March 21, 2010

My First Succulent Container Garden

Home alone—at least one container garden won't need watering and tending when I go away on vacation. Reading Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin inspired me to create my first project.

Not having prior experience beyond garden sedums, I decided to try a simple design and use an existing container.

For my project, I went to Big Bloomers Flower Farm in Sanford, North Carolina where I found a selection of succulents that are suitable for zone 7, with good drainage and full sun. I can overwinter the container on my front porch where the winter sun warms up the stone floor.

Using a terracotta container that stays on my outdoor teak dining table for three seasons, I chose a rustic color scheme. The sempervivum 'Red Rubin' and 'Icicle' echo the rust-burgundy colors of the weathering on the pot. The sempervivum, aka 'Hens and Chicks' are suitable for zones 3-9.

The emerald green agave bracteosa 'Calamar' works for zones 7-10 and is spineless and compact. Spineless meaning that you won't be injured by any sharp spiny agave points. It is underplanted with green sedum tetractinum that is hardy down to zone 5.

My original plan was to use the agave and sedum in a round, green-glazed pot so that the agave will have space to grow over the next year. It will mature at 2 feet—too large for the present home. However, since I underestimated the size of the terracotta container and didn't have enough sempervivum, the agave is temporarily in the same pot (for this story). Debra is careful to address fitting the size of the plants with the size of the pot.

I will do some rearranging of the plants after my next visit to the nursery so that the tabletop arrangement is all sempervivum—a design that I love in Debra's book. Sempervivum will multiply and the offspring can be separated from the mother plant.

Using Debra's very clear instructions for planting, I made a mix of potting soil and perlite from one of the "recipes" that she provided. After planting, there was soil and perlite on the plants, so I used a soft artist's brush to gently sweep away the debris. I carefully watered the soil.

According to Debra, the succulents should last about two weeks between waterings—enough time for me to slip away on vacation. I won't have to phone home to see if these plants are still alive!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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