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.
I spent Saturday doing hardcore gardening work including prepping the fire-escape windowboxes for planting. On Sunday afternoon I purchased a few plants for the boxes and decided to get them planted up rather than wait for additional plants. Check out what I found buried by our friendly neighbourhood squirrel:
A sign of the times. Last year peanuts, this year an entire slice of pizza!
I know it was a new addition because not only was it still intact but I had just dug that spot yesterday. There was also evidence of squirrel digging on the other side of the box.
The location of the squirrel pizza.
Growing succulents in the window box on the fire escape portion of my rooftop garden has become a tradition — most likely because they are just about the only plants that can survive the intense sun, heat, and drought. The deck is fully exposed to all sorts of harsh conditions but the fire escape area takes it to another level with black metal railings that absorb the sun’s rays throughout the day. And of course I had to go and make it worse by installing a galvanized metal window box to boot.
I try and mix up the plantings every year with the one requirement that the plants can survive. Plants that make it through both the summer and winter are given an easy retirement in less sunny pastures. I was shocked to discover a lavender from last year’s box still kicking it this spring.
From the Front:
Clockwise from right front: Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’, a sedum that keeps coming up all over the place, Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, Sedum acre ‘Golden Acre’, Sempervivum, Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’. Hidden Behind: Sempervivum and Sedum album ‘Coral Carpet.
From the Side:
Previous Boxes: 2005, 2004.
Future Boxes: 2007