dish gardens

Gardening in miniature can be pretty cool. Being unable to pass by a display of succulents, be it Trader Joe’s or a high end plant boutique, I have quite a few dish gardens in the making, and a handful that have reached a point where they are worthy of sharing. Just like in the garden at large, a composition may limp along for months or even years, then suddenly come together.


I showed you this one in my last post, but it is also a good example of a planter that has finally found its plants. A friend gave it to me with a resident miniature rose…kind of like housing a diva in a yurt. A number of transients passed through, but finally these three compatible roomies settled in and took root. Sorry…I can’t tell you the names of any but the Kalanchoe. They got together before I started to be more conscientious about keeping records, as is the case for most things in this post.


I love the way these fleshy little rosettes cozy up to the rough looking character at the lower edge of the pot and then spill over the edges. When this one comes in for the winter, some judicious pruning will result in a whole new crop of starts.

The fine textured filler here is Dasyphyllum a volunteer that pops up everywhere. Everything else is from cuttings. The variegated rosettes started out with a rosy blush that I liked, but doesn’t seem to hold.


This one is just beginning to look interesting. It is also a good example of the sassy ways of plants. One of the most vigorous of these came from Home Depot, and replaced a sickly brother from a high end shop that shall remain nameless because they sell lots of really good stuff too. We live dangerously situated between Joy Creek and Cistus nurseries. Both of these have well-earned reputations for high standards, knowledgeable staff and unique plant material. If I am looking for a standout specimen and the information base to care for it, one of these places is it. Closer by is a mass-market type nursery, much maligned by horthead friends, where real bargains can be had. We have found 10′ trees for $10, priced to move and make way for new merchandise. Nobody on the staff, as far as I can tell, knows diddly-squat about plants, but their stock is the nuts and bolts; the supporting cast in the garden that hardly requires arcane knowledge.

But I digress. Let’s take a look at an “over-the-hill” example.


For about five years,I moved this garden outside for the summer, inside each autumn, and it grew in loveliness with each passing season. This summer it began to shed along the lip of the dish, and two of the companion plants all but died. Time to suck it up and perform major surgery. Whatever will I do with all that plant material for repurposing? Can’t bear to throw it away, and the winter invasion of our living space is getting out of hand.


There is a wonderful little shop called Life + Limb that specializes in these kinds of plants. They also carry appropriate planter, mediums, etc., and will pot things up on the spot. I indulged in just such treatment for this Euphorbia tirucalla. Love the way it becomes ever more Medusa-like. PS: Loree @ Danger Garden just informed me that Life + Limb has shuttered. Sure enough, when I clicked on their link, I got closing sale information. So sad. Do you suppose they were too specialized, or just a victim of today’s economy?


Do you suppose this is all just an overblown case of California Envy? Possibly brought on by a visit to The Germinatrix for the first time this morning? And yes, that is indeed a huge plant snapped in the garden of a Southern California friend…Thanks, Loree, for making me aware that I was unclear on that count.

5 thoughts on “dish gardens

  1. Whoa – hold on there! That last one is gorgeous! It looks HUGE, is it? Or is it just the angle? The Euphorbia tirucalla is cool! Glad to know I’m not the only one who has the great migration every spring and fall. Everything is so happy vacationing on the patio right now. I wonder if they know there days are numbered and it will be time to move in and under the grow lights soon? *sad*

    BTW Life and Limb closed. Their last day was August 30th.

  2. Wendy: I have had lots of failures, too. Sounds like you have discovered a good spot…the other variables that can make a big difference are planting mediums and watering (generally once a week in summer and once a month in winter). I wish you luck…these plants are so much fun!
    Loree: Oh dear, I cheated on that last shot…meant to illustrate my CA envy, it was taken in the garden of a friend when we visited the Golden State: and yes!…it really is huge.

  3. BTW the owner of Life + Limb said she just wanted to move on and do other things. I think we are all “sadder” about the store closing than she is. And thanks for the additional info on the last shot…probably just me misunderstanding. I too suffer CA-envy.

  4. I’m getting more into pots this year: my newer garden has already run out of appropriate space for some, others just need a bit more highlighting, and some will need to be portable in winter for survival purposes.
    It’s fun (and downright beautiful) to have them potted up, but I think our two sunniest spots will be very full this winter!

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