Perhaps it's the weird weather but everything in the garden centres seems so have gone over so badly that it's beyond useable. Not good news if you want to do something gorgeous to your window-box or terrace this weekend, unless, that is, you go for something that looks fabulous all the time.
Sempervivums are just perfect for year-round table-top glamour.
Even better, they need practically no care and attention whatsoever.
I have a tableful, planted in various shallow containers (semps are perfect candidates for crevices and crannies - they love to live between roof tiles which is why they're called 'houseleeks')
I've got an urn that's not much good for any ordinary plant because the sides are so ridiculously shallow. I used to grow ivy in it but I got bored, as you do, so I used it for this project, but honestly, you could use anything, from plastic pot saucers with a hole or two punched in the bottom, to the hollow of an old brick...up to you.
1 container of your choice - terracotta or something porous is best because these plants need to stay dry. A hanging basket, suspended at eye height is another nice way to display them (see above)
Small pots of different sempervivums - number depends on the size of your container but make sure you leave plenty of space between them when you plant, because they're going to spread. If you want to get geeky, (and treat yourself), then there's no better place to go than here. Always remember that semps are like jewels - you can never have too many.
Compost - I use a mixture of one quarter John Innes No 2, one quarter peat-free multi-purpose and one half horticultural gravel or grit (see below) This will produce a very free-draining soil for your semps
Small horticultural gravel or grit -available in bags at the garden centre
Broken pieces of polystyrene, or terracotta pot to lay over the drainage holes if you are planting in anything but the shallowest of containers.
Mix your compost, throw a couple of crocks into the bottom of the container and fill it to the top with your mixture. Now carefully remove the plants from their plastic and plant them firmly in their new home. Make sure your semps are a couple of millimetres proud of the top of the compost so that their leaves don't touch it too much. You can even mound the compost up in the middle of the container if you like, to get that vesuvial look. Leave ample space between your plantings to allow the plants to spread. Each 'mother' plant (the hen) will produce lots of 'chicks' which are attached to her by stems. Eventually the mother rosette will die (just remove it carefully when this happens) and the chicks will carry on growing...it's a beautiful thing.
When everything is where you want it, water the pot and then cover the gaps between the plants with gravel (I pour it into the gaps, using a plastic measuring jug) which will soak up any extra water on the base of the rosettes. I like to plant semps on a sunny day because they the rosettes dry out quickly from their initial watering, reducing the risk of rot.
That's it...water just occasionally to keep the compost from completely drying out (although if you do forget, they won't hate you). You can leave them outside all year round - don't water them at all in winter.