You could easily copy this colorful succulent garden at Weidner's Gardens 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.
I do wonder, though, if visitors who exclaim over it are aware of important aspects that are not immediately obvious. You might not notice, for example, the way the grade varies. A garden that's flat is not as interesting, visually appealing and natural-looking. Creating berms also is practical: It lets you bring in good soil. Simply mound it atop existing hard-packed, nutrient-deficient dirt. You'll find digging and planting much easier, and roots will thank you.
This section of the garden combines shrub jades and yellow 'Kiwi' aeoniums with two orange superstars: flowering aloes and Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire'. Agaves provide texture contrast.
The long, narrow garden began when Laura Eubanks of Design for Serenity came to Weidner's to do a succulent planting-and-design demo. The result inspired the nursery's on-staff succulent expert Sabine Hildebrand to continue the garden from the entrance to the corner---a distance of about 50 feet.
Celebrity succulent designer Laura Eubanks created this section of the garden.
About half of the garden is inorganic hardscape. Near parking spaces are gravel and crushed red lava rock. A dry creek lined with cobbles runs through the middle, and black lava rock serves as an accent.
The dry creek, slightly below grade and flanked by planted mounds, meanders instead of being ramrod-straight, and---as shown in the video---it connects with a culvert that gives it a "reason" to be there.
The dark purple-red of lava rock echoes the color of Mangave 'Macho Mocha' at left. A decomposed-granite path (at right) is serpentine, which is more inviting than simply straight.
Swaths of crushed lava rock fill gaps, help keep weed seeds from germinating, hold moisture in the soil, and make plants easier to access for deadheading and pruning.
Labeled photos from my video
I recently released a YouTube video that takes you on a narrated, four-minute tour of Weidner's Colorful Succulent Garden. I labeled most of the plants, so if you've come here from there, you're at the right place. You'll find those same images below.
For the mound she planted, Laura chose a boulder with shades of gray, then echoed its lighter areas with Kalanchoe bracteata (silver spoons).
Crassula ovata 'Hummel's Sunset' (yellow jade, golden jade)
Typically people want lots of color in their gardens, but they don't realize how important texture is, too. Here, boulders and a large, graceful agave relieve the busyness of finer-textured foliage.
The garden has a temporary tree---the bloom spike of Agave desmetiana at center. There's also a strappy-leaved succulent that will grow into a tree over time: Dracaena draco (dragon tree). Its dark green, upright leaves are at left, where the visitors are pointing.
Succulents that Sabine chose for the garden's west end include variegated Agave desmetiana, 'Hobbit' jade, red Kalanchoe luciae, Kalanchoe bracteata (with orange flowers) and at upper right, a young dragon tree.
Plants in Laura's section include variegated 'Hobbit' jade, Aloe 'Little Gem' (in bloom), a stacked crassula and echeverias (at left), yellow sedum, and a variegated agave.
Mangave 'Macho Mocha' contrasts with blue Agave ovatifolia, ripple jade and Kalanchoe luciae.
Kalanchoe bracteosa (silver spoons)
For this red, orange, yellow and green combo, Sabine used Aeonium 'Kiwi', Portulacaria afra 'Variegata', Crassula ovata (jade) and Aloe 'Cynthia Giddy'.
Portulacaria afra 'Variegata' (elephant bush) is a low-growing, spreading, ground-cover succulent. Here it flows around Aloe vera and Aloe 'Cynthia Giddy'. Black and red lava rock topdress the area.
Kalanchoe orgyalis (copper spoons)
Agave attenuata 'Variegata' (lower left) is stunning, but susceptible to sunburn in harsher climates. The nursery is just a few miles from the ocean, so this white-striped agave is fine in full sun.
Flanking Mangave 'Macho Mocha' (center) and Agave vilmoriniana (octopus agave, upper left) is Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire'. Also vivid orange are the blooms of an Aloe striata hybrid.
Beschorneria yuccoides variegata, shown here in bud, sends up spectacular flowers. The soft-leaved succulent is related to Agave, and both are in the lily family.
Mangave 'Macho Mocha' contrasts with Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' and Aloe vera. Despite its fame in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, this mid-sized, yellow-flowering aloe is underutilized in landscapes. Aloe vera is handy to have; slice open a leaf and use the raw gel to soothe minor burns.
Agave vilmoriniana (octopus agave) stands out amid smaller-leaved succulents and creates an intriguing sense of motion.
Surrounding Agave 'Blue Glow' are crassulas 'Hobbit' and 'Tricolor', Aeonium 'Kiwi', and Euphorbia milii (with red flowers).
Succulent Garden Design Essentials How to design and plant your succulent garden. To ensure your success and help you avoid mistakes, here are a dozen succulent garden design essentials to keep in mind. Many thanks to homeowner Nancy Dalton, whose award-winning succulent garden in San Diego is an example of smart landscaping for Southern California. …