Justin's Bay Area cactus and succulent garden

After my visit to Stephen and Gary's East Bay garden chronicled in this post, the three of us headed over to Justin's garden in Pinole. It's only 8 miles as the crow flies, but the drive takes about 25 minutes because of the hilly terrain in between. 

The two properties—Stephen and Gary's, and Justin's—couldn't be more be different. The first is 27,000 sq. ft. in the tree-studded hills, the second is 6,000 sq.ft. in the flatlands. But each gardener has adapted to the location and topography and put his own stamp on it.

Justin's front yard was a large expanse of pretty much nothing when they bought the house. Because of ongoing gopher problems, Justin began to create mounds to make it easier to install cages around the roots of plants preferred by the critters (especially agaves). He also incorporated rocks into the mounds in such a masterful way that they look entirely natural—no mean feat. This kind of work takes time and there's still plenty of room left in the front yard, but knowing Justin, it'll be spectacular when it's all done. 

Justin in his front yard

Wider view of what Justin has already accomplished. Justin is letting some California poppies go to seed so the front yard will be a carpet of orange next spring.

The rocks, here topped with a Mangave 'Red Wing', look like natural outcroppings

Complex Nick Deinhart Aloe hybrid: Aloe (humilis × pratensis) × Aloe (humilis × hemmingii)

Mangave 'Silver Fox' et al.

On top of the mound: Mangave 'Silver Fox' 

Variety of cacti (and an aloe for good measure)

Even in this relatively small area, there is a large variety of plants—more than you might think

The blue agave in the center is Agave parrasana

Agave 'Blue Glow' and Aloe capitata 'Yellow Hoodie' (with mesh bag to catch seeds)

Agave pumila, Sempervivum sp., and Delosperma nubigenum

Agave 'Blue Emperor', with Aloe 'Firebird' and Mammillaria sp. above it and Sempervivum sp. on the right

Sempervivum sp.  and Agave 'Blue Emperor'

Agave ovatifolia

Aloe camperi

Aloe reitzii and Sempervivum arachnoideum

Aloe secundiflora

Ferocactus sp. and Agave horrida

Ferocactus sp. and Agave horrida

Mammillaria rhodantha and Echinopsis oxygona

Agave titanota 'White Ice'

Echinopsis chamaecereus

Agave applanata

Aloidendron 'Hercules'

The backyard is totally different, combining areas for the kids and places to sit with raised beds and planters for Justin's succulents.

Who says tables have to be for people?

These hexagonal pots can be arranged and rearranged like a living puzzle

Cold frame built by Justin for the succulents he propagates

Mangave 'Mayan Queen'

Mangave 'Bloodspot'

Mangave 'Lavender Lady'

Small wooden planter, also built by Justin

Fruit from Ferocactus latispinus, drying so Justin can collect the seeds

Aloe aculeata

Aloe aculeata and Agave horrida

Agave horrida

Agave horrida and Ferocactus glaucescens

Agave horrida and Mammillaria hahniana (or hybrid)

Agave applanata 'Cream Spike'...

....with a passel of pups

Mammillaria spinosissima, Ferocactus latispinus, Ferocactus pottsii

Designed and built by Justin, this tiered planter box is impressive. I think he could make good money selling these as kits!

Most of the succulents in this planter are cacti, but there's the occasional aloe and agave as well...

...like Agave utahensis var. eborispina here

Parodia mammulosa (aka Notocactus roseoluteus)

Mammillaria rhodantha ssp. pringlei...

...and Agave 'Confederate Rose' behind it

Aloe vanbalenii and Aloidendron dichotomum

Unidentified Echinopsis hybrid

Unidentified Echinopsis hybrid

Another unidentified Echinopsis hybrid

Aloe peckii (or hybrid)

Native to Somalia, Aloe peckii is part of the same complex as A. somaliensis and A. harlana. Flowers are brownish orange and have distinct stripes.

Middle: open-pollinated Aloe komaggasensis, an Aloe striata relative

Left: open-pollinated Aloe lukeana in flower

This glazed strawberry pot planted with small cacti was my favorite vignette in Justin's garden. If you see something similar in my own garden soon, you'll know what inspired me.

Justin is not only a collector (primarily of cacti), he also hybridizes aloes and grows an increasing variety of cacti and succulents from seed. I went home with three special aloes hybridized and seed-grown by Justin: Aloe ferox × capitata var. quartziticola, Aloe africana × polyphylla, as well as Aloe aculeata (blue form) grown from seed Justin received from Nick Deinhart. For me, few things are as gratifying as having plants gifted by friends growing in my own garden.

A big thank you to Justin for providing plant IDs.

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  1. His collection is impressive. This post reinforces my belief that I need a lot more rock. I love the tiered planting boxes.

    1. Yes! You can never have too many rocks (saying that to myself as much as to you).

  2. Your days have been very full. I sure do enjoy your photo safaris. Lots of treasures.

  3. An impressive collection in a relatively small space. Ferocactus fruit are really cool and the NOID Echinopsis flowers are lovely. So nice to be able to visit people's gardens again.

    1. It's so great being able to go into the world with a new-found sense of freedom--what a change from the constant dread of last year. Not that I'm letting my guard down entirely...

  4. I've so enjoyed both of these recent posts. What beautifully grown plants! The Agave horrida and Aloe culeata grouping really speaks to me -- I've got the horrida, all I need now is the aculeata!

    1. I'm with you on the Aloe aculeata. It really is a great-looking species. Maybe Oscar and Green Thumb has one?

  5. I love how Justin arranged and planted the rocks in the front garden, If I were doing mine all over again I would steal the style as it would also provide great drainage. Also, now I know I must track down an Agave horrida!

    1. You and me both!!

      The Agave horridas Justin has are the tissue-cultured selection from Rancho Tissue carried by various nurseries. Justin said he found his at a local RiteAid drugstore!! So keep your eyes open in Portland.

  6. He has some great plants. Stellar job on the rocks--looks like somewhere in Arizona, very naturalistic. Garden looks young--it will be spectacular in a few years.

  7. Agave parrasana is a stunner. Especially good looking in the photo with Aloe camperi in from of it. I love the tiered planter box: a testament to Justin's talent and craftsmanship.


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