The mimicry plants known as mesembs are the thespians of the succulent world, mind-blowingly adaptable actors often accustomed to harsh, sun-blasted habitats that receive only a few inches of rain a year. They grow in coarse sand with just their translucent tops showing, enabling sunlight to reach the interior of each plant. The rest is underground, which minimizes exposure to extreme elements.
Autumn has arrived at last. It feels good to be a succulent geek right about now, especially if you have a bunch of plants exiting summer dormancy. Nothing like looking forward to seeing your aeoniums, your senecios, your sempervivums, get a little wild in wintertime. Of course, for those in colder areas, that festival of life will have to be held indoors, in a space blessed with light.
We’d dare say that just about all succulents qualify for some degree of radness, but with this plant we really mean it: Senecio radicans. Hey, as far as botanical names go, that’s a pretty ra—er—cool one.
We succulent geeks are absolute suckers for color, color combos, and colorful oddities.
Leaves with streaks, splotches, mottled patterns of various hues. Whether it’s naturally occurring, encouraged through cultivation, or brought about by seasonal or environmental influences, variegated foliage is like catnip for collectors and gardeners alike.
Consider the eye candy below a tease to a deeper exploration to come at a later date.
…as well as reviewing (and riffing on) some genuine inspirations
One of the neatest parts about becoming a parent is getting to name another human being. You can pretty much seal your child’s fate with a shrewdly befitting (or not especially beneficial) name. We might be overselling that power a bit, true, but plant breeders bear a similar responsibility when naming the cultivated varieties they create.
Old man of the Andes cactus is just one of several hairy species
The cactus family is chock-full of old men and old ladies. Enough so that they deserve their own membership wing in the AARP. Ha, we kid, but the “old …” cacti all share an eye-catching attribute: a coat of protective white hairs. That hairiness, while not of identical density, can make it tough for nonexperts to distinguish individual species from one another. Today, though, we’re singling out one senior cactus in particular: Oreocereus celsianus, aka old man of the Andes. The prefix, Oreo, means “mountain,” from the Greek word oros.
Forgive us if we ever get a bit flowery in our musings about cacti. These plants are often noted for their spiny (not thorny) toughness, but — beyond cactus geeks — probably don’t receive their proper due for all the textures, shapes, and hues they possess. Their satiny, out-of-this-world flowers are some of the most fetching ones on the planet. Alluring reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, whites. Even purple. Some run small while many are certifiably ginormous. (The flowers of Hylocereus undatus — dragon fruit — can exceed 12 inches in length.) Many bloom after dark when other plants have closed up their displays for the night.
Aloe vera. In one moment, this treasured, toothed succulent can claim a piece of your skin. In the next, after suffering something far greater, even if it’s “just a flesh wound” (in Monty Python terms), the aloe can be used to soothe your little owie. How many other plants can do that? (We’ll wait here for an answer before continuing. Or not.)
It’s so enjoyable to hang outside with our fleshy friends that we sometimes forget indoor “succulenting” is totally a thing too. And has been for ages. (For a brief, glorious moment, we thought we had coined that juicy gerund, but no.)
Golden barrel cactus adds rugged depth to the garden
Thank Mother Nature that not all living things are as delicate as us humans. In summer, we pine for anything that cools us off — beaches, pools, lakes, and all matters of covered, artificially cooled rooms. Not golden barrel.