Succulent Infatuation

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Sempervivum 'Faramir' hen and chicks hardy succulent with violet pink leaves
Drought tolerant hen and chicks hardy succulent Sempervivum 'Sir William Lawrence' with maroon tipped leaf
Hardy succulent Sempervivum ‘Sir William Lawrence”

Succulents on the brain.  I have just signed-up to join other succulent crazies at the annual Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens in Watsonville, CA Sept. 25 and 26.  More later as details unfold, but I went to Facebook to find a succulent group and immediately found Succulent Infatuation.

Noticing so many photos on the site are in moderate climates, and as a way of introducing myself, I picked these 5 photos from my Hardy Succulents book, specifically ones photographed in the East Coast.  In planning the book and at the urging of my co-author Gwen Kelaidis, I made a pilgrimage there to see John Spain’s garden in Connecticut, legendary rock garden expert who was supposed to have a good collection of succulents in his garden.

Aloe suprafoliata at Meadowbrook Nursery, Pennsylvania
Aloe suprafoliata at Meadowbrook Nursery, Pennsylvania

Gwen had not seen John’s garden in a long time, and since he was ‘getting on in years’, we didn’t really know what to expect.  I was in luck.  Not only was John plenty fit and the garden a delight, he had just spread 5 tons of fresh gravel.  He had hired a young man in the neighborhood to help, but the work was too hard for the kid, who left after one day.  John finished.

Sempervivum 'Faramir' hen and chicks hardy succulent with violet pink leaves
Sempervivum ‘Faramir’ hen and chicks hardy succulent

John led me to other gardens in Pennsylvania and Delaware, to other rock gardeners who loved succulents – even one who grew tall cactus in his sunroom in the winter and brought them into a rock garden he recreated every year.

Cactus in Joe Grusczak garden, Connecticut
Cactus under rock in containers in Grusczak garden, Connecticut

I learned that many succulents can handle cold temperatures, being hardy in more northern climes than I expected, but wet feet was a bigger hazard to hardiness.  Good drainage is almost more important than protection from cold for having success in growing succulents.

Hardy cactus Opuntia imbricata in Delaware garden
Hardy cactus Opuntia imbricata in Thyrum garden Delaware.

I sell autograph copies of Hardy Succulents in the Store and have a collection of canvas prints from the book called the Green Wall.

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