By Karen England.
I am a sentimental person, always have been since childhood, and as a result I am an emotional gardener. What I mean by this is that my emotions are affected by the sentiments that I have attached to things and to plants.
Unfortunately, this means that I vehemently dislike some things, some plants, when the emotions and sentiments they stir in me are negative, difficult or painful. Up until now I have not admitted to anyone in any horticultural circles that I heartily dislike all cactus and most succulents for fear of being recalled as the President of SD Hort. I am swimming against the tide of current succulent popularity in this negativity and know it. I want to somehow change (and I want keep my SDHS position) so, since I have never been one to make New Year's resolutions in the past, I think this is a good time for me to start and this column is the place to begin to make my peace with succulents.
My late husband loved succulents and because I loved him, I started to learn about them. My first love, botanically speaking, is herbs making my starting point for a succulent education with the herbal succulents, of which there are many, such as Aloe vera, Aloe barbadensis, Cuban Oregano, Plectranthus amboinicus, Tequila agave, Agave tequilana, Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, to name a few. There are also herbal cacti but I'm taking baby steps here and will leave coming to terms with those for another new leaf for me to turn in another new year ...
When my husband passed away in 2014, I was left with a large cactus and succulent garden, his garden, that reminded me of my loss, so much so, that I couldn't walk in it for years, which is sad in and of itself because it is a lovely garden which could have brought me peace and comfort, but I avoided it as much as was humanly possible, the pain was too great. I'm tearing up just writing this. I vented my sadness on the plants by being very angry with succulents.
Alluadia procura, Madagascar Ocotillo blooming in Karen England's husband's garden. Photo credit: Karn England.
I'm swapping my bad attitude toward succulents for an improved one by reminding myself that I have a beloved Uncle in LA county with a world class cactus and succulent garden. My uncle was a huge inspiration to my husband on so many levels and the garden my husband left me was his attempt, albeit cut short, at having a garden like my uncle's and that's what I'm choosing to focus on.
Above are some photos from over the last 10 years of my husband's, now my, garden.
Because of the pandemic, as you can expect, I cannot visit my uncle right now, so my cousin, his son, took pictures for me recently of this remarkably beautiful garden at my uncle's home and now I am becoming a succulent aficionado. My uncle's garden was built around 20-25 years ago over a period of years and my husband's garden was built ten years ago over a couple of years.
Above are some photos taken December 2020 of my uncle's garden in Glendora, California.
After I publish this piece, I am going to call my uncle for a nice long "chin wag" and tell him personally how important his influence has been to me and thank him on behalf of my husband and myself for the wonderful succulent inspiration.
Happy New Year!