Circular Succulent Garden

When I first saw fitness coach Amy Van Liew’s circular garden and spherical fountain, I envisioned how it might look replanted with colorful succulents. A great fountain and garden bed deserve to be seen, especially when in the middle of a magnificent home’s entryway.

Fitness coach Amy VanLiew with aeoniums in bloom

In the spring, when I took this photo of Amy, the flowers in the circle garden were impressive. However, aeoniums bloom once and then die. As you can see, they had already become leggy, and other plants (notably Sedum rubrotinctum) were overgrown and ratty. Moreover, the nearly concealed fountain was home to tadpoles.

Circular succulent garden, before photo

Amy and husband Ed agreed it was time for a re-do. So, six months later, we created a new circular garden of succulents for the entry.

Circular succulent garden after installation

The basin now is filled (and concealed by) aqua-colored crushed rock that suggests water. This appears to overflow and create rock rivulets between planted areas that are top-dressed with pea gravel in a contrasting orange hue.

Project sketch and plant choices

Circular succulent garden drawing

Each of six sections for the circular succulent garden features a different kind of plant. We chose six of each kind, all in one-gallon pots, and all from Waterwise Botanicals nursery in nearby Bonsall, CA. Some have rounded leaves or a globular form that repeats the fountain’s. Except for one, all are succulents.

Sedum provides orange in circular succulent garden Sedum ‘Firestorm’ is a ground-cover succulent with red-orange leaves massed with clusters of tiny white flowers in spring.

Spherical fountain in circular succulent garden

Echeveria ‘Sahara’ is a new cultivar bred to be heat-tolerant, and therefore is suitable to a climate with summer temps in the 90s. It has a circular shape, lavender-pink-blue coloration, and produces dainty flower stalks in autumn.

Portulacaria afra 'Minima' for circular succulent garden

Yet more circles can be seen in the leaves of Portulacaria afra ‘Minima’, a cultivar of elephant’s food. ‘Minima’ is a low-growing, heat-tolerant, ground-cover succulent with bright green foliage and red stems.

Spherical mounds of blue fescue with spherical fountain in circular succulent garden

Blue fescue took the longest to become established—which is why I postponed showing the finished garden. This ornamental grass is doing great; it’s just s-l-o-w. As you can see, it has a mounding growth habit and slender, threadlike leaves that are truly blue.

Kalanchoe luciae for circular succulent garden

Amy had had good luck with flapjack plants (Kalanchoe luciae), so we used them again, this time massing them for effect. A bonus is that their red-edged leaves are rounded—yet another echo of the fountain.

Spherical barrel cactus with spherical fountain in circular succulent garden

But nothing so perfectly repeated the fountain as these globular barrel cactus. I was pleased Amy wanted them; many people don’t because the plants are so spiny. But barrel cactus is not difficult to handle if you know how. The spines curve downward, so they’re not treacherous unless you push on them the wrong way (upward).

After installation

Here’s how the circular succulent garden looked when finished last fall.

Blue stones suggest flowing water in circular succulent garden

And how it looks now, six months later.

Circular succulent garden with spherical fountain

To see highlights of the installation, watch my 5-minute YouTube video, “Circular Succulent Garden Start to Finish.” The entire project took about two days, including time spent rounding up plants and materials.

See my video of the Van Liew garden redo by landscape designer Steve McDearmon, and my blog post “Ten Reasons Why You Really Need Rocks.” 

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  1. Rose S on March 25, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    I love that garden! I have a huge circular area in my backyard where we took down a 24′ round above ground pool. I may start the area in the center with something like this. Beautiful job! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Debra on March 25, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      You’re very welcome! Let me know how it turns out ;+)

  2. Deborah Conklin on March 27, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Love this garden but I especially like that there is a plan for it. That’s one of the biggest hurdles–actually planning a garden that works. Thanks for the great article. Would love to see more like it.

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