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Hi applejacks, and happy Thursday.

Have you ever gotten really, really excited about something, thinking it was special, only to find out the situation was the opposite of what you imagined? No? Huh, funny, that happens to me a lot. Note to self: Find a good therapist.

Most of you know I’ve been obsessing over vertical gardens and living wall art for the last several months. I can’t get enough. So I’m growing several of them now – they’re horizontal until the root system gets strong enough to support them hanging on a wall. I’m using a variety of succulents mostly – they are thriving.

Or so I thought. A few weeks ago, I excitedly showed you the Hens and Chicks (sempervi) that I added to a garden I was making specially for myself. They looked like this:

I thought it was awesome that as soon as I separated some of them out to go into my vertical garden, they started growing funny. Like this:

Up, up and away! I was thrilled. I was captivated. I was sure that this was something special.

Nnnnnnnnnnhhhhhhh! Wrong.

Well, not entirely. It is gorgeous, a very flashy display. I feel honored to see it – I’ve never seen a bloom from a semp. But the plants are all in the throes of death. This is their last dance. That’s not exactly the type of special for which I was hoping.

I kinda already knew something was wrong. One of the semps I added to my original vertical garden, immediately went limp. I felt it, and honestly, it was gross – it felt like a skinny little carcass. I got the sense that it was dead, but I kept tending for it, and over the following days, it twisted and contorted and grew taller and taller until finally it began to bloom profusely.

I forgot my misgivings and became so proud – I’d turned that little guy’s life around! He wanted to live – what else could blossoms mean?

Uh, well, imminent death, actually. Claude was the first to say something, “Liza… that’s a sempevivum, and semps, like agave, die after blooming… however, by this time they should have produced many offsets, which is why you should only buy and plant smaller semps. They have to be 2 or 3 years old before they bloom, and that gives them plenty of time to produce ‘chicks’ before they bloom.”

I was crushed – I thought they were supposed to live forever. I couldn’t wrap my little brain around the fact the the one little cluster of semps that I picked out from the nursery were all now committing mass suicide. At my house! What did I do?

On Tuesday, I went back to the nursery where the semps came from, twice, to find out from them if what Claude said was true – were these enthusiastic plants dying? Let’s just say, both times were unpleasant. It’s not entirely one party’s fault – it was hot, and I was annoyed that all but one of their employees took their lunch break at the same time. That nursery is always busy, but especially at lunchtime – good businesses need to learn to stagger their lunch times (are listening, banks?). Take a cue from restaurants and staff up during busy times, sheesh. Anyway, I wasn’t all that patient, but the guy I spoke with was rude. He wasn’t listening, he was irritated by my presence and my questions. He called some colleague, the “so-called expert,” who said definitively that semps were not like Agaves, which flower then die. What I wanted to say was, “But Claude said they are like Agaves. Are you doubting him, because he’s an expert, too?” But I didn’t say that. The expert guy was busy, the guy I’d interrupted from lunch was staring at me with eyes glazed over, so I left.

Went home, got the blooming plants, and went back, with the same question on my mind. Are these guys dying? I said in my Tuesday post that I’d update you. Well, on the second visit, I was assured by “expert guy” that semps don’t die after they flower. The way he said it, I could tell his day was not going the way he wanted. He was locked into that answer. I was the dumbass for even questioning his authority. Whatever.

I don’t know for sure, for sure yet, but he’s wrong. For one, I have more experts in my corner¹ than he does. Here’s what mr_subjunctive from Plants Are the Strangest People said:

“Cactus Blog has said the same thing, semi-recently. (I think I saw their post about it one day before you posted about yours, actually. For a while there, someone was posting about blooming Sempervivums every time I went on-line.) I didn’t say anything because it’s not like there was anything you could do about it either way, and you seemed so happy. . . .

The “I know this because I’m so much smarter than you” tone of voice seems to be something that happens to people once they’ve worked a certain length of time in a garden center / nursery / whatever. Don’t take it personally.”

Haha, he was right, I was ecstatic – blooms on little chick? I thought I was the bomb!

Another expert chimed in, Peter from the aforerefrenced Cactus Blog, commented:

“Sad to let you know, but they will definitely die after they bloom. The reason they are called Sempervivums, i.e. latin for “Live Forever” is because they form a colony that can live, well, a long time. The cycle goes like this – each rosette lives 3 to 5 years, and then blooms and dies, surrounded by lots of other baby chicks long before then. So you have a colony of these rosettes and every year, 1/3 to 1/5 of them shoot up bloom stalks – very pretty! (If you like them).

Now probably the reason yours are blooming now when the store’s plants are not is because you divided them. The larger rosettes decided this year was their last shot to produce seed so they bloomed under stress and now it’s your job to help them along by hand pollinating (just kidding.)

But it sounds like you still have smaller rosettes, so all is good in sempervivum land.”

Evelyn from Sensational Succulents also commented. She said, “Greetings…
I havent got good news – my ref books say the same thing, and yes, they did die on me too. Only a short while after I got them home from the nursery! And yes, they looked kinda goofy… And I did even get a chance to get any rosettes… sigh.”

Thanks to all of you who weighed in on the subject.

I’ve never met Claude, mr_subjunctive, Peter or Evelyn. But even so, I trust them more than the condescending “expert” at the nursery.

That makes me kinda mad. I’m not going to name the nursery because I’ve already stated who my favorites are, and this one has never been one of my favorites. It doesn’t matter which one it was – the condescending attitude is pervasive at all the local nurseries, because lots of “plant people” don’t like “real people.”

The reason that makes me mad is because it’s stupid.

Local nurseries are getting creamed by Home Depot and Lowe’s. Creamed. Judging by the mass amounts of plant deaths that occur in their garden centers, I’d say the employees aren’t properly trained in plant care. And the times that I’ve asked them questions, I get apathetic “I don’t know” for responses.

