When Life Hands You Lemons

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“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune.

The underlying message is to make the best out of a difficult situation, to find opportunities in adversity, and to turn something negative into something positive.

So how does that fit here?

When some of my terra cotta pots fell off a shelf, many broke, and being a frugal gardening enthusiast I decided to hang onto them and see how they could be used.

broken pot

Back in the 80’s the one subscription magazine I would get was Better Homes and Gardens. I loved that it had a bit of everything, home decor, recipes, and gardening tips and tricks.

One article they had was on miniature gardens in dishes. Some call them Fairy Gardens now but these were more themed miniature gardens. Back then there didn’t seem to be all the ready-made objects you could buy to make a miniature garden you had to make them yourself.

I kept photos of those gardens for years but sadly I tossed them in one of my decluttering forays and regret it now.

But I took one look at the way this pot above broke and thought it would make a fabulous base for a miniature succulent garden.


 I have several Hens and Chicks ‘sempervivums’ in pots in my greenhouse and now a lot out in my garden.

Creating a Fun Mini Garden

Using the broken pot and shards I put together a fun little mini garden I have enjoyed for years.

First I mix up some of my DIY Succulent Soil and place it in the bottom of the pot. I make sure to put a small shard of the pot over the hole in the bottom to prevent it from plugging up.

Potting Succulents for the Best Growth

Cactus potting mix is a good option for succulents or you can create your own by adding some extra perlite or some horticultural sand to a quality general potting mix.

When pulling off succulent babies to pot up it is recommended to let them sit out for a few days to heal over the ends. But I must confess I don’t always do this.

Tuck the ends of each of the small succulents into place and firm them in. Leave gaps so they can fill in with their own babies. Use a shard of broken pot to hold the loose soil in place, leave areas to tuck the sempervivum pups (babies).

This is a small 4 inch pot so it took only a few to fill it up.

potted chicks1
I still need to get some pebbles to add.
They will help to keep the soil mix in place when I water.
Which is infrequently but the mix does tend to want to fall out still.
potted chicks2
This is a small 4 or 5 inch pot but it was fun to practice with, I am sure these will quickly outgrow this but they do not mind being transplanted.
For now it is the perfect size to sit in my windowsill.

Did you know that Hens and Chicks are of the plant genus Sempervivum which means Live Forever?
The name live-forever was given to the plant because of its “hardiness and durability.”

What makes this durable plant remarkable is that it grows in the most inhospitable places.
It can be found high up on windswept mountain slopes, where temperatures can plummet as much as 60° F  in just 24 hours.
It can take root in a rocky crevice with a smattering of soil.
What are some of the secrets of its endurance in such harsh conditions?

potted chicks2

The live-forever has succulent leaves, which carefully hoard water.
This enables it to take full advantage of all the moisture available from rain or melting snow.
Also, it grows in clusters that unite their strength to get a firm grip on their rocky support.
By taking root in crevices, it has some protection against the elements, even though there may be little soil.
In other words, it thrives by making the most of difficult circumstances.
potted chicks3
An example to us all.
Despite its harsh environment or unfavorable circumstances, it blooms beautifully.
Displaying that it does not just survive hardships but is determined to thrive with grace and beauty.

potted chicks4

So, in a nutshell, the Sempervivum makes Lemonade!!!

Now lets see if it will survive my tender loving care.  I will have trouble not over watering, that is for sure.
I am on the hunt for different containers to make more living sculptures, any suggestions would be appreciated. 

This is my inspiration
(I could not find the original source for the photo so if you know where it came from please let me know)

DIY Plans for this lovely craft cottage, she shed, man cave, backyard office or garden shed. A cozy little retreat for many uses! Build one today. FlowerPatchFarmhouse.com

I was thinking the path leading to my studio/crafting cottage would look gorgeous planted like this.

Here is a great source for Succulents called The Succulent Source

More garden inspiration you will enjoy

How to Root Roses from Cuttings
Paint a Stepping Stone Flower
Grow Delphiniums from Seed

Sempervivum Hens and Chicks

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  1. Michelle Derviss says:

    The original source of the cascading succulent photo is by Berkeley California garden designer David Feix. He has an instagram account .

  2. It looks like the original source for the succulent garden inspiration photo that you have posted may be Official Blog of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa (California) Countyhttps://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=17992.

  3. Think I will give terra cotta plants another try!

  4. broken pots are great mixed with soil and put into bigger pots to aerate roots and bring air pockets, so roots can breathe.

  5. Pamela, I love what you did with the broken pot and the succulents. I am just beginning to grow them and I know I will try this once next Spring/Summer comes around. I also have to tell you how much I love your little garden house. It is just a perfect little structure. I have wanted one for a long time but don’t have anyone who could build it for me. I wouldn’t be able to hire a professional personas it would be too expensive. But, you never know, it could happen some day.

  6. Thanks for the source, I will definitely be checking them out.

  7. You are most welcome. I am anxious to make more. Being we are in a severe drought, I do believe I am going to plant succulents in most of my window boxes and planters this summer.

  8. Nancy Ciliax says:

    I love this. I have many friends with broken pots, so we’ll have to use one of our regular Friday happy hours for a hen and chicks planting party. Thanks for the idea.


  9. I liked remembering the use of the phrase in using the word lemon for a mishap. I often tuck in a bank a broken terracotta pot, and also use small pots and baskets with sempervivum pushed in to hold it together. I can’t claim fame for starting it. I expect I’d seen it in a country magazine. and as I have lots of succulent plants growing out of walls around my garden liked the idea to still be able use my old broken pots.

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