Suc­cu­lents

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES -

With lit­tle time to fuss and some­times a smaller space to work with, it seems like a no-brainer for a busy per­son to opt for plants that eas­ily adapt to an indoor en­vi­ron­ment but also thrive out­doors in the sum­mer­time on a bal­cony or small pa­tio. Trudel de­scribes her­self as a suc­cu­lent ad­dict and has plans to start a green­house and mail-or­der busi­ness. Like most gar­den­ers, she started out with tra­di­tional con­tain­ers to house her col­lec­tion. As her col­lec­tion grew, she evolved to up­cy­cled and re­pur­posed ob­jects, sourced at thrift stores and vin­tage shops. Trudel has ex­per­i­mented with cre­at­ing suc­cu­lent-scapes in ev­ery­thing from gravy boats to pitch­ers. Ex­po­sure on Etsy, an e-com­merce web­site, cre­ated de­mand for her por­ta­ble, minia­ture de­signs and her own web­site, www.prairiesuc­cu­lents.com, soon fol­lowed. When I dropped into FLASH, a pop-up hand­made and vin­tage bou­tique at the cor­ner of Graham Av­enue and Vaughan Street that is car­ry­ing Trudel’s suc­cu­lent cre­ations, I iden­ti­fied my favourite in­stantly — a small wooden trea­sure chest, a study in de­tail, its lid opened to re­veal a mix of suc­cu­lents art­fully ar­ranged with ev­ery ap­pear­ance of gem­stones spilling out. While there are many in­ter­est­ing and un­usual kinds of suc­cu­lents, the most eas­ily avail­able and com­mon types are the Echev­e­rias and Sem­per­vivums. Within these gen­era there are count­less va­ri­eties from which to choose, in a wide range of forms and colours. If you have ever ad­mired a rose in bloom, then you will noted a cer­tain sim­i­lar­ity in form, if not in tex­ture, in the echev­e­ria rosette. With near per­fect sym­me­try, the fleshy leaves of the echev­e­ria are ar­ranged in rows of fat, over­lap­ping lay­ers. Echev­e­ria, though, is as tough as the rose bloom is frag­ile. When work­ing in your gar­den, have you ever ac­ci­den­tally dis­lodged one of the small baby rosettes from a sem­per­vivum, ei­ther with your foot or a gar­den tool? It can eas­ily hap­pen, but just as eas­ily the sep­a­rated suc­cu­lent can be stuck back in the ground to start anew. Sem­per­vivum tec­to­rum is more com­monly known as hens and chicks. In Latin, sem­per means for­ever and vivum means to live. Tec­to­rum means ‘of roofs’ be­cause they were of­ten planted in early times on the tiled roofs of ru­ral homes in Europe in the be­lief they could ward off fires and light­ning strikes. This long-lived plant (more than 15 years) is also called house leeks. The cen­tral rosette is the hen sur­rounded by smaller off­sets, or chicks. Trudel har­vests the chicks or off­sets, gen­tly teas­ing them from the par­ent plant along with their roots, then com­bines them into her de­signs to­gether with echev­e­rias as well as a range of suc­cu­lent va­ri­eties such as cras­sula, se­dum, kalan­choe and hawarthia. Trudel has ex­per­i­mented with var­i­ous soil medi­ums for grow­ing suc­cu­lents, pre­fer­ring Billy Q cac­tus pot­ting soil, which con­sists of dif­fer­ent ra­tios of sand and com­post as well as min­er­als, in­clud­ing glacial rock dust to im­prove health and bring out the best colour. For­mu­lated lo­cally by Red River Soils, a whole­sale op­er­a­tion, Billy Q is avail­able at True-Value Hard­ware stores. Trudel mists at the base of the suc­cu­lents once a week with a spray bot­tle. For the hol­i­days, Trudel sug­gests cre­at­ing a wreath that can be hung on an in­te­rior wall or door or laid flat for a ta­blescape. Where should you be­gin? Start by se­lect­ing your suc­cu­lents, then de­cide if you will fill a wire frame with sphag­num moss or if you will use a frame that has al­ready been packed with green or beige moss. In prepa­ra­tion for dec­o­rat­ing your wreath, be­gin by cut­ting stem sec­tions two to four cm in length, re­mov­ing lower leaves. How many will you need? Trudel has used up to 200 cut­tings for a sin­gle wreath. Fewer cut­tings are needed if you are only plan­ning to dec­o­rate a por­tion of the wreath. Lay out your cut­tings for at least 48 hours to let the cut end es­tab­lish a cal­lus. Al­low­ing