Funky succulents.

Succulent cupcakes

It seems that succulents are trendy. I am appalled. I hate to be trendy. My grandmother was very fond of succulents and cacti. For years I always thought that they were old-fashioned, nasty, pricky, fleshy or spiky things. I love them now, but only after years of gardening. How come all these young, trendy people have decided that they are stylish? I came to love succulents with maturity,  the same way  I acquired a taste for coffee,  oysters, olives and dry white wine. And now they are in vogue and all over Pinterest. They are being used by interior designers and by people who have never tasted oysters, (horticulturally speaking). They are even creeping into wedding bouquets. It’s as if  the presenters of ‘Strictly Come Baking’ (or whatever it’s called; sorry, I don’t have a telly,)  started quoting Proust. It’s discombobulating. I’ll just keep my head down and wait for it to pass. Eventually they will move on to aspidistras or monkey puzzle trees  and we succulent lovers will be able to enjoy our succulents without the awful taint of trendiness.

Agave americana ‘Variegata’ on the right.

My collecting which started a few years ago with variegated agaves is now completely out of control. I first fell for succulents when I saw them growing at Tresco Abbey Gardens where they live outside in the mild climate. Here in East Anglia they have to live in pots.

Succulents. Beth Chatto’s Nursery.

I took the above photo at Beth Chatto’s nursery last year. It is a nice sheltered corner but I don’t think the breeze blocks are the best backdrop. I prefer the way I saw them arranged either side of the shed door at East Ruston  Gardens in Norfolk last year.

They have even planted quite big ones out in the open at East Ruston and I particularly liked this Echeveria planted in the copper pot, it perfectly matches the jade green verdigris.

East Ruston

At Great Dixter succulents and cacti are planted, a little incongruously, in little beds on the Lutyens steps.

I rather liked this planter at Gravetye Manor last year.

My succulents have spent the summer round the shed.


I am not too great on succulent names but here are a few of my favourites.

Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata

Aeonium tabuliforme

Crassula ovata subsp. undulata

Aeonium arboreum ‘Swartkop’

Aeonium arboreum

Aeonium arboreum ‘var. albovariegatum’

Now it is nearly November I daren’t risk leaving them out any longer. And so I have the annual headache of to trying to find room for them all. Every year, of course, the problem gets worse. This is the utility room table, the chef insists he needs it for food preparation. That might be a bit tricky.

And I still have all these in the greenhouse, they will need to come in soon. They are all babies that my niece gave me in the spring. They are growing up fast. Actually, when it comes to succulents my addiction is quite mild compared to hers. She is the Succulent Queen.

Where will it all end? Once the window sills are full I really don’t know what I shall do.  Thank goodness, it will soon be snowdrop time and I will be able to  forget about succulents and start indulging one of my other obsessions. Actually it has already started. Galanthus reginae-olgae has been in bloom for a couple of weeks now…

Galanthus reginae-olgae

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65 Responses to Funky succulents.

  1. Christina says:

    I was listening to Gardeners Question Time (while ironing – one must do something to make it bearable) and they were saying that all the young people who can’t afford to buy property are suddenly making house plants fashionable again after many years, I rather think that succulents and cactus fit in with this trend! I also have a small collection and I used to positively hate them!

  2. March Picker says:

    What a collection! Wow. Can’t wait to see all your snowdrops, too. Amazing that one is blooming already.

  3. Pauline says:

    I have a small collection of succulents, they are so easy to care for, but this time of year means that they have to come in. Up till now they live in the conservatory in the winter, I hope I don’t add too many more as there won’t be room for them !

  4. Kris P says:

    Oh dear, you HAVE caught the bug! Believe it or not, my own obsession with succulents only dates back to our move to our current home less than 7 years ago. I had a just a small number of succulents in our former garden, planted in a narrow border along the driveway, but as I recall that “collection” included all of 2 species. Now, I’d be hard-pressed to identify the genera in my ever-growing collection, much less count the number of species. However, they’re easy plants here, made for our ever-warmer climate and limited rain. Luckily, I don’t have to tote anything inside. But blogger friends in the Pacific Northwest do just that every year. If you haven’t already looked at Loree Bohl’s danger garden blog, you may want to – her October 20th post goes into detail regarding the lengths she goes to protect her babies (and that’s just one post of 4 on the topic).

    • Chloris says:

      I always envy your lovely displays of succulents, I would love to plant them out like you do. I shall just have to enjoy your pictures as I can’t achieve this effect myself.

