Wheelchair accessible succulent garden

Wheelchair Accessible Succulent Garden

When I saw the photos that "Celebrating the Joy of Succulents" newsletter subscriber Pat Armanino emailed me of her garden, I knew I wanted to share them. Pat's use of galvanized water troughs as succulent containers is clever and eye-catching. But her main reason for using troughs, she told me, is that they make gardening in a wheelchair possible.

Wheelchair accessible garden, troughs

Pat originally used wire to attach ceramic suns to steel troughs. She now simply Gorilla-glues magnets to the backs of decorative items.

"I've grown succulents for 17 years, 13 in a chair," Pat says, "and five with water troughs." Conventional raised beds weren't a good option, because stone, brick or wood surfaces are too wide to lean over comfortably, and are rough-textured. "I'd have to wear long sleeves to not scrape my arms."

Trough rims are narrow and smooth; their sides, thin and strong. The 2-foot-high troughs came from a feed store, but are also available on Amazon. They come with plugged holes, Pat notes, "but we added drain holes, too."

Wheelchair accessible succulent garden2

Pat's wheelchair-accessible succulent garden is where a lawn once was. Water drains through the tanks into sand-filled gaps between pavers.

Troughs are filled with layers of rock and garden soil, "topped off with eight inches of potting soil," Pat says. She installed the troughs "after I retired five years ago, and nothing so far has rusted or gone wrong." They're on drip irrigation installed beneath pavers and threaded through drain holes.

The climate of San Mateo, CA, where Pat and her husband have lived for 46 years, is Zone 9, with rainy winters often followed by frost. She covers her succulents "with frost blankets" as needed.

Echeverias in San Mateo garden

Echeverias, aloes and other succulents thrive in Pat Armanino's garden

Also five years ago, Pat and a friend went on a road trip to obtain succulents "only sold in Southern California," she recalls. Many---including ruffled echeverias---are still going strong. She estimates the total number of succulents in her garden to be around 500.

Pat takes cuttings, pots them up and uses them to fill gaps or give away. Every May, just before Mother's Day, she hosts a charity fundraiser "planting party," now in its 7th year. Guests bring their own pots, "and if they see a plant they like, they take cuttings and plant them," she says.

Succulent garden in containers

On a deck outside her dining room, Pat cultivates dozens of colorful succulents in pots large and small. 

Pat finds pots at garage sales for an ever-growing collection that includes senecios, haworthias, crassulas and more. "I'm always looking for something I don't have," she says. "Tall pots in back aren't easy to access, but if it takes me all day to get to something, that's OK," she says. "This is my hobby."

Wheelchair accessible garden, propagation area

Agaves predominate an area of the garden that includes Aloe plicatilis left of center, a spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla) at right, and aeoniums in back.

Pat's plants---plus her grandchildren's---have earned dozens of blue ribbons at the San Mateo County Fair. "But it's not about me," she says. "It's all about showing people what they can do with succulents."

Wheelchair accessible garden, owner

Pat Armanino tends her water-trough succulent garden.

Water trough succulent garden

Pat's Plants. Can you help ID the stunning pink echeveria on the right?

Your comments are welcome! Scroll down to let everyone know what you liked about Pat's garden. Do ask questions and share suggestions!

Succulent Container Garden (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Succulent Container Design

Succulent Container Design Design ideas and must-dos for beautiful, easy-care potted succulents Here you’ll find info on succulent container design in articles and videos. Scroll down to see what interests you and best meets your needs. Click to see my gallery of 150+ floral-style arrangements! Succulent Container Gardens, How-To Welcome to the most comprehensive info…

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Debra's 7 best succulents

In this free PDF exclusively for subscribers to my "Celebrating the Joy of Succulents" newsletter, you'll learn the 7 best easy-care succulents that thrive in pots and landscapes. Whether you're new to growing succulents or an experienced succulent "parent", you'll love these 7 beautiful plants.

Enjoyed this article? Please share it!


