With 400,000 different flower breeds, choosing just one or two varieties to grow may seem daunting. This article explores some of the most popular flowers.
Lilacs’ lush petals symbolize fortunate love and bashfulness, while lilies are often seen as symbols of sympathy and rebirth. Daffodils are the quintessential sign of spring and represent purity, innocence and new beginnings.
This column’s photo gallery features plants that were included in a past show sponsored by the Monterey Bay Cactus and Succulent Society. The society organizes its show and sale events each year, spring and fall, so these images serve to introduce its fall event for this year. The photos were taken by skilled volunteer photographer Fred Valentine.
The Monterey Bay Area Cactus and Succulent Society’s 2023 Fall Show and Sale will be held from 3-6 p.m. on Friday the 15th, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The MBACSS’s event is held in the spacious Portuguese Community Hall, 124 Atkinson Lane, Watsonville. Free admission and free parking in the hall’s ample parking area.
Friday’s show and sale is open only to members of the society. Eager collectors can join the society “on the spot” to gain early access. Membership includes invitations to the society’s monthly meetings, which include talks by expert growers, mini-shows and plant sales.
Other garden plant societies typically hold separate shows and sales each year. The shows are scheduled when the plants are at peak bloom, and the sales occur in the later season when the plants are ready to be divided and planted. This pattern applies to the Monterey Bay Dahlia Society and Monterey Bay Iris Society.
Some plant societies have annual shows of selected plants, and leave the sale of young plants to commercial providers.
Locally, the Monterey Bay Rose Society has its annual show of rose blossoms, as well as its display garden at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, and defers the sale of roses to commercial garden centers, which feature bare root roses during the plants’ dormancy during the January-March period in California.
Other plant societies that leave sales to garden centers and mail-order nurseries include the Santa Cruz Orchid Society and the Santa Cruz Bonsai Kai, which could also offer mature plants, and the Santa Cruz Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers, which has apple and citrus-tasting events during the harvest seasons, and scion sales during the dormancy season.
The MBACSS by contrast, has the opportunity to both display mature plants and sell very young plants on two occasions each year. This pattern reflects the extraordinary ease with which cactus and succulent plants can be propagated at any time. The society could hold its show and sale events at any time of the year but it takes care to coordinate its schedule with those of California’s other cactus and succulent societies. Many of the growers of these plants bring their plants on a circuit of cactus and succulent sales.
The MBACSS event is a fine local opportunity to view dozens of outstanding plants exhibited by members of the society and to broaden your knowledge of the vast range of succulent plants. The photos in this column merely suggest the variety of intriguing forms that occur within the 25-plus plant families that include multiple succulent species. In some plant families, most species are succulents. These include the Fig-Marigold (Aizoaceae), Cactus (Cactaceae), and Stonecrop (Crassulaceae) plant families, each of which includes much variation among the species. The other 22 plant families introduce numerous different ways in which plants have developed the ability to thrive on limited water sources.
This event’s second major component, plant sales, invites interested gardeners to add succulent plants to their gardens. The plants offered for sale are typically small and relatively inexpensive specimens, displayed in impressive quantities on open tables organized by growers. There will be 17 vendors at the coming sale. These include three potters offering handmade, artisan pottery. In addition, vendors will offer plant care supplies and tools, such as fertilizer, soil amendments, and grooming tools.
Gardeners attending the sale generally walk among the tables with a cardboard box, gather selected plants, and bring them to the purchase table staffed by MBACSS volunteers.
Succulents are often grown as ornamental plants because of their striking and unusual appearance, as well as their ability to thrive with relatively minimal care.
As noted in our previous columns, the Monterey Bay area’s climate is well-suited for including succulent plants in the garden. The many different forms and colors of these plants and their blossoms invite creativity in garden design. Here are a few approaches to selecting and grouping succulent plants:
• Native habitat: California, Southwestern United States, Mexico, South Africa, Madagascar, etc.
• Genus: Collect species within a genus of interest. For example, my garden includes growing collections of Agaves and Mangaves (natural hybrids of related genera Agave and Manfreda).
• Cactus: Unless you are spine-phobic, cacti varieties present a wondrous range of long and short spines, all defensive but some looking fierce.
• Size: In addition to the ever-popular design of “tall plants in back” some succulent plants grow to impressively large, architectural forms that can be garden highlights.
• Foliage Color: Leaf colors include many shades of green, as well as reds, yellows, purples, and others. A combination of contrasting foliage hues can be striking.
Enjoy adding succulent plants to your garden.
Mark your garden calendar
The Cactus and Succulent Society of America will present the webinar, “Succulent Sex 101: An Up-close and Personal View of Flowers, Fruits, Seeds, and Seedlings,” at 10 a.m., Saturday with presenter Dr. Rob Wallace, botanist and professor of biology. The CSSA has provided this description: “Reproduction is an essential component of any plant’s life cycle. The seemingly complicated processes involved with the production of flowers, fruits, and seeds can be simplified and better understood if they are explained as discrete (but related) functions of the individual component parts of the process that collectively contribute to the plant’s reproductive cycle. This webinar will review the general process of sexual reproduction in plants with emphasis on succulent groups and explain the basic floral structures and mechanisms by which these plants are able to undergo flowering, pollination, fruiting, and production of seed.”
Browse to cactusandsucculentsociety.org to register for this free event.
The Monterey Bay Master Gardeners will present the webinar, “Fall Gardening on the Central Coast,” at 5-6:30 p.m., Tuesday. “Learn from UC Master Gardener Corrie Rothman about how to prepare soil for spring, incorporate plants that are native to the California Central Coast, and support the pollinators and other beneficial insects that will help your garden thrive! Fall is a wonderful time to set the stage for a bountiful garden next year!” This a free event (donations appreciated). Visit mbmg.ucanr.edu to register.
Tom Karwin is a past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and the Monterey Bay Iris Society, a past president and Lifetime Member of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). He is now a board member of the Santa Cruz Hostel Society, and active with the Pacific Horticultural Society. To view photos from his garden, https://www.facebook.com/ongardeningcom-566511763375123/ . For garden coaching info and an archive of On Gardening columns, visit ongardening.com for earlier columns or visit www.santacruzsentinel.com/ and search for “Karwin” for more recent columns. Email comments or questions to email@example.com.