How to Succeed in Gardening Without Really Trying

Honest Garden Tips, Part 1

Sedum "Autumn Joy"

Sedum “Autumn Joy”

Are you a killer?

Most of us are. I, for example, kill magazines. When I begin to write for a publication regularly, it soon dies. I cannot offer irrefutable proof of any cause-effect relationship, only a positive correlation. But I harbor suspicions.

Some people are inveterate neglecters of goldfish or gerbils, with terminal results. Others mutilate innocent crape myrtles and annihilate house plants with abandon. And nearly everyone I know, this year, is mourning some grandfatherly rosemary bush, once gnarled and magnificently sprawling, now deceased.

Don’t fret. This is not about blame. If you fall under any of the aforementioned categories, there is a pain-free way to make the killing stop. The trick is this: Know thyself.

Know thine own inability to sustain life in certain forms. Acknowledge your failings. Avoid situations that inexorably lead to mortal outcomes for hapless media outlets, small animals, and plants. Write only for publications that need killing. Put your fish tank on Craigslist and try a nice aquatic screensaver instead. And if you’re guilty in the botanical first degree, turn to horticultural solutions that defy your most earnest attempts at mayhem.

Sedum stonecropSucculents are the answer.

The good news is, you don’t even have to break ground to achieve success. It’s better this way — with your luck, you’ll most likely initiate a sinkhole or mudslide, punch a hole in your sewer line, or amputate a toe.

Instead, let’s keep it simple. Get a container. Any container. Preferably, one with holes in the bottom. Empty a bag of potting soil (or a mix of manure and peat) into it. Plant your favorite succulent, water it in, and watch the little sucker thrive, just to spite you.

Even better news: You can plant these indestructible little fellows in the disused corpses of numerous failed projects! Turn nonachievement into effortless success.

Here’s how:

1. Revive dead fountain as sempervivum planter.

Are you tired of shimming the damned heavy thing “level”? Have you bought and installed an average of 3 new pumps a year, only to see each one quickly cease to function, and your lovely iron fountain turn into a stagnant mosquito farm? Are you sick of the way your husband pointedly closes the kitchen window whenever angry mosquito clouds rise from the greenish muckwater?

Enough. Drain that sucker and turn it into a sempervivum garden.

Dead fountain planted with sedum "hens and chicks"

Dead fountain planted with “hens and chicks”

(note: Be sure water drains fairly well through the fountain, or you may actually kill even this, as impossible as this seems.)

2. Reinvigorate failed hanging basket.

So far, everything you have ever planted in this ill-advised, shallow, west-facing, hot metal hanging basket has gone crispier than cornflakes in the ruthless afternoon sun.

Your husband frowned disapprovingly when you were nailing this futuristic metal basket to the storage shed, but you ignored him. Now, every time you look at it, your failure sneers back…along with every other failed project he has opposed over the years: The deep-fried turkey “incident.” The taxidermy phase. The “water feature” that quickly became a mosquito colony.

You can still come back from this: Install any variety of tiny sedum into your basket, and voila! Fiasco-turned-success! Ignore it completely, water it not at all, and it will remain steadfast and unwilling to die. Sedum abhors careful tending; your neglect will only encourage it.

After all, in your yard, it’s survival of the fittest.

hanging basket

3. Recycle ruined gift as garden art.

Repeat reinvigoration process in nearby window box. No more will summer rain drum into the dirt of this sad, empty box and sling soil onto the wall, coloring your storage shed a brownish shade of failure! Your new sedum planter will helpfully absorb the rain, prevent unsightly soil stains, and even match the window trim.

To punctuate your victory, tuck in the attractive ceramic cardinal your mother-in-law gave you last Christmas amongst the tender blue-green sedum coils, so that the broken underside is sufficiently camouflaged.

Your husband has been asking about the damned cardinal figurine ever since you cracked it and hid it in the sock drawer on New Year’s Eve. He’ll regard its re-emergence with suspicion, but only you will know the truth. And if he does inspect it rather too closely, you can always blame the cat for any breakage.

window box

See also: When to Plant—A Half-@$$ed FAQ with Many Digressions

17 thoughts on “How to Succeed in Gardening Without Really Trying

  1. I’ve been toying with the idea of planting a few of these. You have me convinced. I’ll try my luck this spring. And you weren’t kidding when you talked of patience. I want so badly to plant ALL THE THINGS (perennials, mostly) but after planting a few things in spots that I’ve never tried before, I’m at the wait-and-see stage. So far, the recently planted woodland phlox is doing very well, as are the hosta and calla lilies from last year. I have high hopes for my garden.

    I’m learning so much from your posts. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

  2. Thank you many times over for this hilarious post. I unfortunately committed botanical first degree (I plead plant-slaughter rather than something intentional) just this last week, and have been stewing about it ever since. I never would have considered succulents. Time to give those a go! Thanks!

  3. Reblogged this on cyprusscene and commented:
    With the heat of the summer fast approaching, those gardeners in Cyprus may like to think about some gardening tips given in this article from The Greenery that will help keep their gardens features looking healthy whilst not having to worry too much about the lack of water.

  4. I have a few of these succulents (Chicken & Hens) in my garden. They do give it an exotic appearance and I like them a lot. When they go to seed they seem to die. Is that normal?

  5. Pingback: How to succeed in Gardening without really trying | tfrnorthcyprus

  6. I’ve actually killed succulents by trying too hard (over watering, like, twice a month). You’re right. They’re really the best plants for those who want to try the least! Great suggestion.

  7. Bravo for this post, it’s so true! I’ve been collecting sedums for years, firstly in pots, then down in the garden, which is quite damp. The best one I tried is ‘Automn joy’, this sedum enjoys (of course) drought as well as damp conditions.

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