Sunday, April 29, 2012

Picture perfect succulents

I love the container displays at Taylor Conservatory. They're creative and whimsical combinations of annuals, perennials, bulbs, or whatever is in season.

I loved the use of branches of red-twig dogwood and Harry Lauder's walking stick in these pots and went to investigate more closely....

Then I spied... Do you see them on the ground in the background?... Two miniature living walls or vertical gardens, framed like art! I was giddy with excitement (so giddy I kind of blew the spoiler by showing you one right off!).

Other vertical gardens I've seen have been equally gorgeous but quite large, usually encompassing an entire wall. These smaller gardens seemed less intimidating and actually possible to make oneself!

I've often seen old frames at yard sales, or you could buy and stain molding. (Or actually buy frames!) The backs the the frames are rectangular wood boxes, like a mini raised bed, made of four pieces of 1" x 4" wood (or thereabouts). I didn't measure the frames, but I'm guessing 2 ft. x 3 ft. You could make any size you want.

The back of the box has chicken wire stapled in place, with a layer of moss laid on top before the soil was added. If you don't have moss, you could also use coco fiber, landscape fabric, or plywood with holes drilled in for drainage.

Chatting with volunteers, I learned the box is filled with a well-draining soil mix, and topped with chicken wire. You can't see it in the finished product, but it holds the succulents and moss in place when the frame is set upright.

Not all of the succulents in these picture frames are hardy in Michigan, and they are kept indoors overnight this time of year.

By the way, the framed succulents complement this reproduction of Monet's Gladioli on display through June 30 at Taylor Conservatory. It's one of many locations in metro Detroit showcasing weatherproof reproductions of art in the Detroit Institute of Arts collection, as part of the Inside|Out exhibit. Check it out!
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