Sunday 12 June 2011

I was wrong, I don't have enough plants!

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I had been having a clean out and getting rid of a few plants.  Having taken all my spares and duplicates and propagated plants to work to free up some space, typically I go and choose now to start a project that requires a few plants.

I blame the internet and all you bloggers who constantly post interesting ideas and pictures of gardens or shows you visit. While I had known about vertical planting for a while, I had never thought about doing a living picture or something small, until someone posted a link to Flora's Blog. This post, showed some of their pictures, which lets face it are pretty impressive.  So the idea gets filed away for something to do when I have some free time.  As our summer seems to have returned to its British best and rainy days, I thought I would start looking at trying one of these living pictures.

It would be an ideal way to free up even more space, without actually having to get rid of any plants. Initially everything was good, I have the perfect bit of wire mesh for the front to help keep things in place, the perfect place to hang a picture of around 40 - 50cm across.  I even had an idea of the type of plants I wanted to use,  and had started to propagate them.  The sempervivums I have shown before, I thought these compact forms would be perfect for a small picture:

Then this echeverias which has the catchy name of FO-48 after the collection number would work well, plus I has a few sitting around:

Then for some colour another sempervivum virgil, which is slightly larger but still has a neat form and a very good lilac or purple colour.

I figured it would be best to try and do a rough design first, it would be a shame to spend all the time putting it together only for it not to work.  Besides I may have mentioned before that I have a geeky side and have a few tricks for times like this. It is actually fairly simply, firstly take a picture of the plants you are interested in from above.  The in a photo package clip the image to only cover the plant and re-size it to be the same size as the plant., for example this image of s. virgil is 8cm across:

The next step is a bit more fiddly, as you have to trace around the plant to select the central plant only.  You can then cut this out and past it into a new image of only a single plant:

You just repeat this for each plant of interest and then put them all together to give your flower bed or in this case living picture:

If I was doing it properly I would give the image a brown background or a picture of some soil and change the size of some of the plants to give a more realistic look. While the method works fine, by this time I had figured out two things: firstly my design was not going to work, and secondly I was going to need some more plants! I hadn't properly sat down and thought about how many plants you actually need even for a small picture.  If I had stuck to my very first idea of only using small sempervivums of around 2 - 3 cms then I would have needed around 300 plants to fill a 40cm square!

I need more variation in the size and texture of plants to give a more natural look to the scene. One of the reasons this one doesn't work is it is too flat (and that is not just the fault of the image).  So it is back to the drawing board to figure out a different set of plants. Maybe a couple of agave utahensis would add some interest and some of small but more vertical echeverias or sedums to give a bit of variation in height.

Whatever plants I finally end up with, I am going to need to buy a few more to fill the picture.  I didn't think I would be saying that this year.


  1. This is really cool! It is going to look great. And you can never have too many succulents!

  2. I would agree, although I think my OH believes you can have too many for our limited space.

  3. What works great as a filler is Sedum. It's very happy in a vertical garden, too.

  4. I had thought about putting a sedum or two in to grow between the plants. I can always remove it later as the other plants fill out or if it doesn't work.