Sempervivum forum→How did your semp addiction begin?

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Name: Melissa Hopper
St. Helens, Or (Zone 8a)
Semp addict horse junky dog flunky
Sempervivums Keeps Horses Dog Lover Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Garden Photography
Hummingbirder Region: Oregon
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MelissaHopper
Jun 30, 2018 9:41 PM CST
webesemps said:Just curious, Melissa...when exactly did this slight interest in Sempervivums happen?


Well Bev, I guess it all started about 35 years ago. I lived in Portland and I acquired some offsets from "the green one" out of my brother's yard of his rental house. I had a corner of my yard where nothing would grow and I planted them there and of course they grew.

25 years ago I moved to St. Helens and brought some offsets with me and planted them. Got tired of weeding them so I dug them up and planted them in pots. Had lots of green ones. Then I found another variety at a local nursery. And for many years just had the two. Then more varieties started to show up at local nurseries and pretty soon I had probably 10 different varieties. Ones I acquired early on were El Toro, Damask, Emily and Icicle.

Then I started looking at semps on the internet and stumbled on Youngs Nursery in Roseburg. Started ordering them online. Things are starting to go bad here.

But I am pretty sure what put the final nail in my coffin was when I stumbled on this place. All I was trying to do was look at pictures of semps and look where it got me?

It's like a drunk finding a bar that is open 24/7 and has free booze. And you feel right at home because the other folks are in the same boat you are. In fact some of them are WORSE than you are. And they tell you that you are fine, which is just what you want to hear.

Yeah, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

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
Jun 30, 2018 9:55 PM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing That's a great story! Yep all in the same boat. Look at all the great people in that boat. Lovey dubby
Sempervivum for Sale
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Jun 30, 2018 10:20 PM CST
Thanks Melissa for sharing that part of your obsession(s) with us. I would think every one of us has a story like that...maybe one of these days we can hear about them and find the similarities/support/surprises that we have all experienced within ourselves and with each other. Smiling
Name: Greg Chrislip
Memphis, TN (Zone 7b)
Sempervivums Cactus and Succulents Bookworm Cat Lover
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GregC
Jul 1, 2018 8:03 AM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing yes all in the same big boat, I'm 55 and have grown them off and on since high school.
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Name: Lynn
Oregon City, 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
Jul 1, 2018 8:58 AM CST

Moderator

I just HAD to split this into it's own thread. What a great way to find out how each of us became so obsessed with our much love sempervivum.
I will post mine when I get back home.
Come on, jump right in and tell us your story. Hurray!
Name: Karen
New Mexico (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Greenhouse
Sempervivums Bromeliad Adeniums Morning Glories Avid Green Pages Reviewer Brugmansias
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plantmanager
Jul 1, 2018 10:10 AM CST
I've seen semps off and on my whole life, but never really paid much attention to them. Then I came here to NGA and stumbled across this forum. I had no idea they were so interesting, and came in so many different colors and shapes. All I knew about was 'the green one!' I was hooked, and have been ordering them ever since!

Most of mine are in pots, so I could figure out where they are happiest. Now I'm trying to get more of them into the ground because it seems like they take a bit less care that way. It's also a nicer way to display them.

I'm still in a battle with the critters. Deer, javelinas, rabbits and squirrels have all browsed my semp buffets. My husband has helped me tremendously by making cages and some fences. We still need more fencing before things will be ok. He's now setting up a rain harvesting system so I'll have more water on hand for the semps. We just had our first rain in 6 months, and my rain barrels are full!
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[Last edited by plantmanager - Jul 1, 2018 10:21 AM (+)]
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Name: Melissa Hopper
St. Helens, Or (Zone 8a)
Semp addict horse junky dog flunky
Sempervivums Keeps Horses Dog Lover Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Garden Photography
Hummingbirder Region: Oregon
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MelissaHopper
Jul 1, 2018 1:51 PM CST
This is too funny. After I got done posting my semp story, I said to myself "I bet Lynn breaks that off into a new topic". Yay!! I win a cookie!! Hurray!

Now everybody else has to share how they became addicted.
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Jul 1, 2018 8:57 PM CST
I apologize in advance...I'm not going to be as brief as Melissa but for some of you, I may be repetitive.

My first sentences reference the beginning of an article I wrote for Sempervivum Week in 2013.
https://garden.org/ideas/view/...

re: Living Pictures: "The first one I (ever) saw, planted with tender succulents, had a jade plant growing out from it and I thought: "Gee, when this jade gets bigger, it will be growing perpendicular to the frame and look peculiar when the frame is hung up." I thought then that succulents with a lot less stem should be used. That is when I decided that Sempervivums would be my plant of choice for making my version of living pictures."
And there began my hunt for semps that would be the foundation of the planting of my living picture frames.

