Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Giving dudleyas another try—and tulips, too

Dudleyas are succulents with fleshy leaves hailing from southwestern North America. Many of the 45 species are native to coastal California where they happily cling to cliff faces or rock outcroppings, often in a manner that appears to defy gravity. In their natural habitat, they are perfectly adapted to going without water for months at a time. In the summer, they often go dormant, shriveling up to just a fraction of their normal size.

As is often the case with California natives, dudleyas can be challenging in cultivation when conditions are significantly different from what they're used to. Rot is the biggest problem. A common cause is watering in the summer when dudleyas expect to be completely dry. In addition, since many dudleyas grow vertically, they have a hard time dealing with water left sitting in their crown or on their leaves. That's why dudleya experts typically recommend planting them at an angle and never watering them from overhead.

Having killed more dudleyas than I care to remember, I stopped trying for a number of years. However, at my early December outing to Annie's Annuals in Richmond I was so smitten by their collection of dudleyas that I decided to throw caution to the wind. After initially putting five or six dudleyas in my cart, I managed to rein myself in a bit and ended up with three: Dudleya farinosa, Dudleya hassei, and Dudleya palmeri. My decision was based in part on the unexpected success I've had this year keeping alive a Dudleya brittonii I bought in March at Poot's Cactus Nursery. Either my luck has turned, or I simply know more about the idiosyncrasies of dudleyas than before.

The next question, logically, was where to put my dudleyas. Since they would fry to a crisp in the summer if planted in full sun, I needed a more sheltered place. I eventually decided on the spot marked with a yellow arrow in the photo below:



Since December seems to be the month of taking risks, I also bought another Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'. More about that in a later post.

Mindful of the need for good drainage, I decided to build a small mound surrounded by rocks. Instead of making my own soil mix like I often do, I took the easy way out and bought a few bags of Kellogg's Organic Palm, Cactus & Citrus Mix. It's made of recycled forest products, pumice, sand, bark fines, dehydrated poultry manure, and hydrolyzed feather meal and has worked very well for me over the years.

The finished mound looked a little like a camp fire pit. At first I was bothered by that, but now, a few days later, I've gotten used to it.



Here is the finished product:


I'm actually quite satisfied with the result.


The dudleya on the lower left is Dudleya brittonii (purchased in March at Poot's Cactus Nursery), at the 12 o'clock position is Dudleya palmeri, and in the lower right is Dudleya farinosa. (The third dudleya from Annie's, Dudleya hassei, went in one of the succulent mounds that replaced the front lawn.)



When I was at Lowe's to buy the Kellogg's soil mix, I had another moment of weakness. Actually, two. The first one resulted in my purchase of the Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' you saw in the photo above. The second was this impulse buy:


Most tulips don't do well here because our winters are so mild. I usually plant them in a bowl and then toss them after they're done blooming. Sure, I could store the bulbs but I can't be bothered. We haven't had tulips in many years, but these 'Texas Flame' tulips begged so hard to come home with me that I gave in.

Here are the 15 bulbs. Take my word for it, they're in there. Now it's just a matter of waiting patiently. Hopefully something will come up! 


16 comments:

  1. Good luck with the Dudleya, mine have done well so far, now that it’s cooler, they have come to life. Having them on a tilt seems to be a requirement.
    Those aren’t the Tulips from Annie’s?, mine haven’t surfaced yet. Tulips saxatilis...spelling might be wrong

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    1. I planted the Tulipa saxatilis in the backyard. This species is from Crete and hence used to a Mediterranean climate. I hope it'll live for more than just one season.

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  2. You are bold! Dudleyas usually look awful here from summer until the weather cools and the rains plump them up. I only have a couple and haven't checked on them in awhile so perhaps it's time to do so. I fall into the tulip trap periodically too. Here, it's usually Santa Ana winds that wither them in bud just before they bloom. Some of the local garden centers have started selling pre-sprouted specimens in 6-packs. None of those are exotic varieties like yours but they do provide a short-lived tulip fix. I've grown some of the species tulips in my former garden and they did come back, albeit in ever decreasing numbers.

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    1. Bold...or foolish :-).

      I was surprised to find such a fancy tulip at Lowe's. They're not exactly known for their extravagant selection.

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  3. Gerhard, I love tulips, I've told you I am a very serious case of zonal denial: I've spent fortunes in tulips in the last 20 years and always failed to grow them here: it's not cold enough for them, the bulbs sprouted poorly and failed to bloom, the buds got scorched under the sun because our spring is too short and quickly gives way to a long hot summer, the nurseries here always offer mature tulips with buds and flowers that come from the cooler southern provinces, but they are like annuals, very short lived annuals and very expensive... the same can be said about peonies: another waste of money and years of efforts, I gave up on bot., I've never seen tulips like the ones you bought I always planted the classic varieties, peharps yours can thrive in the heat!. I will keep an eye on your updates about these tulips!

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    1. Why is it we always want plants we can't grow? I'm that way with hostas. I can't tell you how many I've killed. One hung on for many years but this year it didn't come back.

      Yes, peonies are high on my list, too. Growing up in Germany, I remember the stunning peonies my mother had in front of the house.

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    2. Zonal denial can be hard to overcome, in my case English and German books were my introduction to Gardening and defined my taste when I was a child, I was very fond of a book about the rural gardens of Rheinland, so lush and full of roses, tulips, delphiniums and peonies! I was hooked on those images forever. I've tried to grow hostas too but they don't like heat, they have plenty of humidity here but heat ruins them.

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  4. I have the same luck with tulips as with dudleyas and 'Cousin Itt'. :(

    Your Dudleya/stone arrangement turned out great!

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    1. I must be totally nuts, planting dudleays, tulips AND 'Cousin Itt' all at the same time. Maybe I'll luck out. If anything, I do NOT want to lose 'Cousin Itt'. It's in a spot where it gets a lot more sun than the others I've tried. Maybe that was the cause of their demise.

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  5. Dudleyas and tulips, too! Your title made ma laugh. I hope you experience success with both.

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    1. You could say: "Dudleyas and tulips, oh my!" Or rather: "Oh vey!"

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  6. Awesome! I was a bit hesitant about planting a dudleya in my garden too. But fell in love with one at Annies so took a chance. (I live in Pittsburg) a year after, its still alive and looking great. It was hard NOT to give it any water during summer or hose water when it was time to give it a drink. Good Luck and glad to have stumble on your blog!

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    1. That's great to know, CJ. Brian in Concord is having good luck with dudleyas, too. I think Pittsburg is more moderate than Davis, seeing how it's on Suisun Bay and gets the cooling delta breeze.

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  7. Same deal with dudleyas here, but they are so beguiling. Love what you did with them! I had the tulipmania a few years ago and then became completely indifferent -- garden mood swings, lol.

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    1. I think we all go through phases. I was nuts about bananas once; now I consider them a pain in the butt. Ditto for opuntias; now I'm getting rid of them because I'm sick of getting glochids in my fingers all the time.

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  8. Good old Cousin Itt ..I'm still holding off on that one til I find the right spot. I was extremely extravagant with the tulips this year -I ordered 300-ish. I ended up having to put some in pots because I ran out of room in the garden, lol. Anyway, I don't blame you for that at all. I like your Dudleya solution ! Mine (only 3) are in containers at the moment.

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