A couple of months ago, the British Cactus and Succulent Society rang me up. They wanted me to come and speak to their members, and potential new members, at their event at RHS Bridgewater.
I said no. I’ve been growing cacti and succulents since I was a child, but I’m not an expert by any means. However, they persisted. They said they didn’t want me to give planting advice; they wanted me to give inspiration and fresh ideas, get people excited about cacti, but not get too serious about it all. Of course, that sounded right up my boulevard, so I agreed!
I have to say, what an event. It was absolutely amazing. There was a marquee full of cacti and succulents for sale, and I was like a kid in a sweet shop. I bought more than I have space for on my windowsill, which is always a good thing. I also really enjoyed the other presentations, as I learnt how to grow cacti the right way, and we also had a Zoom tour of the mountains in Chile, showing cacti in their own environment!
Below, you’ll see one of the crazy arrangements I made, in that amazing Barakura style. If you look really closely, you will see this is a complete mashup of many different types of plants!
But, which varieties of cacti and succulents caught my eye? Here are nine cool ones… I didn’t buy them all, but I could’ve done.
1. Grafted cactus varieties
This amazing selection of grafted cactus was really interesting, and really excited the 10-year-old in me. They aren’t just for fun though, they are actually grafted on the stronger rootstock in order to give stronger plants, and ones that are less susceptible to rotting. Dear reader, I bought four plants.
2. Lithops – Living Stones
This is the best place to start for anybody who is looking to grow a succulent. I’ve been researching Lithops (A.K.A. Living Stones) for my book recently, and there are still species that are undiscovered in the world, such is the quality of the camouflage stone appearance!
3. Woolly Senecio (Senecio haworthii)
Interestingly, I first met this plant in Holland, where it was being trialled as a patio plant outdoors. I think it would work nicely in containers, and wouldn’t need much maintenance whatsoever. I haven’t seen this one in the houseplant shops, so perhaps the wholesalers don’t know about it yet. Let’s not tell them, huh??
4. Echeveria ‘Red Sea Monster’
I love Echeveria, and especially when they’re outdoors in the summer. This is really crazy – it’s the aptly named ‘Red Sea Monster’!!
5. Echeveria ‘Ebony’
Here’s another fantastic Echeveria with deep red edges. The thing I love about these plants is that the flowers are so mismatched, and rather unsuspecting. They just appear as if they’re aliens on a summer holiday!
6. Ariocarpus retusus
These plants were getting a lot of interest at the show, and that fuzzy felt part was too much to resist!! This is a cactus from Mexico, and is actually the fastest growing in a very slow moving family.
7. Othonna capensis ‘Ruby Neckless’
This plant is the next big thing – you have heard it here first. It’s like a red version of the very popular string of beads, although it’s a completely different plant. Doesn’t need too much water, and make sure you put it up high, so it will trail down with that ruby red necklace.
8. Aeonium ‘Night’s Watch’
Did you know that people are breeding succulents as we speak? This fantastic new Aeonium was bred by Ottershaw Cacti, and it is notable for the lovely scallop and point to each leaf. He’s got a really good name too, because of course the foliage is lovely and dark – very mystical.
9. Mixed Haworthia varieties
This was such a treat. This collection of Haworthia were in the corner of the marquee. I was marvelling at all the different shades, shapes, and many of the species were very rare. I even like the ones that look like elephant feet, or elephant dung more like! it’s a plant that often falls below soil level, surrounded by pebbles, so that’s why the leaves are balloon-like and translucent.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.