Monarch + Echeveria

I just returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon to visit my sister. The first thing I noticed when I got out of my car and was inspecting my succulent collection was this big fat monarch caterpillar forming its chrysalis on my Echeveria gigantea.

Monarch caterpillar forming its chrysalis on Echeveria gigantea.

Looks like it took its time finding the perfect spot. I do believe those are tiny monarch footprints on the leaf to the left.


Design Update

Back in November I stopped by to take some pictures of my favorite garden that I designed in Morro Bay. It was installed in January of 2012 by Gardens by Gabriel so is almost 2 years old. I’m really impressed by how big everything has grown in such a short time.

If you have been following my blog since then you may remember how it looked when it was first installed. This is a screen grab from Google Earth back when the garden was just a month old. You can see the homes proximity to the bay and the ocean (both visible to the left) and Morro Rock is peaking out behind the chimney. The plants were so tiny. The mulch was so bright. I always worry that clients won’t have the imagination to picture what my intentions for the design were.

It just takes a bit of patience.

Some of the shrubs still have some more growing to do and we did have a few problems with some of the plants but overall my vision for the garden is being realized and each time I visit it looks better and better.

I am actually less happy with the area to the left of the bocce court (in the foreground). Perhaps we will go back and make some changes there in the future.

But the upper garden looks great. This Agave gypsophila is gorgeous as are the Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ and Agave celsii ‘Nova’ in the background.  Agave gypsophila is one of the more tender Agave species. It is not especially happy when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. I have one in a container that had finally started to look better after a cold snap last year disfigured it. Now with this recent dip below freezing it is looking a bit rough again. Luckily Morro Bay is usually a few degrees warmer than Los Osos so this garden should be fine.

Agave celsii ‘Nova’ was a later addition. I believe that a design is never finished. In this case once other plants started to grow in I felt like this spot needed something extra. I wanted to use Agave ovatifolia but that wasn’t available. Garden design also requires quick thinking and coming up with appropriate substitutions when needed.

Agave macroacantha ‘Pablo’s Choice’ is pretty sexy with its black (painful) spines and beautiful leaf markings. This usually forms a little colony but so far the gardens owner has been rooting out the pups and keeping the plant solitary.

The stems on Euphorbia caput-medusae will eventually elongate and sort of flop around on the soil like snakes. Right now it looks like Medusa has had a crew cut.

Right now Kalanchoe beharensis reminds me a bit of a piece of modern art. Felt blocks that have been haphazardly stacked in a pile.

Do you see the sneaky little Oxalis growing underneath Agave geminiflora? One issue with growing succulents is that removing weeds can be a painful and difficult experience. Sometimes best to just let the plant smother them out.

I think I have mentioned before that this was sold to us as Echeveria X imbricata but I am a little unsure if that is correct. It is bigger and the leaves are thicker than the E. X imbricata I am used to and the leaves really color up more than I have ever seen before. Perhaps it is just environmental but it is pretty common for plants to be mislabeled.

I love how Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ matches the yellow plastic guards the phone company put on the metal telephone poll support lines. They added those after the fact. Not the greatest thing to have in your garden but at least the color sort of blends in.

One mistake I will admit to is I used two pairs of plant cultivars that are so similar I have a hard time telling the difference. This is possibly Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’.

And this is Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter Red’. Or maybe I have that backward? Looking them up with Google Images or on Flickr doesn’t help as they are just as mixed up there and Leucadendrons are so changeable from month to month.

This is Grevillea lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’. I think.

And this is Grevillea lanigera ‘Mt. Tamborintha’. Or maybe strike that and reverse it.

Now when I design a garden I try not to include species or cultivars that are very similar. If only it was so easy as looking at the design plans and seeing which plant was supposed to go where. Unfortunately plants from wholesalers almost never have labels. So it is entirely possible that we even mixed up where each group were supposed to be planted. This can really be a problem if one plant is very different in size or form when it matures but luckily in this case all of these plants are quite similar in their adult size and structure.

Actually hold on a second. I think the Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’ I posted earlier is actually ‘Winter Red’ and the above picture is the true ‘Blush’.  Aaargh! See how confusing this is?

Fortunately Leucadendron ‘Jester’ is very distinct. No mistaking its tri-color variegation for any other Leucadendron in this garden.

We had some problems with some of the Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ we planted in this garden but the one above has performed perfectly.  Unfortunately even with our ideal growing conditions most Proteaceae can be persnickety.

This Grevillea rhyolitica has performed really well here but the one in my garden planted at the same time is long dead.

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ has grown massive in just two years. Already at least 6 feet across.

And Arbutus ‘Marina’ is another fast grower. Already towering above me. This is quite a messy plant so be careful not to plant it near walkways or over cars. Fortunately the two in this garden are off to the side where they shouldn’t cause any problems.

Echeveria Propagation

For some reason succulents are really expensive compared to other plants. They are even pretty costly at wholesale prices. It seems kind of strange since they are usually really easy to grow via asexual propagation but they aren’t the fastest growers so while it is frustrating I guess it makes sense.

I’ve started up a collection of succulents for my future garden. I’m not sure exactly where or when it will happen but I know I want it to focus on Proteas and Succulents. So I’ve been buying small relatively inexpensive succulents and growing them on so they will be ready.

I bought these Echeveria ‘Violet Queen’ back in March as single rosettes in four inch pots. I immediately potted them up into gallon pots and they rewarded me by creating lots of little pups. E. ‘Violet Queen’ is a hybrid of E. elegans so fairly prolific. It can be a bit nerve wracking to separate them from the mother plant but in this case the pups separate quite easily.

