Author: papasarah

One last California post

Yes, I have even more succulents to share from my trip to California!

Succulents are basically everywhere in California, not just nurseries and gardens. I almost wonder if people who live here get bored of them – but that’s completely unfathomable to a fanatic like myself.

Shortly after our arrival at my aunt-in-law’s house, my husband and I went for a walk to explore the neighborhood. Of course, I only had eyes for the plants.

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This fantastic Echeveria ‘Afterglow’ was sitting in front of someone’s house – just sitting there, looking amazing. Check out those pups in the second photo!

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This humungous aeonium was also planted in a strip in front of someone’s home – notice my husband’s hand and foot for scale. This plant was bigger than our faces, and seemed to be growing like a weed.

This next set of succulents are all growing at the San Juan Capistrano mission.

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xGraptosedum ‘Ghosty’ with blooming Senecio mandraliscae (or ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’)

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xGraptosedum ‘Ghosty’

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A pot of aeonium, jade, xGraptosedum ‘Ghosty’ and ‘Blue Chalk Sticks’

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Some type of echeveria, unknown to me, with beautiful coloring

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More large cacti (I loved the variegated one below)

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Crassula arborescens, commonly known as ‘Silver Dollar Jade’

And, finally, these beauties were growing along the street outside the gift shop. Yes, this is what Californians plant to fill space.

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And that concludes this summer’s trip to California.

Meanwhile, my succulents are sitting beneath artificial lights in my living room…

California Cactus Center

One of our first stops on this summer’s California trip was the California Cactus Center. I had seen the name of this nursery mentioned over and over in the online community, and with it being an hour away from where we were staying I decided it was worth it – I had to see what all the fuss was about.

After about an hour of confusing California driving, we arrived at the cactus center (or rather, missed it and had to turn around at Starbucks), wish list in hand. The parking lot is quite small and the nursery is hidden so it’s easy to miss. When I stepped out of the car, I felt like I’d entered another world. This may be the kind of thing Californians are used to, but it was pretty amazing compared to the 30-ish plant display at my local nursery.

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The next thing to catch my eye was this giant cactus, so large it needed help to stand up with all that weight.

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Then I saw some of the staged arrangements that the cactus center is famous for. These aren’t made to travel, or I might have brought one home with me.

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Then, the nursery tables … rows upon rows of cacti and succulents. Plants were squeezed into every square inch. Most of the large succulents and cacti, the one-of-a-kind specimens were on tables around the perimeter of the nursery. I was focused on the smaller plants that I could mail home (not to mention afford).

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The nursery requires a systematic approach if you want to be sure not to miss anything – there’s just so much.

This plant (below) was the one that got away. I debated getting it and ultimately decided not to, a decision I now regret.

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Here’s what did make it home:

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I had heard rumors that the prices were high at the cactus center, but I didn’t find that to be the case. I paid $66 for this box (the E. ‘Decora’ in the top left is in a one-gallon pot, for size reference), which was far less than I would pay here in Colorado. Perhaps I am simply used to higher prices, since succulents are not common here.

Overall the California Cactus Center was a worthwhile stop, and I’d love to go back. I didn’t see a few of the plants I’d seen in photos from the nursery on the day we went, so I imagine their inventory changes from time to time. I can see myself paying another visit next time we’re in CA!

Sherman Library and Gardens

…a.k.a. succulent heaven.

My husband and I went on a weekend trip to California in July, and his aunt whom we were staying with recommended that we take a visit to the Sherman Library and Gardens, which was only 10 minutes from her house. What we thought would be a quick little stop ended up being the highlight of our trip. Not only were the crepes we had at the garden cafe delicious, we were mesmerized by thousands of perfectly-tended succulents. We were even lucky enough to see many of them in bloom. Even my husband, who generally rolls his eyes at any mention of succulents, was amazed and fully enjoyed the visit.

This post is going to be heavy on the pictures, but I don’t think you’ll mind.

IMG_1052That color…

IMG_1057Those blooms…

IMG_1062Echeveria ‘Perle von Nuernberg’ (I’ve finally learned the proper spelling)

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IMG_1074Echeveria ‘Mexican Giant’

IMG_1076Amazing landscaping…the whole thing was reminiscent of a coral reef

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IMG_1092Echeveria cante in bloom

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IMG_1096Usually I’m not a fan of cacti or non-fleshy succulents, but this monstrose variety was quite eye-catching

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IMG_1100…As were the agaves

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IMG_1104Just look at the size of this one!

IMG_1107Can you spot what’s special about these stairs?

IMG_1109Best. stairs. ever.

At $3 for adults, Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar is about the biggest bargain you’ll find on a California vacation – but the experience (especially for succulent lovers) is worth much more.

