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Category Archives: Garden Blog

Introducing fresh (made up) references for cultivar names…

…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.

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This old man, he plays it cool

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.

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Celebrating the flowery side of cacti

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.

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Aloes: striking exteriors, soothing interiors

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.)

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Don’t be shy about expressing love of succulents indoors

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.)

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Explore this golden-yellow sphere’s galaxy

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.

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Altman Plants team members display their plant geekery

We’re thrilled to share the creative chops of the four winners of the first Altman Plants team photo contest. We challenged our colleagues to submit images that captured nature being awesome in whatever way they could find, whether in and around their homes or while out and about, and they came through big time. In the case of this fab four, that could be of a hummingbird zipping around for nourishment or of a quiet moment with a rose bush in the rain. Of a living wall of succulent colors and textures or of a backyard space transformation. 

Accompanying the four photos below are the stories behind them, in the words of our coworkers. View all of the winners’ submissions here.

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This lineup of crassulas is stacked

There is so much to adore about succulents — we can’t even begin to count all the ways — but this week we want to highlight a crew of ornamentals that just can’t help but be showoffs: “stacked” crassulas. And we love them for that, their penchant for fancifulness: forms resembling spirals, pendants, pagodas, or just un-plain, goofy vertical.

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Have stretched-out succulents? Treat them to more light

Stretching generally has a positive connotation when it comes to us human beings, especially in the realm of physical fitness. Or when we get to splay out on the sand or poolside for some deserved chillaxation. With succulents, though, not so much. A stretched plant is a light-deprived plant. All that stretching robs the plant of its attractive, natural, compact form. Light deprivation also prevents plants from exhibiting their full chroma potential. Instead, leaves become pale and possibly yellowed, as if suffering from chlorosis.

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Succulents to keep you company during shady respites

It’s summer (news flash!) and sometimes we just want to hide. From the sun. That fiery sphere serves a noble purpose, of course, but occasional time apart is healthy. Our succulent pals, though, we always want close by…even when in shady-friendly spots.

Even if not necessarily lovers of deep shade, aeoniums can relate, as they are also susceptible to sunburns, as well as leaf curling, when overly exposed. They have a distinctive, daisy-like appearance. The leaves can vary in color from black to rose to green to yellow. The rosettes grow on the ends of stems that, depending on the variety, may be a quarter inch or more in diameter. We should all take a cue from these diversely hued succulents that like nothing more during summer than to chill. They perk up in winter to spring, when the weather is cooler and on the damper side.

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