Thursday, October 9, 2014

2014 Succulent Extravaganza wrap-up, part 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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While the above items didn’t do much for me personally, the rusty steel panels provided by lille ├Žske, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Agave geminiflora

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Agave ‘Matteo’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Look at that giant Kalanchoe beharensis in the middle!

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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.

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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.

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Danielle and Michael Romero

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Danielle and Michael Romero with Debra Lee Baldwin and Kathy Brenzel, garden editor of Sunset Magazine

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The aloe is Aloe vanbalenii

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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!

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So, what do you think? Did you like any of these demonstration garden? Which are your favorites?

13 comments:

  1. Wow! The best presentation I have seen in a very long time. Of course the photographer has a lot to do with it. Now I must go visit since I missed the event.

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    1. That's quite a compliment. Thank you, Laura! Yes, you must check out these gardens. No rush, though. They're there for at least a year.

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  2. Choosing a favorite is just about impossible. No. Make that impossible. These are all wonderful for different reasons. Thank you so much for doing this, so that those of us who couldn't attend can get a great flavor of what we missed. And then slash our wrists.

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    1. No wrist slashing please! I can't stand the sight of blood :-)

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  3. So much creativity! I love the bench, sort of crevice garden furniture. And the mandala is pretty wonderful too. All in all I agree completely with your thoughts and opinions...

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    1. The bench is awfully nice, especially in front of that old wooden shack. It might not work in a contemporary garden, but darn, I'd like to try to fit it into my own backyard...

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  4. I love the stacked flagstone bench by Andrea Hurd. Now that I have the idea thanks to your picture I may try to do it some day in my spanish garden :D

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    1. I also like “Under the Sea Garden” pretty much.

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    2. I think flagstone would look fantastic in a Spanish garden. The only downside of flagstone is weight and price.

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  5. The Stone Bench is the favourite of the both of us; stylish, simple, unique, innovative, yet so effective. The rest, some good some not so good and overall agree with your sentiments.

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    1. Garden design--like any art form--is so subjective. I never expect to respond positively to everything, that's why I was so glad to find a few things I loved, like that bench.

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  6. Can't say I like any of them a whole lot--not sure if any of the designers completely understand how the plants are going to grow, except maybe the Under The Sea garden. That one looks like it will develop the best. Most seem to be trying too hard.

    The bench made of flagstones is cool.

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. It's tricky to create a demonstration garden. You want it to look good right away, without having to wait for plants to grow in. The downside is that soon everything will be too crowded.

      It will be interesting to see how these spaces develop. I hope to visit in the spring and then again next fall. That should be interesting.

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