Photos and article by Donna Iverson
I have a cat's nature. I like to prowl around and sniff things out...at art museums, flea markets, antique shops, used book stores and especially farmers markets.
This summer it was succulents that caught my eye. Vendors were displaying succulents in artistic arrangements in pots and dishes, large and small. They were begging to be purchased and brought home.
Next, I noticed them appearing as decorative elements at my favorite coffee shops, at the yoga studio, and displayed in store windows like cheese shops. I even found one planted in my community garden along the roadside.... namely a Yucca, native to the Southwest.
The interest in succulents is one of the top gardening trends in the last few years, with a 50 percent increase in sales, according to Bloomberg News. Reasons for this uptick in interest are many including:
1. Succulents are tiny, cute, inexpensive and easy to care for. They can be left for weeks, even months without watering.
2. They can provide a visually attractive accent to the spare modern design of many urban settings including small apartments. They come in a large variety of sizes and shapes and can be grouped together
3. Millennials are reportedly driving sales, making collections of these succulents and even thinking of them as pets ..pets that you don't have to walk or feed.
4. Marketers have discovered that you can ship large numbers of succulents at low cost, simply packing them in large plastic bags, where they can travel long distances without damage.
5. And social media cranks up the interest as hobbyists, gardeners, collectors, nurseries, and gardeners all post photos and comments about their latest succulent acquisition.
6. In the north country, it is a way to have green growing things inside when it is too cold to plant outside.
Personally, I have never been interested in succulents until this last summer when the yucca caught my eye. Then I noticed a number of farmers market vendors were displaying succulents for sale in interesting pots and dishes with artistic arrangements that were hard to ignore. I caved and bought an aloe. I figured, if nothing else, it would come in handy as a natural remedy for burns and scratches.
Care instructions included infrequent watering, a sunny spot in a windowsill and a porous not glazed pot. This I could manage and so far, the Aloe vera seems pleased with its new home. Of course, next I wanted to know where it came from, was it native to the Americas? In general, most succulents come from the deserts and rainforests of South America and Africa. But it turns out that the aloe comes from the Arabian Peninsula where it grows wild.
Succulents also grow wild in California, and their increased popularity has attracted poachers. In 2018, three men were charged with trying to export $600,000 worth of wild succulents they had poached from the state parks in Northern California. Succulents have become big business.
The succulent family is a large one and includes orchids, cacti, pineapples, poinsettia, jade, and agave, from which tequila is made.
And if fiber art, rather than indoor gardening, is your thing, embroidery art featuring succulents may spark your creative spirit like this piece pictured below, created by Sam Hopkins of Muskegon, Michigan.