The range of strategies plants have to cope with sunlight is truly impressive, of course, from reflective leaves to oily ones to hairy or fleshy or silvery or tiny ones, or even, as in the case of Mormon tea (Ephedra viridis), to having (essentially) no leaves at all. But when so many plants are making you aware of their ingenuity in protecting themselves from the sun, it's kind of a pleasure to find some that are happy to, well, shine in it.
In the troublesome/full sun and/or full shade/bad soil/construction rubbly/narrow/surrounded by extreme heat and/or cold-reflecting walls/wind funnel bed* by the kitchen door, I've tried a couple of solutions for the 8" wide strips between the concrete stepping "stones," but so far nothing's really worked. This year I'm trying hens and chicks, whose Latin name (Sempervivum) we will hope bodes well for them. I chose them for both practical and sentimental reasons. In practical terms, they seem to be able to withstand nasty conditions, and these are nasty conditions. It's almost destiny that they should go together. More sentimentally, they remind me of my grandpa, who had a rock garden that was his pride and joy. He grew hens and chicks in it, and if ever plants were designed to delight small children holding a beloved grandfather's hand, hens and chicks have to be them. I am happy to have them be the first thing I see now as I walk out my own door.
What I didn't expect was to find myself lying quite so often on my stomach on the (concrete) (hard) (unyielding) patio staring at them. I didn't know that they would catch the late afternoon sunlight and go up in flame,
that the hairs on the leaf tips would take on a halo glow, that the leaves would turn translucent like old glass,
that even the stolons would seem lit from within.
They are bowls full of light, like votive offerings to the sun.
And out here, it's all about the sun.
* Must think of different name.