Nurseries

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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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.

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.

Succulents on Etsy

My first online ordering experience was such a success that I decided to give it another try. This time I ordered just four plants, from a seller on Etsy. These plants were packaged better than the first batch, so they didn’t lose any leaves or roots. However, they were considerably smaller.

Still, I had been looking for three of these varieties for several weeks, so I’m quite excited to have them. This is what I ordered:IMG_0422 copy

1 – Cotyledon sinus alexandri // 2 – Pachyphytum oviferum (‘Moonstones’) // 3 – Graptopetalum pentandrum superbum // 4 – Pachyveria ‘Exotica’ hybrid

Two of the plants were too small to be potted separately (succulents can die if they are not snug in their pots), so they are together for now. Unfortunately, the Cotyledon doesn’t seem to be doing so well; I hope at least enough of it will survive to eventually grow into a larger plant.

A couple of days ago, a really unique hybrid appeared on eBay and I couldn’t resist. I’ll post pictures when the plants arrive!

Ordering Succulents & Cacti Online

About two weeks ago, I experimented with ordering plants online for the first time. I ordered several plants from a company called Cal Cactus in California. The shipping time was three days, and I was a bit nervous because of the on/off freezing weather we’ve been having. Luckily, the plants arrived at the right time, but I ordered a heat pack to be included in the box just in case.

I didn’t know what to expect from the “bare root” shipping that most online sellers use to keep shipping costs down. It turns out that each plant was wrapped in newspaper, with their roots covered with just enough dirt to protect them from the air. One of the plants lost quite a few leaves, but it had enough left to survive and I can use those that fell off to propagate new plants.

I immediately potted the plants, gave them a little bit of water and put them on my sunniest windowsill. Some had very few roots, so I wanted to get those growing as soon as possible.

Here is what I ordered:

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1 – Sedum dasyphyllum // 2 – Graptopetalum paraguayense (‘Ghost Plant’) // 3 – Echeveria ‘Subsessilis’ hybrid // 4 – Echeveria elegans // 5 – Echeveria ‘Chroma’ hybrid // 6 – Echeveria ‘Lola’ hybrid // 7 – Pilocereus azuerus (blue cactus) // 8 – Pachyphytum hookerii // 9 – Haworthia reinwardtii

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One downside is that I paid as much for shipping as for the plants themselves, but overall I am pleasantly surprised by my first experience.

Oh Home Depot, what have you done?

I made a trip to Home Depot today to pick up some pots for the plants I ordered online, since they are being shipped bare-root. I went in with a mission to avoid looking at their plants in case they had succulents, but they were right there when I walked through the door! I didn’t stand a chance.

It turns out they’ve made some changes, and the plants looked very healthy. I remember seeing a few succulents at Home Depot a couple of years back, wrapped in plastic and looking not-so-happy and beginning to rot. This time, they had hundreds of varieties, not wrapped in plastic — and looking quite happy. They even included species names on the labels, instead of the usual “assorted succulent” you’d find at a big box store.

So, I decided I could give a few of them a chance and see how they did. This is what I came home with:
photo(2) copy1 – Sedum clavatum // 2 – Sedeveria ‘Sorrento’ hybrid // 3 – Echeveria haageana // 4 – Sedeveria ‘Alpenglow’ hybrid // 5 – Crassula tetragona // 6 – Mini “blue chalk fingers” // 7 – Sedeveria ‘Blue Giant’ hybrid // 8 – Pachyveria ‘Blue Pearl’ hybrid // 9 – Sedeveria ‘Blue Elf’ hybrid

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I already had plans to order most of these types, but now I won’t have to pay for shipping! I can’t wait for the warm weather to start so I can get these potted. For now, they’re going into quarantine (just in case).

Shopping Trip: Fort Collins Nursery

I couldn’t wait any longer to get my hands on some succulents for this spring, so I made a trip to the Fort Collins Nursery, the biggest nursery in my town. I loved this store – it has got to be the cleanest, most well organized nursery I’ve been to, and the staff was incredibly friendly. I didn’t find a ton of the succulents I was after – it seems like they specialize more in the hardy varieties that can be grown outdoors year-round in Colorado, such as sempervivums and agaves, not the exotics I was after, but what I did find were very healthy-looking plants for a great price. They did have a few of the more exotic echeverias, including some ruffled varieties and the Perle Von Nurnberg, just not the specific ones I was after. Here is what I came home with:

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1 – Senecio mandraliscae // 2 – Sedum nussbaumerianum // 3 – Crassula rupestris //4 – Echeveria runyonii “Topsy Turvy” // 5 – Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi // 6 – Sedum pachyphyllum // 7 – Euphorbia horrida (cactus)

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Since I couldn’t find everything I was looking for, I placed an online order for nine more plants when I got home. I’ll post photos as soon as they arrive!

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I also picked up some supplies for a new potting mix I’m going to try once the growing season starts. The perlite is supposed to help with drainage, which cacti and succulents need a lot of, and the diatomaceous earth helps control pests. I’m hoping it will prevent another mealy bug outbreak like the one I had a couple of weeks back – but more on that later.