Michele's succulent garden in Davis

My friend Michele lives in a small subdivision here in Davis where the homeowners’ association (HOA) manages common areas. As part of their purview, they also control what the front yards look like. Michele is one of a few homeowners who obtained permission to add water-wise landscaping after the HOA removed the previous lawn and added bark and stone.

She recently started to plant succulents next to the walkway to her front door...

...and filled a divider between parking spaces with mangaves:

Both beds are mulched with grayish purple rocks, purple being Michele’s favorite color. It’s wonderful to see turf giving way to much more sustainable—and attractive!—plantings.

While Michele’s front yard is, by necessity, more restrained, her back yard is a treasure trove of succulents. After taking out a large tree in the corner (far left in the next photo), she suddenly had a large sunny space to fill. Never one to miss an opportunity like this, she created a dry garden. It’s still in its beginning stage and will look fantastic once the plants have begun to grow and fill in.

As you can see in these photos, Michele’s plant preferences are very similar to mine, ranging from aloes and agaves to dudleyas to mangaves and yuccas.

Agave titanota ‘Lion’s Mane’ in a raised mound

Dudleya brittonii

Aloes, agaves, and yuccas

The silver pedestal planter in the corner used to be a fountain. Now it contains an Agave parryi var. truncata. Notice the tall Yucca desmetiana ‘Blue Boy’ against the fence.

The northwest corner of the back yard is agave central. These plants have been in the ground for a number of years and are approaching maturity.

The large silver beauty is Agave ‘Silver Surfer’, a natural hybrid between Agave americana ssp. protoamericana and Agave asperrima. The toothy green agave on the right is Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’.

Others include Agave ovatifolia and Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’.

In front of ‘Silver Surfer’, Michele’s Agave ‘Sharkskin’ recently started flowering. More about that towards the end of this post. Also notice Michele’s collection of potted aloes; I love the uniform size and color of the pots, not something you’ll find in my garden.

The patio in front of the dining room is almost completely covered with succulents in containers:

I love collections like these—they bring out the detective in me who wants to examine every single plant.

On a recent trip to San Diego County, Michele stopped at Jeremy Spath‘s place and bought a bunch of agaves, including this Agave isthmensis × parrasana hybrid:

Michele’s collection of potted succulents continues along the side of the house:

Looking back towards the patio

Sitting area surrounded by potted succulents—cool furniture, too

Mangave ‘Purplicious’, Aloe ‘Swordfish’ and Mangave ‘Painted Desert’

Recent purchases getting acclimatized

One of the few non-succulents in Michele’s garden, a walking iris (Neomarica caerulea ‘Regina’) from a recent UC Davis Arboretum plant sale

As I mentioned earlier, Michele’s Agave ‘Sharkskin’ recently started to flower. The photos below (most taken by Michele) show the progression.

Very tall and very skinny flower stalk

As the flowers started to develop, the extra weight caused the flower stalk to bend...

...until it finally snapped

Ironically, this happened as I was driving to Michele’s house. 30 minutes before I took the photo above, the flower stalk was still intact.

For comparison, Michele is 5 ft. 1 in.

Michele set up a step ladder to lift the flower stalk off the ground

The upside of the broken inflorescence was much easier access to the flowers. Michele took these close-ups.

Unfortunately, the flowers started to deteriorate quickly so Michele decided to cut off the inflorescence. ‘Sharkskin’ is leaving behind several pups, including a fairly large one that will remain in place.

I’ll have an update on Michele’s garden next year when her new back yard plantings will have settled in and bulked up.

© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Kudos to the HOA for removing the lawn, and kudos to Michelle for jumping at the chance to incorporate water wise plants to her front garden. She seems to be a dedicated cacti and succulent lover and amassing quite a collection!

  2. That Silver Surfer is such a stunner, and love those modern chairs! Her waterwise planting at the front of the house looks elegant and a lovely preview of the goodies she has at the back, in her private domain.

  3. Michele doesn't do anything by half! She's got an impressive collection and every specimen looks to be in pristine condition. I'm sorry the 'Sharkskin' Agave's flower stalk crashed under its own weight but given the height of some stalks I'm surprised more don't go that route.

  4. Wow that is a lot of pots. Thankfully they don't require watering every day. Too bad about the flower stalk. It's incredible how tall they get in relation to the size of the plant.


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