The succulent sensation

I sit on the stoop outside my door in Holly Point Apartments in Chesapeake. Stray dirt and plant scraps lay below me. I'm dissecting my jade plant for probably the third time. The small tree with dense succulent leaves has gotten a bit wild so I want to break off a few branches and leaves, and plant them in separate pots. I've had this plant for about six years. My aunt gave it as a gift. Now I can pass on that gift to others, including her.

That was about five years ago. I still have that jade plant. My aunt still has the one I gave to her as one of those cuttings. It's about ten times larger than the one that sits in my window now. I have since made more cuttings and bestowed more gifts with that jade plant. I consider it to be a friend. 

Recent photo of the jade plant I gave my aunt back in 2010

Recent photo of the jade plant I gave my aunt back in 2010

Plants make great office and home companions, but there is something special about the succulent variety. Jades, sedums, donkey tails, donkey ears, cacti, aloe. These all belong to the succulent family. They're super easy to care for and flourish indoors just about anywhere. That jade plant sat in my window of a basement apartment while at JMU with low light and did just fine. They only need water maybe once every two weeks. I've always been told that receiving a jade plant as a gift is good luck. I'd vouch for that.

Norfolk's Plant Man

After reconnecting with John Wharton, and realizing his passion, I was curious about why he chose succulents as the focal point of his small Norfolk based pop-up shop. I love the variety because they are so resilient and add a subtle beauty to any room or landscape where they're placed.

Photo via @glassgardens

Photo via @glassgardens

When I asked John why he chose succulents for his business he said, "they chose me." After several years of working in the self storage and property management business he knew he wanted to start a business. He is an entrepreneur. He was inspired by his parents who were "creative and encouraging" and also in the farmer's market scene for a few years. He read, kept a journal, and researched his options for his own business. 

After becoming confident in his terrarium building skills, he said, "Almost RIGHT away I wanted to share these plants and this FEELING with others." The plants are great, but they're really just a way to connect for John. He gives away plants and shares ideas daily. He keeps his prices low. He encourages and inspires others. They're a conversation starter and a way to share a moment with someone else. 

"It has awakened the inner artist in me," he says.

I like the idea of entering into a relationship with a plant, something vulnerable, that needs my attention to thrive. Succulents are great for decorations. Weddings. Events. Party favors. Great for kids classes, or for someone who just wants a plant to put on their window sill and water every 2 weeks.
— John R. Wharton

Very easy going 

Succulents make great plants because they're "hardy," meaning they don't need a lot of attention. They do need soil that drains well so a sandy or pebbly variety works best. Most cactus blends you'll see in the gardening section do fine, but John mixes up his own "dirty little bag" blend. They like plenty of sun, and some varieties actually go dormant during some seasons so less water is required during that time. Study your succulent to learn it's patterns of growth. 

Let it be

A lesson awaits in the care for succulents. I have found this to be especially true with caring for my jade. Without doing anything, the plant flourishes. It just what it's naturally going to do. It doesn't think about it or worry about it. It simply, is. Each leaf could be plucked, stuck in the soil, and grow a whole new plant. Roots spring forth and new life, from the old, continues. We could all benefit from practicing a similar Small Act. Let life be, and it will be. Just like that. No need to worry or fret. Simply enjoy the present moment and let life unfold. 

This article was produced as a Small Act feature for Glass Gardens