  1. Theresa Richardson on November 7, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Amazingly beautiful . . . thank you for sharing

    • GAYLE A. SHELL on November 8, 2019 at 6:23 am


  2. Nancy Ortiz on November 7, 2019 at 9:00 am

    It is reassuring to me that anyone with succulent love has to find ways to leave space/containers for new members of the succulent tribe. I notice recycling of containers from ceramic to tin. There are containers for older, mature beauties all the way to the younger, newer “babies”. Sharing the succulent adventure when hosting a potting party is a fantastic idea. I guess true succulent lovers have to share their abundance when their plants propagate, it is either share or enlarge the garden. This garden is an improvement for the handicapped because it is at an appropriate height and on solid ground. Thank you for sharing.

    • Alice on November 7, 2019 at 10:13 am

      What a wonderful garden! It is so beautiful and inspiring. Thanks for sharing Pat’s garden as well as her tips. I can tell by how healthy her plants are that she gets many hours of pleasure tending to them.

      • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 7, 2019 at 10:38 am

        Yes, her love of gardening—and succulents in particular–really shines.

        • Donna allec on November 12, 2019 at 6:40 pm

          Wow, I am so impressed!

  3. Jacki on November 7, 2019 at 9:03 am

    What a gorgeous garden! Kudos to Pat for thinking outside the box and making it possible to continue her passion, even in the face of disability. That is so inspirational to me.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 7, 2019 at 9:46 am

      I know! So cool that it’s a lovely garden in its own right.

  4. Mary Reynolds on November 7, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I was so impressed with this wheelchair garden because I am also in one and have wanted to garden too. Now I feel like I could get one of those troughs and plant something and plant something fun again. Thanks so much for the article.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 7, 2019 at 9:45 am

      Mary, that’s wonderful! I’m so pleased, and I know Pat will be too!

  5. Libbi Salvo on November 7, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful garden. As a Physical Therapist I particularly appreciate it. I oversee the departments in numerous skilled nursing facilities in CA and NV and will be sharing this with my teams. Thank you

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 7, 2019 at 10:36 am

      Libbi, this is wonderful! Pat will be so pleased.

  6. Karen Schoeppel on November 7, 2019 at 11:00 am

    Amazing, beautiful and inspirational garden! Everything looks so healthy and BIG. Does she feed them anything special?
    Also, what exactly is a frost blanket and where can I get some?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 7, 2019 at 11:40 am

      Hi Karen, hopefully Pat will see this and answer you about fertilizer–what, how much and when. As for frost blankets, here’s info on my site. Thanks for your comment!

      • Pat Armanino on November 7, 2019 at 8:22 pm

        Karen, I do not usually fertilize. I use Miracle Gro Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting soil. I am always adding more of this soil into the pots and it contains its own plant food. Yes I do use frost blankets during days where freezing is predicted.

  7. Pat Roach on November 7, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  8. Raquel Mano on November 7, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Debra, thank you for your article! In Summer do these pots get too warm? The plants look fantastic…

    • Pat Armanino on November 7, 2019 at 8:25 pm

      Raquel, No these pots do not get too warm, even on very hot days.

  9. Kate Cronk on November 7, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Inspirational garden, Pat – thanks so much for sharing!!! Kate (in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia)

  10. Sheila schultz on November 7, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Pat, you have designed a thoughtful and really spectacular succulent garden that any succulent lover would admire. It’s perfection is not only beautiful, but for anyone in a wheelchair or our aging population that still wants to dig in the dirt but can’t bend as well as we once could… it’s Brilliant!!!

  11. Felicidad on November 7, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    So beautiful and inspirational. I make small pots and work on my succulent pots and gardens a bit at a time. This is motivating me to get out there early mornings using Pats garden for inspiration. Thank you!

  12. Bronwyn on November 7, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    Absolutley beautiful, what a great idea, inspirational and you have given me new idea’s too, thank you for sharing.
    from Melbourne Australia.