The larger pups went into four inch pots and all the tiny ones into  little two inch pots. I remove the lowest leaves so there is a little bit of stem and bury that in the soil. I waited about a week before giving them any water. It might even be better to wait longer. I just sort of wing it. I don’t have any precise formula. I just do what feels right to me. I’ve found ‘Violet Queen’ to be a little trickier than straight E. elegans so we’ll see how successful I am.

You can also propagate Echeverias via individual leaf cuttings but since I got over fifty plants just from separating pups that would have been overkill. It is best to only propagate what you can reasonably care for or have a need for.

Another plant that with a lot of pups was Echeveria colorata ‘Mexican Giant’. The mother plant is the huge one in the two gallon pot in the top right corner of the above picture. The one below it in the gallon pot was the largest pup and the four immediately to the left in the flat in four-inch pots were pretty big too. You can see by their size that when they were all attached they were busting out of their original pot (I wish I had remembered to take a picture).

The eight other plants on the left side of the flat are new two-inch plants I bought for a reasonable price at a local retailer and potted up. Hopefully they will grow and start reproducing too.

I love propagation but I have been traveling too much this year to start any plants by seed. Succulents are pretty forgiving. I divided up all these plants before a week long trip to New York and when I got back they were fine.

More succulent pics soon! It is time for a mesemb update.

Design Update

It has been a year and a half since I moved to the central coast. A lot has happened since then, some good, some bad. But I just returned from a trip home to see my family in NYC and as I drove back home from the San Luis Obispo airport into foggy Los Osos I kept thinking about how much I love it here.

One of my first designs in Morro Bay, that was installed shortly after I moved here, is also one of my favorites. I paid it a visit in May and it was nice to see how much it has grown in almost a year and a half. The succulents in particular are getting huge already.

You can click on each image to enlarge.

Kniphofia ‘Shining Sceptre’ is a favorite of mine now. The clumps grow huge and each one probably has at least 30 flowers on it at a time. The Thamnochortus insignis in the background will really look nice when it is full grown. You can just make out the top of Morro Rock peeking over the house in the background.

Grevillea rhyolitica and Arbutus ‘Marina’

Aloe rubroviolacea from Yemen are really nice specimen plants. The Otatea accuminata ssp. aztecorum on the left has recovered from its transplant shock and is starting to fill out. It was originally planted right up against the foundation of the house and is one of the plants we decided was worth saving. We moved it where it would screen the telephone pole at the corner of the yard. Hopefully it fills out a bit more over the next few years and starts doing a better job of that.

The purple flowered Alyogone hugelii has been a bit of a disappointment. It is infested with thrips so we may remove it in the future.

I am really impressed with the size of the Euphorbia rigida. This is just one plant that started out in a little one gallon container.

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ in the foreground and Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ in the back.

This is either Leucadendron ‘Blush’ or L. ‘Winter Red’. We used several of both and I am hopeless at telling them apart.

Aloe vanbalenii have become nice specimens in a relatively short period of time.

There are so many amazing Echeveria species for California gardeners to choose from but I am a little bit in love with E. gigantea and E. ‘Zoro’. Each of these plants is over 2 feet across. Once the Agave ‘Blue Glow’ reaches its full size I think the contrast between all these plants will be really spectacular.

Big blue Echeveria gigantea with spiny Agave geminiflora in the background. Are these things amazing or what? They are not terribly common either which makes them even cooler.

Echeveria ‘Zoro’ is gorgeous but these are doing exceptionally well.

I’m in love!

Echeveria ‘Pulv-oliver’ isn’t too shabby either. It is a cross between E. pulvinata and E. harmsii.

These were sold to us as Echeveria X imbricata but it it is much larger and the leaves are much thicker than the E. X imbricata I had seen in the past. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Is this something else?

Euphorbia caput-medusae has filled in nicely. It is compact now but eventually each stem should elongate and flop across the ground like a bunch of snake heads.

Agave gypsophila

And finally a view of the entire succulent portion of the design.

Too Much? Building My Garden Part 4 – Path Garden

I went to Native Sons yesterday to pick up two flats of plants for my path garden.  I came home with four flats plus the one I already had from Farm Supply Company.

It may seem like overkill but I felt like it was worth it for A. immediate results and B. wanting to test as many different types of plants as possible and C. I always wanted a path garden like this and I want this garden to be totally insane!

There is a mix of different types of plants.  Some are bushy to plant along the path and to gracefully fall into it, some are low and flat and can be walked on, some are succulent, some are herbaceous, some will have beautiful blooms, and some have nice foliage.

Here are a few of them up close.

Thymus juniperifolius

Sedum dasyphyllum var. major

Echeveria ‘Violet Queen’

Saxifraga ‘Pixie’

Armeria maritima

Thymus X citriodorus ‘Lime’ (OMG I love this plant!)

And here is the path as a blank slate ready for planting.

The dimensions of the pathway are twenty seven feet long by five feet to six feet wide.

And now the planted path.

I’m pretty thrilled with how it came out.  Of course I could have done it with half the plants but I’m really eager to see how these grow.  Some may try to take over, some may fizzle out and do nothing or get overtaken by their neighbors, some may not be as attractive as I hoped and some may be even more amazing.

And another view this time from the house toward the street.

And finally a ground level view.  What do you think?  I love it so far.  I can’t wait for everything to fill in.  Over time I will do some editing and replace the plants I’m not crazy about with the ones I love.  Or perhaps I will want to trial some new ones.

I’m already thinking that at my next house I want a pathway like this that is at least twice as long!