Revisiting Sue’s succulent garden

Last May I showed you my friend Sue’s front yard makeover. What had been lawn became two distinctive areas—one public, one private—separated by hardscape. The space under the large golden rain tree (Koelreuteria elegans) was planted with star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), fortnight lily (Dietes grandiflora) and variegated euonymus (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’).


Sue’s front yard seen from the sidewalk (April 4, 2016)

The courtyard behind the low retaining wall features an L-shaped raised bed. It’s constructed of poured concrete and finished to match the stucco of the house. The front wall of the raised bed is capped with slabs of slate that provide a comfortable place to sit.

This is what it looked like in May 2015:


May 14, 2015


May 14, 2015

Now let’s take a look at what this succulent bed looks like now:


Same bed, April 4, 2016

The progress is nothing short of amazing. What a difference a year makes!


The plants have been through one summer (average in terms of heat) and one winter (milder than average) and are looking great.


They are planted in a deep layer of pure decomposed granite and are watered once every 10 days through buried Netafim drip lines. Sue fertilizes her succulents occasionally using dilute Miracle Gro.

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Clearly, what Sue’s been doing has paid off in spades. Many of the succulents have doubled, if not tripled, since last year. The echeverias, in particular, have offset like crazy, forming the ribbon of blue Sue had envisioned.


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As I mentioned earlier, this past winter was quite mild. We had only a couple of nights with temperature more than a degree or two below freezing. The only losses Sue had were three small golden barrel cactus. That’s actually quite baffling considering Echinocactus grusonii is hardy to 15°F, at least for short periods of time. Our winter low was 26-27°F on December 27—well above that. Sue doesn’t think it was necessarily an issue with the cold. She had placed a polypropylene floating row cover on the planters to keep out leaves from a nearby tree; this cover may have kept the soil too wet and too warm, causing the cactus to rot.

But whatever the cause, it shows that in spite of our best intentions, plants have a mind all of their own.

I will check back with Sue in the late fall to see how much growing her succulents have done by then.

UPDATE JUNE 8, 2017: Click here to see what Sue’s succulent beds look like now (June 8, 2017).


  1. Wow, that is a lot of growth! And so pretty, like a magazine picture.

  2. She's done a wonderful job! I wish my succulent beds were half as colorful.

    1. Mine aren't either. It's all a matter of personal preference. I tend to gravitate towards a more naturalistic look, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy beautifully controlled displays like this.

  3. Surprising that there's no soil, just planted in gravel -- unless I misunderstood. Results are amazing!

  4. It really does remind me of the Sherman Gardens. Fantastic results in a year.

    1. Sue will be very happy to hear that since the Sherman Gardens were her inspiration.

  5. Do you know approximately how much this cost to achieve, as I would like to do something similar in my garden bed!

    1. It would depend on the size of your bed and the cost of materials in your area. I don't really know how what the specific costs was for this project.


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