Succulent garden
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New Videos, Great Takeaways from Jeanne Meadow’s Garden

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

Wavy-leaved ‘Cornelius’ is Jeanne’s favorite agave. “It doesn’t get too big, can handle full sun and cold, and always looks good,” she says.

I’m pleased to announce the release this week on my YouTube channel of two fun new videos: Jeanne Meadow’s Succulent Garden, Tips and Tour, Part One and Part Two.

You know how people say that after they die they want to come back as so-and-so’s dog, because it’s so pampered? Well, I want to come back as a succulent in Jeanne Meadow’s garden. No one celebrates succulents quite like Jeanne. She’s gleeful about their shapes and colors, delights in adding them to garden beds, and collects art pots to showcase choice specimens. Each one is a special pet.

Here for your entertainment are some great takeaways from the new releases.

 

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

Plant an aloe outside your dining room window so you can enjoy its blooms and watch hummingbirds flit from flower to flower.

 

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

Unlike many gardeners, Jeanne doesn’t consider “mother of thousands” kalanchoes to be weeds. “They pop up everywhere, but they’re easy to pull,” she says. “And the flowers are gorgeous.”

 

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

Assemble a palette of topdressings to choose among. Collecting and displaying them is part of the fun. At right, a stack of planted pots appears to be tipping over—a whimsical illusion. They’re aligned on 3/4-inch rebar that goes into the ground four feet.

 

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

To successfully grow a succulent prone to rot like Echeveria agavoides ‘Black Knight’, plant it atop a mound of rocks so its roots never sit in water.

 

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

If you have a magnificent specimen like Jeanne’s large Agave nickelsiae (formerly Agave ferdinandi-regis), give it stand-alone space so it can be seen and admired.

 

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

“If dead leaves don’t pull off easily, it means the plant wants to keep them,” Jeanne says of her Aloe marlothii. “The trunk is sensitive and they help protect it.”

 

Jeanne Meadow's succulent garden

If you’re lucky enough to have a colorful mangave with translucent leaves (like ‘Kaleidoscope’), put it in a tall pot so sunlight will make it glow and it’ll be seen from all directions.

 

Related Info on This Site:

Make a Low-Light, Scooped-From-the-Garden Succulent Dish Garden 

Succulent dish garden

This succulent dish garden is perfect for a bright-shade location, such as indoors near a window. Owner Jeanne Meadow displays it on her covered patio and waters it…[Continue reading]

Use Crushed-Rock Top Dressing to Enhance Your Succulent Designs

Crushed rock topdressing

In the ground or in pots, your succulent compositions will look and perform better if bare soil doesn’t show. Top dressing lends a finished look, and plants benefit from the way…[Continue reading]

On My YouTube Channel:

Jeanne Meadow’s Succulents (Playlist) 

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

How rain benefits succulents
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How Rain Benefits Succulents

How rain benefits succulents

Don’t be surprised if after a good rain, your succulents look brighter and more vibrant. Here’s how rain benefits succulents: It provides dissolved minerals and washes away dust that inhibits photosynthesis; it dilutes and flushes salts and harmful chemicals that have built up in the soil from tap water; and it provides nitrogen essential to growth, especially during electrical storms. It’s odd but true: Lightning nourishes plants.

To make the most of precious rain, collect it in buckets and use it to water house plants and in-ground succulents beneath eaves. When rain is forecast, move your container-grown patio plants where rain can soak them. (Once the storm is over, return them to their earlier location, lest sun scorch leaves—or if frost is a possibility.)

Succulents do best in regions where annual rainfall is less than 25 inches.  Excessive amounts can cause roots to rot, especially if soil stays soggy. Prepare for this by growing the plants in coarse, fast-draining soil, on a slope or atop a berm.

how rain benefits cactus

 

My blog post, Succulents and Too Much Rain, A French Solution describes a French botanical garden’s simple but effective method of protecting its cactus collection.

Opuntia appears to dance

Of all succulents, cacti seem to respond the most dramatically to rain. No surprise; they’ve been waiting all year for it. If they weren’t rooted, they’d be dancing. Opuntia (paddle) cacti that have been doing a whole lot of nothing for months rapidly grow new pads that can double the size of a young specimen in a matter of weeks. It’s as though the pads were water balloons being squeezed; the resulting bulge is a new leaf.

how to protect succulents from excess rainfall

And then there are ribbed cacti…those that look like round or columnar accordions. You can almost hear their crenellations pop and stretch as they plump with water. They’re such simple plants—not much more than balls or bats—and yet the way they grow is amazing. The process of becoming engorged with rainwater exposes more of their skin to the sun, enabling photosynthesis, which equals energy, which in turn fuels new growth. In the heat of summer, those same ridges and valleys deepen, shading and protecting the plant.

