Succulents are having a moment. A fairly extended moment, which means garden designers writers are really reaching for ways to use them. October’s pumpkin-as-succulent-container craze was a perfect example of this; I personally am gobsmacked that anyone has the discretionary time, especially at this time of the year, to fiddle with floral pins and sphagnum moss. Though they do look pretty cool, and if anyone wants to make me one, I’m up for it.But it is certainly great proof of how succulents will adapt to all kinds of creative situations; they’re a great artist’s tool. Too, succulents will adjust to just about any container, which means if you’re the kind of person who can’t say no to a thrift-store find of a rusty Dutch oven or delicate teacup, you’re in luck.
Now you can justify your habit because you can stuff succulent trimmings into your treasures; they’ll take root and flow down the sides, and people will admire your panache. If you want more crafty ideas for using succulents, set yourself up a Pintrest board and prepare to be amazed.
In addition to these qualities, of course, succulents are also becoming more widely used both in landscapes and containers because of their relatively modest needs (good drainage; occasional water). They’re really like the perfect dinner party guest—they quickly make themselves at home, they get along with just about everyone, and they’re not high maintenance. But here’s the real reason I like succulents, and invite many to live with me: They’re forgiving. Really, really forgiving. I like that in a relationship.
You see, just because I write a gardening blog doesn’t mean I can always spend a lot of time gardening. In fact, in the whole month of October I am not sure I saw my own backyard more than twice, due to work demands and the usual shot-from-cannons pace of 21st-century life. So succulents, which overlook my lapses of memory and failures to carry out my own good intentions, are the perfect garden partner for me.
If you haven’t had a lot of experience with succulents, let me show you what I mean. Here’s one of my patio pots planted with aeonium “Schwarzkopf.” Because it’s in full sun, on a stone wall and inconveniently far from a spigot, this pot often suffers from a double whammy of heat and neglect. So when I did wander out a couple of weeks ago to see if the backyard was still there, the aeonium looked like this: I was not alarmed; I just whisked by it on my way to something else. And normally I would go right on ignoring it, because I know it can wait, and other things in the garden needed my attention, but it occurred to me that I could use this to dramatically demonstrate the Lazarus-like qualities of succulents. So I took the picture above, and then went and got the dog’s water bucket. I dumped the water over the pot, and came back the next day.
I don’t mean to suggest that succulents can be ignored with no consequences. Drought and heat will alter their appearance. But here’s the thing—I can live with that. Sometimes the stressed look is actually cooler than the healthy look. As soon as they’re watered again, either by rainfall (what does that look like again? I’ve forgotten) or via the occasional dog bowl, all is forgiven. The past is forgotten, and you’re moving forward. And you can do this over and over again, and the succulent will never hold a grudge. If only all relationships were so elastic.
So if your life includes long stretches of chaos, intense activity, or any other distractions which divert you from your gardening, consider succulents. Adaptable, self-sufficient, easy to ignore, and always forgiving—they’re the perfect partner in a gardening relationship.