  13. Arsenia Serafica on November 7, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    That’s an amazing idea specially for those patients who loves to garden but cannot to bend or kneel down to the ground.😃🤗

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 7, 2019 at 8:54 pm

      Hi Arsenia — Yes, and you know whereof you speak, being a nurse who works with the elderly. Thanks for commenting!

  14. JoAnn Mejia on November 8, 2019 at 4:26 am

    Lady your an inspiration. I’m a newbie, and these things are so addictive.
    Thank you and bless you

  15. Cindy on November 8, 2019 at 6:02 am

    What an inspiration! Thank you, Pat and Debra. Succulents are versatile and resilient and I love that you are showcasing succulent gardeners who exhibit those traits too. Great work!

  16. Lois Scott on November 8, 2019 at 6:57 am

    I also love succulents, and it was wonderful to see such an abundance of succulents of every variety. The artistic arrangements are also wonderful. I liked seeing that one “before” photo of the yard with the empty containers. It is amazing what foresight and imagination was at work here. That nice fencing also allowed Pat to create her own Paradise, where there are no outside distractions from the beauty within her yard. Just wonderful!!!! Thank you for allowing so many to share this sanctuary. Lois, from Encinitas, CA

  17. Cathleen Caffrey on November 8, 2019 at 9:21 am

    The garden is lovely. However, it is also one of those gardens that makes my heart sink and gets me very depressed. I cannot begin to afford those troughs. The cost of just one is not possible. I wish that when equipment like this is discussed in a story, however helpful it may be to the disabled, the subject line in the email began “Inspiring and expensive: …..” That way I wouldn’t look at it and wouldn’t hurt my heart. Please keep in mind that many people out there can’t afford landscapers or expensive equipment, or even most of the wonderful plants you show. I like to look at the plants, even one I can’t afford, but to see all these other things I’ll never have is really hard sometimes, and the info on care-taking is helpful. (I’m going through a bad patch and it this sounds like just a whine, I’m sorry; most of the time I can accept the reality that most stories on the web and in magazine offer images that are unattainable; every once in a while it just really hurts.)

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 8, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Cathleen, my heart goes out to you. I can relate, probably we all can: Sometimes seeing what others have can create a visceral longing, and it can be depressing to think that as much as you long for something, you’ll probably never have it. I appreciate your honesty, and wish I could give you a hug. If it’s any help—and I know it probably isn’t, but for the edification of others—the troughs are actually a much cheaper option than, say, having stone, wood or brick planters built. (I know whereof I speak, living on a steep lot and hiring a mason to make planting areas possible.) Here’s what Pat says: “The smaller round ones were less than $150.00 and free shipping!!! the larger ones were just over $200.00. Of course the prices have probably gone up since then.”

    • Pat Armanino on November 8, 2019 at 10:11 am

      Cathleen, I am sorry that you feel that way after looking at my garden. As Debra mentioned, I do not believe the troughs are as expensive as other landscape options. As far as expensive plants, I do not buy the larger more expensive ones! I buy the small, cheaper version of all of the plants. The vast majority of the plants you see have been growing for many years and started out in 2-4 inch pots! As you know these are much cheaper than those purchased in the larger size pots. Also, with the exception of the troughs and pots that were given as gifts, the rest were all purchased second hand thru garage sales and thrift shops.

      I hope you can look at my garden in a different way now!

    • Bea Quintana on November 13, 2019 at 7:41 am

      This is a beautiful garden, thank you for sharing Pat’s story and pictures.

      I started with a few succulents and starting researching on YouTube on how to care for them and came across Laura Eubanks and she brought me to you Debra which I am so thankful for. You have taught me so much. Thank you!

  18. Pat Armanino on November 8, 2019 at 9:27 am


    Thank you so much! I am just so overwhelmed by these comments. There have been very few people that have seen my yard and to have strangers see it is a whole different story. I am so glad that others can find inspiration in it. Happy Succulenting!

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