Those who enjoy a garden that looks good with little effort and cost will appreciate the tips of Morro Bay landscape and lifestyle designer Genevieve Holloway. She faced empty brick planters and a tiny sloping patch of grass in front of her new home a year ago.
Using succulents, she designed an undersea environment that we might call “Neptune’s Delight,” except that sounds like the fried fish combo at a bayside restaurant. The plants grow so fast she says she is now a succulent farm. She just breaks off a piece and sticks it in the soil to add plants to her garden.
“If you like a garden that looks good all the time, you’d like these,” Genevieve says.Mixing Aeonium that look like giant green daisies and “Zwartkop” purple Aeonium with different Kalanchoes brings out the best in both kinds of plants, but what makes the combination pop is her use of succulent varieties in ghost gray and blue chalk sticks (Senecio mandraliscae), bordering the brick patio.
Just a few shells and rocks peek from under fleshy leaves to surprise viewers. A fish with a string of pearls plant looks like he’s blowing bubbles. Mulching with sea glass that complements the potted plants brings a new look to old favorites such as hen and chicks and other varieties of echeveria.
People who water only when they think about it will do well because these are extremely forgiving plants; however, they will look better with a weekly watering.
When a succulent flowers it’s an exciting bonus. The year-round sculptural interest makes you forget that they also bloom, so when you see the buds pushing up it’s a thrill. Hummingbirds love them, although their aggressive ownership of the bright flowers can make cocktail hour on the terrace a bit risky.
One Kalanchoe looks like it stepped out of “Little Shop of Horrors” (K. beharensis) and into an orange pot on the patio. Perhaps there is no ugly in the plant world.
Mixing shades of orange, blue, yellow, green and natural terra cotta work magic here. Genevieve suggests that if you have a plant with reddish edge, a rusty red or burgundy pot makes the plant stand out. Flapjack kalanchoe (K. thyrsifolia) is a great example. The more stressed it is the redder its edges become. Gray looks beautiful in a blue pot. Our native chalk lettuce (Dudleya pulverulenta) is particularly striking against a cobalt blue.
Don’t forget the stalwart aloe with its 450 species. Many varieties are available locally. Every grammy once had one in her kitchen for use on burns and they still work for dramatic beauty as well. Spring is on its way when we see its orange spikes stretching up toward blue skies.
Genevieve is also a container garden specialist and she likes the idea of investing in a few dramatic, large pots for focal pieces to anchor a space and give it visual weight. She recently redid the deck of a Cayucos condominium by replacing many small pots with three large pots and a couple of medium sized ones that were grouped to good effect and filled with succulents and shells. It made the deck seem larger and roomier and eliminated the hodgepodge effect.
This area with its cool temperatures and fog helps succulents thrive and look good all the time but Genevieve says: “If you come home from the movies after dark and step on a snail, it’s time to get out the flashlight and go hunting.”
Mary McCorkle lives in Los Osos. Contact her at email@example.com.