Thursday, September 28, 2017

First Fall Garden Project: Succulent Bed Renovation

I haven't been happy with the succulent bed I created in front of our garage since I finished it in March 2016.  After removing all the lawn in that area, we laid a flagstone walk; my husband created a trash path using railroad ties and gravel; and I planted the largest beds with shrubs and perennials, using succulents to fill the remaining bed on the north side of the trash path.  But, as I'd spend most of my budget on shrubs and perennials, I made do with inexpensive (small) plants and cuttings from friends and my own garden to fill the new succulent bed, throwing in some grasses, lavender and bearded Iris in a vain attempt to fill the space.  (You can view the original planting plan here.)

I decided to renovate the succulent bed several months ago but waited until temperatures began to cool to tackle the project.  I got started in mid-September.  Did I take a before shot?  Of course not, although I assumed that I'd find one among the wide shots I routinely take of the garden.  However, the most recent photo featuring this bed I located dated back to early May, which probably speaks to my tendency to ignore the bed once I'd decided to renovate it.

Photo of the bed taken May 5th looking east


My first task was to open the space up to give me more of a clean slate to work with.  I left the large Agave attenuata inherited with the garden in place, as well as many of the succulents edging the path but tossed most of the perennials and many of the smaller succulents that had been slow to bulk up.  The larger succulents I wanted to keep were placed in pots until I could decide how to use them in the renovated bed.  I also appropriated plants from pots and other areas of the garden.  And I went shopping.

Some of the potted succulents I dug up are shown on the left.  The plants on the right are succulents I picked up on various nursery expeditions.


Then I hauled in topsoil and dug in cactus mix to create berms and improve drainage.

3 cubic yards of topsoil was more than I needed for this job and a couple of smaller ones.  I'm still trying to find places for the one cubic yard remaining.

This is the area after I finished spreading the topsoil and digging in the cactus mix.  It still looks rather flat in this photo but I estimate that I raised the soil level nearly a foot at its highest point.


Next, I enlisted my husband's help to pick up another load of rock to shore up my berms.

Most of the 860 lbs of rock we brought home in my husband's pick-up truck went here.  It wasn't quite enough.  Somehow, it never is.


Once I'd replanted the area, I struggled with whether or not to add gravel around the plants.  While gravel adds a finished look as the plants fill out, it also makes it more difficult to make changes to the bed as the gravel works its way into the soil.  I elected to fill in with ground cover succulents, mainly Sedum makoni 'Ogon' and 'Limelight', even though those too will need time to fill out.  I still need to add more ground cover material but the area in front of the Arbutus 'Marina' and the Agave attenuata is mostly done.  Here are views of the newly planted area from different angles:

View of the replanted area looking east, toward the garage

View looking north toward the fence separating our property from that of our neighbor.  That compost tumbler alongside the fence came with the property.

View looking west toward the street


If I enumerated the plant species, the list would be very long but here are some of the larger specimens:

Top row: Agave attenuata (came with the garden), Agave 'Blue Flame (bordered by Echeveria 'Blue Atoll'), and Agave geminiflora
Middle row: Agave 'Jaws' (a pup moved from elsewhere), Aloe plicatilis (a gift from a friend), and Aloe 'Rooikappie'
Bottom row: Aloe ciliaris hybrid, Leucadendron 'Summer Red' (the only new shrub), and Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii'


In addition to filling in between plants with more ground cover plugs, I'm planning to lay another flagstone path behind the Arbutus leading to the shrubs in the corner so these can be reached for trimming without treading on my succulents.  On either side of that path, I plan to add more succulents, bromeliads and grasses.  Some of these are already in place but those displays aren't ready for prime time yet and it'll be awhile before I'll ask my husband to make yet another trip to the rock yard to get more flagstone.

Next up is bulb planting.  What about you?  Do you have any fall projects in the works?


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

20 comments:

  1. Wow, the difference is like night and day! I think berms/mounds are the way to go. They look great and help with drainage. And I love how much plants you packed in there. Just wait a year, and this bed will blow your mind.

