Sempervivum forum: Protecting hardy semps from Oregon's winter rains

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Name: Rita Handrich
Salem OR (Zone 8b)
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Rhandrich
Jan 3, 2020 1:17 AM CST
Hi. I'm new to semps and new to Oregon's winter rains but have fallen head over heals for the cheery bright colors of the hardy semps in the midst of the gray and rainy Oregon winter.

How do I protect them in the rains? The constant rains. I live in Salem which I thought was zone 8b but I see some of you call that 8a. Rain rain rain. Better to stick them under a patio roof or if I have a really well draining soil is it okay to leave them out to fend for themselves in the rains? They are in heavy (really heavy) concrete planters that are on wheeled dollies so I can protect them from the rain under a patio roof if I need to do that.

I've been wondering if people cover them with plastic sheeting....
Central CT (Zone 6b)
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JesseInCT
Jan 3, 2020 8:34 AM CST
Hi Rhandrich-

I'm on the east coast but I know a lot of your fellow Oregonians leave them uncovered for the duration of the year. Yes, drainage is the most important thing to keep them happy. They will rot if they sit in a pool of water. I'm sure you've heard of the use of chicken grit to keep them off the damp soil?

I have seen some (GregC?) make small hoophouses for their beds and cover with plastic so it's definitely an option. You could also tuck them under an eve or roof. If this is your first year with them, maybe experiment and leave some out and tuck some away if it's not too much trouble?

What is your container mix composed of? Does water pool in them?

Jesse
Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
Jan 3, 2020 10:03 AM CST
Rita,

All mine here in Salem are outside and unprotected. Some of them do suffer with the winter rains but a few really hate it, like the ciliosums. Because my belief as a hybridizer is that only the hardy should be introduced to the market, the seedlings are never protected. That way I know they've taken everything Mother Nature has dished out.

Having said that, mine are all in raised beds with a rather loose mix and chick grit around the plants so that water issues aren't as big a deal.

Kevin
Name: Rita Handrich
Salem OR (Zone 8b)
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Rhandrich
Jan 3, 2020 12:16 PM CST
Thanks to both of you. I think the idea of a little umbrella is cute but I like the idea that they should be able to take what nature dishes out. I've been reading the posts here including multiple threads on soil mixes and mine is VERY light and I have a big bag of poultry grit to top off the containers.

I found some HUGE cement planters on Marketplace but they only have a small central hole for drainage so we are planning additional drain holes with a drill bit made for cement. I just hope they don't break! They are lovely cement work with raised birds and flowers and some bits of moss from their previous life.

Since this is my first year and I'm getting a late start with them--I will put them in position AND drape them with plastic umbrellas of some sort as they settle in and then let them fend for themselves against the elements come March. Next winter they are on their own!!!

ONE QUESTION: Do I plant the semps in poultry grit (i.e., is the first couple inches poultry grit?) or do I simply place poultry grit around the plants themselves to avoid water pooling?
Central CT (Zone 6b)
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JesseInCT
Jan 3, 2020 1:03 PM CST
I like to amend my soil with a course sand like this-It's cheap and easy to find.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Qu...

I just use the grit as a top dressing, personally. .
Name: Rita Handrich
Salem OR (Zone 8b)
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Rhandrich
Jan 3, 2020 1:16 PM CST
JesseInCT said:I like to amend my soil with a course sand like this-It's cheap and easy to find.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Qu...

I just use the grit as a top dressing, personally. .


As I read through the posts on soil mixes, I saw that sand will slow drainage and I thought I would not use it until I attended the weekend information/training thing in the spring. I already had some coarse sand like that but have the [perhaps grandiose] idea that I might start making hypertufa troughs in the spring too so who knows where I will use it!

My current mix is something that will never happen again since I was using up some things I had. I used about ⅓ Miracle Grow (without the moisture beads), ⅓ poultry grit, and ⅓ of some cactus potting soil I had left that did NOT have wood chips [EDIT: I meant peat moss!] in it. Then I dumped in some other high grit material I had so I would use it up. The result was very light and I'm currently planting bare root succulents in it (for indoors) and doing some leaf propagation in my small greenhouse with it. I only have about 5 gallons of it left (I made a big wagon full of mix and mixed it up with my hands so it was well combined). So one more this and that wagon-full and my excess will be used up. Then I will see whether it is light enough or if I need to go even lighter. In a pot with good drainage, there is no pooling. It runs right through like it says it should in the forum historical posts.
[Last edited by Rhandrich - Jan 9, 2020 12:47 PM (+)]
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Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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springcolor
Jan 3, 2020 1:19 PM CST
I'm up in Washing state an hour north of Seattle. My collection is in raised beds but because of all the rain we get up here my beds are covered in a hoophouse. They bounce back much faster in the spring and less clean up too.
Thumb of 2020-01-03/springcolor/bc012c

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Central CT (Zone 6b)
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JesseInCT
Jan 3, 2020 1:26 PM CST
Rhandrich said:

As I read through the posts on soil mixes, I saw that sand will slow drainage and I thought I would not use it until I attended the weekend information/training thing in the spring. I already had some coarse sand like that but have the [perhaps grandiose] idea that I might start making hypertufa troughs in the spring too so who knows where I will use it!

My current mix is something that will never happen again since I was using up some things I had. I used about ⅓ Miracle Grow (without the moisture beads), ⅓ poultry grit, and ⅓ of some cactus potting soil I had left that did NOT have wood chips in it. Then I dumped in some other high grit material I had so I would use it up. The result was very light and I'm currently planting bare root succulents in it (for indoors) and doing some leaf propagation in my small greenhouse with it. I only have about 5 gallons of it left (I made a big wagon full of mix and mixed it up with my hands so it was well combined). So one more this and that wagon-full and my excess will be used up. Then I will see whether it is light enough or if I need to go even lighter. In a pot with good drainage, there is no pooling. It runs right through like it says it should in the forum historical posts.


