Hello Summer, My Old Friend: A Tour of My Cactus and Succulent Table

Cactus and Succulents

It’s not a particularly good photo, just a quick snap of some houseplants sitting on a table on my back patio. There’s bits of grit on the table that had been earthed by the squirrels, water rings on the metal table, and volunteer geraniums underneath the bay laurel tree — little messes that I might have fixed had I expected to use this photo publicly… Thinking on that, I don’t think I would. My guiding motto for 2014 is, Embrace the Mess.

Tangents aside, when I happened upon this image while digging through my photo archive it hit me: Here is summer. Hello old friend. Remember when?

Most of these houseplants sit behind me now as I work at my desk. They will live here in the office with me, keeping me company and serving as a small reminder of both the past and the future until about June, when I begin the task of carrying them all downstairs and outside to their summer home in the garden.

From left to right: Sitting on the table beside the bay, which currently lives in my cold(ish) kitchen, there’s an Agave lophantha that is almost hidden between two tender opuntia species. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what either is as I lost their tags long ago. Beside the opuntia is a variegated plant that came to me tagged as variegated Euphorbia canariensis, but I’d swear it is Euphorbia erythraea forma variegata. Sometimes identifying cactus and succulents is a nightmare. Underneath it is another, much smaller variegated euphorbia (Euphorbia mammillaris var. variegata). Beside that is yet ANOTHER weirdo of the Euphorbiaceae family (are we seeing a theme here?), the Medusa Head (Euphorbia flanaganii). Behind it sits the oddball in this group (besides the bay), a dwarf elm (Ulmus parvifolia ‘Seiju’) that I’ve been anxiously keeping alive for the last few years. I did everything wrong in its first year, but it has bounced back in spite of me. This spring I plan to take my chances and plant it out in the garden. That is, if I ever figure out a place where it can go! Incidentally, its tag is also incorrect. Proving once again that it pays to check names against multiple sources. Propped up at the back is a fan aloe (Aloe plicatilis). You probably saw this one just the other day in a post about jade. Over-wintering it in a cold(ish) room is another of this season’s experiments.

Last, but not least, and way back in the corner of the shot is a window box of succulents that I featured here last fall. It is currently residing in my basement. I was too lazy to bother cutting the stems to over-winter, a task that I may have to attend to soon as the plants are becoming a little worse for wear in their winter quarters.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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