Part 1 of my recap of the 2014 Succulent Extravaganza held at Succulent Gardens in Castroville, CA at the end of September had 80 photos, and part 2 isn’t going to be much shorter. But I promise you, you’ll be amazed.
For this year’s Extravaganza, Succulent Gardens invited a select group of landscape designers to create demonstration gardens that focus primarily on succulents while still reflecting their own aesthetic. With few exceptions, all the plants came from Succulent Gardens’ inventory.
The gardens were installed in various spots on the nursery grounds. Robin Stockwell, the former owner of Succulent Gardens (the new owners took over in early October), led tours of the installations that gave the designers the opportunity to talk about about their work.
The gardens will be maintained by the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners, and volunteers will document and chronicle the gardens’ progress over the course of the year. The 2015 Succulent Extravaganza will built on these installations although no further details have been revealed yet.
Stacked flagstone bench by Andrea Hurd
Overall, I found something to admire in every garden. Some are more to my liking than others, but that’s how it always is. The most important takeaway is that succulents can be successfully incorporated in virtually any garden, no matter what your style or design preference is. We live in a state where water is precious, and it’s everybody’s responsibility to use it wisely. And that includes the way we landscape our properties.
Let’s take a closer look at the various gardens.
STONE BENCH BY ANDREA HURD
This stacked flagstone bench by Andrea Hurd was the most talked about installation and my personal favorite. It’s easy to see why. It’s not just a bench in name, it’s a functional piece of outdoor furniture. Andrea rounded off the top with a buzz saw, making it surprisingly comfortable to sit on.
If you have a stash of flagstones lying around, maybe leftovers from a patio project, this would be a great thing to try. Andrea said that this bench uses of $600 (!) worth of flagstones.
REPURPOSED RIOT BY BELL & FLOURISH WITH MAKERS WEST
Located right around the corner from the flagstone bench was an intriguingly odd installation featuring all kinds of repurposed items. Designer Julia Bell ornamented the outside of the restroom shack with castoffs like an old sink, glass bottles and even a pistol (!), all of them decorated with succulents.
While the above items didn’t do much for me personally, the rusty steel panels provided by lille æske, a gallery boutique in Boulder Creek, were my favorite art objects on display. I would gladly have taken them home with me. Here is more information about these pieces.
HARMONY IN THE GARDEN BY REBECCA SWEET WITH BELL & FLOURISH
I’m not 100% clear on who did what in this area. It was listed in the official program as “Harmony in the Garden” by Rebecca Sweet, but I know that Julia Bell of Bell & Flourish had a major hand in it as well.
While “Repurposed Riot,” Julia’s other installation, focused primarily on other objects, this space was all about the plants. I can’t wait to see how this garden develops over time. There are so many specimens that I worry it might get crammed here but maybe that’s the point. This is definitely a living laboratory.
ECHEVERIA EXTRAVAGANZA BY BELL & FLOURISH WITH ROSS LANDSCAPE CONSTRUCTION
Julia Bell also designed the echeveria-studded retaining wall next to the Speakers Pavilion. While relatively small, I think it’s a great success. It’s the most attractive display of echeverias I’ve ever seen.
LIVING MANDALA GARDEN BY DESERT MANDALA
This living piece of art adjacent to the Aloe polyphylla bed was created by mother-and-daughter team Kristin and Kim Scheidt. They operate a succulent design business called Desert Mandala in Novato, CA.
XERIC – MIX: PLANTS, PATTERNS, AND STICKS BY HILL & DALE LANDSCAPE
Located next to one of the nursery entrances, this was arguably the most challenging spot for a garden. Hill & Dale Landscape created a cheery space that reminded me of a playground. I’m not sure why, maybe because of the colors?
SUCCULENT SCULPTURE BY STEVEN SUTHERLAND AND ASSOCIATES (SSA)
Is it a dune? Or a wave? Whatever it reminds you of, it’s an eye-catcher. Consisting mostly of echeverias, this high-concept installation by Santa Cruz landscape architect Steve Sutherland was truly fascinating.
GRASSES, SUCCULENTS, AND… BY JOHN GREENLEE
I was really looking forward to this garden since I think that succulents and grasses combine beautifully. However, I was somewhat disappointed by how unfinished it looked. I think this design by meadow garden guru John Greenlee will be attractive eventually, but the plants need time to get established. I’ll withhold judgment until next year.
PREHISTORIC CHILLIN’ BY SIMONE LAJEUNESSE
I must apologize in advance. This fun installation by Simone Lajeunesse was incredibly difficult to photograph. The centerpiece is a “Maritiniasaurus” sculpture that made me chuckle. It looked much cooler in real life than in my photos.
Look at that giant Kalanchoe beharensis in the middle!
EBONY AND IVORY BY DAT PHAM
Sleek and contemporary, “Ebony and Ivory” by Dat Pham is the kind of design I admire intellectually but can’t see having in my own garden—although the Dudleya brittonii and the flowering Echeveria ‘Black Knight’ sure looked stunning against the top dressing of very fine black sand.
UNDER THE SEA GARDEN BY MICHAEL & DANIELLE ROMERO
Next to Andrea Hurd’s stacked flagstone bench, the “Under the Sea Garden” by Southern California designers Michael and Danielle Romero was my favorite. Undersea gardens are nothing new, but Michael and Danielle’s design was particularly successful. Every plant and rock they chose reminded me of life under water. This would be a fun installation to have next to your front door where you and everybody else who comes to your house can enjoy it up close.
Danielle and Michael Romero
Danielle and Michael Romero with Debra Lee Baldwin and Kathy Brenzel, garden editor of Sunset Magazine
The aloe is Aloe vanbalenii
RUSTIC RAMPAGE BY ORGANIC MECHANICS
“Rustic Rampage” is the brainchild of James Pettigrew and Sean Stout. Their company, Organic Mechanics, gets my vote for the most original name. And their installation at Succulent Gardens is just as imaginative. When I first saw it, I thought it was too cluttered, but as I began to pick out bits and pieces, I began to like it more and more.
This is recycling and repurposing at its most dramatic and zany. The round wooden discs are from massive cable spools; the round planters are culverts and drainpipes; and the massive granite blocks are remnants obtained from a company that makes gravestones. I’m not kidding you!
I need to go dumpster-diving more often to find treasures like these!
So, what do you think? Did you like any of these demonstration garden? Which are your favorites?