I wouldn't use a play sand, but coarse sand has worked well for me and drains very fast. Cactus mixes typically have peat moss I've found which I try to avoid.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
Jan 3, 2020 6:31 PM CST

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I agree with Jesse, coarse sand should work nicely in your mix, and I try to stay away from peat moss mixes. I live just a few miles from Kevin, in Dallas, OR. We tend to get a bit colder and some times wetter than Kevin's place.
I have sandy loam in my raised beds, and it drains very fast. This leads to having drought situations in our dry summer. Some how they all manage to handle the big swings in conditions throughout the year.

I spent today out in the sunshine and groomed 7 beds today. How wonderful it felt. Here is bed #14.
Thumb of 2020-01-04/valleylynn/c59142
I did have two colonies that I had to do some clean up on, 'Gold Nugget' and 'Rose Toujour'. This is a great time to go out and see which varieties handle our cold, wet winter conditions. Many show no damage at all.

Rita, I put about an inch of chicken grit under the leaves of the rosettes and cover the open spaces with more grit. I find that it helps with the freezing and thawing that we get so much of. It also keeps the soil from making contact with the underside of the plants, and prevents mud splashing on the colonies.

Julia, I think you get a lot more rain up in Seattle than we do here in the Willamette Valley. If I was up in your area I would probably cover mine in the winter.
Name: Greg Colucci
Seattle WA (Zone 8b)
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gg5
Jan 6, 2020 2:31 PM CST
Hello Rita - Welcome! I too live up in Seattle and cover my plants in winter - based on weather - this year it was mid Nov. when I covered them.
Since your plantings are new, I'd cover them - especially if this is easy for you to do.
For me all my new plants seem more vulnerable to the rains than the established plantings

I noticed you and your brother signed up for the clinic! Meet in person there Thumbs up
Expect to be blown away the first time you visit Kevin's and Lynn's yards = so many semps! Rolling on the floor laughing Hurray!
Good luck with your plants! I tip my hat to you.

Name: Rita Handrich
Salem OR (Zone 8b)
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Rhandrich
Jan 9, 2020 12:36 PM CST
gg5 said:Expect to be blown away the first time you visit Kevin's and Lynn's yards = so many semps! Rolling on the floor laughing Hurray!
Good luck with your plants! I tip my hat to you.


I JUST SAW Lynn's Planter #14 and almost choked on my coffee! FOURTEEN???????????? There needs to be a WOW emoji beneath the message to select prior to publishing. There is nothing to thoroughly express my feelings.


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[Last edited by valleylynn - Jan 9, 2020 5:29 PM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
Jan 9, 2020 5:32 PM CST

Moderator

Rhandrich said:
I JUST SAW Lynn's Planter #14 and almost choked on my coffee! FOURTEEN???????????? There needs to be a WOW emoji beneath the message to select prior to publishing. There is nothing to thoroughly express my feelings.

Thumb of 2020-01-09/Rhandrich/08667e



Rita, you just gave me my laugh for the day. Group hug
In all there are 23 raised beds, so there will be lots to look at come Clinic time. Bev was over today, we had a great 2 hours looking at plants in the cold. At least it wasn't raining. What fun.
And mine is nothing compared to what you will see at Kevin's place.
Name: Rita Handrich
Salem OR (Zone 8b)
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Rhandrich
Jan 10, 2020 10:54 AM CST
@valleylynn It was shocking and I was filled with both awe and consternation. I cannot wait to see both yours and Kevin's plantings. I'm thinking of them as art installments and expect every dead leaf will be removed for viewing. Sticking tongue out
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jan 10, 2020 3:33 PM CST

Moderator

Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Group hug
Oh Rita, I hope you are not disappointed when you come to my garden on that Friday of the Clinic. I really try to be a perfectionist, and by nature I am. But life seems to get in the way of being able to make the beds perfect. I always feel some disappointment in not having it all perfect, but I continue trying. You make me feel inspired. Group hug
Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
Jan 10, 2020 4:29 PM CST
Rita,

I have over 20K seedlings so no, not every dead leaf will be removed! In fact I leave them as I want to see which ones DON'T have dead leaves as they are better items to be named.

In my yard the dwarf irises will be in peak bloom so there will be lots to see besides the semps. I have 3.5 acres and about 2 is in cultivation. That's a lot for any one person to weed!

Kevin

Central CT (Zone 6b)
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JesseInCT
Jan 10, 2020 6:07 PM CST
Rita sounds like she is pretty gung-ho. I bet she will pluck every dead leaf for you two! Hilarious!
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jan 10, 2020 7:01 PM CST

Moderator

Bring it on. Hurray!
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
Photo Contest Winner 2018 Garden Photography Region: Pacific Northwest Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Greenhouse
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springcolor
Jan 10, 2020 7:43 PM CST
Rita, if you cleaning semps I'm just 4 hours north of Portland! 7 beds to clean and weed! Rolling on the floor laughing
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Name: Rita Handrich
Salem OR (Zone 8b)
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Rhandrich
Feb 21, 2020 12:19 PM CST
I'm pretty busy in my own spring explosion here! My planted in winter outdoor hardy sempervivums survived a little worse for wear but it's wonderful to see the new life. EVERYTHING is trying to emerge from the muck and mud. Hurray!
Central CT (Zone 6b)
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JesseInCT
Feb 21, 2020 12:40 PM CST
Glad to hear you're spring is arriving, Rita. It's supposed to be mid 50's here this weekend in CT and I am very much looking forward to the sun and warmth!! Hurray!
[Last edited by JesseInCT - Feb 21, 2020 12:41 PM (+)]
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