Hardy Succulents: Book Review

– Posted in: Book reviews

As Saxon Holt, photographer for Hardy Succulents: Tough Plants for Every Climate by Gwen Kelaidis pointed out yesterday, hardiness is relative. I remember early on in the life of this website, learning that someone from Australia had found my blog searching for hardy plants. Since, according to this map, the coldest zone in Australia, a tiny speck of red on that continent, is equivalent to USDA Zone 7, I can only wonder at the searcher’s concept of a hardy plant.

So I considered with a bit of skepticism the word “hardy” in the title of this book, but Gwen soon put me at ease on this point. She gardens in Zone 5b in Colorado, and says that her definition of hardiness is being able to withstand -20F for short periods of time. Many of the plants she discusses are hardy to Zone 3, and most will do well into Zones 6 and 7.

But as cold climate gardeners know, temperature is not the only factor in hardiness by a long shot, and Hardy Succulents excels at helping you determine the best cultural conditions for the succulents you want to grow. Some of these plants will benefit from winter moisture, others will be much happier taking their winter dry. Most want as much sun as you can give them; a few do well in shade. Soil drainage is critical for the cacti and some of the other types of plants covered in this book, but the sempervivums and some of the sedums do fine in clay.

Guess what kind I have?

Hens-and-chicks (Sempervivums) in the stacked stone retaining wall of the Birthday Garden. March 10, 2009.

Hens-and-chicks (Sempervivums) in the stacked stone retaining wall of the Birthday Garden. March 10, 2009.

I suspect this passalong plant is some form of Sedum spurium, perhaps the cultivar 'Red Carpet.' March 24, 2009

I suspect this passalong plant is some form of Sedum spurium, perhaps the cultivar 'Red Carpet.' March 24, 2009

If, like me, you’ve received some unidentified succulents as passalongs, you will find this book helpful in identifying and caring for these plants. But if you’re the type of gardener who goes through plant obsessions, needing to work your way through a plant type or genus, proceed with caution. The forms and colorations of these plants, expertly captured by Saxon Holt, are fascinating and possibly addicting. You may well find yourself saying, “I want one of each.” Myself, I feel content with the passalongs that have come my way, except—you know, Sedum spurium ‘Tricolor’ has such wonderful variegation. And Sedum populifolium has an intriguing leaf shape. And—uh-oh, I think I’m in trouble.…

Hardy Succulents is one of the prizes being offered in our scavenger hunt. Sunday, April 12th is the last day to enter.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Elizabeth Richey June 6, 2009, 2:55 pm

I would love to know what the name of the succulent on the cover of your book is….its fabulous!

Thank you.

Elizabeth Richey

Kathy Purdy June 7, 2009, 9:13 pm

I did not write the book, but I have a copy at hand. It says the cover photo is Sempervivum ‘Faramir’.

Gail April 12, 2009, 8:15 am

Kathy, In case I forgot to mention this before~~your blog looks fantastic! Succulents have taught me that drainage is important! They don’t thrive in my clay soil unless I make sure the drainage is just right! Thanks for reviewing this book…it might be the perfect gift for a friend who is just now getting excitted about succulents. Have a sweet and love filled Easter day…gail

Gail’s last blog post..A View From A Bench

Pam/Digging April 12, 2009, 3:05 am

I have this book and really enjoyed Saxon’s photos. They certainly do inspire succulent mania.

As a side-note about growing conditions, here in summer-scorched Austin, some succulents do best with midday shade.

Pam/Digging’s last blog post..Easter egg flowers