San Francisco is a city for gardeners and given that we never experience a frost, we’re quite lucky to have a broad range of plants available to us for our gardens. In fact, varieties that people in other climates would consider a house plant, San Franciscans can plant to monumental effect outdoors, and succulents are a great example of that. Being planted in the ground allows the plant to grow in size and shape in a way that will surprise anyone who’s only seen them in small containers in the windowsill. . .
While I have a variety of plants in my garden, including vines, shrubs and perennial flowering plants, succulents have become my favorite garden denizens. There’s something about the way they invite you to watch them that makes them special and I’m hopelessly fascinated by them. As they grow they change a lot, in shape, proportion and size. They truly become different over time, evolving in a way that adjusts to the environment in which they are planted. In a way they, more than any other plant I’ve encountered, grow to become unique individuals.
Perhaps chief among the qualities I LOVE to observe is the way in which the succulents flower. Gorgeous and sculptural as they are even without flowers, something exciting happens when it’s time for them to bloom. Weeks in advance you’ll notice a very prominent stalk (the inflorescence) emerge from the plant, all the more striking when it erupts from a plant with radial symmetry, like the echeveria. I can’t describe how fun it is to watch the progress of the stem, pregnant with anticipation…how high will the stalk climb? what will the lone flower look like and when will it open?
The inflorescence first emerged from the center of my aloe in late February, and climbed through March when the flowers emerged. I’ve captured some pictures here that show the height it reached and the type of flower that the aloe creates. Even now in the month of May, the flowers look just as great as they did when they opened in March!