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I think my first experience displaying plants at the flower and garden show was 2004. I had just completed the first 11 months of setting up the new Growing Grounds and had no idea what to expect. I decided to commit to a certain size booth and then set a goal to produce what I would need to stock it during the five days of the show. Once I decided to participate in the show, the next problem was logistics. How do I get the plants to the show and restock on a daily basis? My good friend Ron Michelson of Half Moon Bay Nursery, www.hmbnursery.com, offered to let me use a section of greenhouse to stage extra plant material. I rented a U-Haul box truck and boxed up all of the plants so that I could move them in an un-shelved truck, and designed a wooden structure to display the plants at the Cow Palace.

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My interest in gardening vertically began in the late 1970’s, when I created a redwood box for hanging on a wall once planted with succulents. I called this a living picture/mural.  That interest has grown over the past several years, with ambitious projects such as the now famous “Cube” for the Organic Mechanics’ gold-medal winning display at the 2010 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.

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Summer has arrived! Right after Sunset Celebration I took a short trip to San Jose del Cabo, at a surf break called the Rock. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, and were in the water at 5pm. My first wave of the trip was a disaster when someone lost his board as I was riding by. Three stitches in my shin, two days out of the water and I was good to go. The plants were hanging out back home, as only succulents can do, and didn't suffer in the least while I was away!

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There is a fair amount of information out there on this very special plant, sometimes referred to as Drakensburg Aloe (or more commonly Spiral Aloe) so I won’t go into all the details. Aloe polyphylla has become more readily available since the advent of tissue culturing difficult-to-propagate plants. Tissue culture is the propagation of plants as “test tube babies” or cloning. For plants that seldom flower, or require many years to reach flowering maturity, tissue culture is used to speed up the process. Plants that might not come true from seed, or are not easy to propagate from cuttings are also good candidates for tissue culture.

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One of my goals when creating our nursery in Castroville was to build an inventory that gives me lots of flexibility when designing and installing succulent landscapes and container gardens. Availability of material is critical to the realization of any landscape project. Whether creating my own design, or working with a professional who needs material for their own project, availability of desired varieties in sizes and numbers necessary, is critical to any project’s success.

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In order to garden successfully with plants growing on a wall, it is important to recognize the difference from traditional gardening. I never thought about gardening on the ground or in pots as gardening horizontally, but that is exactly what you are doing. Of course there are variations in the slope, but by and large, traditional gardening has been horizontal. Succulent plants are often found growing on cliffs in the crevices of rocks or on the cliff edges, clinging to what soil they can find purchase in. This ability to eke out a living in little soil makes them pretty good candidates for vertical gardening.

 

Shop for Living Pictures and Living Picture Kits here>>

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Succulents are well suited to being grouped with other low-water plants in containers.

"Succulents are the conservationists of the plant world"
— Robin Stockwell

  1. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.
  2. Care instructions for succulents are often generalizations and awareness of the needs of individual varieties will usually result in better results.
  3. Succulents are low maintenance, not no maintenance.

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