Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Water Wise Succulent Gardens

The San Diego Mediterranean climate has warm, dry summers and mild winters creating perfect growing conditions for succulent landscapes. We share these climate characteristics with select regions of Chile, Africa, Australia and the Mediterranean Sea which is why many native plants from these regions thrive in San Diego’s sun–loving environment.
Succulents have evolved out of harsh growing conditions and although they require little water, they are quite lush and exotic looking. Other than needing a good draining soil, the overall care is minimal. Succulents are fire-resistant and, unlike their thorny cousin the cactus, they offer smooth foliage and blooms all year-long. Succulent garden-scapes are no longer limited to hillside landscaping with mundane single ice-plant selection, but can be used to create borders for walkways, dramatic potted container designs and specialty theme gardens.

Succulent border on steps and surrounding gazebo.
According to California’s water conservation resource http://www.bewaterwise.com, by planting drought-resistant plants a homeowner can save 30-60 gallons of water each time they water. That seems significant in a time when living greener, smarter and healthier is at the forefront of the American agenda. It just makes sense to plant wisely and save money at the same time.
Inspired by the San Diego Botanic Garden’s Under the Sea exhibit, created by Jeff Moore and Bill Teague, the photos below show a smaller recreation of the same idea. The illusion of a coral reef can be achieved in your own backyard- so mask and snorkel are not needed for this ocean dive! Succulents that mimic the shape of anemones, coral an urchins with vibrant orange and blue colors make this themed garden a showstopper. Taking photos of landscaping ideas and keeping those photos in hand while shopping for plants make it surprisingly easy to recreate.
Materials used for this project include landscaping fabric to eliminate weeds, cactus mix, seashells, lava rocks, boulders, pebbles, succulents, euphorbia, aloe and cacti. Flowing between the rocks and plants are treasures of the sea with Japanese glass floats, heavy rope and ocean figurines. Mixing in other drought tolerant plants that require the same watering needs add diversity and contrast to the succulent-scape design. Building up rocks in mounds not only adds more vertical planting space, but also creates fast drainage, essential for healthy succulents.

Rope, Seashells, Fish and Glass Floats 
No room for a large garden? This can all be achieve in a container pot using the same concepts of design. Only have a small yard space? Create a small Zen garden with smooth round pebbles and succulents planted in a uniform pattern. Hand-painted rocks and stepping-stones can add a personal touch and whimsy to your special garden.
The availability and variety of succulents has increased dramatically over the past 10 years as nurseries try to keep up with the demand for these water wise wonders. Here is a list of popular succulents: Aeonium, Aloe, Euphorbia, Sedum, Sempervivum, Kalanchoe, Haworthia, Graptopetalum and Caralluma for coral-type growth style. I encourage you to experiment with succulents and enjoy the rewards of simple plant care and beautiful surroundings. 
Happy Gardening!
*re print from The Beach Break News Issue 5: by Nadia