When I want to talk to an actual plant expert, I want a local nursery. So I drive out of my way to support “the little guys.” I don’t need attitude when I get there. Local nurseries should have the best customer service, not this belittling bullshit I get all the time. If I have questions, can’t you just answer them professionally, please? I’m spending money at your nursery, check your attitude at the door.

I’m just saying.

There’s an all-new Ask the Experts edition of Good To Grow coming up tomorrow. Until then, happy gardening!

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¹ And by corner, I mean google reader.

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Just to be clear, not all plant people dislike real people, and not all plant nursery employees are unhelpful or apathetic. I will, of course, continue to support local nurseries!

Hi cucumbers, and happy Tuesday.

A few days ago, Claude over at Random Rants and Prickly Plants made a comment about my Hens and Chicks (sempervi). He said they die after they flower.

Here’s what they looked like when I got them at the end of May:

I separated out several of the Chicks and used them in my vertical gardens. Right away, they started growing strangely. Up, up, up, instead spreading out like they normally do. Then one by one, they began to flower. So did the ones that were still in the original pot.

Here’s the pot today:

I know, right? They’re the goofiest Hens and Chicks I’ve ever seen.

Here’s what Claude originally said, “Liza… that’s a sempevivum, and semps, like agave, die after blooming… however, by this time they should have produced many offsets, which is why you should only buy and plant smaller semps. They have to be 2 or 3 years old before they bloom, and that gives them plenty of time to produce ‘chicks’ before they bloom.”

Boy did I feel like an ass – I didn’t know that about sempervi. So, they are all dying? Wait, what? Every one?

It just doesn’t seem right. I mean, if they are dying, they sure are going out in a blaze of glory, which is great. I like that. But every single one of them is humming along fine at the nursery, and the moment they get to Liza’s house, they all start to die? Like they all drank the kool-aid?

I can’t get my little brain around that. So after a few email exchanges with Claude (I wasn’t doubting his expertise, I was seeking it), I set out to visit the nursery where the plants used to live. I wanted to see if any of the other gallon containers had flowering semps.

Nope. They all looked totally normal and obedient.

I went inside to talk to the employees about it, and they just looked at me like I was crazy. “Hens and Chicks don’t die after they flower.” One lady said she’d never seen a flowering sempervi and peppered me with questions about it, “What color are the blossoms?” “How many are there?” I wish Claude had been there to defend the semps. I just left in frustration.

But I’m going back. With the plant. Haha, I can’t wait to see what they have to say to that. If nothing else, I want to show that lady what the flowers look like. Maybe they can explain what’s going on – why mine are so ridiculous and theirs are so orderly.

Have you ever seen plants this goofy? Do you know if they died? I was drawn to these little guys because of their red-tipped leaves. Was that a sign of their age and imminent demise? Evelyn? Matti? Megan? Noelle? mr_s?

Let me know what you know about semps, if you have a moment. I’ll let you know what happens at the nursery.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to work.

The plural is now official:

One of the Chicks in my currently horizontal but one day destined to be vertical garden

Hi radishes, and happy Thursday. Thanks for being here!

I should correct that title. I have a bloom, not more than one, though. Still, I’m excited enough about this bloom to consider it plural in my imagination.

Remember when I showed you these at the end of May? Adorable Hens and Chicks (Sempervi):

Then I marveled as they grew very quickly, and very comically:

I’ve been experimenting with vertical gardens, or living wall art. In my case, I mean succulent gardens planted in a container that can later hang on a garden wall, or in a kitchen. I got these Hens and Chicks for a special one that I was making for myself for my living room wall.

Here’s what it looks like now:

It’s the rectangular one. I used a deep photo frame, filled it with dirt, covered it with burlap (to keep the dirt from falling out once it’s vertical), and planted pretty succulents. It’s going to stay outside, horizontal, for the summer, because I’m in no hurry and the more time the plants have to spread roots, the less chance I’ll have dirt tumbling out onto the floor.

My awesome friend Steph asked how I would water a garden like that. Excellent question, my friend. If I hang any of these in the garden, I’ll just use a hose and spray them every so often. Succulents store water, so I don’t want to water too often. On the other hand, this is the desert and it gets super hot. Plus, they’re in small containers, which means they’ll dry out faster.

My plan for the one I want to hang in my living room is to water it at the kitchen sink using the sprayer, maybe once every couple of weeks. I don’t want to damage the walls, so I’d let the frame dry before putting it back up (it’s not that big, so I’m not sure how much damage over time it could even make, but still, I’d be cautious about that).

That’s how it looks in my head, anyway. Gardeners can never be sure of anything, really, except that Nature’s very intelligent. And Nature’s fun!

Let me take you back to those cute little Hens and Chicks. I noticed this last week and thought, “Hmmmm.”

The silly goose plant has only been in its new home a few weeks, and it was already starting to bud.

Things usually move slowly in the plant world, so I could barely contain my excitement. This morning, I found this:

Ta-daaaaaa!

Wow! See, Nature’s fun! Good times.

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Yesterday I mentioned a “pocket park” that had a ribbon cutting ceremony here in Albuquerque this morning. I’ll be honest – I’d never heard of a pocket park. Apparently they’re all the rage, and have been for awhile now. I love it – yet another way communities are working together to green up urban spaces.

I went to the event this morning, and it was great. I’m going to show you the park, and the kids that did all the planning and planting. But that’s another post. For now, I have to get back to my plant business.

Hope your Thursday is going well! I’ll be back tomorrow with another edition of Ask the Experts and a new Plant Puzzler. Hope to see you there. Until then, happy gardening.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.

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