Sherman Gardens succulent garden

A Garden of Collectible Succulents in Corona

Do you collect special succulents that you’d like to grow outdoors in your garden? If you’re in Southern CA, do visit the cactus and succulent garden at Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar, CA. It offers so many great tips and ideas!

Debra Lee Baldwin and Pat Roach at Sherman Gardens

Pat Roach and I in Sherman’s succulent garden.

Imagine…a dear friend who lives in LA had never been to Sherman Gardens! I’m in San Diego, so an Orange County botanical garden was the perfect place to meet. We were celebrating the fact that we’re finally the same age. (She’s a math teacher but kindly didn’t say that I’m six months older and always will be.) So on a bright early-spring day, Pat Roach and I were ladies-who-lunch at Sherman’s la-dee-dah garden cafe.

Originally a home that later became a nursery, Sherman’s 2.2 acres now are a venue for weddings and other upscale events. It includes lathe houses, beds of annuals and roses, fountains, a koi pond and tropicals. It’s on busy Coast Highway, but once beyond the fence, you’re in a different world. Outdoor areas are themed and make smart use of every square foot.

Pat and I first met when she took my online design class, so at Sherman we spent most of our time in the cactus and succulent garden. It beautifully blends specimen plants with rocks and boulders. The designer, Matthew Maggio, is a horticulturist knowledgeable about how the plants grow in habitat—always a boon to effective placement and cultivation. Matt redesigned and replanted the 1,200-square foot area 12 years ago and helps it stay looking good.

One of the focal points would work in any size garden: a large, shallow terra-cotta pot set amid boulders. Burro-tail sedum and Senecio repens cascade out of it, and echeverias surround a lovely agave in its center. Photos I’ve taken of the pot over the years show a succession of agaves, each variegated, no doubt to echo a Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ nearby.

Sherman Gardens, 2007

2007: The wide, shallow terra-cotta pot showcases Agave ‘Joe Hoak’.


Sherman Gardens, 2011

2011: Same terra-cotta pot, redone with variegated Agave vilmoriniana. Notice the furcraea in the background (the two plants visually blend together), and the addition of red bromeliads.


Sherman Gardens, 2019

2019: Now large, the furcraea appears to explode behind the pot. In it, with wavy leaves, is variegated Agave gypsophila.

My photos from earlier visits also show a large Dasylirion wheeleri midway down the garden’s long, narrow bed. It has since been replaced with bromeliads, aloes and agaves. This enables visitors to better appreciate how blue Senecio serpens forms a meandering river that visually unifies the bed’s diverse plantings.

Sherman Gardens, 2005

2005: Dasylirion wheeleri dominates the long, narrow bed, which doesn’t yet include Matthew Maggio’s succulents-and-stones mosaics.


Sherman Gardens, 2011

2011: Although the long bed now has colorful rocks, succulents and bromeliads, the dasylirion still shouts, “Look at me!”


Sherman Gardens, 2019

2019: Bromeliads and agaves have replaced the dasylirion, and mature tree aloes lend balance, height and interest.


Sherman Library and Gardens is at 2647 E. Pacific Coast Hwy, Corona del Mar, CA. Hours: 10 to 4 daily. Closed major holidays. Free parking. Adults $5.

On My YouTube channel:

Succulent Design Ideas from Sherman Gardens

In this 4-min. video, I take you on a tour of highlights of Sherman’s succulent garden

Where to find small succulents online:

Plant IDs:

Agave attenuata 'Variegata'

Agave attenuata 'Variegata'


Euphorbia cooperi

Stems of Euphorbia cooperi suggest a series of bells.


Dioscorea elephantipes

Dioscorea elephantipes, lower right, resembles a turtle’s back.


String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)

String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)


Agave nickelsiae (formerly Agave ferdinandi-regis)

Agave nickelsiae (formerly Agave ferdinandi-regis)


Mesembs at Sherman Gardens

The garden’s climate and proximity to the ocean make this collection of ice plants (mesembryanthemums) possible.


Euphorbia horrida 'Snowflake'

Euphorbia horrida ‘Snowflake’ in Sherman Gardens’ euphorbia section


Aloe dorotheae

Plenty of sun and positioned amid rocks help to turn Aloe dorotheae red


Haworthias at Sherman Gardens

Haworthias at Sherman Gardens include (clockwise from top): H. cymbiformis ‘Variegata’; H. truncata; H. limifolia ‘Variegata’; H. retusa (or possibly bayeri).

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