Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Zeus beard?

In case you are still sadly esconced in the 20th Century (remember then?), succulents rule in this millenium, what with global warming and micropropagation. What more iconic succulent for temperate climates than hens-and-chicks? The sizeable clan of Sempervivum contains a discrete subset that have traditionally been called Jovibarba (literally Jupiter's beard), which just about any Sempervivum (or Jovibarba) connoisseur will tell you is the creme de la creme of the genus (or should I say genera)! Are you confused yet? Just wait until the Sempervivum/Jovibarba bug bites you and you discover there are hundred of both, all of them delectable.

Although only a handful of species, Jovibarba encompases vast variability. So let us focus on just Jovibarba heuffellii, the most diverse and confusing of all! This varies from typical Sempervivum in that it divides like an amoeba rather than sending out "chicks" and the flowers have consistently fewer petal segments. And they bloom later in the year than most true Sempervivum.

I photographed this wonderful specimen in the Rock Alpnie Garden.

Here we have a wild form of J. heuffelii 'Hot Lips' a wonderfully named hybrid that can attain immense size--these stems are almost 2' tall.

I believe this wonderful specimen in my home garden is called something like  'Silver [or is it bronze?] Ingot' (I have managed to lose the name)--it is one of the most beautifully colord species looking like metal more than plant.
Jovibarbas are restrained, colorful year around and easy to grow. They bloom in the dog days of summer: what great er proof do we need that one does not need to venture to Africa or Mexico to find dashing and beautiful succulents for your garden! But what the heck do they have to do with Zeus' beard?

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