Home & Garden

Succulents transform a plain garden in Morro Bay

String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) appears to flow from a ceramic fish, suspended from the arbor in the backyard patio.
String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) appears to flow from a ceramic fish, suspended from the arbor in the backyard patio. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Soon after Valerie and Darrell Klassen bought their Morro Bay home, they eliminated the original landscaping. It lacked interest, they felt, and required too much water.

While they aimed to create a garden for their own enjoyment, they didn’t imagine that just two years later it would be on the local American Association of University Women’s annual spring garden tour.

The previously flat front yard is now a mounded showplace for myriad succulents, accented by a repurposed water fountain, a handsome birdhouse and charming statuary. Succulents include echeverias in abundance, flapjack plants, low growing bolax and freckled tiger aloe, all backed by tall bird-of-paradise plants.

The backyard, sheltered between the house and garage, is enclosed by a tall concrete block wall. The former lawn was replaced by a solid patio and filled with outdoor furnishings, including unique display units for Valerie’s favorite succulents.

Among them are four large round plastic plant saucers set on sturdy wooden pedestals. They resemble bird baths, but contain miniature gardens; one is a rocky landscape of “living stones” succulents.

Screening the solid house wall, a structure reminiscent of a Japanese gateway was constructed by Darrell Klassen. Planters suspended from horizontal bars include three ceramic fish hanging at eye level. Each is planted with a Senecio commonly called “string of pearls.” Valerie Klassen predicts that the 3-foot-long strands will be touching the ground by summer.

She created an original succulent display on the back wall of the garden by attaching ordinary terracotta pots to the concrete block wall, drilling holes in each for sturdy bolts. She says she broke just one pot in the process, adding that the secret to drilling pots is to have a sharp drill and a gentle touch.

Valerie Klassen’s propagation and potting benches are in the sequestered side yard just around the house corner. Her husband built them to her specifications, with rows of round holes that match the dimensions of the plastic pots Valerie favors. Stabilized in the holes, the pots won’t be knocked over by cats or the wind.

Valerie Klassen delights in the ease of propagating succulents. If a favorite plant becomes overgrown and loses its charm, she designates it a “mother plant,” and takes cuttings from it to start new plants. “All you have to do is tuck the edge of a single leaf in potting soil, and before long you have another plant. I enjoy making extra plants to share with friends,” she says.

A second Morro Bay garden on the AAUW garden tour also features succulents. Its front yard display demonstrates their diverse forms, textures, and colors. A flat border around the garden and a dry stream within the bed are lined with black river rocks; along the driveway, colorful succulents glow against their dark rocky background.

Within those borders is an amazing variety and quality of well-maintained plants. Outstanding specimens in this garden include three large green-and-white-variegated aloes, each with a different variegation pattern. There are both purple and green aeoniums, and numerous varieties of aloe, echeveria, kalanchoe and crassula. Three different proteas, anigozanthos (kangaroo paws) and flax create a tall backdrop for this delightful display.

Reach Sharon Crawford at sdcrawford@charter.net .


The annual AAUW Garden Tour will be held from noon to 5 p.m. April 28. Tickets, $10 per person, will be available after April 1 at Volumes of Pleasure bookstore in Los Osos, Coalesce bookstore in Morro Bay, or from members of the American Association of University Women.