  5. tonytomeo says:

    Your first few sentences said it all! I HATE trends, but I grow aeoniums in my planter box downtown. They were there just as the trend started, and neighbors told me to plant something with more flowers. (I did not want to carry water.) We all have succulents in our planter boxed now, and some of them are cuttings from mine!

    • Chloris says:

      Do the succulents live all year round in your planter box? I bet they look lovely.

      • tonytomeo says:

        They stall all year, but they get rather tired looking by the end of summer. They are recovering now that we had a little bit of rain. They are getting old enough that I should probably cut them back and groom them.

  6. Maggie says:

    Still giggling. Thank you.

  7. bittster says:

    That’s awfully selfish to insist on using the table for food prep. Surely a cutting board can be balanced on a sink edge or something.
    You really have a mess going on there, but so exciting to have all those new ones! I don’t think I have added any more than two or three or maybe five this year, and hopefully they can handle a little frost tomorrow night since they’re all still sitting outside. I find they tolerate quite dimly lit winter locations as long as they’re cool and only given enough water to keep from drying completely.

    • Chloris says:

      He’s got plenty of surfaces in the kitchen, he really doesn’t need this table. He complains every winter though. Yes, the secret is to keep them dry in winter.

  8. I like succulents. Like you, I acquired my appreciation for them after years of other types of gardening. Succulents are a little tricky in partial sun, although there are varieties that do quite well. Cold climates can make the tricky, too, although a few cold-hardy cactuses, sedums, and other succulents are native here in the north, too. I appreciated your humor with this post–the nerve, that succulents could be considered trendy!

  9. mrsdaffodil says:

    Ha ha. Coffee, oysters, olives and dry white wine – how I laughed when I read that! Love the succulent cupcakes! Altogether, a beautiful and fascinating post.

  10. Bodger says:

    lovely collection, please don’t talk about obsession as if it were a bad thing; without it, we’d never get anything done. Before the conservatory, my cacti spent the winter on a table in a spare bedroom. Guest’s complaining and occasional moans of pain used to last until spring.

  11. Your succulents are perfectly sited in summer around the shed, but I can see winter is tricky. The DIY home stores here sell succulents in the most appalling way, with several planted together in a container and then a top dressing of gravel to finish, but the gravel is glued together and also glued to the sides of the pot. You could hang the containers upside down and nothing would fall out! What horrid thing will they think of next?

    • Chloris says:

      Glued succulents sound awful. Here there are dyed heathers in the shops and I have even seen dyed orchids, you can’t get any worse than dyed orchids.

  12. hb says:

    Excellent post, thank you! I’m wary too of “trendy”, but also love succulent plants (and coffee, olives and dry white wine). Unlike East Anglia, the climate here is almost perfect for them so no protection needed–our 5 year drought devestated the snail and slug population so it will be a few years before that problem reappears.

    I spy a beautiful Aloe on your utility table–marlothii, ferox?

  13. Flighty says:

    A most interesting post and good pictures. I like succulents more than cacti but have never grown either. Maybe one day… xx

  14. Brian Skeys says:

    I think they have become fashionable in the belief that they are low maintenance. You do have a great collection. Would they survive in the window of your very beautiful shed window with a frost stat heater?

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Brian. They are quite easy as they don’t need much water. I have brought them all in now as frost is threatened. They are on every window sill in the house.

  15. Let’s see that makes you the Succulent Princess? I have a Blue Agave you would love, probably 5 feet tall and wide, with inch long thorns tipping each leaf!

    • Chloris says:

      Oh wow, I would love to see your agave. I envy you your warm climate. I thought of you today as I was wrapping up my tree ferns and insulating my greenhouse. How lovely not to have to worry about frost.

  16. lillyandally says:

    Beautiful collection! These photos are my future goals! I have just started looking after my own succulent babies and I hope they turn out like this 🙂

  17. smallsunnygarden says:

    Thank you for the bit of hilarity this morning, Chloris – I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person to panic at the mere thought of being trendy, however unintentionally. 😉 I have always loved succulents (early childhood spent in Los Angeles, where my non-gardening mother still always had at least a Crassula in a pot somewhere). It’s been a struggle here in the desert, as I find only the spiny ones will really survive. Aeoniums and Echeverias melt out; other people have success with Sedum adolphii and such, but not me! I am making up for it with a growing number of Agaves and a still-well-concealed obsession with small Mammillarias: bright blooms, happy with just a bit of shade and water (here) and quite unobtrusive even in their prickles!

  18. Robbie says:

    Good Afternoon from American:-)
    “It’s discombobulating” This sounds like something Mary Poppins would say(sing) to the kids-LOL. I have not been near my computer much these days and this just made me chuckle. Your humor is priceless:-) I have a daughter that has them all over her house on THESE mini shelves dangling in the air. I had no idea it was a trend. I just thought she was creative!

