Look up succulent in a dictionary and, as an adjective, the definitions will include “full of juice, juicy,” “rich in desirable qualities” and “affording mental nourishment.”
The almost 200 people who turned out Saturday for the third Succulent Exchange at the Santa Maria Public Library would probably wholeheartedly agree all those descriptions apply to the fleshy plants belonging to the genus Sedum.
Succulent lovers brought snippets of their plants, which were spread out over three long tables where participants were free to pick up snips of varieties they didn’t own, all the while trading information and offering tips to succulent novices.
From the start of the event at 11 a.m. until nearly the end at 12:30 p.m., a steady stream of people brought boxes and bins of contributions and refilled them with others they found.
“I brought a lot, and I’m taking a lot,” said Sherri Eames, adding she brought 15 types. “I notice most of them are gone, so that’s good. It means they were a little different.
“I always look for something different,” she said. “It’s great to look out the window and see them growing and blooming.”
The Succulent Exchange was organized by Gillian Speicher and Selena Fierro, both librarians at the Santa Maria Public Library, because “we just love succulents and we know the community loves succulents,” Speicher explained.
“We wanted to do something to improve the community and bring people together,” she said.
Succulents are drought resistant — give them too much water and they start to wilt — gophers don’t like them, they can be propagated simply by cutting off a branch or even just a leaf and sticking it into soil and they require very little care.
“They thrive on neglect,” one participant told a couple of people unfamiliar with succulents.
Speicher said at previous exchanges, people were waiting even before anything had been put out, and when someone new shows up, they flock around the person to see what he or she has.
“It borders on frenzy,” she said. “People are very passionate about them.”
Speicher thinks that’s because there is such a great variety of succulents, and most of them bloom — usually with small yellow, white or pink flowers, although one type Saturday had huge hot-pink and crimson petals.
“It’s almost that giddy feeling when you see them bloom and start to grow and you feel you did that,” Speicher said.
Many people become collectors.
“I probably have 100 different plants in pots,” Brenda Sullens said. “I call them my ‘mother plants.’ They grow and then I clip off them and propagate more.”
“This is the first time I’ve done this,” she added. “I’d never heard of these (exchanges). I saw it in the paper and decided to come down and do it.”
Her neighbor Debbie Clinkscales, who was there with Sullens, found a kindred spirit when she moved to Santa Maria from Southern California.
“I had stuff she didn’t have, and she had stuff I didn’t have,” Clinkscales said. “So we just traded.”
Sam Perez said he only has 16 types but wanted more.
“Honestly, I haven’t been at this very long,” he said. “Only about a year.”
But he already had plenty of tips to offer.
“If you apply honey, it helps,” he said. “If you put it at the bottom of the leafy part, it helps it grow roots. Cinnamon water also works. And the bigger the leaf, the better the propagating. I found that out.”
The Santa Maria Public Library will host a presentation about whimsical landscaping from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The Friends of the Santa Maria Public Library will hold a book sale from May 6 to 11 at the Santa Maria Town Center to benefit the nonprofit.
Stepping into the Painted Chair space on the second floor of the Santa Maria Town Center East is like walking along a path through a whimsical garden. But rather than plants, this garden is created with furniture covered with art inspired by literature — classic tales from children’s books as well as stories that delve into the fabric of society.