That was in the very early 90's when I was already collecting/cultivating tender succulents in CA. Adding semps to my succulent hobby introduced the first of what I now know as hardy succulents. From then on I collected semps but did not "indulge" in identification of them. If you read the above article it will tell you what I looked for in semps; names were not one of the requirements.

While collecting semps solely for filling in frames, I moved from CA to NM to WA and back to CA and then to OR. In 3 different states I always kept and moved the semps in their flats, never feeling comfortable enough to plant them into the ground anywhere. I guess I knew that a new move was always around the corner. I have sold about 100 frames but eventually ended up with just 12 empty frames as one of the moves required us to leave the wood cutting machines behind. No more new frames. By then I was collecting semps solely for the 12 frames that I had left and a small raised bed in CA. In 2012, I was looking for answers to grub infestation and came upon Doctor Houseleek on All Things Plants and the thread "Wall Farming".
The thread "Wall farming" in Containers forum

That led to 3 things:
1) the introduction to the neatest group of semp crazed people...
2) the cheerful habit of posting on the ATP, now the National Gardening site
3) the daunting chore of keeping identification on most of my semps just to be on trend with everyone on the Semp forum.

It was after the winter of 2017, when I lost all my tender succulents, that I made the decision to focus my gardening efforts solely on Sempervivums. It was a good decision as my gardening has simplified somewhat.

[Last edited by webesemps - Jul 1, 2018 9:39 PM (+)]
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Name: Chad
Oklahoma (Zone 7b)
Region: Oklahoma Sempervivums Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Bulbs Enjoys or suffers hot summers The WITWIT Badge
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chadu82
Jul 2, 2018 12:25 AM CST
I had actually noticed these plants as a child growing up here in Oklahoma but never really knew anything about them or gave them much thought. Their unique look and green color is what I remember.

I had actually never thought about growing them as an adult and really didn't know anything about them. My aunt came down from Tulsa a few years back and gave some to my mom. I remember being at her house when she brought them by and said she got them from someone and thought my mom might like them. They were just the plants that had been pulled up like she took them right out of some pot, lol. Of course my mom just left them sitting in the bag and I noticed them over the course of a week or so later and I thought, oh no - they're probably dead! D'Oh! Of course, I just knew my aunt would come back down and inquire about the plants she had given and I didn't want her to think they just got chunked out or we killed them. I took it upon myself to plant them for her using an old metal wheelbarrow she got from a junk pile here in town but never got around to using for anything.

They took off and looked great and the rest is history..... Hurray! JUST KIDDING

After I finished college and moved back to town, I purchased my home and started to look for things to plant and grow after cleaning up the property. I thought the hens and chicks would be interesting to get a start of and see how they did for me. They did great, grew into large healthy plants with lots of babies and it got me to thinking ---- are there other colors out there is this a one of a kind plant? I did some searching, bought from a website and wasn't really happy with what I got and would periodically search as time went by. I ended up finding this group and over the course of the last couple of years, I've found out more that I ever knew about these plants and the large numbers of varieties that are available. It has been a learning curve in the beginning and I lost some plants because of it but I feel like I've done so much better with them. I rarely have any that die and they seem to thrive except for some periods of overly brutal heat but then again, I tolerate it the best I can considering it's not easy, lol!

I've communicated with some wonderful people in the group who have allowed me to grow varieties that I would probably never be able to locate in the nurseries around here. By sharing what they have, it's allowed me to honestly grow a collection that I love and I'm proud to show off. It's been a very addicting but very enjoyable hobby to get into. There are times I'm glad I don't live on an acreage or I'd be afraid what I'd come up with next..... Blinking I will say the most valuable thing I have in my plants are those everlasting labels that I purchase from Chris ( @goldfinch4 ). Without those labels, I would have nothing but NOIDS because my ideas of making my own have resulted in runny, unreadable markers that have had to be replaced repeatedly.....
Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Seller of Garden Stuff I sent a postcard to Randy!
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goldfinch4
Jul 2, 2018 2:43 AM CST
My addiction started maybe about 20 yrs. ago. We have a tiny little nursery just a few doors down from where we live. I always had tons of perennials. Stopped by the nursery to look for something new to add to my gardens and they had 3 different semps and I got all 3. Went on line to look for information on their needs and came across the SMG website. At the time it was called Squaw Mountain Gardens. I couldn't believe all the different ones available! Think my first orders was for about 30 varieties. I was hooked. Like the rest of you I stumbled across a few forums and then Dave's Garden, where I "met" Lynn for the first time. Then Dave created Cubits where the semp forum really started to take off. Those of us on the forum started trading and that's how my collection really expanded.