Now that succulents are hugely popular, I’m asked how to grow them in tropical climates that have a great deal of rainfall. It’s like asking how to grow monkeys in Alaska. Sure it’s possible, but is it worth it? By definition, succulents have the quality of succulence: juiciness. They’re expressly designed to get by without a lot of rainfall. The flip side is that they don’t survive well with it. So grow them in containers, and move them under shelter when the weather turns too wet. Even then, in humid climates, they may mildew. In which case, move them indoors, provide lots of sunlight and fresh air, and keep a dehumidifier going. (And get my book, Succulent Container Gardens. I wrote it for succulent lovers in challenging climates.)

Frost protection for succulents

Rainstorms are often followed by clear, windless nights, during which the temperature may drop near freezing or below. Many succulents are frost tender, meaning that at 32 degrees, the water in their tissues crystallizes, expands, and bursts cell walls. This can turn leaves to putty, irreparably damaging the plants. You can gain several life-saving degrees by covering your succulents with sheets, lightweight fabric, or frost cloth. But not plastic, which by trapping moisture and blocking light and air can cause more damage than it prevents.

Frost burned aeoniums

If your succulents have been damaged by frost, they’re not necessarily goners. Learn more about this in my recent posts: Oh, No, My Succulents Froze! and Frost Damaged Succulents? Here’s What to Do. Notice the damaged tips on these aeoniums? No need to do anything. In a few months the older leaves will dry and fall off, and the rest will be hidden by new growth.

Related info

On this site:

How to Water Succulents These fleshy-leaved plants from hot, dry regions are designed to live off water stored in their leaves and tissues in order to survive periods without rainfall. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t water them at all…[Continue reading]

Prepare Your Succulents for Rainstorms  Succulents, which come from arid climates, may rot. Stems or trunks turn squishy and collapse. It may be possible to… [Continue reading]

Learn about pumice. No other soil amendment is as widely used by succulent growers and collectors as pumice (crushed lava rock). Here’s why…[Continue reading]

Succulents and Too Much Rain, A French Solution Want to protect your succulents from too much rain? Here’s how the Jardin Zoologique Tropical in southeastern France…[Continue reading]

Oh, No, My Succulents Froze!  Will succulents recover from frost damage? It depends. Here’s how frost-tender succulents looked before temps dropped into the mid-20s F, and after…[Continue reading]

Caring for Your Succulent Garden After Rainstorms, Checklist  Rain at last! Could the California drought finally be over? Well, no. It’ll take hundreds of years for underground aquifers…[Continue reading]

Winter Protection for Succulents: Products  Soggy soil, dim light, high humidity and freezing temperatures can be death to succulents native to warm, arid climates. These items will help you get your succulents through cold, wet North American winters…[Continue reading]

On My YouTube channel: 

Why Succulents Rot and How to Prevent It

Why Rain is Good for Potted Succulents

Post-Rain Must-Do’s for Succulent Gardens

Get all the info you need, all in one place: 

A succulent mermaid's garden
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Nancy Englund’s Succulent Mermaid’s Garden

Having a theme for part or all of your garden is certain to spark your creativity. Nancy Englund’s succulent mermaid’s garden “has made going to nurseries more fun,” she says, “because I’m not attracted to every plant. I can narrow it down…you know, to just the weirder ones.”

Admittedly “a big fan of weirdo plants,” Nancy has oddities that make guests look twice. These vary from bromeliads of all sizes (including air plants) to numerous succulents that thrive in her mild, maritime Southern CA climate. Nancy, president of the Laguna Beach Garden Club, says her goal is to create “the feeling that you’re swimming underwater, past fish and seaweed and all the other magical things you would find in a mermaid’s garden.”

Succulent mermaid's garden

Nancy found these faux fish in a floral supply store. With the help of a neighbor, she added rods that secure them into the ground.

When she started her succulent mermaid’s garden several years ago, Nancy chose “plants that had strange shapes or textures, and that looked like underwater plants or sea creatures.” She uses them to “shift you out of the normal” into “an intriguing, freeing change of perspective.” Accessories include weatherproof faux fish, mermaid statuary, ceramic sea stars and chunks of turquoise slag glass.

