Landscapes & Gardens

Succulent Landscaping Trends

Succulent Landscape with rocks (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

As the author of two editions of Designing with Succulents ten years apart, I’m sort of obsessed with the evolution of succulent landscaping. Here’s what designers and homeowners are discovering that works and (perhaps more importantly) what doesn’t. These top six trends—call them preferences, if you like—may surprise you. Yucca gloriosa ‘Bright Star’. Design by Gardefacts, Santa Barbara. 1. About as many rocks as…

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A Colorful Succulent Garden to Copy

Colorful Succulent Garden (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

You could easily copy this colorful succulent garden at Weidner’s nursery in Encinitas, CA. It’s a three-dimensional showcase of succulents superbly suited to mild, frost-free regions. Most of the plants are readily available, and all are in my book, Designing with 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…

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Nancy Englund’s Succulent Mermaid’s Garden

A 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,”…

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Agaves Handle Summer Heat

Late summer is when tough succulents really shine. Large agaves handle summer heat, and are unfazed by harsh sun, high temps and lack of rain. Their statuesque, fountainlike forms lend a sculptural element to any landscape, and contrast beautifully with fine-textured ornamentals. They also make good firebreak plants and security fences. With the exception of a few…

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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…

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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. 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…

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Fire, Succulents and South Africa

Like the American West, Australia and elsewhere, Africa is having an increase in devastating wildfires. Numerous succulents are native to the continent, and in the south the climate is similar to that of coastal and southern California. Recently I heard from Talfryn Harris, a fire manager in Johannesburg who was working on a presentation for…

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Eight Bold-Hued California Classics

Certain low-water annuals and perennials are “nostalgia plants,” because they remind me of my SoCA childhood. These California classics are as popular now as 40 years ago, for good reason: they’re easy-care, readily available, inexpensive, and add great texture and interest to Southwest gardens. The plants’ bold hues are reminiscent of a Mexican serape: purple, orange,…

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Aloe Superstars: A Landscape Designer’s Favorites

One of Southern CA’s in-demand landscape designers, Bill Schnetz of Schnetz Landscape, Inc., likes to use aloes of all sizes in residential gardens. If you love succulents, live in a mild climate, and grow these South Africans in soil that drains well, “they’ll soon become your favorite plants,” Bills says. For a natural setting, he suggests…

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How Succulents Protected a Home from Wildfire

How Succulents Protected a Home from Wildfire Immediately after the Lilac Fire, Dr. Camille Newton of Bonsall, CA, texted me that eight homes on her street had been destroyed, yet hers was unharmed. “Succulents saved the day,” she said.  Such reports aren’t unprecedented. Suzy Schaefer’s succulent garden in Rancho Santa Fe “saved our home,” she told me (and national…

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