus Nursery. UK.)

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  • Pedro Bishop
    Which nursery in singapore is selling lithops?
    8 years ago

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