Below are captioned photos of the main plants shown in the 4-min. video I made when I visited Nancy: Explore a Succulent Mermaid’s Garden. Learn more about any or all of them in my books, in particular Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.). Btw, cordyline, dichondra, tradescantia and bromeliads aren’t succulents, but they make great companion plants because of similar cultivation requirements.

A succulent mermaid's garden

Agave gypsophila

A succulent mermaid's garden

Dyckia sp.

Kalanchoe beharensis (Napoleon’s hat)

A succulent mermaid's garden

Senecio rowleyanus (string-of-pearls)

A succulent mermaid's garden

Kalanchoe schizophylla

A succulent mermaid's garden

Euphorbia flanaganii

A succulent mermaid's garden

Epiphyllum guatemalense

A succulent mermaid's garden

Haworthia turgida, art pot by Susan Aach

A succulent mermaid's garden

Tradescantia sp.

A succulent mermaid's garden

Aeonium tabuliforme and Senecio stapeliaformis in a Susan Aach pot

Succulent mermaid's garden

Aloe striata in bloom alongside other aloes

Succulent mermaid's garden

Deuterocohnia brevifolia

Succulent mermaid's garden

Dichondra argentea

Succulent mermaid's garden

Bromeliads in a Euphorbia tirucalli tree

Succulent mermaid's garden

Lepismium cruciforme

Succulent mermaid's garden

Stapeliads and senecios

Succulent mermaid's garden

Peperomia graveolens

Succulent mermaid's garden

Graptopetalum superbum

Succulent mermaid's garden

Cordyline sp.

Succulent mermaid's garden

Euphorbia leucodendron

Succulent mermaid's garden

Pot by Tentacle Arts

 

Related Info on This Site:

Undersea succulent clamshell planter

Plant an Undersea Succulent Clamshell 
Succulents that resemble coral-reef flora lend themselves to containers that immerse the viewer in an undersea experience. This succulent clamshell planter sits atop…[Continue reading]

Related Videos:Succulent mermaid garden

See step-by-step how to make this undersea-themed succulent terrarium in my online Craftsy class, “Stunning Succulent Arrangements.”

Explore a Succulent Mermaid’s Garden (4 min.) Discover how succulents combine with bromeliads and outdoor art in Nancy Englund’s undersea-themed “mermaid’s garden.” [See story above.]

 

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

Undersea succulent clamshell planter
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Plant an Undersea Succulent Clamshell

Undersea Succulent Clamshell Planter

Succulents that resemble coral-reef flora lend themselves to containers that immerse the viewer in an undersea experience. This succulent clamshell planter sits atop lava rocks near my home’s entry. It’s semi-shaded by Texas privet, the trunks of which frame the arrangement and repeat the upright lines of Senecio anteuphorbium. Certain succulents (the senecio, the aloe at left and the Medusa euphorbia) came from the original arrangement, which I made several years ago, but most are new. Those that had outgrown the planter—notably Crassula ‘Gollum’ and other jades—found homes in the garden.

Here’s my list of plants and materials, along with my method and how to care for the arrangement once completed. This goes with my YouTube video, DIY Undersea Succulent Clamshell. Have fun!

Undersea Succulent Clamshell planter

Plants: Below are what I used, but there are so many succulents that suggest tidepool flora. Feel free to make substitutions. See “Marine Life Look-Alikes” on page 101 of Designing with Succulents (2nd ed)

Aloes that look like starfish (4 or 5, various sizes). I used Aloe maculata and in 3-inch pots, the dwarf species A. ‘Christmas Sleigh’, A. ‘Pink Blush’ and A. ‘Snow Storm’.

A Medusa euphorbia. I used E. flanaganii.

Euphorbia anoplia (Tanzanian zipper plant). Mine was in an 8-inch pot.

Fenestraria aurantiaca (baby toes), two in 3-inch pots

Crassula lycopodioides (C. muscosa, watch chain), three in 3-inch pots

Senecio anteuphorbium (swizzle sticks) for height

A tillandsia (air plant)

Materials: (links go to Amazon):

Clam shell, 25″ x 16.5″ x 8.5″ around $110 (planted ones go for $300 or more)*

Pumice, 2 qts. around $15

Potting soil, 4-qt. bag, around $10

Optional:

Rocks to anchor the rootball of the tall senecio

Soft artist’s brush for removing spilled soil from plants

Chopstick for settling roots (or use the pointed end of the artist’s brush)

Joyce Chen (or similar) kitchen scissors for delicate pruning

White or gray-white sand (not beach sand)

Seashells, crushed shells, pebbles and/or lava rock

DIY Method:

Fill clamshell 1/3 full of pumice. Start with your largest plants. If you’re using a tall senecio with a small rootball, as I did, anchor the roots with rocks so it doesn’t tip over. Add potting soil and press firmly to surround and secure rootballs. As you compose the arrangement:

— Keep in mind it should look as though the succulents were undersea flora and fauna inhabiting a coral reef.

