Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The truculent succulent gardener

Geez, I haven't written a post since December 10. Someone may come and take my garden blogging license away. I have however, been very busy with garden-related things, even though it's the heart of winter.
There're succulents as well as sedum.
I had put zone 5 hardy succulents on all my Christmas and birthday lists for anyone that cared to ask – all both of them. My daughter came through in spades, as well as other family members. Below are some of the plants I got for birthday/Christmas. I also got a gift certificate to Mountain Crest Gardens - an online store for succulents where regular folks can order wholesale trays of hardy succulents.

The one thing that I didn't realize, that I really should have, is that it was not a smart thing to be growing the succulents I had in the frame already in the (relatively) warm basement with grow lights. The helpful horticulturist at Mennes Garden Center had strongly suggested to my daughter and wife that I bring the frame outside, as hens and chicks, and other hardy succulents NEED about 16 weeks of dormancy in cold, minimum-daylight weather. Which, after they told me, makes perfect sense. That's way they are hardy - they need winter! 

As a matter of fact they had to buy dormant Hens & Chicks at this time of year. So what they gave me look pretty unimpressive–but they were also half price!

So I carried the 5'x3'x4" frame full of soil, all 18 tons of it, across the basement, up the stairs, around a corner, and out to where you see it in the top photo. My back still hurts. Beauty is painful.

It ultimately will hang on the house below the window you see in the photo up top. It's the same width as the window. When the weather breaks, I'll find some way to pin them to the frame to root, or maybe even keep the frame flat letting them root for a few weeks in the spring to get firmly attached. I fully expect to have to pin some on once it's up and hanging to fill in spaces.

On the plus side, while bringing it up, only one Hen & Chick fell off, which means they were rotting decently. But now maybe they'll catch up on their winter sleep and be even stronger in spring.
Good contrast in colors for the frame.
Considering they're dormant, they still look pretty good.
I'm hoping there will be a good mix of greens and red hues for the frame.
Many of the beautiful blue-green succulents out there are not the winter-hardy ones.

8 comments:

  1. I'm waiting to find out if the succulents I put in a hypertufa trough are hardy. I brought the trough in for the winter (more worried about the trough than the plants) and it is an unheated room. Below zero temperatures! Not in the room, but it's pretty cold and some of t hose plants look pretty bad. This is the problem with buying plants locally - and the garden center has no more id for them except succulent. Grrrrrrrrr.

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    1. I was nervous two years ago when I left my homemade hypertufa planters outside for the winter, but they made it through fine - two years so far. We were told as long as the Hens & Chicks get 16 weeks of lower light, little water and cool to cold temperatures, they should be fine. And yes, there is little (if any) distinction between succulents in our local stores, especially the Hens & Chicks. Best I guess to seek out a knowledgeable salesperson. This has been a great learning process for me.

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  2. I would lay the frame flat on the ground. Root ball hardiness will be improved. Air temps can get so much colder than planted in the ground temps.

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    1. I've been thinking about that too. I think I will lay it flat in an area where I have the space (it's a small yard - I don't have a lot of space!). But I figure I can lay it down, throw the loose "Chicks" on it as they are, and when the weather breaks early spring, transplant the rest of the plants. I'll keep it flat until the first time I have to "show" my garden on a tour or something. That'll give plenty of time for rooting and adding plants. Thanks for confirming that this is what I should do!

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  3. Love your framed beauties. I am going to try this at home!

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    1. I would love to see what you come up with Gail!

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  4. Everyone I know tries to give away handfuls of hens and chickens. With no luck. Way too many!

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    1. Who are these people? I need names and addresses!

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