Are you wanting to do something a little different for your wedding or event? How about using succulents in your floral arrangements? There is so much variety and they are so full of character and fun. Everyone loves succulents, we can't seem to get enough of them. They're a very practical choice for a big event or party because they will survive those sweltering heatwaves, rough handling and unexpected delays. I love incorporating fleshy succulents into my workshops to create terrariums and kokedamas and I am often called in to facilitate baby showers and hens' parties.. Here are some of my tips on how you can use succulents.
DIY Wedding favours
If you are a roll your sleeves up kinda bride, (or groom for that matter) or a bit strapped for cash you may decide to go down the DIY path when planning your big day. You can certainly make your own wedding favours. There are huge savings to be made if you plan ahead and are a bit crafty.
But what if you have banana fingers? Or think you aren't the creative type? Or DIY seems simply overwhelming?
Throw a crafternoon or hens' party
A 'making' party can be just the thing to spread the load, it combines a hens' party with a crafternoon plus a sense of common purpose. So you kill two birds with one stone. Host it at home or hire a church hall, even set yourselves up in the local park. Provide some drinks, some snacks and all the materials for everyone to make your crafty designs in an informal assembly line. Ask around beforehand for everyone's skill set and ideas. There is bound to be a 'crazy plant' lady or macrame nut in your circle who can provide a little guidance.
Terrariums big and small, can be used in your table setting and tiny ones make a lovely bonbonniere for guests to remember your day. These terrariums are so cute and can be personalised to suit a variety of bridal styles and colour schemes. There are so many pebbles, sands and gravels available, in every shade, size and shape even at your local Bunnings - you will be spoilt for choice.
Get your calligraphy mad friend to draw up cards or even write with an opaque permanent marker directly on the glass to create a bespoke place marker or 'bon mot' for each guest.
You will need
To build a mini terrarium you will need a small glass bowl or mason jar (the size that will fit a tealight) some pretty gravel, damp spagnam moss, activated charcoal, succulent premixed soil, baby succulents, little personal nic-nacs like shells, figurines and baubles.
No specialist tools are needed, just teaspoons, a cork on a bamboo stick to tamp down each layer and a brush to tidy up the terrarium. Also provide gloves for your guests to protect their skin and nails.
Layering a drainage system
Layer your container in the following order to create an effective drainage system. This system will scale up and work equally well in any container that does not have a drainage hole, such as a teacup or teapot.
1. Gravel or small pebbles
2. A sprinkle of activated charcoal
3. Damp Spagnam moss
4. Succulent and cactus soil mix
Finally plant your succulent, finish off with more gravel and decorate.
For your making party, lay out your table with all the materials, spoons, plants etc and get everyone to follow your instructions, maybe write them down or provide a picture of your test terrariums so everyone is on the same page. By the end of your 'crafternoon' you will have loads of terrariums made.
Grow your own
If you have 6 weeks or longer up your sleeve you can even propagate your own baby succulents. You can do this by buying a bigger, established plant and trimming off rosettes (from varieties such as echivera) or take cuttings from sedums and crassulas.
In the spring and summer, established plants will put out tiny baby plants, called chicks or pups. You just separate them from the mother plant and re-pot. Old tin cans are a sustainable container to grow your cuttings and plants in. Pierce some holes in the bottom for drainage.
Succulents tend to be dormant in the winter so it may take a little longer for plants to put out their
roots. You can always buy growing powder to help them along. Simply dip in the powder and plant.
In the summer, some succulents will propagate via their leaves, this can be a little trickier to get right but still do-able, making your plant costs mere cents per plant - you will need about 3-6 months to get them about the right size for a mini terrarium. Sedum plants like burros tail's and jelly bean plants are super easy to grow this way. And they are as cute as hell.
Where to buy succulents
If you don't have the time, confidence or the inclination to grow your own from scratch, you can buy in bulk at the Sydney Flower Markets in Flemington and source them directly from the growers.
Wednesdays and Fridays are the big trading days. The more you order, the bigger the savings and with weddings often running to 100 guests plus, you can do some serious bargaining and cut out the middle man! The markets are all finished and packed up by 9 am, so I suggest you get there by 6 am at the latest, as the succulents get snapped up by the shops and florists. The atmosphere is buzzy and frantic, it's a real excursion and the floral displays as you walk around are stunning. But don't get distracted. You are on a mission.
It's wise to do a test run first, before you buy in bulk., to see what's available and when. Talk to the stall holders before you buy. My 'go to' succulent grower is Brenton of Plant Lovers and his nephew, James. They are the most chilled out guys at Sydney Flower Market, patient and laid back. They don't just sell, but grow their own plants at their nursery in Galston, so they can advise you on what's coming into season over the next few months so you can plan way ahead.
Every week Brenton has a different selection of plants as they reach maturity. You can go for a totally uniform look with limitless, identical, little plants in tiny pots or mix and match buying wholesale trays that hold about 30 plants.
Even though they are wholesalers, Brenton and James are also very happy to sell you just a single baby plant for around $3.50. Like a sample pot of paint, take it home, ponder it, try it out before you commit! They will advise you on the care of plants to ensure they are in tip top condition for your event. The guys are second generation growers and really know their stuff. It's also a good idea to follow them on facebook to see what they have growing and will be bringing to market on the day you plan to visit.
If you want to learn to talk succulent, a great little book to have is 'The Little Book of Cacti and other Succulents' by Emma Sibley. It has informative pictures and info about plant care and gives both the common name and Latin name.
My other favourite succulent project is Kokedama making. They are those string and moss ball plantings that you can hang up or display on a saucer or tray. They again make great set pieces and are the perfect choice for a fun hens' party activity. It's actually quite therapeutic to make kokedamas, a bit like grown up mud pie making. You need to work with your hands in such a concentrated way,making it a perfect de-stress opportunity. Because we all know how frazzled we can get putting a wedding together.
You can use a wide variety of plants to string up, again Plant Lovers stock ferns, lilies, flowering plants, rubber plants and on trend indoor plants that work well, but I prefer to use succulents as they can be neglected and they will still thrive, leaving you some head space to worry about other tasks..
If you pick your times right you can incorporate flowering succulents such as Kalachoes which have a huge variety of flowers, some shaped like bells, some like little daisies. They are in season around mid February, March and April. They can be brightly coloured - almost in neon colours or subdued and subtle and kalachoe flowers can last for weeks at a time..
How to make a kokedama
You will need the following; a bowl or saucer, damp spagnam moss, lots of twine or string, scissors, succulents, very wet, muddy soil (vertical garden mix is perfect) and you can add a little sand if the soil doesn't clump enough or hold together.
Click on the images for step by step instructions.....
Watch out for....
Succulents are pretty low maintenance but you must remember to give your succulents lots of light and please do not over water them. They are happiest outside but you will need to protect them from snails when it rains. Also watch for scale and white waxy patches on leaves. Remove and destroy infected plants and spray with an organic scale and pest spray.
Drop us an email at classbunny if you would like us to organise a kokedama or terrarium making workshop for your hens' party. Sorry we are only able to travel to locations in Sydney.
Our next public kokedama class is on 23 June in Hurlstone Park. More info here
And we are holding a terrarium class on June 9th in Hurlstone Park. More info here