— Rotate plants outward so they’re facing the viewer.

— Place tall plants in the back. Put small ones in front and use as filler.

— Use plants and their root balls, shells, chunks of coral and/or rocks to retain soil in the clamshell’s U-shaped dips.

Caring for your composition:

To make it last and look good for years, place it in bright shade where it’ll get only a few hours of sun daily, ideally early morning or late afternoon. Water the plants lightly once a week in summer and once a month (or not at all) in winter.

Err on the dry side. This is a nondraining container, so don’t let it sit out in the rain or get watered by automatic irrigation. Although the pumice in the bottom will absorb moisture, it’s not a substitute for drainage. If the arrangement gets flooded, tip it slightly so water drains out.

Keep it tidy: Deadhead spent flowers, peel or snip off dry lower leaves, and remove debris that may fall onto or into the plants.

*How much will it cost?

Undersea-themed succulent-planted clamshell

This succulent-planted clamshell at Roger’s Gardens is priced at $300. If you DIY, expect to pay about half that—less if you use cuttings.

Related Info on This Site:

A succulent mermaid's garden

Succulent Mermaid's Garden

 

DIY Succulent Driftwood Designs

Related Videos on my YouTube channel:

Mermaid Succulent Garden

See how succulents combine with bromeliads and outdoor art in this undersea-themed “mermaid’s garden.” The owner/designer is Nancy Englund, president of the Laguna Beach Garden Club.

 

Undersea succulent planter

Succulents that resemble coral-reef flora lend themselves to containers that immerse the viewer in an undersea experience. [See story above.]

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Supermarket Kalanchoes: Succulents You Grow for Their Flowers

Supermarket kalanchoes (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) are succulents you grow mainly for their flowers. They have been hybridized and sold as flowering plants long before succulents in general became popular.

Succulents are plants that look like flowers, and although all succulents produce them, they’re generally not the reason people buy them. Yet this one succulent has been commercially grown—and sold—for its bright, cheery blooms for decades.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana has dark green, scalloped leaves, forms a 12-inch-diameter shrub, and produces bouquet-like flower clusters off and on (mainly fall-winter). Hybrids come in every warm hue as well as shades of cream, white and multicolored blends. Because Kalanchoe blossfeldiana  tolerates conditions that would kill most nonsucculent plants, it has great commercial value.

A variety known as calandiva has ruffled petals. Each dime-sized calandiva floret resembles a tiny chrysanthemum.

For an eye-catching floral display, tuck several supermarket kalanchoes into a window box or flower bed.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana plays well with other succulents, adding bright pops of color for weeks at a time.

And when you combine several of the same kind in one pot, you’ll get what looks like one big, lush plant massed with vivid blooms.

For best results:
— As with most succulents, supermarket kalanchoes want good air circulation, three or four hours of bright but not hot sun daily (morning sun is best), protection from frost and extreme heat, and soil that’s moist but not soggy.
— Deadhead spent blooms and let the plants rest until the next round. If these succulents have a downside, it’s that they’ll bloom themselves to the point of exhaustion. With TLC they’ll recover.
— Deadhead spent flowers. This seems obvious, but the plants are repeat bloomers. They’ll perform better and look best with old flowers out of the way.


–Use with rosette succulents to create floral-style compositions. Supermarket kalanchoes with cream or pastel blooms look especially good with rose, pink and/or teal echeverias.
– If, after successive bloom cycles, the plants go downhill, take cuttings if you want the same color again, or simply discard the plants. Replacements are easy to come by.

Sources: If you’re in the San Diego area, Weidner’s Gardens nursery in Encinitas is one of the top growers of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana hybrids, and their plants are perfection. Otherwise, you can usually find Kalanchoe blossfeldiana in the garden section of big box stores…and of course, in supermarkets.

