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Bittersweet Beginnings

I have always had a soft spot for succulents. Prior to social media and their explosion onto the gardening scene, I was hauling my first, a bright yellow agave, in my lap on a flight from NYC at the tender age of 16. Little did I know the world was going to share my fascination and soon they would become the cool kids on the block and the trendiest little members of the plant kingdom. Why the infatuation ? It could be the rising population of gardeners are too preoccupied to fuss over something as delicate as wilting rose petals. Maybe the attraction is the almost complete lack of maintenance needed, infrequent waterings and full sun. Traditional plants ask for regular fertilizer, pruning, clipping and snipping. Maybe they feel its better and safer to go with plants that are designed to care for themselves. But caring for these cacti-wannabees is tricky, to say the least, through our deep winters in southwest PA. The pictures sprinkled all over Pinterest and Instagram that show them tucked and thriving in every visible exterior nook and cranny is a bit disingenuous, for us at least. In our climate the vast majority of our fleshy water-retaining darlings are relegated to our brightest south-facing windows for at least half of each year.

The same relaxed maintenance schedule that draws us to them makes us take their existence for granted as winter drags on. At this very moment there is probably some sort of succulent slowly dying in a domestic space near you. The good news… will take a very long time. And if, even in its death throes, you happen to remember it and cut off and throw away the vast majority of the shriveled plant or just pluck off one healthy leaf and give it some time… will begin anew. Maybe this forgiveness is the real attraction.

Succulents have become the central characters in a new gardening movement that values ease over effort but also provides many visually intriguing choices.

I’m always delighted with their mesmerizing shapes, vivid colors and crafty versatility and, I must admit, I can really never have too many plant children.

And a single bloom on one of them melts my heart.

So, what to do with my diminutive friends? In my situation at the café with Bittersweet Antiques in the building, the basement houses a treasure trove of miscellaneous misfit containers. Silver sugar bowls and chintz honey pots who’ve lost their lids, saucerless teacups, tiny birds nests, carved-out antlers all begging to be the next succulent home. Drill a hole in the base, add a special well-draining dirt consisting mostly of rice hulls and they are ready to show off in all their diminutive glory !

I’ve shared my motley collection at Bittersweet Café since opening day. I hope you have enjoyed!

Blessings from Bittersweet !


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