A mid-rise condo for your collection of succulents

This blog doesn’t often stray into the arts-and-crafts area, but Félix and I last week built this clay brick “condo” for our succulent collection that we’re both really pleased with, and feel it deserves some celebration.

We needed an attractive, and space-efficient way to display the burgeoning collection of succulents we’ve collected over the past three years. Most of the specimens now live in individual clay pots or in small groups, lined up on a wrought iron table like singers in a choir.

I had seen some displays made of cement blocks, with some of the specimens transplanted into the two holes inside each block. But we didn’t think that was particularly attractive or that the appearance of cement blocks would go very well with the adobe exterior of the house.

We had built a smaller display wall out of adobe blocks, but they started to disintegrate when it rained, particularly the blocks cantilevering out, where we displayed individual pots. Looking back, we may have resolved this problem if the adobe blocks had been waterproofed with two or three coats of roof sealer, or some other type of sealer like Thompson’s brand sealer. But I didn’t think of that then.

So we opted for jumbo-sized clay bricks, each measuring approximately 16″ long, 8″ wide and 4″ thick.  That’s an oddball size for clay bricks, that we had to shop all over town until we found a supplier just outside of San Miguel. Before assembly, we gave the bricks two thick coats of sealer to stem deterioration from the elements.

Assembling the bricks in the formation of a wall, with some sticking out to provide display space, is a jigsaw puzzle game that depends on personal preferences. The bricks were not perfectly even and in a few cases we had to use small wooden wedges to stabilize our creation. 

We ended up with a display wall nine feet long by four feet high. But the wall could be “L” shaped, semi-circular, zigzag, or whatever moves you.

The beauty of this project is that it allows for the expansion of the display’s length or height. We are already thinking of adding a couple of feet at one end. The cantilevered spaces, created by setting the bricks perpendicularly to the wall, create ledges where individual pots can sunbathe, or underneath, a bit of shade for those succulents not too fond of full-sun exposure. The wall faces northeast, away from the full-blast afternoon sun.

Or you can place candles in some of the nooks and crannies for some nighttime ambiance.

Total cost for the project—at Mexico prices—was a little more than $55 dollars, and it required 37 bricks. Logistics of finding a pickup to fetch the bricks is, of course, extra, besides labor.

We were pleased with the look and functionality of our project. Plus it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon—assuming you live in balmy San Miguel de Allende, in the mountains of central Mexico.

North of Kentucky, hmm, you might want to print and tape this post to the refrigerator door until May or so, when the “winter bomb cyclones” have run their course.

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