There's something so satisfying to me about working with my hands. It gets me out of my head and into some other space where there just seems to be so much more fluidity. Even when dealing with the irritating obstacle of having to deal with all of the little splinters from succulents, there's just something nice about creating something new. Something that grows and changes, and becomes part of your home, and you can see it daily, and then bring your friends over and give them the museum tour that is everything you've made in the last month.
So, I have a few tips that I've learned from having to work with these little monsters. A few practical. A few design. Hopefully, all relevant.
1. Pick your container: You're going to need a container for container gardening, in case that was news. :) This one was a few bucks from a thrift store, and I think it has a bit of a Moroccan feel, which I've been into recently. I've seen a lot of other cute styles, glass is popular and it feels a little more modern, or a cool tin container could be awesome if your style is more rustic and vintage, but for me this was the first step, and it kind of sets the whole tone. A few things to think about: How much of the dirt is visible? Do you want to layer it with rocks? Spend some time getting some inspiration, then let it go and see what container finds you, and go with it. Don't rule out old bowls or containers that look a little hopeless, everything can have new life with plants in it. It's magic.
2. Pick your tone: This might be the most important part. When I look through all of my favorite succulent arrangements on Pinterest, they all have this in common. They're built using either all bold colors, or all pastels, or all greens, or something that looks more mixed but is just a wisely chosen color choice used over and over. I took my bowl with me to the store to see what looked nice inside it. I settled on these matted tones with a few pops of color. But find the mood of your own succulent bowl and see what you think fits.
3. Pick a color scheme: Ok, so color scheme. Obviously it seems like green would be involved, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of succulents that are peach and purple, and a whole variety of colors so that you could avoid green and pick a different color for your neutral. Mine is this matted green with red, and pink accents. You can even see some red in the prickly parts of some of these cactus. There's also a good amount of white which in succulents always has kind of a dramatic effect that I like.
4. Vary in Height and Shape: Since I used all matte looking plants and limited the colors, the place where I varied the most was in the size and shape of the plants. I think this could work the other way too, using more colors and picking plants of similar shapes and sizes. I prefer the ones that choose consistency in color or tone than in the shapes, but that's just me. The point is the plants should look like they go together in some way.
5. Arrange in the planter before planting: Ok, so the picture below doesn't look great, but it gives you and idea or what goes in the front and the back, and which go nicely together, where to add height and whatnot. All those things you want to think about before you pull out your gloves and start running the risk of having to move these guys and their splinters over and over. You kind of want to have an idea going in, so you don't have to handle them too much, because as adorable as these bowls are ultimately, it's not great to sit in the bath for an hour with a pair of tweezers finding splinters in your hands, thighs, face, and so on.
6. Wear gloves: Gloves aren't 100% fool-proof, I think there are some gloves particularly for succulents, I don't have them, but sounds like a good idea. I used plain gardening gloves which give a fair amount of protection, especially from the smaller more invasive little ones. The big ones are easy to find in your skin, but it's the finer, tinier ones that cause a huge nuisance.
7. Don't plant your succulents too deep: Keep them at the same soil level they've been growing at. Planting them too deep will cause them to deteriorate or erode from water and moisture, especially when they're first planted. You want to keep their environment reasonably the same to avoid transplant shock, or too much moisture sitting on the top of the plant.
8. Give them a few days to settle: Every time I make a succulent arrangement it never looks amazing at first. There's always dust, and the plants have to kind of figure out where they are, but they settle in pretty quick and regain their full luster, which a few days of love and patience.
Here are the varieties I used in no particular order:
Cereus Species (the tall one)
Just an adorable picture of some sweet notes sent to me recently.