7.31.2009

Flora Grubb and Her Marvelous Succulents

I know I'm not the only one to be so mightily impressed by Flora Grubb, but I have to say-man! She is cool. I am all a-twitter. (The old-fashioned kind.) Since we are planning on stopping by her nursery digs (ha ha) tomorrow in San Francisco, I decided to have a rummage through her website.
And wow. I mean, the things she does with succulents! In the beginning of my gardening career I admit to being pretty ambivalent about plants of the fleshy-leaf variety. I think I just classified them under Spiny/Pokey/Flabby and sort of moved on, horticulturally. After all, I did grow up in California in the 70's and 80's-a time in which xeriscaping meant landscapes full of terra cotta pots shaped like animals, stuffed with hen & chicks, aloe and the ubiquitous and hideously flabbiferous jade plant. (Driftwood as a planting medium was also a requirement.) When I met B he was still smarting under the wounds of growing up in Salinas in the 1970's, he still winces when he hears wind chimes. Somehow tied up in that is a revulsion for all things succulent. And for a while I was inclined to agree.

But my heart has changed towards them, thanks mainly to an eye-opening horticulture class at our local junior college. My succulent admiration began innocently enough, learning about CAM, Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, which is a system of carbon fixation in some plants (but mostly unique to succulents.) Most plants open their stomata (cells on the undersides of leaves that act as pores, taking in carbon dioxide, letting out oxygen & water which are by-products of photosynthesis) during the day. Succulents open their stomata at night, when the heat is less. Very efficient.
And then I began to notice the beauty of the sedums, aeoniums and echeverias. Aeonium zwartkopf & its fabulous Dr. Seussiness. I began to love their surfaces, both glaucus and shiny, mottled and clear; as well as their stunning forays into the colors green, burgundy and grey. I began to look closer, and to discover the amazing symmetry of each leaf and its precise placement along the stem; each positioned so that none covered another, radiating out so that everyone received the optimum amount of sunlight. I was fascinated/repulsed by the weirdness of lithops, the aptly named living stone plant, which actually contains a partially or completely translucent top surface (a sort of window) allowing light to enter the interior of the leaves for photosynthesis. Another bit of protection for these plants that grow in harsh desert climes.
I now think most succulents are totally groovy, and this area is really one of the few places where B and I diverge in taste (besides his strange affinities for seafood, Aplets & Cotlets (he made me link it), and Ron Paul.)

At the Abbey Garden I've decided to redo some of the pots, taking out some of the things that are getting baked to a crisp, and replacing them with some of our CAM friends; I'm thinking sedums rowleyanus and morganianum, respectively. Any other suggestions?
But oh yes, Flora Grubb! I'll post pics after our visit......

2 comments:

Esther Montgomery said...

Interesting. I am going on a parallel journey - though I'm not as far down the road as you.

I've always liked lithops and, the other day, I saw a Sedum Capo Blanco in a magazine. I immediately wanted one. I've never wanted anything of the kind before.

On the other hand . . . I still like wind chimes.

Esther
Esther's Boring Garden Blog

Katie Hund said...

I too love succulents! I never liked them up until a few years ago when I started to notice the beauty of their symmetry. Thanks for this post!

(i love the mother of pearls little guys--great for pots!)

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.