Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Cactus and Succulent Show at ZBG!

Today I got to go to the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society plant show and sale! First of all, I must say that the Zilker Botanical Gardens is very lush and beautiful right now (especially after the bit of rain we got mid-morning). It was quite wonderful to stroll the winding paths with my husband this damp Sunday afternoon.

Here is what I learned:
Most succulent varieties are drought tolerant and cold-hardy if planted outdoors (look for varieties that come from climates similar to Texas).
Cacti and succulents like to be fertilized regularly in spring. Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents says he uses 20-20-20 fertilizer or fish emulsion. Seaweed works great too!
Top dress your potted succulents with pebbles or hardwood mulch.

In my latest experiments I've concluded that it is best to leave your succulent in its pot when using in a "dry" terrarium. Succulents need a combination of soil, sand and perlite to thrive in their environment. They tend to get sad over time if planted in sand alone. It also makes it easier to re-pot your succulent as it grows. You can add it right back into the terrarium once you're done! Look for a post on assembling a terrarium kit to illustrate this better soon. It is also a good idea to thin any "pups" and pot those separately for future terrariums.

If you find yourself drawn to the strange and awesome world of succulent plants, be sure to check out The Austin Cactus and Succulent Society website and their upcoming events. Their next scheduled sale will be Labor Day weekend.

Here is a recipe I've found for making your own succulent potting soil:
2 parts coarse sand
2 parts good-quality potting soil (I like Vortex Potting Mix from The Natural Gardener)
1 part perlite, vermiculite or pebbles (perlite and vermiculite are not considered organic as they do not break down organically, but I'm OK with that)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Organisms under glass

Most of my friends and family have recently been gifted a terrarium I've made. What may seem generous on the surface is actually, sort of, not. When I first began all of this, earlier this year, I needed an experimental group of people to "test" my product on. A focus group, if you will. You see, most people say, "I can't keep a plant alive," or "I'm really good at killing plants." Pish-posh, I say. Now, I know for certain that those people can keep a plant alive because I gave them one, and they did. Terrariums are the perfect thing for those who have such little faith in their plant-care abilities.

This is an example of a "dry" terrarium (or a desertarium, really). Succulents are a pretty big deal, at the moment as they are very easy to care for and they look so cool! Oh, the variety! Oh, the oddities! They really make a statement. I've seen them used in so many ways from wreaths to wedding bouquets. I wish I had thought of that...

This one became a birthday gift to a very good friend of mine last February. It is a beautiful specimen of Echeveria, "Topsy-turvy" (right) and Sempervivum (left). I made its home from a small brandy glass my mom had given me (I hoard glass now, for obvious reasons). It is rooted in fine, white sand and adorned with chartreuse reindeer moss (aka, lichen) and some tiny shells. It has a "beachy" feel to it. 
After almost two months, this specimen is still quite happy in its home. 

Tip: Spritzing the sides of the glass with a spray bottle will help keep the glass clean-looking and the water will seep down to the root systems slowly, which is the best way to water succulents. You can also spray the plant itself to give it a little shower and keep it looking nice, too. Click on the "Terrarium Care" section for more info.