For even more photos (yes, there’s more) click this link to view my Flickr album.

Outdoor Setup

One thing I learned last summer is that birds eat succulents. I had decided to put the few succulents I had at that point outside; within a day, some were completely gone, and others had scars and large chunks missing.

At first I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so a stakeout was in order. From inside, looking through my sliding door, I started seeing birds visiting my planters. At first I didn’t think they could be the culprits, but then I saw it – sure enough, they were chomping on my plants.

I did some research into methods of keeping birds away without using a physical barrier. Unfortunately, birds are tricky. They don’t respond to some of the sprays that keep animals like deer and squirrels away (these lovely sprays have a rotten smell meant to mimic the scent of decay, which tricks animals into thinking predators live nearby). One possibility I encountered was using cayenne pepper, but then I read that it can be damaging to animals who inhale it.

In the end, I decided to go the physical barrier route. I didn’t want something that looked haphazard, so I designed a cover to go with a Terrain table that I had fallen in love with, and my always-helpful dad built it.

This is the final product:

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The funny thing is, there were no plant-eating birds this summer. Isn’t that typical? Still, I found myself looooving this cover. Not only does it keep general debris like leaves and branches out of my collection, it protects the plants from the abundance of hail we have had this summer. And, as a final bonus, it keeps most bees out. I realize keeping bees out sounds strange, as gardeners most of us love bees! However, they carry aphids and spider mites, two big pests of succulents that can wipe out an entire collection.

So, basically, this thing is pretty fantastic.

Of course, since purchasing the table I’ve accumulated so many plants that it now holds less than half, so I have to prioritize which plants get the protection of the cover. If that table wasn’t so darn expensive, I’d add another in a heartbeat.

Hopefully I can figure out what to build/buy for the rest of my plants by next spring when things go back outside!

Bad Blogger

Yes, I’ve been a bad blogger. MIA for six months? It’s pretty embarrassing.

A lot has happened. My plants have spent their first glorious summer outside, and the results have been pretty amazing. I wish I could keep them outside year-round, but with the nights getting cool it won’t be long now before they have to come inside. I’m planning a whole new setup for this year (buying grow lights for the first time!) but more on that later.

For now, enjoy these photos of some happy plants:

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Young Echeveria ‘Brink’s Blue’

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Echeveria gigantea

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Echeveria ‘Painted Frills’

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Echeveria lyonsii

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Echeveria ‘Silveron Red’

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Graptopetalum rusbyi

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Pachyphytum oviferum

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Unknown, possibly Pachyveria

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Echeveria ‘Moon Dust’ (lilacina x laui) – This plant was purchased at the CCSS show and can be seen in this post.

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Echeveria ‘Cloud 9’ – You may recall me lusting after this plant in this post.

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Echeveria laui x E. runyonii ‘Topsy Turvy’

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Echeveria imbricata – This plant was also purchased a the CCSS show and can be seen in this post.

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Echeveria simulans

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Echeveria ‘Green Pearl’ – This one was on my wish list for quite a while before I finally found it for sale last month. It is almost identical to Echeveria ‘Perle von Nuernberg’ except for the color.

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Young Echeveria ‘Morning Light’ cuttings

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Echeveria ‘Dusty Rose’

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Graptopetalum amethystinum

These are just a few of the plants from my collection, which has grown to 120 different types!

And, the most exciting summer development – my first blooms:

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Echeveria ‘Van Breen’ getting ready to bloom

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Echeveria runyonii x E. ‘Pinwheel’ also getting ready to bloom

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Echeveria runyonii bloom

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Large bloom stalk on Echeveria subsessilis

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I am experimenting with pollinating my plants; since I have had a max of two plants blooming at one time so far, there’s not much I can do in terms of hybridization. But, it gives me a good chance to try pollinating my hand, and later growing from seed. Keep your eyes out for a pollination tutorial!

I’ve also started my own Flickr account, where you can see my own photos and photos I have “favorited” from other users.

Easter for Adults

Although I am nearing 24 and my husband is nearing 25, my mother still likes to invite us over and give us Easter baskets – and I can’t complain. The gifts are different from what they were when I was growing up. Milk chocolate bunnies have turned into salted dark chocolate bars, while stuffed animals have been replaced with books and gift cards.

One of my gifts this year was a gift card to Home Depot. You might be thinking that I’m going to spend it all on new plants, but I am determined to use it for the boring stuff – soil, perlite, fertilizer – and maybe get some plants if there’s anything left over. We’ll see how this goes once I actually get to the store.

Happy Easter!

