Stephen and Gary's East Bay garden: succulents and more!

Sure, there are plenty of great gardens that don't have a single succulent. But let's face it, everything is better with a succulent or two in it. Stephen and his husband Gary would agree. Their hillside garden on an oak-studded ⅔ acre lot in the East Bay would be beautiful simply by virtue of its terrain, but the way they have incorporated aloes, agaves, and especially cactus-like euphorbias adds another layer of awesomeness.

I'd first visited Stephen and Gary's place in April 2016, and the succulent garden above the house has been completely redone since then. As you'll see below, it's home to many choice specimens that thrive in the relatively mild climate—no hard freezes in the winter and very few days above 95°F in the summer.

The entrance to the property is at the top of the hill. This is looking towards the house (built in 1929), and the succulent garden on the right

The “signature” bed in the succulent garden

Aloes, euphorbias, cactus, and even a Tylecodon—because why not? The twin-spired aloe on the right is Aloe taurii, the seed-laden aloe to the left of it is Aloe conifera × sinkatana.

Euphorbia horrida 'Snowflake'

Closer view of the right half of this succulent bed

Medusa head euphorbias

View towards the west

Stately cow-horn agave (Agave bovicornuta). Beautiful rock work, too!

Agave parryi var. truncata and Euphorbia ingens, which started out as a cutting from Stephen and Gary's original ingens

This sculptural manzanita is an homage to the garden's location and provides shelter for a host of succulents

Euphorbia valida, reminding me of coral

Looking back towards the entrance; the stairs to the top of the hill are on the left at the end of the path

Agave attenuata, living proof of how mild the climate is

Tomato-red Aloe vanbalenii in front of Aloidendron 'Hercules'

An impressive specimen of Euphorbia ammak 'Variegata'. This species is rarely seen in Northern California because it's quite tender.

Yucca rostrata, agaves and cacti

Looking back towards the house

Now we're back on the main walkway, at the bottom of the stairs from the top of the hill. This is looking left, up to the car port. The hillside is planted in a variety of aloes, all of them flushed red in the sun.

Large Alcantarea

The Mission-style house was built in 1929. I don't think it's changed much on the outside; even the roof tiles are original. The house is perfectly proportioned and coexists harmoniously with the surrounding trees. I don't think the siting could be any better.

Tree fern in front of the den window

White-flowering Epiphyllum in a hanging basket on the porch

The house shares the space very comfortably with the many trees that surround it

Stephen on the stairs leading to the barn and greenhouses at the bottom of the property

The lawn in front of the house is actively used for gatherings with family and friends

Small but deep koi pond right in front of the porch

Vriesea on the edge of the koi pond

Dudleya anthonyi

Stephen (left) and Gary (right) in front of a Gunnera tinctoria, with their bonsai collection on top of the retaining wall behind then

Stephen and Gary have been living and gardening at this location for over 25 years, and the blood, sweat and tears they've invested is evident wherever you look. This is a mature garden, but because it is constantly being updated and refined, it looks fresh and vibrant.

As I mentioned earlier, there are two greenhouses at the bottom of the property. Stephen, the “real” collector of the two, has filled them with an amazing collection of euphorbias, caudiciforms, and succulents. I'll share photos in a separate posts.

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  1. What a gorgeous garden. Looks much larger than 2/3 acre. Looks like there are lots of different areas but they all seem to blend seemlessly. The revamped succulent garden has all sorts of neat plants. Especially love the collection around the large Yucca rostrata. Looking forward to the sequel.

  2. WOW. What a beautiful garden. Thanks for all the photos.

  3. I'm not sure how I missed this post. The overhead shots are helpful in getting a sense of the property - and the plants look huge! I love the red Aloe vanbalenii - I have 2 hybrids but I think I need to find the species.

  4. Gorgeous, gorgeous, and quintessentially "California". California oaks & Arctostaphylos with succulent plants, just so. They've done right by their little piece of our beautiful state.


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