It’s a long road that leads from a 10-year-old’s pet succulent plant to winning a gold medal for a superb collection of cacti and succulents at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but it’s one that Daniel Jackson has trodden.
“My mother gave me my first succulent when I was a child and throughout my teens I added to my collection until I ran out of space indoors, and took over the first of several greenhouses,” he explains.
Today, a childhood hobby has turned into a passion, and Daniel has taken over National Collections of Haworthia, Gasteria and Astroloba, filling nine huge glasshouses at Ottershaw Cacti, a nursery that he and his wife, Joanne, have established. He still has his childhood succulent, although no-one has yet managed to identify it. His experience highlights a lack of awareness, even among expert gardeners, about the many species in this fascinating family.
“All too often, anything with fleshy leaves is dismissed as a succulent and, if it’s prickly, then it must be a cactus,” he adds.
There is, however, a clear distinction. Succulents are plants that store water in their tissues, developing thick fleshy leaves that, if cut open, have a juicyness akin to grapes. Cacti are a type of succulent, differentiated by the swollen stems that store water, while the leaves are in the form of spines, so heavily modified as to be unrecognisable.
Many succulents originate from inhospitable areas with a low rainfall, having adapted to the conditions by growing slowly and conserving sufficient moisture - in either fleshy