    As for gravel vs. no gravel, I agonized over it when we replaced the front lawn with succulent mounds. Ultimately, I decided to go with gravel to help prevent the soil from drying out too quickly (the mounds are in full sun). It looks like your bed is in semi-shade so that's not an issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you're right, Gerhard! While I added some larger specimens this time around, I still made use of a lot of plugs, including 4 6-packs of Aeonium 'Kiwi'(on top of those I already had in that area). The bed is in partial shade, although I limbed up the Arbutus to allow a bit more sun.

      Delete
  2. That looks really good, your usual meticulous craftsmanship. I can see the change in elevation. It should grow in well this winter.

    That Arbutus sure is pretty!

    I'm continuing to work on the pergola area. Progress is slow because its too hot out there from about 10 to about 4, but the area is coming along.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been hot here too, especially today, when the temperature reached 90F. I've got my fingers crossed that the predicted cooling trend is on its way, for both our sakes!

      Delete
  3. You are such an ambitious gardener. I mean that in a totally good way. I'm always amazed at the big projects you undertake. It looks good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Barbara! I seem to be compelled to do as much as I can as long as I can, realizing that there will come a day when I can't handle the heavy jobs any more. As my husband helps with the hardest physical tasks (like carting stones that are too heavy for me to carry), he probably hopes that day will come sooner rather than later.

      Delete
  4. Wow Kris! That’s fabulous... such a beautiful difference. Hope you’re loving the changes, they’re amazing. Hard work pays off!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In addition to including some larger specimens this time, I repeated a lot of plants, most notably Aeonium 'Kiwi', which I'm hoping will give the bed more overall impact.

      Delete
  5. I love what I'm seeing there; it seems to really complement those wonderful, big agaves. And the foliage color range is fabulous. I tend to stay away from gravel for similar reasons. If I can't dig down through a garden bed, what good is it to have a garden... ;-) Besides, it increases the heat at the surface. For both reasons, I just ladle on a little more mulch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the heat generated by the gravel was a concern too, although as this bed receives afternoon shade that probably wouldn't have been a significant issue. However, I spent the first year here digging gravel out of one bed after another, which is an experience I'd rather not repeat. The area in which our house and garden sits was a rock quarry in the 1940s and there are remnants of that history everywhere.

      Delete
  6. I thought it looked good before you started but the finished planting shows how much better it has become. As you know I'm about to replant my left hand border and probably wouldn't have lifted some of the plants that will probably find their way back into the bed but your example proves that it would be much better if I did so thank you Kris for your timely post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lifting the plants and potting them up was an extra, time-consuming step but I think the plants and the bed were better for it in the long run. Best wishes with your own renovation, Christina!

      Delete
  7. You did a great job, Kris. Want to come and redesign my beds? I love succulents. Can't wait to see what yours look like next season. There are quite a few that thrive in New England but, not the lovely Agave you have in your beds. It's fascinating to see how different your climate is from mine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure 2 climates can be much more different than yours and mine, Sally! Sempervivums probably do better in your climate than mine - they seem to like a bit of winter chill.

      Delete
  8. Looks wonderful - love the different shapes, textures and variegation in color. How's your back? That's a lotta rock and topsoil to haul. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My back is fine (or as fine as it gets), although my arms were strained for awhile. This batch of rocks was generally smaller than those in the last load. Those I couldn't heft my husband dropped into the bed so I only had to shift them, not pick them up. I moved the soil in smaller batches than is my husband's practice so it was manageable, if also time-consuming and tedious.

      Delete
  9. It looks AMAZING....so impressed! Thank you for sharing this renovation :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Holly! I'm still tweaking it but then that's an endless process with all my garden beds.

      Delete
  10. Why don't you hook yer little wagon up to the back of yer car and haul some of that topsoil over here, we'll find a place for it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, Eric - hauling dirt isn't in my job description.

      Delete

I enjoy receiving your comments and suggestions. However, with apologies to bona-fide commentators, due to a significant increase in spam, I've eliminated the option to post comments anonymously.