No matter how little space you have around your house — even if it nothing more than a Juliet-sized apartment balcony — you can have a living, breathing garden. In fact, even if you have no outdoor space at all, you can cultivate a miniature garden inside that’s small enough to fit on an end table or a console, with room left over for a lamp.
Anyone anywhere, even those with no gardening skills, can have a little “dish garden.” Planted with a variety of small succulents, a single dish can contain a fanciful world styled in any way you like, from a Southwest desert feel to a Zen vibe. And they’re portable. You can move them from room to room and from deck to patio to porch without replanting.
Adding to the attraction, succulents are hard to kill. They are a snap to propagate, require very little water and need minimal maintenance, making them a perfect plant to grow, even for newbies to gardening, says Barbara Darling, a “dish garden” enthusiast from Petaluma.
Unlike a full-sized garden that can take months of planning, hardscaping, infrastructure and planting, a dish garden can be assembled in 15 minutes if you have the materials at hand. They are not only pleasing to look at, but make great giveaways.
“They make great gifts and they’re really inexpensive to make,” said Darling. “Everyone has some container they have stored away in the garage. You can just throw in a few succulents, some planting mix and a little rock.”
Darling and other members of the Santa Rosa Garden Club’s succulents group have been busy since last fall growing and assembling small succulent dish gardens to feature at the club’s annual plant sale, April 22 at the Luther Burbank Art & Garden Center in Santa Rosa.
Every year the 68-year-old club creates something fun and different to try to differentiate their sale from the multitude of other plant sales cropping up all over the county in the spring. (For a clip-and-save list, check out the list accompanying this story.).
Last year the club potted-up imaginative fairy gardens. This year, they’re offering topiaries, ready-made succulent dish gardens and a nice selection of succulent plants for those who would like to assemble their own tiny, personalized gardens.
All of the plants are cultivated by club members. Choices will include echeverias, shaped like round rosettes; flowering sedums; spiky, vertical aloes; jade plants, some of which resemble miniature trees; and beautiful aeoniums, including the smaller haworthias that are great for small pots.
Other good choices for small potted gardens include kalanchoes and sempervivums. Almost any type of succulent however, will work in a dish garden. Even if they are larger-growing varieties, you can easily swap them out if they start overtaking the space, said Katie Torgerson, who is a member of the club’s succulents group. The only ones she avoids for dishes are cacti, which can be too prickly to move around easily.
Torgerson has been surrounded by these ultra ldrought-tolerant plants since she was a child. Her mother, Sandra Torgerson, became captivated with them in the 1960s, when they were still a garden curiosity.
“My mother had them in pots everywhere. We actually had someone from the Huntington Gardens say she had more varieties than they did,” Torgerson said of her mother, who joined the Santa Rosa Garden Club in the 1950s.