Related info on this site:

About Succulents, an Overview
This is the perfect place to start if you’re at all uncertain about succulents: Debra’s dozen favorites, all hand-selected for skittish beginners. These easy-grow varieties are… [Continue reading] 
How to grow, care for, and create more succulents.
True, succulents are the easiest plants on the planet, but like all living things, the more you know about them, the higher your success rate and the fewer worries you’ll have. Here are the basics for [Continue reading]


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Ten Succulent Front Yard Essentials

These ten essentials for a successful succulent front yard aren’t difficult to achieve yet make a big difference. We have designer Deana Rae McMillion to thank for chronicling and sharing her lawn-to-succulents transformation, not only after installation, but also over the ensuing three years. It looked great immediately, earned a city beautification award, and—as you’ll see—continued to improve. Deana Rae credits San Diego designer Laura Eubanks for inspiration. 

BEFORE The McMillions 1970s house and yard, viewed from the street, was all lines and rectangles lacking interest and personality. The location is Carpinteria, CA, south of Santa Barbara, a mile inland from the ocean.

AFTER:

In 2012, a year after she and her husband moved in, Deana Rae cut out a small area of the lawn and experimented with succulents. They did well, and an Agave americana quickly attained several feet in height and diameter. Notice how it (the big blue century plant at upper right) has grown over time and serves as a dramatic focal point that visually balances the “weight” of the house.

Succulent Essential #1: Know how large plants will get. For example, Agave americana, though easy to grow and often free for the asking, isn’t for every garden. (See my video, “What You MUST Know About Century Plants.”)

After the sod was cut and removed, Deana Rae installed pocket gardens alongside the new front walkway.

#2: Ask friends and neighbors for succulent cuttings. If you’re not going to put them in the ground right away, start them in pots.

#3: If soil is compacted and difficult to dig, give succulent roots a fighting chance by spading it and adding amendments prior to planting.

#4: To add interest and definition to the overall design, bring in large boulders. They weigh tons, so have them delivered and positioned BEFORE you plant.

#5: Don’t skip the infrastructure. Take care of pre-planting steps like installing and adjusting irrigation, evaluating runoff, repairing drains and walls, and upgrading hardscape.

#6: Design with undulating lines for a natural look. Straight lines and rows are more formal, seldom found in nature, and emphasize the linearity of nearby structures.

#7: In close-up areas, create complex plantings. Viewpoints that are broader and farther away need less detail and larger plants.

Deana Rae’s plant choices include medium-sized agaves, aloes, calandrinia (with purple flowers), bulbine (orange flowers), blue Senecio mandraliscae, and drought-tolerant perennials such as yellow sundrops (Calylophus sp.). A dry creek bed of river cobbles funnels rainwater into the garden. Small succulents such as jades, aeoniums, echeverias and sedums—all from cuttings—nestle around boulders.

#8: Top-dress with crushed rock (gravel). Imagine this garden with only bare dirt between plants. Topdressing finishes a landscape aesthetically; adds interest, color and texture; discourages weeds and makes them easy to pull; moderates soil temperature; and slows moisture evaporation. “I had so much fun shopping for rocks and gravel,” Deana Rae says. “I think I love rocks as much as I do succulents.”

Aloe maculata (in bloom) is tough and its offsets are often free for the asking. It’s one of the few succulents that’s invasive in friable soil, but in a parkway strip like this, it can’t get into trouble. In fact, as it spreads, it’ll make the the area look even better. The fortnight lily at right was well established, so it stayed.

#9: Continue rocks and gravel into the parkway strip. This enhances the overall design, makes the front yard larger, and makes what’s sometimes called a “hell strip” easy to maintain.

#10: Include intriguing plant-rock combos within the larger garden. Such “vignettes” are optional, but offer a great way to express your creativity, enjoy your garden hands-on, and offer visitors delightful discoveries. A few examples:

Lance-leaved Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ (center) contrasts with curvier plants: ripple jade (upper right), Euphorbia mammilaris (lower middle) and a crested myrtillocactus (center left). Echoing the agave’s pointed rosette are Echeveria subrigida ‘Fire and Ice’ (lower right, in bloom), Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick’ at lower left, and aloes.

 

Rivulets of gravel flowing through the garden suggest motion and water. They also contrast and repeat colors of succulents, and provide access to planted areas. Statuesque Euphorbia trigona ‘Rubra’ serves as a focal point that will triple in size over time. An eclectic mix of small succulents includes echeverias, aloes, kalanchoes, sedums, crassulas and barrel cactus. A low-water salvia in bloom (upper left) lends floral color and a mounding, soft-textured backdrop.