Probably the first 10 years I had soooo many semps I couldn't keep up with them. I'd give them away, trade, use them in crafts, and they still needed to be divided. I actually ended up throwing hundreds of them in the field behind our house just to get rid of them. Once Dave created Cubits I thought I'd try my hand at selling them and now have a business more successful than I ever imagined.

LOL Chad, glad you like the markers! The story on how those came to be..... Couldn't find anything for sale that I liked or that lasted. Was complaining to my hubby about that. He happened to have a piece of acrylic sheet laying on his workbench and suggested I use that. They've become wildly popular. Luckily it gives me something to do over the long winter. I made over 6,000 of them last winter and expect they will almost be gone by fall!

I love they way Melissa referred to her addiction as "It's like a drunk finding a bar that is open 24/7 and has free booze." That's so true! I'm super glad to have made so many wonderful friends here and look forward to all the new things we learn from each other.
Cubits Store: The Sempervivum Patch - Sempervivum plants!
Name: Paul
Rochester NY (Zone 6a)
dulcimore11
Jul 3, 2018 1:45 PM CST
When I was young, not yet 5 years old I think, we went on a visit to some of my Mom's relatives. They were elderly great-great aunts or second cousins, something like that. They lived in one of those old towns along the Erie Canal between Rochester and Buffalo...Gasport or Newfane or Medina...I don't remember for sure. They were old Yankee stock and had an old-fashioned perennial garden. I retained only a few memories of that visit, but they are happy ones. The one that stayed with me most clearly was of a barrel they had in their garden. It had holes drilled all around the sides and sempervivums were planted in the holes and on the top, kind of like a strawberry jar. They were good old tectorums, I'm sure. I guess I found that fascinating, because I always remembered it. I've been fond of the plants ever since, and have grown them off-and-on casually my whole life. I got more deeply interested about 10 or 15 years ago, after I had a yard to call my own. Then I started learning about all the many varieties and developed a more sophisticated knowledge of how to grow them.

When I was a kid it was not uncommon to see people growing semps in barrels that way. You never see it anymore. I'm guessing it's because back then people still had barrels in their barns and garages from past decades, and now they've all pretty much fallen apart or been discarded.
Name: Greg Chrislip
Memphis, TN (Zone 7b)
Sempervivums Cactus and Succulents Bookworm Cat Lover
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GregC
Jul 3, 2018 2:46 PM CST
I had a barrel like that early on!
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Name: Mark McDonough
Massachusetts (Zone 5a)
Region: Massachusetts Enjoys or suffers cold winters Garden Procrastinator Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Foliage Fan
Birds Seed Starter Hybridizer Sempervivums
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AntMan01
Jul 3, 2018 6:38 PM CST
Very interesting topic, been enjoying reading everyone's story.

I started gardening when I was eight years old, growing zinnias and pinks for cut flowers for my grandmother. By the time I was ten I was growing it all; wildflowers, perennials, rock garden plants, succulents, Iris, roses, you name it, I was interested.

In my mid twenties I met Bill Nixon (C. William Nixon), known for his heuffelii breeding, although semps too, and author of the SFAN (Sempervivum Fanciers Association Newsletter). Bill was intense with his interest in the genus, and it rubbed off on me. Made many plant meeting field trips with Bill and many dinners at his house (quite a cook).

When I was 30 I moved to the Seattle WA area for 4 years. I built a semp/sedum garden which was very successful (grown in sand beds). When I returned to my home State of Massachusetts in 1986, I amassed a good collection of semps and heuffs, many came to me directly from Bill Nixon, had about 250 cultivars (I didn't keep records back then).

