When Mary Peracca first moved to her home near French Park in San Luis Obispo, her front and backyards consisted of lawn, a few sycamore trees and some shrubs.
Soon, Peracca became entranced by cactus and succulents.
“I really like prickly things,” she said.
She joined the Central Coast Cactus and Succulent Society to learn more about these plants, acquainting herself with many varieties of succulent species and taking home new plants and information on a regular basis.
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Passion ignited. Today her stunning collection extends into a new greenhouse and transformed front yard. Low shelving rings the entire back of the house to hold hundreds of plants, each in a custom-made pot that enhances its look.
Pots also intrigued Peracca, and now she designs and makes her own. Many will be on sale at the annual Cactus and Succulent Society Show and Sale on May 27 and 28 at the Ludwick Community Center in San Luis Obispo.
When the state offered rebates for turf removal during the long drought, Peracca decided she had many potted plants that could easily be moved to the front yard if the grass were removed.
Nick Wilkinson, another succulent society member and owner of Grow Nursery in Cambria, had helped design her entry garden and planting beds alongside the house eight years ago. So she invited him back to complete turf removal and replace the grass with unusual varieties of succulents. Brandon Nelson of Botanica Nova works with Wilkinson and added his expertise to the job.
“Mary was easy to work with,” Wilkinson said. “She is a big plant collector so we were able to use many of her plants. Mary is so conscientious. Her weekly diligence at keeping everything so tidy is the reason things looks so good.
“The garden was just completed a year and a half ago,” he said, adding that it “really has gone bonkers this winter and is full of blooms. The zone up the walkway with bright orange and bright pink with sedums and kalanchoes is really a stunner.”
Adobe clay doesn’t work for succulents, so 10 yards of lighter, fast-draining soil was brought in and mounded. Large serpentine Cayucos boulders enhance the look.
Concrete steps through the center of the garden are softened by tan pea gravel planted with orange-leafed sedum and bright-pink blooms of kalanchoe pumila.
Several species-size aloes and agaves dominate the landscape. Wooly Blue Curls, a California native, adds an almost indigo hue to the color palette. Its fragrant, sticky foliage brings another texture to the garden.
Low mounding dark-purple Aeonium ‘Velour’ enhance the borders and upright Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ adds yellow, pink and cream stripes.
Echium candicans, Pride of Madeira, generously reseeds and sends 6-foot-plus spires into the air that are covered in purple blooms. The bees and monarch butterflies love them.
Wilkinson’s original plantings near the house have matured beautifully. A specimen-size Aloe plicatilis spreads its beautifully sculptured fans year-round; its prolific orange spikes are the icing on the cake.
Agave Moonglow has outgrown its space and is moving to the backyard. Now that it extends onto the sidewalk, it attacks unsuspecting visitors with its sharp thorns.
Two chocolate-freckled Manfredas add interesting color and texture to the aloe groupings. They appear spikey but are surprisingly soft.
Wilkinson wished he could use emojis to talk about Peracca’s garden: “If I could use emojis they’d be: Cactus, thumbs up, check mark, a dancing couple and a martini glass.”
2017 Cactus Show and Sale
Central Coast Cactus and Succulent Society
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 27; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 28
Ludwick Community Center, 864 Santa Rosa St. (corner of Mill), San Luis Obispo. I
It is hosted by Terry Excell.
The Central Coast Cactus and Succulent Society meets the second Sunday of each month, 2 p.m., Odd Fellows Hall at 520 Dana St., San Luis Obispo. Visitors are welcome. centralcoastcactus.org