≡ This post continues the coverage of our front yard desert garden project. ≡
At this year’s Succulent Extravaganza, Brian Kemble, the curator of the Ruth Bancroft Garden and one of the country’s preeminent succulent experts, continued his tradition of leading folks on a walking tour of the Succulent Gardens growing grounds. Brian is one of the most unassuming yet knowledgeable plant experts you’ll ever meet, and I pay very close attention to what he says. One of his best pieces of advice this year rang very true: When designing a new garden space, it’s OK to use slower-growing plants as anchors and fill in with faster-growing plants that need to be taken out as they outgrow their allotted spot.
Instinctively, or by sheer luck, that’s what I did when I chose the plants for the desert bed we created this spring along the perimeter of our property. The backbone of this bed are the succulents—tree aloes like Aloe ‘Hercules’ and Aloe ferox, tree-sized yuccas like Yucca rostrata, an actual tree (‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde) and a score of slower-growing aloes and agaves. The infill plants were globemallow (Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’), gaura (Gaura lindheimerii ‘Snow Fountain’) and other low-water perennials as well as whatever came up from a packet of Dry Lands seed mix I sprinkled on the western section of this bed (plants like baby’s breath, bachelor’s button, blanket flower, and thread-leaf coreopsis).
In just six short months, some of the perennials had grown so quickly and so large that they were making the bed look unbalanced (another instance of the “I didn’t think it would get this big” syndrome I talked about yesterday). Time for some judicious editing, i.e. removing the plants that had outgrown their spot and adding others (primarily succulents) that will stay small for much longer.
Let’s take a look at the result:
“After” photo, looking east