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Succulent Extravaganza is almost here and we have a fantastic schedule of events lined up for you! From nursery tours to stellar seminars to demonstration tables and the fabulous free Friday evening Bar-B-Q, you're sure to have an excellent time and learn a lot at this second annual event. For more detailed information, including seminar descriptions, menus, and more, please scroll down to the details section.

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While incorporating succulents into bouquets might be trendy now, this tradition has a long history. I was recently invited to participate in a jointly sponsored program of the Garden Conservancy and the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Debra Prinzing, co-author of the book The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local, Sustainable Flowers, invited me to participate alongside her to add what I could about using succulents in bouquets.

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Seahorse Mural Setting up for the Sunset Celebration Weekend  begins many months before the event. For this year, we created the Seahorse mural specifically for the event during the winter before the event. On Thursday before the event, we load the truck so that at 6 a.m. on Friday the crew can leave the nursery for Sunset headquarters to set up the display. When we arrive at about 7:30 a.m. we look over the area we have been assigned to and begin the set up process. The crew does most of the work while I say "Move this to the left, move that to the right. A little up, a little down." Within about four hours the gazebo is up and ready.

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Talking with people about succulent care or observing succulent care "in the wild" has clearly demonstrated to me some of the confusion that exists throughout the world of horticulture with regard to succulent plants. Just take a walk through garden centers where highly trained nursery people are on staff. Beautifully maintained bedding plants, fruit trees, and a wide variety of ornamental plants abound, perfectly watered, fertilized, and maintained. Then seek out the succulent section. What you'll see are mislabeled, over watered, under watered and in general poorly maintained plants. I puzzled over this for many years as I was asked to help landscape professionals and retailers.

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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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