This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Those who have been in the habit of visiting Battersea Park, South Kensington, Kew, and other places around London, including some of the large nursery establishments, during the last two years or so, cannot have failed to notice the evident symptoms of what I may call the "succulent fever;" and if they have come away without catching the infection themselves, their horticultural constitution must have been in a vigorous condition, and free from all predisposing causes in that way. I leave your readers to turn this into a compliment or otherwise as may suit them.
But, really, one can hardly form any idea, from a single specimen, of the adaptability of this class of plants for bedding purposes. The unique, entirely novel, and rich effect which they produce, either mixed or arranged in figures, must be seen to be understood and appreciated, after which no end of possible combinations and arrangements will occur to the mind.
With the smaller kinds of Echeverias, Sempervivums, Sedums, etc, a miniature style of bedding has been originated, very suitable for some places; while for rockeries, either on a large or small scale, they are particularly adapted. No doubt many of your readers may have noticed examples of the above kind, during the last summer, at South Kensington, Messrs Veitch's nursery, and other places; while the large circle at Kew afforded a good example of what could be done on a larger scale with the same materials, though in this case the details were rather overdone. In the Succulent-house at Kew we also noticed many things that are likely to be yet added to this class of bedders, though scarce and expensive at present. Those who wish to make a selection should, when they have an opportunity, visit Mr Parker's nursery, Tooting, where a wonderful collection of Succulents has been accumulated of ail the present available kinds, including some hybrids of the Echeveria class that are likely to prove grand acquisitions by-and-by. The following kinds are what we have selected for ourselves at different times, and are amongst the best and most effective of the class, though by no means exhausting the stock.
Those marked * are the best of the kinds named: - *Echeveria metallica, *E. secunda glauca, *E. grandiflora, E. retusa glauca, *E. secunda glauca major and E. glauca metallica, two hybrids; Aloe lingua; *Rochea falcata; *Sempervivum canariense, S. urbicum, S. hirtum, *S. globiferum, S. arachnoideum, S. sulphureum, S. montanum, S. tectorum, *S. californicum, S. repens; *Sedum brevifolium, *Sedum hispanicum, Sedum luridum; * Patchyphyturn bracteatum; *aeonium arboreum, ae. atropur-pureum, *ae. variegatum; Saxifraga pectinata; *Klemia repens. To these may be added Yucca variegata, Y. quadricolor, and others, with good effect; the different kinds of Aloes, Crassulas, Gasterias, Cactus, Saxifraoas - in fact, few of the succulent tribe come amiss that will stand out-doors; but they must be kept by themselves, for they ill assort with the ordinary class of bedding-plants - I mean in intimate combination, though some of the forthcoming hybrid Echeverias are likely to prove grand things in the way of flowering-plants.
All the Echeverias are easily propagated by seed, though the larger kinds make plants but slowly in this way. The "Secunda" varieties produce offsets abundantly, "Metallica" more sparingly; but either offsets or cuttings root freely in a temperature of 55° or 60°. Cuttings of E. metallica and grandiliora and other large kinds should be put into 4 or 5 inch pots at once, singly, and supported with pegs, and left undisturbed till rooted. Tops of old plants may be cut off and treated in this way without fear of failure, and if the stumps are kept in a growing temperature - say a warm greenhouse - they will continue to sprout and afford stock for more cuttings. If allowed to stand in a cold house they will damp off irrecoverably. The Semper-vivums are easily propagated by offsets, and most of the others succeed by cuttings. All want planting thickly, however, in bedding-out, and a large stock is therefore required for a few beds. The Sedums I have named are good for carpeting small beds, and form an effective groundwork for dotting the larger Succulents over. E. metallica makes a noble bed, particularly when the flower-spikes get up in autumn; and an edging of E. secunda glauca sets it off to advantage.
Nothing, however, we think, surpasses a mixed bed of all varieties, when judiciously done, and in certain situations; while those who have ample materials and other accessories may try their hand at miniature alpine scenery, but such attempts need to be carried out with great taste and judgment, or a paltry caricature will be the result. For small window-rockeries, however, all the smaller Succulents are beautifully adapted, and will succeed almost anywhere, and require very little attention. In fact, as I said before, they are adapted for many different situations and designs, and those who have not already got a stock of-them, I would advise to set about accumulating one at once, for it will be some time before they get up a quantity. J. Simpson.
[This paper was written for the 'Gardener' for February, but kept back on account of the space taken up with our illustrated paper on the same subject. - ED]