 

A ceramic turtle adds a touch of whimsy and repeats the color and shape of a cluster of turquoise echeverias. It’s fine to add a planted pot to a garden, like the wide terracotta bowl at left (with Crassula ‘Mini Jade’, Kalanchoe luciae and Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’). Lampranthus deltoides at upper left extends the blue and lends frothy texture. Aeoniums, sedums and aloes complete the composition.

 

A sheltered niche amid rocks is a great spot for echeverias, which can be tricky to grow in the open garden and generally do best in  pots. Amid them are Sedum ‘Blue Spruce’, silver squill (Ledebouria socialis), and orangy-red Crassula ‘Campfire’.

 

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WHY YOU REALLY NEED ROCKS

Here are ten reasons why your landscape—especially if it includes succulents—really needs rocks, large and small… [Continue reading]

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Jim Gardner’s Succulent Showcase

At Jim and Jan Gardner’s home near Los Angeles, hundreds of varieties of mature succulents and low-water companion plants pack a colorful, well-thought-out landscape.

A retired MD, Jim’s the “succulent guy” at nearby South Coast Botanic Garden and an art potter as well.

For over 40 years, the Gardners have lived in Rolling Hills Estates on the Palos Verdes peninsula, which juts from the coastline like a burl on an oak. It’s a highly desirable habitat for people as well as plants, and a great place to view large specimens. Tropicals and succulents have thrived in this mild, maritime climate for as long as nurseries have offered them.

Palos Verdes peninsula, southwest of LA. The red dot indicates the South Coast Botanic Garden.

Jim is a self-described “biophile:” a person who enjoys interacting with nature’s life forms. “They stick to me,” Jim says of his collection of 1,300 potted succulents and cacti. Many are in containers made by Jim himself, who after 30 years in internal medicine at Kaiser’s South Bay Medical Center, became an artist-potter. His sought-after work is characterized by textures derived from organic items such as pine cones and tree bark. A long-time Cactus and Succulent Society member, Jim volunteers at nearby South Coast Botanic Garden. His pots are available at the gift shop and the annual two-day Cactus & Succulent Show in April.

Jim makes it look easy to grow 20-foot tree aloes, airy epidendrums and sofa-sized deuterochonias (a spiky, colony-forming bromeliad), but like any avid biophile, he’s made his share of mistakes. Years ago, for example, when applying herbicide to an invasive grass, Jim sprayed his succulent euphorbias as well. “They turned to mush,” he recalls wryly.

“Out in front,” he adds, “I trimmed the lavenders too vigorously and killed them, so that’s how these plants happened.” He gestures to a streetside garden lush with aeoniums, aloes and shrub euphorbias. Pavers that traverse the area appear grouted with dymondia, a low-water ground cover that withstands foot traffic. Other waterwise ornamentals include tower of jewels (Echium wildpretti), with conical, deep pink, 5-foot bloom spikes; and a trunkless burgundy cordyline with white flowers that suggest shooting stars.

As you can imagine, it was a treat for me to meet Jim and Jan and see their garden, a visit made possible by Jackie Johnson, president of the Peninsula Garden Club, where I gave a presentation on Designing with Succulents. Jim graciously provided IDs for the main plants in my best photos—well, the top 60—40 of which are below for you to enjoy. I’ve already posted on Instagram several short videos taken at Jim’s, but THE must-see is my newly released, 5-minute YouTube video: “Jim Gardner’s Succulent Showcase.”

Btw, Jim collects and hybridizes mangaves (Manfreda x Agave hybrids). You’ll notice these intriguing dotted and speckled succulents in some of my photos. Watch for a future newsletter about these increasingly popular succulents. See if they don’t deserve a place in your own collection!

And now…drum roll…here’s my annotated gallery of the Gardners’ garden. As with all the photos on my site, you’re welcome to download and use these, providing the photo credit remains intact.

 

Related info on this site:

Patrick Anderson’s Garden: It All Started with Aloes

Fleshy green monsters in Patrick Anderson’s Fallbrook garden look like they might snap him up if he turns his back. They’re giant succulents, and Anderson’s half-acre hillside showcases hundreds of unusual ones. “I like their huge, sculptural forms,” [Continue reading]

Succulent Garden Design Essentials 

Nancy Dalton’s award-winning succulent garden in San Diego is an outstanding example of smart landscaping for Southern California’s arid climate. Enjoy it’s many pleasing and practical aspects and keep these dozen ideas in mind [Continue reading]

 

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Sunset’s Midcentury Succulent Cover Story

“Once in the ’90s and again in the late ’20s, gardeners have turned to succulents with an intensity amounting to a craze. Now they are coming back into favor again, and this time it looks like something more than a temporary infatuation.” — Sunset magazine, June, 1954*

Fifty years ago, each hefty, half-inch-thick issue of Sunset magazine cost 20 cents and brought days of useful, entertaining reading about gardening, food and travel. My parents subscribed, so they no doubt read the June, 1954 cover story about succulents.

