Does the world distract me from my garden or the garden distract me from the world? The balance has been different at various times in my life, so I like that the relationship is flexible. Spending most of my days in the garden now, I’ve recently had a minor epiphany concerning potted plants. This is probably not news to lots of you, but I can be slow at times to break old habits.
With rare exceptions, I’ve always grown potted plants as single specimens, usually mulched with gravel. Last year, without much of a plan, I began filling in the larger containers with excess echeverias from the garden. They multiplied fast and grew pristine and unblemished, and when I was planting up the new gravel garden area, I had a ready supply at hand.
That was all the encouragement I needed. I’ve now become an enthusiastic convert to the idea of filling the base of slow-growing potted plants with small succulents (duh!) — so I’ll have a luxurious amount to spread around the garden in large drifts, an effect I love in mature gardens.
And it’s funny, once an old bias dissolves, all kinds of possibilities open up. Like combining small, slow-growing agaves with cactus, which I did recently when repotting a large myrtillocactus.
My little potted agave treasures? They’re getting the same treatment, like this ‘Rum Runner’ planted at the base of Cussonia spicata. Small, profusely pupping — why not treat them like echeverias when they behave like echeverias?
Those terrestrial bromeliads like dyckias and hechtias I’ve banished from the garden because of their blood-drawing, expansive colony-forming ways? I’ve kept a few individually potted, and they struggle from the neglect that comes when I’m conflicted about a plant. With the new approach, I can appreciate how well this dyckia works with Pilocereus azureus (also neglected) — a juxtaposition I’d include in the garden if I planted such spiny things in the ground, which I generally do not in this very small garden. Who knows, one day there may be puppies roaming the garden again…
With my ‘Gold Star’ beaucarnia needing repotting to a larger size, and having shed the prejudice about keeping the base of the plant covered in only gravel, I indulged in some purposeful plant shopping.
Echeverias ‘Blue Prince’ and ‘New Black’ spoke to me out of dozens of succulents I considered. I want lots more of these propagating in this little nursery at the base of the beaucarnia, away from foot traffic, slugs etc.
So that counts for excitement around here. Of course I’ve been prowling the local nurseries in general, hoping to find the ones that carry stock from Annie’s Annuals flush with new arrivals. Nope — in fact, as far as I can tell, Annie’s Annuals doesn’t appear to be available anywhere locally this year.
I did find one of her plants at International Nursery, this Dombeya burgessiae, because International has the habit of potting up unsold plants and offering them again in bigger sizes the next season. This dombeya has fremontodendron-like leaves, with flowers and bracts that present some interesting brownish-pink tones. It’s a small South African tree that reputedly is fine indefinitely in a container. Maybe I’ll slip in some succulents at its base once I get to know the dombeya a little better.
More scenes from the garden this March:
I’ve been astonished to discover what a good strong vertical presence the giant purple crinum has turned into, like having a year-round, gigantic Eucomis ‘Sparkling Burgundy.’ I guess I assumed it would splay out and lounge and misbehave, but this flea market purchase has turned into gold. I almost prefer it to a dark phormium. Unfortunately, it’s rarely offered at local nurseries and always on the expensive side when it is.
The leaning trunk of the giant dandelion, Sonchus palmensis, is unseen in this photo, but it’s getting near parallel to the ground. With all the wind we’ve been having this March, every morning I expect to wake up to it toppled over — incredibly, it remains upright. It can grow on cliffs and among rocks, so the taproot must be able to handle strong winds. I’ve placed some rocks at its base as insurance, but I’m wondering if I shouldn’t stake it as well.
Leucospermum ‘Tango’ is one of those slow flowers that takes its time to unfold into bloom, a mesmerizing performance. And the flowers last and last in the cool winter temperatures. Quite the contrast to growing flowers in summer, like my cosmos experiment last summer that I doubt I’ll be repeating.
The albucas continue to delight in small containers — they’d get lost in the garden.
And that’s pretty much what I’ve been up to — getting lost in the garden!