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'Succulent Container Gardens': some design guidance for low-water landscapes in miniature

January 20, 2010 | 10:22 am

Baldwin_Lilypond If all the rain has kept you out of the garden, jump back in spirit, if not in body. L.A. at Home contributor Debra Lee Baldwin has filled her new book, "Succulent Container Gardens," with planting suggestions and practical design advice.

You may not be able to pot anything right now, but you can plot the future: Which plants? With which pots? For which spots on the patio, balcony or deck?

My fingers drifted toward the back of the Timber Press release to a chapter on unusual succulent arrangements in unconventional containers. Maybe it's the rain, but seeing how gardeners had turned birdbaths and tiered water fountains into flowing arrangements of sedum, aeonium, echeveria and crassula struck me as the perfect comeback to those who say succulents are boring. 

Of the blue-glazed birdbath pictured here, Baldwin writes: "Purple and pink echeveria suggest water lilies. White-webbed Sempervivum arachnoideum rosettes sparkle like sunlight on the surface of water, and in their midst is a flat green Aeonium tabuliforme (lily pad aeonium). A topdressing of green and blue florist's marbles enhances the illusion." Baldwin took the photo at the California Cactus Center in Pasadena, and the design was by Arree Thongthiraj.

Click to the jump for an excerpt from Baldwin's book and more photos.

-- Craig Nakano

Baldwin_WCGbirdbath

Above: Pebbles tucked around the inside of the rim of a shallow birdbath help hold in mounded soil at the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon, Calif.

An excerpt from "Succulent Container Gardens" by Debra Lee Baldwin:

Baldwin_Petalumafountain Succulent container gardens can transform bland outdoor spaces into inviting living areas. In turn, the plants benefit from warmth radiated by your home’s walls and hardscape and require little water or upkeep.

Place a potted arrangement near your front door to welcome you home and for visitors and neighbors to enjoy. Unless among the few kinds (such as sansevierias) that do well in low-light conditions, succulents in sheltered outdoor areas such as entryways need a minimum of several hours of sun daily.

Balconies and rooftops often are excellent habitats for light- and heat-loving succulents, but keep in mind the more exposed the potted garden, the more it will need protection from wind, rain, hail, intense sun and freezing temperatures. Also make sure pots cannot topple; secure any that are near edges with straps or heavy-gauge wire.

Many trailing succulents, such as Senecio rowleyanus (string of pearls) and Sedum morganianum (donkey tail) will hang to 4 or 5 feet, provided they are not bumped or buffeted. The longer such plants become, the more impressive, but also the more difficult to move. At the outset, position them where they can remain for years.

If you have a dry birdbath or fountain, use it to display cascading, rosette and clump-forming succulents. Moreover, birdbaths, because they are basically a pan atop a pedestal, can be used for miniature landscapes. Consider it a bonus if a leak ruined your fountain or birdbath -- it means water will drain.

The top tier of the dry fountain pictured above is planted with Sedum burrito cuttings, sempervivums and Delosperma congestum. The lower tier contains a type of crassula  called Campfire plus aeoniums and echeverias. The photo was taken at Cottage Gardens in Sonoma County. The design is by Bruce Shanks.

BaldwinEurofountain2

Above: Bright green sedum grows in the center top and repeats in the lowest tier. Crassula perforata forms a fluffy, reddish purple ring around the top tier. In the middle tier: more crassulas, green-purple Senecio jacobsenii, blue Senecio mandraliscae and a type of yellow-variegated aeonium called Kiwi. Silvery blue ruschia cascades from the lowest tier, and alongside it is a type of green and orange crassula called Campfire. The photo was taken at EuroAmerican Propagators in Bonsall, Calif.

Photo credits: Debra Lee Baldwin

RELATED:

Anna's Goeser's succulent dioramas capture the landscape in miniature

Blue senecio, a sculptural ground cover

The comeback cactus: golden barrels

The quirky "living rocks" known as lithops

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