Succulents Sempervivum
Sempervivum tectorum (which along with the unrelated Echeveria x imbricata is commonly referred to as hens and chicks) is right at home in tight spots, such as a rock garden. Sempervivum 'Carmen' (shown) can also be nestled with smooth stones in a shallow, quick-draining garden.
With plants, as with people, there are savers and there are spenders. Where ­water is the currency, succulents are the thriftiest of their kind, their fleshy leaves hoarding water for times of drought. This built-in resiliency makes them a ­perfect choice for problem places in the yard: patio containers set in blazing sun, windy spots that make roses wither, rocky slopes where grass won't grow. ­Gardeners in the arid West have been using succulents in water-thrifty xeriscapes for years. Now more nurseries across the country are carrying these intriguing plants, some of which grow well even in damp or cold climates.

John Spain, a Connecticut-based gardening expert who pioneered ways of growing succulents outdoors in the frozen north, discovered their advantages years ago, when he often traveled for business. "The only plants that survived without any care in my makeshift greenhouse were the succulents and cacti," he says. "I would leave for a month, and they'd be fine." That sent him searching for more cold-hardy succulents. He found enough to fill a 20-foot-long berm with a carpetlike tapestry of leaves in green, chartreuse, rose, purple, and even nearly black. Today he also tucks succulents among alpine plants in his 2,000-square-foot rock garden.
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