My Plants

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!

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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!

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!

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.

Succulents Taking Over

In case you were curious, this is what my dining room table looks like:

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And, my windowsill: IMG_0542

And don’t even get me started on the upstairs bookshelf.

Needless to say, succulents have taken over my house. The Colorado Cactus & Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale at the Denver Botanic Gardens last weekend didn’t help the situation; I brought home another ten plants. I’m planning a long post about my show and sale experience in a few weeks – it was a fantastic event!

 

Propagation Progress

You may remember when I mentioned a few posts back that some of the leaves fell off the succulents from my first mail order, and I decided to set them aside in hopes of propagating them. I left them on top of some soil, let them dry out and callous over for a few days, and then started misting them every couple of days after that.

Five weeks later, this is how things look:

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My leaves from Pachyphytum hookerii have put out many long, pink roots, while one of my leaves from Graptopetalum paraguayense has formed a plantlet.

I recently added a leaf from one of my favorite plants, Graptoveria ‘Debbi,’ as well as a few from the unknown plant that I posted about in my second identification post, which wasn’t doing very well. Those have only been out for about a week, so no action yet.

A Pleasant Surprise

After my first eBay ordering success, I decided to buy a very rare species I saw a few weeks back – Echeveria colorata ‘Mexican Giant.’ This is known for being a fragile plant, so I wasn’t getting my hopes up about the shape it would be in by the time I received it; I honestly expected to receive something I would have to nurse back to health.

This is what I got instead:

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Echeveria colorata ‘Mexican Giant’

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Pretty impressive, no? It is by far the largest Echeveria I have. I was expecting a starter plant, so I was pretty shocked when I felt the weight of the box. And, in addition to the size, it’s in nearly perfect shape. Twenty-three dollars is also the most I’ve spent on one plant to date, but now that I’ve seen the plant I think it was a steal. I’m so excited about this new addition to my collection!

Shopping: the Flower Bin

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to visit my Mom and go on a shopping trip to her local nursery. They didn’t have a great selection of succulents (a few had mealy bugs, yikes!) but I found a few to take home with me, and even convinced her to buy three plants. It was fun to give my Mom (who knows almost everything about gardening but nothing about succulents) advice.

Here are my purchases:

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1 – Echeveria ‘Aquarius’ hybrid // 2 – Kalanchoe pumila // 3 – Senecio crassissimus // 4 – Kalanchoe tomentosa // 5 – Cotyledon undulata (apologies for the poor iPhone photo quality!)

As mentioned in my parasites post, the Echeveria has some type of ailment; I’m still trying to figure out what that is. It was in a very bad potting mix for succulents (dense and moist), so I’m hoping the repotting and some bright sun will help it bounce back.

First eBay Succulents

As promised, here are some photos of my new echeveria hybrid ‘Princess Blue’ from eBay. I included a picture of the packaging this time, to give you an idea of how bare root plants look when they arrive.

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These plants were in great shape. I love the colors and I think they’re going to be a great addition to my collection.