streetside succulent garden

Some lucky neighborhoods have stimulating examples to study of successful front gardens made without a blade of lawn. This example is in my hometown, Long Beach, Calif, coastal zone 10, western exposure, December 2015, drought-stricken, irrigation restrictions imposed since last spring. The garden looks to be of a mature enough age where offsets of original plants have been added to infill and increase the size of individual plant colonies.
Drifts of massed plants, whether herbaceous or succulent, enable strong rhythmic patterns to emerge. Replanting front gardens that were designed to hold flat planes of lawn is undeniably tricky. The process needs tinkering and fiddling as some plants fail and others succeed, or the vigorous overrun slower growers. (It’s called “making a garden.”) The dark mulch on the lower right covers a brand-new landscape next-door dotted with tiny succulents of uniform size, mostly small kinds like echeverias that will take years to fill in. The garden on the left benefits from big, statuesque plants like ponytail palms, Furcraea macdougalii and Euphorbia ammak, now reaching mature sizes. There’s also shrubby stuff as a backdrop, like Salvia apiana and Echium candicans, along with the shrub-like succulent Senecio amaniensis.

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Near sunset, the darkened sky was hinting at the rain to come later.

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In this photo alone, I spy several kinds of agaves, including desmettiana, macroacantha, bracteosa, parryi, ‘Blue Glow.’ Panels of small-scale ground covers knit the rosettes together.

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I like the careful buildup of heights and volumes.

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With aloes nestled against agaves. I think the owner has tucked in Salvia nemerosa here, too, for summer bloom. I also noted some large, shrubby salvias against the house, what looked like the mexicana hybrid ‘Limelight.’

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Agaves ‘Blue Glow’ and possibly stricta.

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Kalanchoe grandiflora and Euphorbia tirucalli

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Good winter color on the Sticks on Fire. We’ve occasionally dipped into the 40s in December.

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On the opposite side of the central path is a beautiful specimen of Euphorbia ammak, a clump of pedilanthus, opuntia, and needle-leaved agaves, possibly geminiflora, stricta or striata. One of the shrubs as tall as the euphorbia is an overgrown Echium candicans, which has been sheared into a hedge and functions now as a boundary between the two properties. A young Aloe marlothii is in the foreground. The light was just about gone at this point.

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Not sure whether this is Agave stricta or geminiflora, but it’s set off wonderfully against the rocks and Santa Rita prickly pear.

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Agave potatorum with lots more pups tucked under its skirt of leaves.

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There’s a huge, blooming-size clump of what can only be a puya along the main path to the front door.

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Puya, right?

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Another look at that inflorescence as the sky darkens. Big leaves of flapjack kalanchoes and Kalanchoe synsepela in the foreground.

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Just a great source of inspiration for the neighborhood.

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15 Responses to streetside succulent garden

  1. Tim says:

    Wow! That is a gorgeous front yard. I just love the fact that it isn’t spartan. The densely planted mashup of textures, colors and shapes is really my cup of tea. Hard to believe it’s a garden in a drought. I’d best not let my little potted agaves see this post, lest they die of shame.

  2. Jane Strong says:

    A mature garden. One of the best examples of lawnless, waterless gardens I’ve ever seen. We need to see more examples like this. I like the “cramscaping” and the layering. Beautiful.

  3. ks says:

    This is really nice, and well done enough to suppose it was either professionally designed or is the work of an experienced resident gardener..Have you seen this garden before ? I wonder if it’s been there awhile or if they had the funds to install large plants ?

  4. hb says:

    Beautiful little front garden, a nice size for that mix of plants. Casual on first glance but on closer inspection quite planned. Great find! How boring lawns look now, in comparison to such as this.

    I’d swear the stricta/striata/geminiflora is really Yucca linearifolia, but my eye is still recovering…

  5. Kris P says:

    You do have a talent for finding the most marvelous local succulent gardens. And your photos are great too, despite the low light. I think you should do a book on your street-side finds – I’d buy it!

  6. So darn beautiful! I wish lived next door, wait, scratch that…I wish this were my garden. Like Kathy I wondered about the age and size of the plants when they went in.

  7. Nell says:

    I thought the pickup might be a clue that the owner is a “green professional” of some kind — nursery staff, contractor… It has the look of things fitted in and around as they grow, not put in all at once. Most inspiring.

  8. Denise says:

    @Tim, I’m amazed too at what a lush effect can be created in a dry garden.
    @Jane, I’m always on the lookout for great little gardens like this. It’s hit and miss stumbling on them.
    @Kathy, I wish I had some more info but I don’t. I’ve been tracking this garden just this December, trying to grab a moment to get over there for some photos. Judging by how dark and blurry some are, I need to go back!
    @Hoov, I thought the same thing about that plant looking at the photos later, but in person it definitely reads as an agave, not a yucca — just more plasticity to the leaf maybe.
    @Kris, I love finding these little gardens and would love to see more in different climates — that’d be a great book!
    @Loree, I was judging the age by my own experience with some of these plants. Kalanchoe grandiflora, for instance, for me has taken a while to get any size. Also all the colony of macroacantha. I’d be amazed if they brought in from the get-go all those little agaves. And esp. that puya — I don’t think puyas in general get to blooming size quickly.
    @Nell, you’re right, that might be a clue — or it might belong to the house next-door!

  9. Alan @ It's Not Work, It's Gardening! says:

    Really beautiful — inspiring for sure, even to those of us who are not under water restrictions!

  10. Luisa says:

    Another great find. What a dream of a garden! (I don’t think I’d ever put macroacantha next to a walkway, but I’m the girl with a yard full of glochids, so I mustn’t judge.)

  11. Pam/Digging says:

    Those Agave potatorum are simply gorgeous. Heck, the whole garden is gorgeous. I’m grateful for the tour, Denise.

  12. Fabulous combinations. Wonder if it was done by a designer? I’m guessing yes, and probably some pretty nice-sized plants at the start. The perfect climate with no worries about rain-right? I’m remembering my sandy soil in Irvine. Perfect.

  13. Denise says:

    @Alan, I agree, good design transcends climate, garden style, etc.
    @Luisa, a middle school empties out into our neighborhood twice a day — no macroacantha near the sidewalk here!
    @Pam, makes you wonder about the back garden, right?
    @Jenny, true enough about the right climate and no rain worries!

  14. rena paradisis says:

    The gardens are beautifully layed out, with a large variety of beautiful succulents, cacti…etc…I myself live in Greece, on a small island. .rainfall is from Nov…for 4-5 months. .drought. these would be excellent there. .I have planted a few myself. .and they are doing well. ..Instead of grass, I have put the iceplant..

  15. Eva says:

    What a beautiful garden! What a wonderful inspiration! Thank you so much!
    @ Rena paradises,I also live in Greece on an island, same latitude as LA… I raise my Agaves from seed…

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