Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Succulents, succulent gardens and terrariums are ba-aaack - like an apparition from my younger days.  Whoever said what goes around comes around certainly knew what they were talking about.  Perhaps there really is nothing new in the world, just do overs in a slightly different way.  Maybe it's new containers, different colors, but in the end it's the same.  Really.  It's just the same.

Like riding a bicycle, it all comes back in a hurry.  The how to's that is.  Two weeks ago I was making macrame hangers, something I thought I would never do again.   Today, I planted succulent gardens.  Yes, I did.  The methodology, it's still the same.   Succulents don't change, but I certainly have.   Almost 40 years have passed since I did some of these things.  Unbelievable.

Anyway, I have always had a real passion for the desert since my first visit to Arizona at the age of 11. There was something about the whole look of cacti, sand, rock and mountains that stole my heart.  At one time, I had a yard full of prickly pear cactus, yucca plants and lots of succulents.  And then of course, we moved and things changed.  Now, it's almost full circle and I am back to succulent gardens only this time for table tops.  They are much easier to plant.

Any of you out there fans of West Elm?    Their store is full to the brim with terrarium projects, succulent plants and all kinds of interesting pottery and beautiful containers.   It makes my heart skip a beat to go in there, but everything is waaaaay over my budget.  So, I cruised the store, studied what was there and headed out to where I knew I could find some more affordable items that would fit my budget and still give me a look that I wanted.

First, check out your local garden centers, Home Depot and Lowe's garden centers for succulent plants.  One small plant was over $7.00 at West Elm and I was able to buy a 4 pack at Lowe's for $4.97 which made each plant about $1.25 instead of $7.00.  That is a major score and savings for the old pocket book.  You can also get a bag of play sand to mix with your potting soil for very little at Lowe's or Home Depot.  

Containers were the next thing on my list.  I really wanted a long, narrow zinc type tray to make my garden in.  Could I find one?  No way.  So, I was combing through Pier One and I found this metal candle holder that I knew would work.   I simply had to drill some drainage holes in the bottom before planting.  Drainage is very important for succulents.

Next, I mixed potting soil and play sand in a 50/50 ratio to give the soil good drainage.  Remember, most succulents grow naturally in very arid conditions.  They don't like wet feet.  Shallow containers also work very well for succulent gardens.

Fill the container with the soil mixture leaving room so that the soil will not overflow when watered.  Carefully remove the plants from their pots and place them where you want them.  Make sure to fill in between  and all around the plants, slightly pressing the soil down to hold them in place.  Then, you want some kind of "top dressing" like rocks, shells, or sea glass.  You can buy bags of river rock, shells or sea glass at the Dollar Tree.  I also had some pea gravel left from landscaping my "secret garden."
Top dressing makes the garden look more professional and interesting.
There are a wide variety of plants with different kinds of leaves, textures and colors.  Don't be afraid to mix them for interest.

I used a clear bowl that I already had for this garden.
First, I put a layer of pea gravel, then a layer of sand and then the 50/50 soil mixture before planting these lovely "hens and chicks."  The bowl was finished with some top dressing.  I love the colors of this one.
I used 3 red ramekin bowls I found at Big Lots for $1.00 each.   I planted them and placed them around the umbrella pole on our patio table.  Excellent.
I had a good sized jade plant that I had gotten some time ago and planted it in a white zinc pail that I had.  I left the plant in the pot, put it inside the pail and covered it with the 50/50 soil mixture and some pea gravel for top dressing.
Now, here's the important part.  Succulents like very bright light, but full sun can harm them.  All of mine are under tables, eaves or an umbrella where they are protected from full sun.  Also, in the summer you want to lightly water them often because that is when they store water for the winter season.  In the winter, bring them in and give them bright light but only water them about every other month.  Succulents should never stand in water!

After I took this picture, I decided I didn't like the round bowl on top of the table, so I moved it under the table with the jade plant.  I put the jade plant to the back left, and the bowl to the front and right.  That left the long garden on the table top and I liked it much better that way.  Don't be afraid to move things around until you like what you see.  That's part of the fun.

The deck is just about finished.  The wrought iron table and chairs need their annual coat of paint and there are probably some new cushion covers to be made and then I am done.  Well, I say that but somehow I am never done.

Next, I will give you an update on some new additions to the "secret garden" I recently posted about which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and maybe give you an idea or two for your garden.   These beautiful spring days make my mind whir non-stop with ideas.   Does spring do that to you?  Gotta love spring!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

"Gardening is the purest of human pleasures." -- Francis Bacon

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