Flash forward 32 years to current times, in those years of being overworked I had lost almost all of my collection to work & family demands, down from 250 or so to about 12. So now in retirement, I decided to return to one of my true loves, Semps & Jovs (notice I'm old school, I still use Jovibarba Blinking ), and re-establish a collection of ~150 cultivars this spring, it's been a blast and I'm loving every minute of it. This spring I ordered from 6 of the semp specialist nurseries listed on NGA, all were superb, one of the highlights of my retirement has been to play out my semp love affair. This interest will carry me to my last days.
Avatar: Jovibarba x nixonii 'Jowan'
I use #2 chicken grit to feed my hens & chicks :-)
Name: Karen
New Mexico (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Greenhouse
Sempervivums Bromeliad Adeniums Morning Glories Avid Green Pages Reviewer Brugmansias
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plantmanager
Jul 3, 2018 6:41 PM CST
Wonderful story, Mark! I'm glad you're back to the semps and Jovi's.
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Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Butterflies Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums
Bee Lover Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter
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tcstoehr
Jul 3, 2018 8:52 PM CST
I got started after seeing a single pot filled with a single cultivar at a friend's house. It was left there from the previous owner and I thought it was way cool. So I arranged a few rocks in a circle to serve as a pot, filled it with soil, and put in a single green cultivar selected from a nearby nursery. Then I decided I wanted a red one, and a webbed one, and a grey one, and etc,etc,etc each time requiring my circle of rocks to get bigger until it reached its limit. That's when I started a stream-like rockery moving along the edge of my lawn and the Sempervivum Superhighway was born.

Oddly enough, some time in the 90's I think, before the internet, I saw a cool picture of some Echeverias (I think) and had no idea what I was looking at. So the next time I found myself at a nursery I spotted their semp sales display. I thought these were the same. So I bought a bunch and planted them around my waterlily pond. They grew and chicked-out vigorously. The new chicks were small and for some reason I didn't think they would grow and they didn't look right and... long story short... I tossed them. My only excuse is ignorance. This was before the internet or Kevin's book, so I had no idea. Now that I think back, a semp display around that lily pond would have been a rather special sight.
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Jul 3, 2018 10:32 PM CST
Neat stories everyone Hurray! Thanks for sharing!
Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
Jul 4, 2018 4:46 PM CST
Well you all know my story as it's in my book as a preface. However's here's the Reader's Digest version.

Started breeding semps in 1964 in Polly Bishop's garden in MA with first seedlings up in 1965. Made contact with Helen Payne in 1968 and I started sending her my hybrids to be put on the market. At this time we started a round robin correspondence group that eventually morphed into the Sempervivum Fancier's Group. Bill Nixon organized and published a Newsletter for many years. Won medals for Lipstick and Jungle Shadows and Jungle Shadows proved to be a key breeder in my resurrected breeding program and for its production of one of my favorites from the younger hybridizing days, Jungle Fires. I have a couple funny stories about my young career that you may not have heard. In 2006 I was on a bus tour for the American Iris Society Convention and this woman looked at my name tag and said "Oh I bought a lot of your FATHER'S Sempervivum". When I told her she was wrong, they were mine, she said "But how could that be, it was 35 years ago". I just smiled and said "I started young".

All this botanical and genetic interest lead to a PhD in botany with emphasis in genetics from Miami of Ohio. Had a 30 year career with USDA in the semp-inhospitable climate of MS. My breeding work in my back yard there concentrated on irises of all types, Tradescantia, daffodils and daylilies.

In 2010 I retired and immediately started breeding semps upon arrival in Oregon in August, self pollinating Killer and Jungle Shadows to start those lines. My seedling production is now over 10 K and I have introduced a number of new hybrids to the market through Young's Nursery in Roseberg OR. Their popularity has been a bit of very pleasant surprise. The most fun moments of my move to OR have been the annual Sempervivum Hybridizers Clinic that has brought semp crazed people from around the country to Salem to talk semps. You are all part of a great extended family.

Because EVERYTHING grows well in Oregon, I have greatly extended the scope of my breeding. Nothing with pollen in my yard is safe. Am finally doing a bit of hosta hybridizing too after a long hiatus with them. Have ~80 varieties on the market.

OK I've rambled on enough.

Kevin





Name: Melissa Hopper
St. Helens, Or (Zone 8a)
Semp addict horse junky dog flunky
Sempervivums Keeps Horses Dog Lover Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Garden Photography
Hummingbirder Region: Oregon
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MelissaHopper
Jul 4, 2018 6:14 PM CST
Wonderful stories from everybody.

Kevin, you are really lucky in the people that started you out. And I must say, you are doing a REALLY good job. I can't tell you the number of Kevin Vaughn plants I have. And looking for more.
Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
Jul 4, 2018 10:42 PM CST
Melissa,

I think the best is yet to come. Am really excited about seeing the huge crop from Black Lotus and Lion King. They are already LARGE.

Yes I was SO lucky to have wonderful mentors in all of my hybridizing efforts. Now I'm the mentor!

Kevin
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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webesemps
Jul 4, 2018 11:07 PM CST
Kevin, you are so good to us. nodding

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