I’ve always assumed they surrounded their Southern CA ranch home with succulents because cuttings were free for the asking, and my father didn’t want to water the garden more than absolutely necessary.

An ad for Fiberglas awnings shows an idealized midcentury patio

But was it possible that my parents were onto…a trend? Well, no. The six-page cover story is mostly about container gardens for “the outdoor living areas of the Western house: its patios, lanais, decks, and paved areas…And if ever a plant was made for a pot, it’s the succulent.” Containers didn’t appear on my folks’ patio until the ’70s. With geraniums.

The succulent article’s 25 photos are B&W except for those shown on the cover. In 4,000 words, Sunset editors give an overview of succulents and their care, design ideas, and a “beginner’s collection” of about 50 varieties. Most are still fairly common, but Euphorbia valida is now E. meloformisGasteria maculata is now G. bicolor; and Cotyledon hemisphaerica is Adromischus hemisphaericus.

Mentioned but nearly unknown today are Echeveria rosea grandis and Sedum amecamecanum. “Do you mean Sedum americanum?” asked Google. Uh, not unless Sunset made one whopping typo. I found out that this stutter-named sedum has “fragile leaves”—doubtless why it’s not much in demand.

Kalanchoe flammea” in the illustrations sure looks like Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, shown here. Don’t you wish it had kept its earlier, more descriptive name?

Aloe arborescens (left), Aeonium haworthii (right)

The jades, aeoniums, aloes, ice plants and cacti in my parents’ garden were not necessarily those in the article—they grew Aloe arborescens and  Aeonium haworthii, for example. Perhaps even back then these were so common, the few succulent specialty nurseries that existed didn’t bother to offer them. (Hence a reason not to mention them, lest readers write in and say they’d tried to find them but couldn’t.)

Although it’s shown in the article, perhaps Sunset shouldn’t have bothered. The defining characteristic of Drosanthemum floribundum is lost in black and white.

As a little girl, I was proud to pronounce the name of this searing pink ice plant: “mesembryanthemum.” And I would be still, except it’s since become drosanthemum.

Now about that astonishing statement, “Once in the ’90s and again in the late ’20s, gardeners have turned to succulents with an intensity amounting to a craze…” Aren’t you curious what happened in the 1890s and 1920s? I am. Hm. I’ll see what I can find out…

*Special thanks to friend, colleague, and retired Sunset Senior Garden Editor Kathy Brenzel for presenting me with the 54-year-old issue. In case you’re wondering, all its content is copyrighted, so apart from short excerpts, I’d need permission to share it.  There’s no link to it because it’s not online.

Related info on this site:

Certain low-water annuals and perennials are my “nostalgia plants” because they remind me of…[Continue reading]
As for ice plant, don’t plant just one variety. Combine several—not curbside, though, lest they cause an accident… [Read more]

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Why Grow Paddle Cacti? DLB’s 16 Reasons

Of the dozen or so types of cacti in my garden, I have more opuntias than any other. Also known as paddle cactus or prickly pear, Opuntia species have stems shaped like ping-pong paddles. New pads grow from older ones after rains drench the roots and help fuel new growth. Typically these new pads, and flowers that turn into fruit, form along the edge of the pads and orient themselves for maximum sun exposure. For garden plants, I prefer spineless or near-spineless varieties, like Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’, O. ‘Burbank’s Spineless’ and O. ficus-indica. These grow from 3 to 7 feet tall.

I also have dwarf varieties in my miniature landscape, which I designed to suggest a Latin American mountain town. Photos of it and the specimen below are in my book, Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed.

Flowers of opuntias are spectacular, and open in succession. So although the blooms last only a day or so, the show lasts a week or more.

As with all cactus, opuntia spines are modified leaves. There’s a good reason to grow prickly varieties—whether Opuntia species or others, they’re breathtakingly beautiful when late afternoon or early morning sun backlights translucent spines.

Certain varieties, such as O. Santa-rita, have purple pads. It’s been my observation that these tend to attain their best color in desert gardens; here in Southern CA, the pads stay green with a purple tinge.

