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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle Stannus

A 'succa' for punishment

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Our Tree Aeonium was the highlight of our display at Tamar NRM's Sustainable Living Festival 2021 at the Windsor Park Community Precinct. Note the emphasise on the past tense. Read on to find out how it fared ...

Getting to the event itself took a little planning. Looking back now, I would say we were a little optimistic thinking that we could fit all our plants into our smallish Nissan Pathfinder. We left the packing of our Tree Aeonium until last. Given this aeonium was the central feature of our event display, we wanted to minimise the amount of time it spent in our car. However, moving this plant into the car, I managed to bump the top of the aeonium, slightly weakening its stem. 😩

A car boot filled with indoor plants for an event display
All packed and ready to go!

The Cube

Nonetheless, our Tree Aeonium survived the journey to town and was the hero of our display. Botanically known as Aeonium arboreum var. atropurpureum 'Schwarzkopf', this branching succulent shrub caught the eye of festival-goers, many of whom said they had one of their own but had never seen it flowering. "What are you doing to make your plant flower?", was the question we were asked by more than a few patrons. Finding the right spot for any plant is critical, as is watering and feeding it appropriately. The Tree Aeonium is winter active/summer dormant and requires good drainage. Therefore I am very careful to avoid over-watering it. And when I first noticed its flower buds appearing, I fed it with a liquid fertiliser.

For those of you who came along to the festival and wanted to know which other plants were in our display, here is a quick list:

  • Bromeliad (which I have yet to properly identify)

  • Chlorophytum comosum (Spider Plant)

  • Yucca elephantipes ‘Silver Star’ (Yucca 'Silver Star')

  • Portulacaria afra ‘Green’ (Money Plant)

  • Ficus elastica 'Ruby' (Variegated Rubber Tree)

  • Calathea insignis (syn. Calathea lancifolia) (Rattlesnake Plant)

  • Ficus decora ‘Tineke’ (Tineke Rubber Tree)

A man shows a portfolio containing building and landscape designs to a woman at a sustainable living event
The Tree Aeonium's bright yellow flowers and contrasting dark purple leaf rosettes were a real show-stopper

Plant stands

Three indoor plants on display in plant stands made from CNC cut plywood at a sustainable living event
Our plant stands on display

We had several more plants on show in our standing planters located at the rear of our stall. These plants were (from top to bottom in the picture to the right):

  • Euphorbia trigona ‘Red Devil’ (African Milk Tree)

  • Philodendon squamiferum (Red Bristle Philodendron)

  • Rhipsalis pentaptera (Mistletoe Cactus)

Ludovic made these plant stands for Blooming Tasmania's annual Spring Festival in 2018 using plywood machined on a CNC router.

The Container Connection generously donated the beautiful Deltini planters in which these plants are housed for that same display. These sub-irrigated planters make watering your plants a whole lot easier. Plus they are very easy on the eye and suitable for tabletop arrangements.

Indoor plants: Keeping you and your plants healthy

During the festival, I gave a presentation on 'Indoor plants: Keeping you and your plants healthy'. I hoped to inspire those in the audience to consider how plants contribute to both the physical and mental wellbeing, especially as they can help to improve indoor air quality. However, more on that topic another time. I received some great questions from people listening to my presentation, including the following:

  • Which ferns will fare well inside my house?

  • Which, if any, indoor plants are toxic to pets?

  • What types of sub-irrigated pots would you recommend?

Stay tuned for my answers to these questions in the near future when I can bring myself to write another blog. Right now though, I am quite frankly 'zonked'. That is, I am very tired. It has been a busy few weeks in the lead up to this festival, updating our website, developing my presentation, preparing other event materials, and generally just making sure our 'normal' business activities tick over (not to mention teaching geography at the University of Tasmania). Both Ludovic and myself though are very thankful that this event was able to go ahead given many other similar events across Australia have been cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An indoor plant commonly called the Spider Plant drapes over an event display made from CNC machined plywood
Chlorphytum elatum, a close relative of the Spider Plant seen in our display (Chlorophytum comosum), was used in NASA trials testing plant's ability to remove formaldehyde

Well, we eventually got home in one piece. Ludovic has put his flat-packing skills to good use and the Cube is safely stored away until the next event. However, the same cannot be said for our Tree Aeonium 😥.

An event display made of plywood machined on a CNC cutter is packed down and in storage
Our Cube is all packed away until the next event

Packing the car as we left the festival site, the wind picked up and our Tree Aeonium could not withstand its force. The terminal rosette broke off and its lovely inflorescence fell to the ground. And then on the final leg of the journey home, several branches broke off. I salvaged those, and cut them back to essentially make stem cuttings. I also collected many of its leaves to trial some leaf cuttings. All these cuttings are all now having a couple of days in the 'fresh' air so that the cuts can callous over before I place the pieces in a propagating mix in which they hopefully develop roots and then become new aeoniums. 🤞

The terminal flower from a Tree Aeonium decorates a glass jar on a kitchen table
The crowning glory of our display in its final resting place

Stay tuned for news on how those little babies fare. In the meantime, I will bid you all a good night and depart for bed. Faire de beaux rêves! 💤

A bientôt!



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