Monday, July 30, 2012

Hardy Succulents: Tough Plants for every Climate; Book Review by Pam Macy

 “Succulents are the drama queens of contemporary gardens,” states the back cover of this compelling book.  Hardy Succulents: Tough Plants for every Climate, by Gwen Moore Kelaidis, Storey Publishing, 2008, is a stunningly beautiful paperback, containing an abundance of close-up color photos and descriptions of succulents of every kind. After recently viewing Ms. Kelaidis’ garden during the 2012 Colorado Master Gardeners’ tour in Denver, and gradually realizing I was witnessing an experienced garden talent in action; there was no doubt I needed to purchase her book.  The array of succulents in her garden, both in-ground and in countless containers, was a visual feast.

This book is particularly useful for Colorado gardeners, since Ms. Keladis resides and gardens here (zone 5b). It references what will grow elsewhere but offers specific recommendations about what is most suitable for our western conditions. Reading the text often feels like talking to a good friend who is sharing her knowledge because she wants her friend to enjoy these plants just as much as she does, and to insure her success in growing them.  Ms. Kelaidis was a joy to meet; when I asked her about propagating hens and chicks, before I knew it, she had retrieved several starter pots of hens and chicks, and gave them to my companions and I!

  The author’s enthusiasm for gardening with succulents frequently comes through in her descriptions of their architectural beauty and how they can be combined with other succulents, and throughout the garden. She asks, “Could you come to love a plant that is easy to grow, easy to weed, easy to combine with other plants?” and emphasizes they are “eager growers, tolerant of poor soils and little water.” This information alone was enough to get me hooked and excited to add more succulents to my gardens. So far, I have added ice plants, potted up some hens & chicks and jovibarbas that I had in the ground, and filled my hypertufa container. I’m more than ready to fulfill my newly acquired fascination and obsession with succulents, and make a stop at the nearest nursery.

For more information see Colorado State University fact sheet 7.401
Books are readily available at, Barnes & and the Jefferson County Public Library.