I grow an intriguing variety that has beard-like white filaments, but I recently had to trash much of the plant because scale insects snuck under the threads and colonized the pads unnoticed. I did manage to keep a few unblemished ones, which I treated with Safer soap and replanted.

Opuntias are easy to start from pads; simply slice or break one off and stick it in the ground. Knock one off, and where it falls it’ll form roots.

The egg-shaped fruit of opuntias is edible and a colorful garden enhancement.

Opuntias are unique among cacti in that they have two types of spines—needles and glochids. The latter often is nearly invisible, barbed, and will go home with you if you touch it. Glochids create fuzzy polka-dots on the paddles of Opuntia microdaysis. Beautiful…but beware.

Because cactus pads are moisture-storage organs filled with a mucilaginous gel and protected by a tough, waxy skin, they’re slow to catch fire. Opuntias not only make great firebreak plants in wildfire-prone areas, they’re efficient at conserving water and need no irrigation other than rainfall.

Tender new opuntia pads (nopalitos) are sold in Mexican markets. They’re good in salads and can be cooked as a vegetable dish that tastes like green beans.

Let me know what you think. I always enjoy hearing from you! ~ Debra 

 

Related Info

On this site: 

Is Cactus the New Black?
Aug. 9, 2017 — Long a pariah plant, cactus is becoming cool. Spiny succulents are following smooth ones in popularity, notably in [Continue reading]

 
Succulent enthusiasts flock to the annual Cactus & Succulent Society Show at the Los Angeles Arboretum mid-August. It’s the largest of its kind in [Continue reading]
 
Recently in Baja I was showing off my knowledge of native succulents when one “got” me. The friend who was taking a video with my phone gasped when I unsuccessfully tried to set a 3-inch-long chunk of cholla (“choy-ah”) cactus back onto a boulder. It resolutely clung to my fingers [Continue reading]

 

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Spring in My Succulent Garden: Flowers Wow with Bold, Hot Hues

My spring garden’s most vivid blooms are those of succulent ice plants. Aloes, bulbine and numerous arid-climate companions are bright and beautiful from March through mid-May. Increasing temps tend to put the kibosh on delicate spring flowers. If you live near the coast of CA, you’ll enjoy a longer spring, but you may not get the sun and heat that makes many flowers blaze.

Spring is the season of flowers, so get outside and enjoy them. Soon enough, in summer, those hot colors will fade and your garden will go back to being mainly shapes and textures—which of course succulents do best. What many people  don’t realize is that flowers are ephemeral—they flash and fade, and then you’re left with foliage. (I like to say that sentence in my talks. Try it. The alliteration is luscious.)

Above: A normally uninteresting corner of my garden is stunning in spring because of all the flowers. Red ones at center are Sparaxis tricolor, a bulb from South Africa. Easy-grow shrub daisies (Euryops pectinatus) echo the yellow margins of Agave americana ‘Marginata’—which though nearly engulfed, still makes a bold statement.

California poppies pop in spring. These bright orange annuals reseed every year. Behind them is Drosanthemum floribundum (rosea ice plant). Adding contrasting form is spineless opuntia. Almost incidentally, fruit on citrus trees repeat the poppies, and elevate their color to eye level.

Scilla peruviana, returns every March. It produces large, purple-blue snowflake flowers and then disappears for nine months. It was planted by the previous owner and I don’t do a thing to keep it going. But like all bulbs, it leaves behind droopy, messy foliage which you need to leave because it feeds the bulb for the next g0-round.

And as for ice plant, don’t plant just one variety. Combine several—not curbside, though, lest they cause an accident.

Related articles:

Succulent garden design essentials

How to grow succulents

Debra’s own garden 

My succulent meditation garden

YouTube video: Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Garden in Spring.

Flowering Plants in My Spring Garden: Inland Southern CA, Zone 9b

Spring (peak): mid-March to early April

Annual: California poppies

Bulbs:

Babiana stricta (baboon flower)

Scilla peruviana

         Sparaxis tricolor

Succulents:

Aeonium arboreum

         Aloe maculata

         Bulbine frutescens ‘Hallmark’

Gasteria sp.

Ice Plants:

Delosperma congestum ‘Gold Nugget’

Drosanthemum floribundum

                  Drosanthemum speciosum

         Sedum ‘Firestorm’

Perennial shrubs:

Euryops pectinatus

Gazanias (African daisies)

Pelargoniums (geraniums)

Rose, climbing: ‘Altissimo’

Wisteria