the cut­tings to form a cal­lus, or thin layer of cells, is a crit­i­cal step prior to root­ing the cut­tings into the moss. Oth­er­wise, the cut­tings will be sus­cep­ti­ble to root rot. Next, soak sphag­num moss and pack it into a wire frame, se­cur­ing the moss with fish line, then drain off the ex­cess wa­ter. Trudel says it is eas­ier to work with the frame when the moss is wet. If you are us­ing a ready-made frame, it too should be soaked first. Ex­per­i­ment with ar­rang­ing your suc­cu­lent cut­tings into the de­sign you pre­fer, then poke a small hole into the moss us­ing ei­ther a pen­cil or scis­sors and insert the suc­cu­lent stem. Tuck moss into the hole to se­cure the stem or use flo­ral pins to se­cure the lower leaves, en­sur­ing the pins over­lap the leaf rather than punc­tur­ing it. Punc­tured suc­cu­lents will be­gin to rot after a cou­ple of weeks if mois­ture seeps into the wound. To main­tain your wreath, rec­om­mends Trudel, mist with a spray bot­tle or soak it in a sink or tub for a few min­utes once ev­ery two weeks. For hang­ing on a door, Trudel likes to use a large echev­e­ria rosette as a fo­cal point. Echev­e­ria needs more bright light than cras­sula or jade and will be­gin to stretch and get lanky if the light is not ad­e­quate. Although there are some suc­cu­lents that are more tol­er­ant of low light lev­els, such as ha­wor­thia (Faschi­ata Suc­cu­lent Ze­bra), most suc­cu­lents will show a richer blush­ing in bright light. Sea­sonal el­e­ments such as sprays of red ber­ries or tiny pine cones can be in­cor­po­rated into the wreath. Lay the wreath flat for about five to six weeks un­til cut­tings have fully rooted. Trudel adds a can­dle to the cen­tre of the wreath for an at­trac­tive liv­ing cen­tre­piece, one that will only be­come even more beau­ti­ful as the suc­cu­lents ma­ture. Lori Van der Meer owns Van der Meer Gar­den Cen­tre in Île-desChênes. On a visit to her green­house in spring, I was struck by her col­lec­tion of suc­cu­lents, many of which she has pot­ted into a va­ri­ety of con­tain­ers. She has a rich va­ri­ety of older suc­cu­lents, ideal for har­vest­ing cut­tings or cre­at­ing dis­plays with in­stant drama. While there, I fell in love with an iron metal dress form, about 142 cm tall in­clud­ing the stand, and plan to dress it in plants next spring. For now it stands in one of my flowerbeds, wear­ing only a string of faux pearls. Van der Meer, though, has dressed one of her dress forms for the hol­i­days in a stun­ning ar­range­ment of suc­cu­lents. With a love for piec­ing to­gether dif­fer­ent fab­rics into colour­ful quilts, Van der Meer has as­sem­bled a mix of echev­e­rias and hens and chicks into a rich ta­pes­try of colours and tex­tures. While suc­cu­lents adorn the bodice and waist, fresh greens con­sti­tute the skirt. Start­ing with land­scape fab­ric which Van der Meer sewed into a pouch in or­der to cre­ate a bib-like form for the bodice, she then filled the pouch with Pro-Mix cac­tus mix, then wa­tered it thor­oughly. Work­ing with a large area to cover, Van der Meer chose more ma­ture suc­cu­lents. The large rosette ef­fect of the blue-green echev­e­ria, some in pale dusty rose, and the size vari­a­tions of low-grow­ing hens and chicks in dark pur­ple and shades of green com­bine for a fab­u­lous, fem­i­nine art form that could even sub­sti­tute for a unique, styl­ized Christ­mas tree. The dis­play should last about two to three years, says Van der Meer, pro­vid­ing it isn’t over­wa­tered. The hens and chicks will send out side run­ners and will need trim­ming from time to time.

PRAIRIE SUC­CU­LENTS PHOTO

Suc­cu­lents root eas­ily in sphag­num moss or cac­tus pot­ting mix­ture. Use sphag­num moss with wreaths. Chartreuse coloured

rein­deer moss ac­cents the mix of suc­cu­lents on this rus­tic grapevine wreath.

PRAIRIE SUC­CU­LENTS PHOTO

So dainty, this minia­ture cre­ation in a china teacup will fit any space.

PRAIRIE SUC­CU­LENTS PHOTO

This hol­i­day wreath has been planted with jade and cras­sula, both suc­cu­lents that

are suited to low light. A can­dle is the per­fect sea­sonal ac­cent.

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