Xeric World Forums

I recently found a new homework procrastination tool — another succulent forum! This one, called Xeric World, doesn’t seem to be as active day-to-day as the GardenWeb forum, but there is a wealth of information available from highly experienced growers. In addition, there is a “business” section for sales and sourcing of plants, something I wish GardenWeb had. There also seem to be a lot more Echeveria lovers like myself on this forum, which means I can apply more of the information to my own plants — not to mention ogle other’s Echeveria photos. I’ve even discovered some new hybrids, and possibly a U.S. source for some that I didn’t think could be found in the states!

DSCN2136Echeveria xichuensis / Photo by Matt Maggio

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Colorful Echeveria hybrids — you won’t find these in Colorado! / Photo by Nievesgirl

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Echeveria ‘Cloud 9’ / Photo by Nievesgirl

It’s always exciting to find a new plant resource, and get a chance to learn from the experts. I can only hope one day my collection will look like these!

Plant Photography

When I am on the computer, I often find myself on Flickr user Zusung’s photostream. Zusung has one of the most amazing galleries of rare succulents in pristine condition that I have ever seen. Not only is it visually appealing, the photostream serves as an encyclopedia for many rare hybrids — most can’t be found in the U.S., although one will occasionally pop up on eBay. A little bit of research revealed that most of these hybrids are found mainly in Korea and Australia, which are known to trade with each other but not the rest of the world because of customs regulations.

All of Zusung’s photos are copyrighted, but you can view them here.

Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale

After two months of impatiently waiting, I attended my first cactus and succulent show and sale at the end of March. The Colorado Cactus & Succulent Society organizes a show and sale each year in the spring, which takes place at the Denver Botanic Gardens. When I joined the society, I started receiving newsletters, and first heard about the event in January. I had no idea what to expect, so I tried not to get my hopes up about finding specific plants. Now that the event is over, let me tell you, it was heaven on Earth for succulent fanatics like myself.

I woke up early (6 a.m. on a Saturday – now, that’s dedication) the first day of the show, not wanting to miss my chance at the best plant selection. I arrived at the botanic gardens around 9:30, just after the sale started. I was amazed at how popular the event was – the sale room was packed. The first plant I saw when I entered was Echeveria ‘Pearl von Nurnberg,’ one that’s been on my list for a while, and I was immediately excited.

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The large sale room filled with hundreds of shoppers

“I was amazed at the variety of succulents there are!” said visitor Deb Schmidt, who said her experience with succulents is limited. “And I was also amazed at the number of people–men and women–who attended, and were knowledgeable, and were adding lots of succulents to their collections.”

After about an hour in the sale room, I had a box full of wonderful specimens from sellers who traveled from all over the western U.S. to be at the sale. I spent about twenty minutes in the checkout line, along with just shy of $90. Most of my plants were only a few dollars, but I shelled out more for the rarer Echeveria lauii x ‘Lilacina’ hybrid and Echeveria ‘Cante.’

Here is what came home with me:

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Crassula rogersii

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Sedum ‘Blue Carpet’

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Sedum dasyphyllum

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Echeveria lauii x ‘Lilacina’ hybrid

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Echeveria ‘Cante’

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Echeveria ‘Pearl von Nurnberg’

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Unknown Echeveria (possibly imbricata)

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Sedum ‘Baby Tears’

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Crassula sarmentosa

After loading up my plants in the trunk, it was time to visit the showroom. Some of the plants were extremely rare, some common, but all were expertly grown and amazing to look at. I can only hope that someday my plants will be in such flawless condition.

“Many of the unique plants shown are native to Madagascar, Somalia and South Africa,” said CCSS representative Sara Randall.

“My favorite part was the judged show,” said Jan Toniazzo, who attended the event Saturday. “Some amazing and beautiful plants had been entered. I will go to the show again next year!”

Did I mention I got a free plant just for attending?

I have no doubt I will be back at the show next year! To keep up with developments, “like” the Colorado Cactus & Succulent Society on Facebook.

Sunburn

I’ve had a lot of trouble with my plants not getting enough light, but things went the other direction recently when I moved some plants from a north-facing window to a south-facing window. Apparently, the change in amount and intensity of light was too much for my poor plants, and a few were badly sunburned.

I’ve since returned them to a lower-light area, but I wasn’t able to save about half of my Sedum clavatum:

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My Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf’ also was badly burned, but it hasn’t dropped any leaves (yet).

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Among the other casualties were my Graptoveria ‘Alpenglow’ and Sedeveria ‘Blue Giant.’

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You may also notice a few bite marks on the Graptoveria from when one of my cats decided it looked tasty.

Everything but the Sedum clavatum has started to recover from the burn, although the scars won’t go away until enough growth has occurred to replace the damaged leaves and they fall off…lesson learned.