'Oddity' Houseleek:
an unusual Hen-&-Chickens

"The patching houseleek's head of blossom winks
Through the chinks."

-Robert Browning,
Love Among the Ruins


'Oddity' is a hen & chicks cultivar said by retailers to have rapid growth, but of the score of varieties I have spread around the gardens, two specimens of 'Oddity' have grown steadily but very slowly.

I might've named them "Pipes" or "Pipe Organ" instead of 'Oddity.' The leaves of most hen & chicks are broad & pointed, but these are folded lengthwise & backwards so that they look like green cigarette papers, lit red on the tips. It has occasionally been called "Trumpeter" as though each pipe was a whistle.

OddityThey have pink flowers around June through August, but ours are not only growing slowly, they also haven't bloomed their first three years.

I began to worry they were getting too much water running down to them through the rocks, from irrigation done above them higher ground, & perhaps also too little sun with other plants having grown larger around them. So I moved one of the two specimens to a vastly sunnier low-maintance garden by the road, & compared its growth to the one left behind.

Both little clumps continued to spread slowly & the one that experienced a bit more dampness & shade (shown above in July 2003) seems to have grown marginally faster, so was not suffering in that location after all. The second photo shows the other clump by the drier & sunnier roadside, in February 2004. Both clumps have performed identically in quite different situations.

Oddity was developed by American succulent enthusiast Sandy McPherson & it was introduced to gardeners in 1977. It promptly won the 1978 Bronze Rosette Award for best new variety. For a long while it was quite a rare offering, but now is easily obtained.


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