Brody’s Lovely, Low-Cost Succulent Garden

Celebrating the Joy of Succulents subscriber Brody Scotland says her home and its lovely, low-cost succulent garden are the result of "artists and weirdos"---herself and husband Ben---who love bright colors. Their vivid blue house "looks amazing as a backdrop," she adds, for succulent plantings inspired by designer Laura Eubanks. The location is San Leandro (Zone 10b), across the Bay from San Francisco.

Brody works full-time in the art department of Burning Man, a famed annual arts event. "And when I’m not doing that, I’m a photographer, a linocut artist, a woodworker, and whatever other crafts strike my fancy." When creating her garden, she cut down small trees, wheelbarrowed-in soil, made mounds, planted succulents, positioned rocks, and top-dressed with crushed rock. Brody says with a laugh, "I didn’t even let my husband help, so I could say I did it all myself." It took three years "since we couldn’t throw a pile of money at it all at once."

Why Share Her Garden?

"I want other folks to see it’s possible to have a small suburban backyard garden on a budget," Brody says. "We have enough disposable income to have a garden, mind you---it’s a huge privilege to have a home, much less the money and free time to have a garden. But relatively speaking, I did this project on pretty much the bare minimum that one could do a project like this. It took way longer and was probably more of a pain in the behind. It’s fun though, to see where you can get creative without throwing money at problems."

It's also fun, she adds, to talk about her garden and "invite people in digitally, now that I can’t have everybody over due to the pandemic."

Why did she contact yours truly? "I appreciate you so much and all the effort you take to educate those of us out here." (Aw.)

Come On In!

These photos and captions (all by Brody herself) take you on a virtual tour of her 900-square-foot back yard. Further down, you'll find more of her money-saving tips for creating a lovely, low-cost succulent garden.


A Rock Named Hannah

Brody learned about succulent garden design, preparation and planting here on my website and in Laura Eubanks' videos. "She’s always been so kind and engaging," Brody says of Laura. "I went up to one of her classes at Mountain Crest Gardens and met her and daughter Hannah. I actually have a rock in my front yard named Hannah, because she gave it to me. It was an extra from the installation they did up there. It’s purple. Hannah knows she has a rock named after her, ha-ha."

Succulent Garden on a Budget

Brody offers these additional budget-minded ideas:

-- "I had sandy loam soil delivered in bulk from the rock yard and then moved it to the backyard. I bought a wheelbarrow, moved the soil to the backyard over the course of a weekend, and then sold the wheelbarrow on Craigslist for $25 less than I bought it for. Cheaper than renting and the new owner came and picked it up."

-- "The red and black 3/8” lava rock I brought home in 50 pound bags, little by little, as I was completing sections of the backyard. It was such a small area that, even though it was twice as much to buy it in bags, I saved the $80 delivery fee and having a giant pile of rock in my driveway. Since I was going to have to move it to the backyard anyway, and I was doing this in my spare time, I just got it in bags and hauled them back one by one and spread them out. I also add a handful of pumice into each planting hole, to increase drainage."

-- "I found succulents at plant exchanges, on street corners, by asking neighbors for cuttings, in the Free section of Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, from friends moving out of town, fellow succulent enthusiasts online, and at the farmer’s market. I collected them over the course of many months before putting them all into the ground."

--"I also propagate plants from leaves and grow my own succulents from seeds, though this is more a hobby pursuit and a long game than an actual, useful, succulent-increase strategy."

--"My garden is hand-watered, no irrigation. I couldn’t afford irrigation, and it’s soothing to be out there in the warm months with a garden hose first thing in the morning. On a good year we get enough rain in the winter to avoid having to water much."

Find and Follow Brody Scotland

Debra here: I screen-captured a dozen photos from Brody's Instagram page to show you, then realized this article was already too long. Besides, you'll enjoy going there and seeing her posts yourself. When you do, be sure to thank Brody for the virtual tour and great tips!

Want to share your garden with my website visitors and newsletter subscribers? Please go to the Contact Debra page.

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  1. sandra bedard on November 25, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    I liked it as I am on a budget also!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 25, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks, Sandra, I’m glad you found it helpful!

  2. DebC on November 25, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Well done Brody. Lack of cash can lead to some really imaginative results. Really enjoyed your garden.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 25, 2020 at 4:41 pm

      Hi Deb! So true. Some gardens are mulched with money, LOL.

  3. Amy Gunn on November 25, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    I am excited to see Brody’s garden. I just bought a condo with a small patio area to garden in. After living on 2.5 acres for 30 years I am having brain freeze deciding how to make my space my little eden. After giving away most of my collection I realize that wasn’t the best plan but I will start again. Thank you!!!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 25, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      Hi Amy — I can imagine! But you know, the smaller the garden, the more you can perfect it. Bonsai masters spend as much time gardening in cramped quarters as others of us do in big yards.

  4. Krista in Santa Barbara on November 25, 2020 at 11:33 pm

    Brody! Great innovations and resourcefulness on making a succulent garden on the cheap! I might suggest joining the local succulent society, ours has a cutting giveaway table, and potted plants are donated by local nurseries and members to be raffled off on the cheap at every meeting! You’ll meet a bunch of generous fanatical new friends to bum cuttings off of, too! That’s how we’ve tamed our half acre of (weedy) hillside in Santa Barbara!

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on November 26, 2020 at 7:56 am

      Hi Krista — Great suggestion. Not to mention C&SS members are generous about sharing knowledge and advice.

  5. carole johnson on November 26, 2020 at 6:58 am

    wonderful to see a modest garden and tips from a thrifty person — the large exotic gardens are drool worthy but not something the majority of us can aspire to —- i especially like the acknowledgement of mistakes and possible solutions ——- i would like to see gardens/cactus areas from other parts with different growing conditions – (it took 3 years and money lost to realize that spiral aloe would not grow in my hot area ) thankyou – so interesting —

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