Last fall I blogged about a visit to the Sacramento Zoo. I said nice things about the plantings in general—and the bamboos in general—but I bemoaned the fact that there were very few succulents.
In February I received a message from Michaele Bergera, the Zoo’s horticulturist, who had read my blog post. She wanted to dedicate a planting area to succulents and was wondering if I could give her some advice. I was very happy to help. I met with Michaele at the Zoo to check out the area in question:
It was quite overgrown but Michaele said she had both labor and equipment at her disposal to completely clear it.
I sent Michaele a list of succulents that should do well in this spot. I focused on species that can handle our climate (generally mild winters but occasional dips into the high to mid 20s) and that would make impressive specimens within a reasonable amount of time. I also took into account local availability and expected cost—no point suggesting a rare and expensive aloe, for instance.
A few weeks ago Michaele emailed to say that the bed had been cleared and planted. I was only too eager to see what the final result was.
Here is the before:
The difference is like night and day. Michaele’s crew did a great job clearing the bed. The fortnight lilies and shrubs are gone, and only the established trees are left, providing a nice backdrop for the succulents.
Of course the bed still has that “new” look and the plants are fairly small—in an area this large, even 5-gallon plants don’t look all that impressive. But in a year or two, this bed will look fantastic.
Let’s take a closer look at what Michaele planted:
Aloe ferox (left and right), with a trio of Agave parryi var. truncata in the middle
Trio of Aloe ‘Hercules’.
The area will be on drip irrigation; when I was there, Michaele’s team was still working on it, hence the sheet of plywood covering the hole in the ground.
Aloe ferox (there are three) and Aloe ‘Hercules’—and a snoozing duck who apparently likes this new area
Succulent mound with Echeveria ‘Imbricata’, Senecio radicans, Senecio rowleyanus, and Crassula lycopodioides
Larger echeveria hybrid (I didn’t write down the name)
Beschorneria yuccoides ‘Flamingo Glow’. Michaele made an effort to pick out succulents with animal names—this is a zoo, after all. I know she planted elephant bush (Portulacaria afra), but I can’t remember offhand what other plants with animal names she found.
As you can see, there are still many bare spots. I will give Michaele some offsets from my collection, including a trio of Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’. If you live in the Sacramento area and would like to donate appropriate succulents (for instance more Echeveria ‘Imbricata’, Aloe maculata etc.), please contact me.
It’s so refreshing to see that public institutions are beginning to recognize the value of succulents in the landscape. As succulent lovers, we should do all we can to support this trend.
P.S. Michaele says that the squirrels have been a real nuisance, disturbing plants (especially small two- and three-inch guys) and making a general mess of things. I wonder if they’re simply looking for acorns they buried last fall or if they’re upset that “their” territory has undergone such extensive changes?