Over the years, I’ve made a tradition of both putting together a new succulent window box idea every spring, and posting about it here. Since planting up this year’s box a few months ago, I’ve been taking photos as a prelude to a write-up here. But just when I begin to write, something in the box changes and I convince myself the box is even better and requires new photos. Now that I have broken my digital camera and am in gear purgatory I will just have to settle for the last batch of images and write this thing up already.
Sun-loving and exceptionally drought-tolerant succulents are just about the only plants that can survive the growing season slugging it out in a window box on my painfully hot and dry fire escape. I grow sun loving plants in larger containers on the fire escape as well but the succulents are the only plants that can withstand a day or more without attention and a long drink of water. They are hardy too, some like the ‘Goldmoss Stonecrop’ have been living in the same box for four seasons straight surviving straight through our cold, sporadic city winters. Many assume that because succulents are easy that they are also boring yet mine put on a good show, growing, draping, evolving with the seasons, changing colours, and eventually producing wacky alien-like flower forms.
From the Front (Photographed in May):
Clockwise from right front: Goldmoss Stonecrop (Sedum acre), Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Sedum spurium Probably ‘Red Carpet’ , Sempervivum ‘Pacific Sexy’, Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’, Sedum sieboldii
That’s good ole’ Hens and Chicks to me and you.
When budgeting for plants I keep a mental list of plants I would not pay more than 3 bucks for. Plants like basil, oregano, thyme, sedums tend to fall into this category. And most especially hens and chicks. In fact I don’t think I’ve paid more than 2 bucks for a puffy container of these reliable and mega-easy succulents.
But with a name like ‘Pacific Sexy’ I couldn’t NOT fork out the $7.99 + applicable taxes for this little number. Because, HELLO, it’s name is ‘Pacific Sexy.’ And it sparkles an iridescent red when the light hits just so. And by “just so” I mean after 10 minutes of tilting and adjusting. Plus it makes a mean cappuccino and feeds the cat when we’re away.
Next time I’ll just name the 2 dollar variety ‘Hot Baby Disco’ and save the 6 bucks.
I have a great deal to tell you about the gardening I have been doing over the past weeks. But before I can do that the marginally anal retentive side of me demands that I address my appearance on The National last night. The segment was arranged at the last minute and we had not yet done our seasonal clean-up so there was winter junk strewn about. I had hoped the camera guy could do some “creative” in-camera editing but knew that probably wasn’t the case since he was using a very wide lens. When he walked over to the far end of the deck to take shots of the whole thing I knew my dirty secret was blown and that viewers across Canada would see that sometimes my little rooftop oasis looks like crap! And I imagined that they watched the segment and thought to themselves why go to the trouble when it looks so awful.
In an effort to ever-so-slightly redeem myself in the eyes of the world I present to you photographic evidence that a rooftop container garden IS a beautiful thing.
You can see lots more pictures taken of the rooftop garden over the years on my Flickr account.
Okay so the succulents are half-dead and it’s actually a corny window display for a glasses store but this shallow Plexiglas planter box found while walking through Portland, Oregon is at heart a good idea. Shallow-rooted succulents like hens and chicks would do well in a container like this — the store owner just didn’t realize that easy-care doesn’t mean, “Ignore it and it will take care of itself.”
I’m not 100% positive as to how this was made but my guess would be that the maker very simply glued together some cut pieces of Plexiglas with water-proof silicone. You would need to apply the silicone both inside and outside of the seams to seal it tight.
The biggest issue with a project like this is the lack of drainage which can be easily fixed by drilling a few holes in the bottom. Or if you’re growing indoors where water dripping all over the place is a teeny, tiny problem then you can put some aquarium gravel in the bottom as a reservoir and take care not to overdo it when watering.
I’m currently in Northern California for the Blogher Conference. I’ve been to these parts once before but the massiveness of the plants, most especially the invasives really stand out this time.
I assumed this patch of renegade nasturtiums was a random fluke. Until I turned the corner. And the next one. And the next. And then I saw the hillside covered in nasturtium flowers of every colour with leaves the size of dinner plates. No one warned me that here in California nasturtiums will have you for breakfast.
This is what happens when radishes roam free — all plant no radish. At least the flowers are tasty.
I will admit that I did notice the fennel last time. It’s hard not to since the stuff is everywhere! First I came upon this fennel forest and then I noticed….
…BLACKBERRIES! I proceeded to gorge myself on the ripest of which there were many. And by many I mean enough to keep the multitudes bloated on blackberry pie. There have been past discussions on the forums describing the impenetrable invasiveness of blackberries in the North West. I want you all to know that I get it now. For real.
You have to see how jade grows in Southern Ontario to understand why this scene is such a marvel. Our sad little plants live in sad little pots on window ledges where they remain sad, and little for decades.
I have to admit that it was a 1997 trip to San Francisco that first inched geraniums off of my hit list. Until that point I was only familar with the pathetic little annuals peddled through school fundraisers and shotgun planted into every maple leaf motifed public garden across Ontario. These twisty, tangled sculptures are a whole lot more interesting.
The first thing I would do with a garden in this climate is grow a HUGE rosemary bush. Even the snails that eat the rosemary bushes are cool.
Aeoniums rate high on my list of favourite succulents so to find one this beautiful and in bloom no-less was a huge thrill.