Simply Succulent Frame

imageA living frame is a lovely way to showcase the unique colors, shapes and textures of succulents. Succulents, including cactus, sempervivum or echeveria, are low maintenance and drought resistant making them a perfect choice for this project. They thrive in arid, well drained soil, so you only need to water every few days, or when the soil feels dry. For a great mix, add 30% pea gravel and 30% vermiculite to 40% commercial cactus soil or try a mixture of 50% moss and 50% soil. All can be purchased at your local garden center.

For a fun weekend project, you will need to collect or purchase succulents. Since they store water in their fleshy leaves, their roots don’t require a great deal of soil, making them easy to plant in a frame. Your frame can be any shape and size you desire, but the larger the box, the heavier it will be, so keep this in mind if you plan on hanging your finished project.

  •              To build the box:
  •              Four 4×4 pieces cut to size to make the box & plywood for the back
  •              Old picture frame whose glass had broken (a box without a frame works just as well)
  •              Piece of chicken wire or garden fabric

Nail the pieces of 4×4 together to make a box. You can also nail three sides and leave the fourth side open for watering, especially if you will place the frame on a wall or in a vertical display. I added garden fabric to the bottom then placed the plywood atop it and nailed in in place. Turning it over, I added a thin sheet of garden plastic as a liner.

Now, to add the dirt. First, I  poured pea gravel and vermiculite to allow for good drainage, then topped it off with cactus soil to about 3/4 full. I tacked chicken wire over the top of the box, since most of my plants were larger and mature. However, if you have cuttings and smaller plants, shade cloth would probably be a better choice to keep the plants in place. I added the frame last by placing hooks on either side rather than nailing it on in case I want to repaint it, or switch out the frame at a later date.

On to planting. I gathered the various succulents and cuttings I had stored. Most were mature plants that fit well in the chicken wire. I used the tip of a pencil to poke a hole and moved it around a little to make an area wide enough to plant. I started in one corner and planted in rows. The beauty and uniqueness of each succulent is sure to enhance your piece, so any color or texture patter is sure to be perfect.

Finally, I lightly watered the box. Depending on where you live, check the soil every few days and water if the soil is dry. This art should continue to do well through the fall and into the winter. Individual plants that die or become too large can be removed and replaced as needed.

Your living frame is ready for display. Lying flat, it makes a wonderful table arrangement and hanging on a fence or wall, is sure to create an instant conversation piece.  You can also showcase it,  freestanding, on a shelf or gardening table. And any friend or loved one would appreciate such as labor of love as a gift.

Happy planting!

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