At the last Palomar C&SS sale at the San Diego Botanic Garden—perhaps you recall—I clasped my hands and shrieked. One of the booths had tables laden with plastic bags filled with every sort of crushed rock! There were dozens of different top dressings in earth tones and muted colors, and the prices—OMG, the prices! Eeeek!
I can’t begin to tell you how long I’d been looking for an affordable source of pea-sized crushed rock in a variety of hues, sold in bags I can carry.
The best top dressings are backup singers. They enhance a container-grown succulent’s overall presentation (known as “staging”) by harmonizing with both pot and plant. A top dressing has done it’s job if it looks good without calling attention to itself.
Rock suppliers sell neutral-toned fine gravels in bags too heavy to lift. Craft stores offer odd-colored criva and neon-bright sand in bags no bigger than baked potatoes, at distressing prices. What’s a finicky, frugal, not-very-buff succulent aficionado to do?
Pounce on John Matthews at a Cactus & Succulent Society sale.
John’s a vendor at C&SS events throughout Southern CA (view the schedule) and yes, he sells mail-order too. John, who also has a cactus-and-succulent nursery in the Los Angeles area, explains how to order top dressings and gives shipping costs (which aren’t as bad as you’d expect) on his Facebook page, along with photos of the 100 or so kinds he has available.
Or you’re welcome to email him: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mention Debra sent you. ;+)
P.S. Potted plants grow better when top-dressed due to improved water dispersion.