Last month, the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show delivered its usual spring dose of inspiration. One of the most jaw-dropping exhibits was a huge rotating globe totally covered in succulents. The succulents were grouped in such a way that the different colors represented the continents and oceans. It was magnificent.
I also had the opportunity to attend a lecture on succulent maintenance by Robin Stockwell from Succulent Gardens in Castroville. It turns out, they were the team behind the globe. The finished globe weighs over a ton. The team started planting in late August-early September for the late March show. The globe has about 30,000 cuttings. Someone from his team has sent in paperwork to the Guinness Records organization to see if it might be the largest succulent planting in history.
Aside from the interesting background of the construction of the globe exhibit, Mr. Stockwell gave us many succulent pointers. He suggested a mixture of one part perlite to four parts regular potting mix for a custom succulent potting mixture. He fertilizes with half strength of a balanced fertilizer (he stated it didn't really matter what kind) once a month.
His pruning demonstration led to audible gasps from the crowd as he cut off a lovely Aeonium rosette. He explained that the larger the stem, the longer it would take for the cut to scab over and be ready for planting. He estimated that the piece he had cut would take two weeks before it would be ready to plant. He also suggested cutting the resultant tall stem left on the remaining plant down further so that branching would occur lower down. This cut he advised making at an angle so that water would not accumulate in the cut and lead to rot.
For those of you who didn't make it to the show, Mr. Stockwell mentioned that they are looking into taking the globe on tour. (The logistics of that make my brain spin) Hopefully, in the meantime, the photos will help. I must say though that photos don't do it justice.
I love to go to flower and garden shows. It's fun meeting new plants and seeing what's popular each year. This year's San Francisco Flower and Garden Show was no exception. The most frequent plants we saw in displays this year was the Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo 'Maritima' and various Euphorbias. But after a few years of visiting, I realized there was more to be gotten from the experience. I began paying attention to how they were making everything look so beautiful and tried to pick up gardening and display tips.
This year I was especially impressed with two easy ideas I saw there. The first used old barrel staves (possibly from old wine barrels). They nailed each end of the wooden stave to a wall, so that the stave was horizontal. Because of the natural curve in the stave this gave them just enough space to tuck 4 by 4 inch pots behind it. They put several of these in a vertical column and made a very inexpensive and cute display area.
The next idea is even easier. We all know that mulch is good for our plants,; it helps prevent moisture loss. Some of us may even have tried using stones or gravel as mulch in our potted plants. But these designers took it a step further, and laid out the stones in a pattern. This was a real eye-catcher.
There will be more garden shows coming up, so there will be more to learn.
This time of year I start to get really excited. The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show is coming up; this year it runs from March 21-25. It's been a tradition for my mother and I to go together. Usually we go on a Friday. Some years we run into a group of Solano County Master Gardeners who also have a tradition of going to the show together. I have great memories of the shows.
When I first started going they were at the Cow Palace, their home for many years. I continued to go when they moved to the San Mateo Event Center. Further changes occurred when the management changed hands, but it has continued to be a wonderful experience.
Why go? After all it's a long drive. First of all the exhibits, you will see plants you've never heard of in colors you've never dreamed of. Secondly new ideas for plants you are familiar with, sod and grass roofs, succulent walls, or edibles grown decoratively in your front flower beds. Thirdly, go for the intoxicating experience of being surrounded by people just as enthusiastic about flowers and gardening as you are. Lastly, there is the shopping.
The shopping deserves its own paragraph. There is usually the most wonderful collection of vendors: dahlias, succulents, orchids, drought tolerant, you name it. There are also handy garden tools, garden inspired clothing and jewelry, and garden art. There is just about anything garden related that you can think of. Just touring my back patio reminds me of various years at the flower show. I love my Harry Lauder's Walking stick, Corylus avellana 'Contorta", with it's wonderfully twisted branches. Then there is my weeping pussy willow that I haven't seen elsewhere. Finally there are my wonderful blueberries that are special varieties that can do well this far south. They are wonderfully tasty as well as pretty and in full bloom right now. Who knows what I will find this year; did I mention I was excited?