Learning to Love Succulents

| October 5, 2015 | 0 Comments


Tesh has created a succulent mosaic mountain using the plants’ colors to define the patterns.

Tesh has created a succulent mosaic mountain using the plants’ colors to define the patterns.

Most of you know that I am not really a gardener. I kill more than I cultivate. However, Tom Tesh of Waterwise Botanicals may have changed my black thumb to khaki. In August my neighbor and I drove to Escondido to visit Tesh‘s Nursery where he has created a nursery, laboratory, and show cases for what one can do using succulents.

Tesh took us to a grove where coolers with iced drinks sat amid tables on which were various fruits for snacking. We sat and listened as he spoke of newly created and recently discovered antique plants. Tesh specializes in succulents which include cacti. Tesh explained that landscaping with succulents is different from the plants East Coast and the Mid-West transplanted people are used to.

Landscaping with succulents has myriad advantages over the typical “cottage” garden. First, succulents are easy to grow. They have longevity and most require little care. Tesh emphasized that ice plant and red apple are not his choices of succulents. They need more water and fertilizer than do other, more interesting succulents.

Succulents come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. Some are shrubs. Some have long branches. Others make good ground cover as they lie flat on the ground. They all like well-drained soil. Most succulents succumb to over-saturation. When the bringing in a new plant, it will need a little more care until it has established itself. Dig a hole equal to the size of its root ball. Don’t add anything to the hole, but set the plant into the hole. Do not backfill. He suggests leaving an airgap. The soil will fill in as the roots shift around, and you can sit back and marvel at how little care they need.

Tesh mentioned he got several plants from a cemetery. They came with a cover letter, he joked, “Tomb it may concern.” He became serious again explaining that in Denver there was a three year moratorium on watering. There have been 100 to 200 year droughts yet trees 1000 to 2000 years old managed to survive. Tesh’s motto is “Water wise without the compromise.”

As he finished his introductory remarks, he took us on a tour of his “show rooms.” These are various gardens showing the variety of “looks” you can get using succulents. He has one garden he calls tropical. He has planted various succulents with tropical looking leaves and flowers. Another area consists of “Country Cottage” gardens. He has desert gardens, South African gardens, and he even has a “Neanderthaloe Land” featuring unusual and ancient looking aloes. On the hill behind the “show rooms”

Tesh has created a succulent mosaic mountain using the plants’ colors to define the patterns. He also has a path he calls the “Golden Barrel Stairway. You will find day lilies and grasses displayed as well as perennial shrubs. Everywhere cacti and succulents abound.

Tesh has created a couple of ponds replete with healthy, large catfish. The catfish, like the succulents, are easier to maintain than coy. Their size discourages raccoons and birds from feasting on fish. Instead, these large creatures come partially onto the shore to nibble on grasses in the shade of California Coastal evergreen trees. These are not raised for food; they are pets.

Waterwise Botanicals has growing fields as well as a shaded area for shade loving plants. In addition, you will find plants for sale arranged by size, from small three inch pots to five gallon and more.

Amidst the grasses and succulents, shrubs and trees you will find roses. Roses are not necessarily the water hogs we think they are. Tesh’s roses are covered in blooms. They seem to like Tesh’s watering system.

Tesh uses over-head watering as a drip system would drown the succulents. He has them on a timer: once a week or every ten days, the water goes on early in the morning for 20 minutes. Then late in the afternoon they receive another 20 minute shower. Watering twice in one day allows the soil to absorb more water as it has a chance to drain. The overhead spray washes off unwanted pests and dust. Mulch around the plants keeps roots cool and slows evaporation.

Tesh does use some fertilizer to replace the nitrogen in our slightly alkaline water and soil. He uses regular lawn fertilizer and sprinkles it liberally between his plants. Water it lightly.

Many of these plants have a dormant season. It tends to occur in summer when other plants are busy blooming. While they are dormant, let them alone.

In addition to a little fertilizer once or twice a year and occasional watering, you may need to prune. Tesh gave us a demonstration: he whacked plants wherever he felt they were too tall or too dense. That was all he needed to do. He did, however, use heavy duty clippers and he wore gloves. Easy care they may be, but some are prone to biting.

I hope that my attempt to growing succulents successfully will work. Stay tuned for results, some day in the future.

October 28 we will be treated to Gardening to Grilling as The Red Door will teach us how to use the food crops you grow and prepare a simple but delicious meal. Bring any extra crops you have to swap with other members. Bring money for a drawing featuring gift cards and gifts. The people from With Love will be there as well. They have the darling gift shop on West Lewis. The meeting will be at the Mission Hills Church at 4070 Jackdaw from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.

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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.