Sparrow and Finch Gardening Wave Hill’s Harnek Singh shows us how to grow succulents indoors and outdoors

Wave Hill’s Harnek Singh shows us how to grow succulents indoors and outdoors

Succulents: You may already have some in your garden, and others, which are not hardy, are your favorite indoor plants. What if you started using some of the indoor plants in your garden?

Harnek Sing, a gardener for Wave Hill in New York City, has been experimenting and thinking about this recently to stunning effect. You can experiment with a garden that you don’t use often, like the one at Wave Hill. The Paisley Bed is shaped like a giant Paisley, and it’s planted every year in a different theme.

The theme for this year is succulents. Harnek, who has a horticultural job at Wave Hill, takes care of a cacti collection and succulents in their conservatory. He gave us tips on how to use and grow succulents, both indoors and out. He also told us which succulents are easiest to propagate.

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We had many plants, and we thought, “Oh, let’s use them” because we have taken care of them for years. That’s where it all began. I said, “Oh, well.”

We then decided to cut some cuttings or some other simple circle, so we could talk about it, and that anyone can do. Then, we would grow them in an ordinary garden setting or in the home. That’s where it all began.

We grew 95 percent of the plants we planted in our house. We didn’t have to buy a lot of stuff. It was exciting to see the plants we already had. [Above: Agave Americana with other agaves, summering outside Wave Hill conservatory, along with silvery groundcover Dichondra and purple Alternativenanthera.]


Harnek: Yes. Of course, I’m talking about.

Margaret: Yeah. You showed me a picture of the progress report for this paisley bed the other day. It looks like some paisley patterns are within the paisley. Does that sound right?

Harnek : There are certainly many. I’ve always wanted to create paisleys inside paisleys. [Laughter. You can see this when you look at paisleys.

Margaret: Fabrics, yes.

Harnek: In fabrics, yes, that’s right. It was never in my original plan, and I didn’t have the chance to do it. When I started to lay out the program, everything just clicked. I knew the basics. The plants of the Old World are planted on one side, and those from the New World on the other.

Margaret: Oh!

Harnek: Americas and Africa. It was natural to me, that within this range of plants that we had propagated, I would have fun. It was a lot of fun to create paisleys inside paisley. The bed is shaped like a paisley. There are three paisleys in the paisley plant: one is with large plants. These large plants consist of cacti, Agave, and Aloe.

The smaller sections, I also call them bedding plants. Planting these in large numbers is easy to create an attractive effect. One paisley is with African plants, and one with American plants.

Margaret: Interesting. This isn’t… A bedding-out scheme, so to speak. It’s a design that uses mostly non-hardy plant species. You don’t see succulents very often in the Northeastern United States, do you? It’s something different, really different. It really encourages us, however, to consider whether some of our “houseplants,” some of which may be succulents, can play a seasonal role in the garden.

You’ve taken it to the max with this amazing collection. And the fact that you can propagate is a bonus. It’s really spectacular.

You’ve liberated some items from the collection. You’ve released them for the summer . what are they thinking? What kind of plants are they? What are the plants? [Below are some plants that were plunged into the Paisley Bed with their pots intact, while others were unpotted. ]

Harnek Well, from my experience, plants, like all succulents, want to be outdoors during the growing seasons. They don’t like to be in the greenhouse. It can get sweltering in sunrooms in homes. It gets boiling in greenhouses, and I don’t have time to water the plants. People say, “Oh succulents, don’t they need water?” But they do. It’s 115 degrees every day in the greenhouse.

Margaret: Oh, my.

Harnek : Over the years, when I brought out plants, they seemed to be happier. Even though I still bring out the plants, those that I have brought out in the past, and just leave them in containers, they are always happier than the ones we left behind. This was a very encouraging thing to see the potential in these plants. We are growing some of these plants as miniatures… Our greenhouse is a collection. In a tiny greenhouse, we have over 800 different types of succulents.

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