In the Garden: Pilferage and propagation

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A tea cup from the sale bin at my favorite Japantown porcelain store is now home to three of my proud propagates.

Succulents come in myriad shapes, colors and textures (including the spiny cactus) and pepper the planet in locales as diverse as India, Madagascar and the California coast!

They’ve been all the decor rage for the past few years, as they are both easy on the eyes and hard to kill. Though air plants — the fiercely survivalist tillandsia — are becoming “stiff” competition, particularly as wall art, succulents are still spreading their fleshy leaves at an ambitious rate. Surpassing the simple flower pot, they are showing up as floral arrangements, wreaths and framed hangings.

It’s crazy how plants can be trendy, but then there is the infamous tale of the tulip… I can’t say I know of any fortunes that have been won or lost over these fun little flora, though the local nurseries are probably making out quite well. (Succulents regenerate themselves at an amazing rate, with hardly any work on the part of humans.)

A second life for charity shop find. Rocks compliments of Bean Hollow beach.

I’ve been busy propagating my little thick-leafed friends for some time. Some of the parent plants were purchased, while others were plucked from obliging flower pots or pinched on a hike. You pick a little plant or just a part, leave it to dry for a few weeks and then, once roots start to reach out, plant the new sucker in some soil.

Finding the right containers is almost equally as fun. I peruse secondhand stores, sale bins and my own cabinets for candidates. (What better retirement plan for a chipped mug or bowl?) Fishbowls are a present favorite.

Picked up the beady bundle of red and green this afternoon near Alamere Falls in Point Reyes. What a lovely, though busy hike!!

I recently redid a few planters, as I hadn’t given them proper drainage on my first try. Now, with a bed of rocks in the bottom and a layer of charcoal just below the sandy soil, the roots should have plenty of room to breathe.

If you’d like to totally geek out on succulents, follow the goings on of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA), at www.cssainc.org.

And if you’re curious about the tulip wars, an apropos analogy for our troubled economic times, check out “Tulipomania : The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused” by Mike Dash.

A bright yellow succulent in its natural habitat -- the dunes at Bean Hollow State Beach.

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In the garden of Gnome

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OK, I guess one would be hard-pressed to call my back staircase a garden. But we must make do with what we have. And though the view is only of my neighbor’s adjacent building, this is San Francisco after all, having a bench seat for one and a pocket of sunshine just off my kitchen is truly a joy.

When it’s not raining and storming like today, I sit and have my morning coffee with Gnome. We stare blissfully at our pots of succulents and herbs, as if they were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

We have great plans for our little space, which we plan to fill until we all but crowd ourselves out. We’ll have hanging plants and boxed plants and plants mounted on the walls in burlap sacks …

But for now, nous somme content. And that is the whole point of this little “garden” after all.

Reach out and touch some sun.