Monday 4 April 2016

Off the wall

My object of interest
As I am 74 today and entering my second childhood - without any intervening phase from the first one - I thought I would try something more zany today in my new weekly whim series. It might be fun if I wrote something ‘completely off the wall’ ...... for a change? 
It then struck me that my subject was on the wall sitting right there before me. My sempervivum!

Not the houseleek in question! This one sits firmly on a farm wall on Holy Island

I have posted before about this hardy, drought loving, easy succulent plant.  I called my previous post ‘houseleeks live-for-ever’. This is a pairing of its two common names. The second name particularly pertinent today!

My inspiration is the plant in a pot that we have had several years now. The pot was a gift from Barbara Wood who lives in our village and who frequently attends my Open Days as ‘artist in  the garden’

Barbara Wood is an artist and a potter
My inspiration today actually sits in a series of sunny places as it gets shifted around! It’s always there to brighten up an outdoor table or corner! It grows in Barbara’s pot that has a small and essential drainage hole and the compost is my own sandy soil. It is completely neglected and never fed. I don’t even water it - other when in a very hot spell quite unnecessarily I vaguely squirt my hosepipe in it’s direction in a probably misguided act of kindness!

I have grown it so long it is now bearded
When it comes to the crunch I have got sempervivums all over the place! Well drained sunny positions for all of them! Most are completely hardy but not all. Mine are tried and tested by an evolutionary process that they survive or die. So easy to propagate from any kind donor or acquired by an impulse buy at the plant centre or horticultural show.

I will no doubt be selling some on my open day Sunday 11th September
My only problem with my sempervivums is that the birds love them and playfully pull them out of the ground - or perhaps more pertinently ‘off the roof’. They are traditionally grown in walls and in roofs threading between loose tiles or within ancient thatch. Hidden in cracks where the birds less easily find them they thrive. Fully exposed on a roof our feathered friends often destroy them!

The birds leave them alone in the mountains at Tignes
My roofless roof garden. Not many liveforevers survive! Damn birds
I have another eccentricity which I call my ‘roofless roof garden’. When we moved in real roof gardens were deeply trendy - or perhaps more accurately, shallowly trendy. My garden suffered several deep patches of impenetrable concrete. Probably the bases of old hen houses and agricultural contraptions. At the bottom of the garden was a particularly thick and solid structure, perhaps laid as a cover to an old well. These days I would hire a man with a machine to remove it. It is only recently that have I at last outgrown my natural frugality and realised I cannot take my money with me.
I covered the concrete with old carpet and a thin layer of soil. I don’t think the carpet was really needed! I mulched with my lovely mulching stone that I bring back from my maintenance visits to Worsbrough cemetery. It is apparently the worse place to dig a grave ever. The soil consists of rocky rubble. Even in Barnsley where they are rather tight fisted the gravedigger has recently acquired a mechanical digger!
A stone mulch of course would be too heavy for a real roof!
I planted my roof garden with succulent drought resistant plants and included sempervivums. 

I love sempervivum flowers that look good for a couple of months. When they start to look tatty I cut the flower  back and even remove the rosettes of leaves which are monocarpic and are destined to die. Just the single rosette. The rest of the plant lives forever

This one is my real favourite. It has sat in a tiny patch of moss on top of the side of a concrete container for several years now. The plant I actually planted has withered away!
This post takes you a site where you can see named varieties of sempervivum
This link takes you to my own previous effort
And this is about I have grown plants on stone
I also posted about gravel gardens

Sempervivums are very versatile
In my gravel garden


  1. Happy Birthday Roger, have a great day

  2. Extending Birthday well-wishing and greetings to you and hoping your special day is a wonderful one.

  3. Have a lovely birthday, Roger.
    I have sempervivums and sedums planted on top of our pond filter in what I call a living lid. We had awful trouble with the birds trashing them too so much so that he now have a sort of a net over then.
    What with all the wet weather we are having recently I think I need to create more drainage holes in the trays.

    1. My next short post is about my tadpoles. Don't have a filter though.

  4. Birthday! I'm into these plants too. I've made up a little trough and my 'to do' list includes a frame and kind of wreath or ball by copying some off Pinterest.

  5. Don't know where the Happy went!

  6. Extremely belated Birthday Greetings Roger, you are obviously as resilient as your sempervivums.

    1. Old codgers together Rick! I am always pleased to get comments on old posts! They are still relevant even years later and give assurance they are still being read. I always get notification of a comment and almost always reply.
      (I know in your case this is grannie sucking eggs....)


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