What drives a perfectly respectable grandmother, homing in on a plant in a perfect stranger’s garden, to sneak “just a leaf” and surreptitiously stash it in her handbag? Why must my friend obsessively trawl through garage sale offerings, searching for rusty old pots and pans, old china teacups? Why would a grown woman give individual names to her plants? The answer is, in a word, “succulents”! And I’m with these succulent fanatics 100 per cent!
So what’s going on with succulents? What’s so special about them?
Most ornamental plant types are valued as objects either individually, or as part of a whole garden or landscape. They are beautiful, or interesting, or architectural. Gardeners nurture them and are rewarded with the visual and other delights inherent in the plants themselves.
Succulents have additional, unique qualities that somehow bring about a more intense relationship between the plant and the gardener. Succulents have “character” which powerfully motivates people to interact with them in particularly creative ways, and to express their own personalities.
Ease of propagation and incredible diversity of unusual and eccentric colours and forms, make succulents the perfect vehicles for creativity and drives the impulse to “collect”. You can do things with succulents that you can’t do with most other plants. You can make a garden of tiny jewel-like plants, in a teacup, on your window sill. You can grow silver-grey varieties an old rusty bread tin in the harsh sun and say “this is beautiful”.
Succulents can be readily handled, too, and their smooth, plump (yes, succulent) leaves can make some varieties look almost like tiny creatures from another world.
The succulent collection at Hazelgrove, at Kandos in central western NSW, is a great example of the creativity that succulents can evoke.
Tucked away in a sun-drenched courtyard adjoining the house, the combination of concrete, succulents and rusted iron and steel makes for a bold and dramatic effect.
What I love most about succulents is the way they don’t seem to take a backward step. They revel in harsh climates, and display their best colours when they’re stressed.
Succulents are definitely “on the wild side” of the plant kingdom, and succulent lovers are a bit that way themselves!