Seaside Gardens in Santa Barbara: Succulent Garden

In my previous post, I showed you what was in bloom in the South African Garden when I visited Seaside Gardens Nursery on my recent Santa Barbara trip. This post focuses on the Succulent Garden, another of the 12 vignettes in the nursery’s fantastic demonstration garden.

The Succulent Garden was originally designed by Mary Pat Moloney and Donna and Bill Baker. Bill Baker, who died far too young in 2009, was a renowned plantsman widely credited with popularizing Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ (see story here). Much of the plant material in this area comes from the Bakers’ garden, including several ‘Hercules’ which have now reached stately proportions.

Winter is a great time to visit because the aloes are in full bloom – as you can see below, they put on quite a show. When I arrived at Seaside Gardens, the fog hadn’t burned off quite yet, softening the contrast and intensifying the colors.

Aloidendron barberae (left), Aloe ferox (center)

The Succulent Garden is anchored by two types of tree aloes: Aloidendron barberae (shown in the first set of photos) and Aloidendron ’Hercules’, a cross between Aloidendron barberae and Aloidendron dichotomum (shown in the second half of this post). These tree aloes are majestic in stature, but their flowers aren’t all that showy – and hard to see because they’re so high up on mature plants. Fortunately, the Succulent Garden has plenty of other aloes with spectacular flowers that are impossible to miss.

Much of the flower color in this bed comes from Aloe arborescens (on the left in the photo below) and Aloe ferox (merging with A. arborescens), as well as a very nice Aloe spectabilis (on the right):

Aloe arborescens, Aloe ferox, Aloe spectabilis, with Aloidendron barberae towering over them

Aloe spectabilis

The tree aloes in the next set of photos are Aloidendron ’Hercules’. They were donated by Bill Baker as cuttings from the plant he received from Jim Gardner in whose garden ‘Hercules’ originated.

Much of the color in this area comes from multiple clumps of Aloe vanbalenii:

Aloe vanbalenii

Aloe vanbalenii

Aloe cameronii (left) with a mangave on the right

Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) next to another massive Aloidendron ’Hercules’. The flowering “shrub” on the right is the humble jade plant (Crassula ovata).

The three gnarly stumps in front of the jade plant are Cyphostemma juttae, a grape relative from Namibia. They’re not dead, just dormant. In mid-summer, they look like this.

Aloidendron ’Hercules’

Aloidendron ’Hercules’ with a flowering mother-of-millions (Kalanchoe delagoensis) in the foreground

Mother-of-millions (Kalanchoe delagoensis) is closely related to mother-of-thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana), except it has thinner leaves and produces even more plantlets on the leaf margins. Both are popular succulents (and house plants), although the shedding plantlets (they form on the edge of the leaf and literally fall off when ready) can become a nuisance. There’s also a hybrid between the two species (Kalanchoe × houghtonii), commonly called mother-of-tens-of-thousands (just kidding, it doesn’t have a special name).

Kalanchoe delagoensis is a somewhat reluctant bloomer, but the bell-shaped flowers are worth the wait

Three Aloidendron ’Hercules’, and a tall Yucca rostrata for good measure

The clumping agave on the left is a blue form of the foxtail agave (Agave attenuata ’Boutin Blue’). The inflorescence is far straighter than the strongly drooping flower stalk on the species, suggesting that ‘Boutin Blue’ might not be pure A. attenuata.

Agave attenuata ’Boutin Blue’, with crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia millii) in the front

New World (ponytail palms and tree sedum) meets Old Word (aloes and elephant’s food)

Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata)

These Mexican grass trees (Dasylirion longissimum) are probably two seedlings growing close together, rather than one plant

This Agave vilmoriniana perfectly illustrates why its common name is octopus agave. To the right is a clump of Agave pablocarrilloi ’Ivory curls’ – miniature octopi, if you will.

Agave vilmoriniana from the other side

As far as I’m concerned, Seaside Gardens is a must-see stop in the Santa Barbara area. On their website, you can find out more about the different areas in their demonstration garden.

© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. I feel like I've gone through the looking glass into another world. This is so well designed on many levels. This place must be huge to have 12 vignettes. I can't imagine the staffing they must have to keep it looking so pristine.

  2. The plants in the Succulent Garden really do stand out against the foggy background. Despite the number of times I visited Seaside, I've never been there in the fog - or in January either for that matter. Great coverage as usual!

  3. Oh, just wonderful. Another garden for me to check out next time I'm in SB. The picture with the ponytail palms & elephant's food, the big rocks look like dinosaur eggs.


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