  19. Robbie says:

    America-lol not American—but you know I am not perfect:-)

  20. snowbird says:

    I am appalled, who knew you were trendy? I was going to suggest that the chef gets another table, but we all know what would happen to that, maybe he could chop in your shed?
    I have a monkey puzzle tree, should one worry?
    What an amazing collection you have, you could always send any excess plants to me….just saying! Fabulous post, I did laugh out loud!xxx

    • Chloris says:

      I’m sorry, I’m only trendy by mistake.
      I have to make it clear this is not the kitchen table, he does have plenty of food prep space.
      Nothing wrong with a Monkey Puzzle tree, I bet they will be the next trend. Besides they are rather quirky which suits you.
      In the spring I will send you some succulent babies.

  21. Caro says:

    Now sitting with a big smile on my face after reading this, thank you. I definitely matured into liking succulents (also avocados, mussels – never tasted oysters or snails thank goodness); I have just the one as my indoors is too shady for most plants but am proud to say that my crassula is still alive after nearly 2 years with me!

  22. Very impressive collection. Would the Funky Succulents be a good name for a band? And what kind of music would they play?

    • Chloris says:

      I will suggest the name to the Pianist whose band plays funky 70’s music. It’s probably more appropriate than their name ‘ After Midnight’. As they are all getting on a bit, they have trouble keeping awake after midnight. ‘Funky Succulents’ would be a great name for them. That or ‘Before Tea’.

  23. gardenfancyblog says:

    What an amazing collection — I only have few, so it’s a treat to see so many different kinds all together. It’s nice to have a plant collection that you can enjoy during winter. Best, -Beth

  24. Cathy says:

    I am not as mature as I thought as succulent appreciating hasn’t got to me yet – but I am happy look at other people’s collections, trendy or not. You have visited some great gardens this year but you (8and your neice) in a class of your own with with the number you have 😉 Has the ‘Chef’ stopped playing the piano…? With your collection coming in for the winter you will have to be careful he doesn’t take his pinny off in protest…

  25. John Kingdon says:

    Well I’m not trendy then; happy to be just grumpy 🙂 I don’t see any problem in covering the food preparation table with plants, though. This is why the take-away was invented.

    • Chloris says:

      Take- aways? Oh no, they are not allowed round here. Mind you, if I was left to my own resources I would live on baked beans, but I am married to someone who loves to cook.

  26. Wow, what a collection! I love them, although I don’t think I am very good at looking after them. I especially love your display around the shed. Beautiful!

  27. Chloris says:

    Thank you Gill. They look after themselves really. They don’t need much watering.

  28. Peter/Outlaw says:

    You have an impressive collection of succulents and I love the pictures you shared, especially of the arrangement at East Ruston Gardens. Like you, I was late to appreciate succulents and cacti. However, I still don’t like oysters. Perhaps the youngsters like succulents and cacti because they require little care and can be ignored for the most part. Just last year, a few stores here started carrying macrame plant hangers. Not as elaborate as the ones we used to make with beads and the like but still…

    • Chloris says:

      Goodness, I haven’t seen those macrame things for years. Yes succulents are easy care. The only problem I have found is that echeverias tend to get mealy bug in the winter.

  29. pbmgarden says:

    I’m not such a huge fan of succulents, or I say that until I look more closely at these fascinating structures. Must admit Aeonium arboreum ‘Swartkop’ catches my eye. Is the blue flowering beauty Agapanthus?

    • Chloris says:

      Aeonium Swartkop is a gorgeous, glossy, purple- black colour.
      The blue flowers are agapanthus. I grew them from seed and I got a wonderful range of blues and whites. Some of them have enormous heads.

  30. Anna says:

    A fabulous collection Choris! You have every right to monopolise the utility room table. Next you will you will be telling us that you stratify seeds in the fridge 🙂 Succulents are definitely in vogue just now and not just real life plants. I’ve seen several household items and ornaments (both indoors and outdoors) influenced by them this year.

  31. Chloris, I’m sorry you find yourself ‘on trend’. Quel horreur!
    And since you are a lover of succulents, please tell me: What is it about succulents? Why do you collect them? (You’re so good with colour that I wondered.)
    Finally, I am glad to see the snowdrops. We will have to wait about 4 months to see them bloom here in S. Ontario. Those lucky Vancouverites will see them and everything else much sooner. No wonder I snickered when they got snow long before we did here! (My green-eyed monster is at work. Tee hee…)

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