Good Gardening with Mark Curtis: February 2020

With cold days outside, now is a great time to get creative indoors and plant your own terrarium. It is both fun and rewarding, especially with cacti and succulents, which will require minimum aftercare. First fill the bottom of your terrarium with a shallow layer of horticultural fine grit and top with another fine layer of activated charcoal. This will help keep the compost above ‘sweet'. Then add a layer of cactus and succulent compost. For cacti, wear gloves or use your kitchen tongs to pick them up. If you are worried about the spines or want to try a junior family project, then use small succulents. Small stones, sand or suitable objects can be added to the display for interest and shape. You could try the pickle plant (Delosperma echinatum), which comes from South Africa and looks just like a furry pickle. Sedum ‘Burrito’ is also fun - nicknamed ‘Donkey’s Tail', it bubbles along to form little tails, with small pink clusters of star-shaped flowers in the summer. Also fun is Opuntia microdasys or ‘Bunny Ears Cactus’. These grow up with flat pads in pairs like bunny ears, but as always, beware of the spines. 
For a cactus that resembles a mad hair day, there is Rhipsalis cereuscula, a shrubby epiphytic cactus which grows in Brazil. This would look best as a hanging plant in a warm bathroom. It trails to three feet and is found naturally in the tropical rain forests of Brazil, so will enjoy the steam when someone takes too long in the shower!  
With Valentine’s Day approaching, you might choose the succulent ‘Sweetheart Plant', the leaf of which is shaped as a shiny green heart. Drought-tolerant and preferring a bright indirect light, it is slow to grow, but over time it should produce lots of green hearts to trail from the pot. As with most succulents and cacti, do not overwater. Top favourite for this special day has to be the beautiful waxy red heart-shaped flower (spathe) of Anthurium.

Mark Curtis
Plant Manager, Tates of Sussex

For more gardening tips for the month, please visit https://www.tatesofsussex.co.uk/gardening/gardening-tips