I had grown up with sempervivum tectorum in my parents’ garden and my mum gave me a small sempervivum arachnoidium from a local school fete a few years later. These were two plants that I brought with me to my own garden. After a visit to a garden centre, my collection grew to 6!
I loved the symmetry and neatness of how it grew; I was hooked! We scoured G.C. and other collections to add to mine. While we found that many rotted in the winter, some went to flower almost straight away in the summer and many though their colour looked vibrant in the spring, it soon faded to leave me with a drab plant for the rest of the year.
It was by accident that some seedlings came up in between some slabs with one standing out as having a better colour and stronger growth. My friends wanted offsets from it and the part-time hobby soon turned in to a full-time hobby!
From then on I decided to deliberately cross-pollinate by hand, selecting out the best seedlings, picking sometimes only 100 out of many 1000s, testing them for 4 to 5 years for colour and endurance, and whittling them down before finally deciding to name them and put them out on the market as my own 'Sue Thomas' varieties. I now have a good range of over 350 in colour, texture, shape, and size, with most holding their colour into late summer/ autumn. Some go right through to winter and others change throughout the seasons.
A few of my semps have been chosen by others and made the top 10 internationally. My "Devils Touch" made 3rd place in 2017, 2nd place in 2018, and 1st place in 2019.
These plants are referred to as alpines, often limiting the perception of them. They’re grown mainly for their colourful rosette of leaves and each plant consists of one main rosette which will produce lots of babies, usually several times throughout the growing season. Here in Devon, that starts from April to September. They are monocarpic which means the adult rosette will eventually go to flower, forming a spike with a head of pink or yellow star-shaped flowers much loved by the bees and butterflies.
When it has finished, just cut out the whole spike and redress the area with soil and grit and the babies will soon fill the space. They are sun lovers which helps keep their colours strong but they are happy to live in semi-shade. Their one pet hate is being waterlogged at the base of the rosette, so always make sure to mix some grit in if your soil is heavy and mulch around their necks with it. We have clay soil here and they survived two days of flooding with little ill effect.
Vine weevil can be a problem in some places but can easily be treated. See your local garden centre for details. My semps in the garden have had cats pee on them, birds poop on them, people treading on them, and weed killer sprayed on them; they still pulled through! They are happy growing in next to nothing to deep soil. Their only limitation in your garden (or home) is your imagination. Dare to dream the impossible and be amazed at how they will reward you.
We came across Restios by fashion of mistake. We were purchasing a few to grow on as centre plantings for our sempervivum containers. Unfortunately, they were sold to us with the completely wrong information, thus it did not work. Fortunately, it became an introduction to a most wonderful and exciting group of plants.
Several decades of selection, hybridisation, and working out correct requirements for their growing has turned in to 10-12 thousand in a dozen varieties, mainly my own.
Restios are sold at a minimum of 3 years old and may be planted directly into the ground or planted into LARGE containers. Developing in two to three years’ time into full size evergreen plants, they have striated stems which are fascinating in movement. A few larger forms take extra time simply because of their size.
Their non-invasive, tight, clumping foliage with deep roots also makes them drought tolerant and they have the ability to be placed with other plants without being in competition. This makes them an excellent addition or alternative to bamboo and grasses which can sometimes be invasive in small areas.
I think they will be good for the future not just as an aesthetically pleasing plant for all year round, but as an environmentally helpful installation due to their drought tolerance. Providing nectar and winter hibernation for important insects and being evergreen, they also help with air pollution. They can be grown from seaside to city in small gardens to landscape use. Why not give them a go? You have probably seen me outside with our plants at many of the garden shows around the country.
For planting in the ground, any soil will do; just add a little humus or compost. Restios like full sun to part shade. They are wind and winter tolerant if mulched. Water regularly for the first year to get established and after that they’re drought tolerant. For best results, the odd good soak will help.
For pot growing, they need a LARGE container. Don't skimp on size! They will need regular watering and you can’t let them dry out. Protect the pot in severe winters and whether you’re pot or ground planting, cut out approximately half of the old stems to ground level once the main frost has cleared in the spring. These plants need to be fed well!
Please note that all of the following prices include postage and packaging, unless otherwise stated. Larger plant orders can be picked up from the nursery gate or delivered within the local area for an extra cost. Please contact us with any further enquiries.
Pack of 6 x 9cm Mixed Sempervivums – £21
1 Litre of Semps – £3.00 each or 3 or more for £2.50 each (Available for Gate Collection, or Local Delivery for an Extra Cost)
Restios - Please phone for prices & sizes available
Restios - Please phone for prices & sizes available
2 Litre Pot – £10.00
7.5 Litre Pot – £20.00