Mark R's amazing succulent and bromeliad garden (front)

Earlier this summer I visited several remarkable gardens in Berkeley and Oakland with the San Francisco Bromeliad Society. The first was landscape designer David Feix's tropical jungle. The second was Mark R's succulent and bromeliad garden. I took so many photos that I decided to spread them out over two posts. This one focuses on the front garden.

Mark's front garden

I hadn't met Mark before and didn't get a chance to talk to him during this visit either because he was busy answering a nonstop stream of questions from the 30+ SF Bromeliad Society members. For this reason, I don't know anything about the development of his garden. However, based on the plant selection alone, it felt like Mark was a long-lost brother from another mother.

At one point, I overheard a conversation between several visitors who thought there were too many different plants competing for attention, even clashing with each other. I see where they're coming from, but I don't share their opinion. As an enthusiastic practitioner of the more-is-more school of gardening, I felt like a kid in a candy store. This is my kind of garden—a plant geek's collection laid out like a royal feast.

Aloidendron 'Hercules' dominating the vertical space

Aloe marlothii and Agave victoria-reginae

Agave victoria-reginae and Aloe deltoideodonta 'Sparkler'

Aloes, agaves, and echeverias

Two very different echeverias: Echeveria gibbiflora on the left, Echeveria 'Mahogany Rose' (an E. fimbriata hybrid) on the right

The most surprising plant in the front is this magnificent manzanita (not sure which species or hybrid). Judging from its size, it's probably a holdover from the previous incarnation of this garden. Keeping it and building everything else around it was a stroke of genius.

Tillandsias nestled in the crotch of the manzanita

Bromeliads like this Vriesea fosteriana and Alcantarea imperialis look both out of place and at home at the base of the manzanita

Vriesea fosteriana

Succulents and bromeliads really do play well together

Agave victoria-reginae and a miniature Neoregelia

Agave attenuata surrounded by all manner of succulents and bromeliads

Even a Mangave thrown in the mix ('Pineapple Express' maybe?)

A backlit Billbergia is hard to beat for sheer beauty

A particularly light-colored Billbergia hybrid

Billbergia and Neoregelia

Aloe karasbergensis

Smaller bed between Mark's front garden and the neighbor's

Color, color, color...

...and texture

Echeveria hybrid, Aristaloe aristata, Neoregelia hybrid

Aloe cameronii

Agave 'Sun Glow'

Kumara plicatilis and Agave ovatifolia

Agave ovatifolia and Kumara plicatilis

Kumara plicatilis and Aloe ferox

View of the front of the house

Closer view

Euphorbia ammak 'Variegata'

Dried Protea flowers on the fence railing next to the front door

If you liked this, wait until you see the backyard!


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  1. Oh my gosh! How magnificent! I'm that type of gardener as well. I'm more of the plant collector and there isn't a rhyme or reason to my placement. My tastes have evolved so much since starting my gardening journey but I feel that I have found my niche now with California natives and succulents/cacti. My heart leaps for joy when I see Agaves, Mangaves and Aloes. Most recently, I've started a collection of Sempervivums because there are just so many different types out there now. Looking forward to seeing the pictures of Mark's backyard!

  2. Outstanding! Thank you for the wonderful photos.

  3. It looks great to my eyes! Nice mix of color and shapes. The manzanita makes a fantastic backdrop for the Vriesea fosteriana.

  4. Is there anything you can't grow in Piedmont ?

  5. I always appreciate a well-designed garden but as a true plant geek I find the gardens of collectors much more fascinating. It's so much more fun to wander slowly and observe and discover each individual specimen. Looking forward to the next post.

  6. Too many plants? Nope. Looks just about PERFECT to my eyes.

  7. I have passed this garden on the way to Fentons and have hoped to talk to whomever gardens there. Thank you for sharing!


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