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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Everyone Has To Start Somewhere

A little over 2 years ago, my cousin, Anna Zakaria, designer and owner of 4 Surya Garden, sucked me into the succulent world. This piece that she made inspired me so much:

She made everything look easy -- just line something (anything) with coconut fiber (also known as coir), add soil and succulents, and you're good to go. Boy, was that easier said than done. I remember it took me hours to make one of my first pieces. I'm almost embarrassed to show it, but everyone has to start somewhere, and maybe some of the things I learned will inspire you, so you can get sucked in and inspire someone else, so they can get sucked in and inspire someone else, so they can.... well, this can go on forever.

Starting out, I really didn't want to spend too much money on a project I might fail at, because, quite honestly, I'm cheap! I started playing around with succulents that were most readily available (and cheap).

First, there was Sedum dendroidium. I inherited a big patch of it from the previous owner of our home. I mistook it for Jade, but later learned it is actually a Sedum. I am constantly having to cut this back, and after 3 years of it, I find it quite boring. I keep a small patch of it in my garden for sentimental reasons. This is not a frost-hardy plant, but its strong will keeps it from dying, and it's hard to hate a survivor.

Next on my list of readily available and cheap succulents was Sedum rubrotinctum. I always recommend this one to friends in the Bay Area who are new to succulents, because it's frost hardy, can easily be propagated from cuttings and leaves, and since it is relatively common and inexpensive, stress experiments can be done without too much concern about the cost of possibly losing the plant. Stressing succulents is the process of withholding water with increased sun exposure. Here is Sedum rubrotinctum with about 4 hours of morning sun and weekly watering:

...and here it is in a pot, exposed to about 6 hours of full sun, with very infrequent watering (once a month, if at all). A closer look, and you can see small plantlets sprouting from fallen leaves.

Third on my list of succulent firsts is the plant most commonly known as Jade. This is Crassula ovata. It cost me nothing but the gasoline to drive to and from someone's home; a Craigslister who was all too tired of having Jade in his front yard. I found it with pale, green, wrinkled leaves, planted under the shade of some trees. I've stressed this plant to the point of losing quite a bit of foliage, but patience produced vibrant, red margins, and pink, star-like flowers:
I liked the look so much, I purchased the smaller version of Crassula ovata, which is what I used in one of my first arrangements.

So, what was one of the first arrangements produced with these plants? Okay, here it is...
Are you as underwhelmed as I am? Would you believe that someone liked it enough to buy it for her brother? Of course, if I had to do it all over again, I probably would, but, you know what? Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you put your heart into it, someone else will love what you do!

I would love to hear about your Firsts in this wonderful world of succulent plants, and if you haven't started yet, come on and join the fun! Let's stress some succulents, because stressing ourselves out will just give us heartburn.

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