A keystone of modern design, succulents are actually adaptable plants that are at home in any garden style. Read on for my top tips that will make your succulent plantings gorgeous!
The Darlings of Modern Design
In case you haven't noticed - succulents are "in" right now! Their breathtaking geometry makes them look like little sculptures and they are low water and easy to grow. It's no wonder they are a defining hallmark of luxury minimalist garden design style, as well as a hot trend in interior design. There are succulents suited for large-scale plantings and the smallest apartments. They can be grown in tough sites, dry shade, and are the darlings of water-efficient gardening.
Recently, I visited the truly incredible, world-class Ruth Bancroft Succulent Garden and Nursery in Walnut Creek, California. Ruth was a pioneer in dry gardening and began planting her amazing cactus and succulent collection in 1972 using mostly her intuition to guide her. Using photos from this incredible garden as inspiration, I am going to show you some pro tips for designing with succulents in your own garden!
Tip #1 - Colorful Combinations
Just because it's not a flower garden doesn't mean it isn't colorful. You can add interest with variegation or colors that compliment. Even a color pallet of only greens can have creamy white variegated stripes, and cool blue-greens.
You may be surprised to learn that some succulents are amethyst purple, orange, or deep red. Even if you choose to plant a neatly spaced row of a single type of succulent, Mother Nature will show you that she has a few tricks up her sleeve as your
succulents will regularly surprise you with exotic flower stalks of yellow or pink flowers.
Tip #2 - Vary Size and Shape
Vary size in a composition that mimics the natural world. I suggest thinking of your succulent combinations in groups of three. Each group can have one feature plant that is the largest, one that is small that you'll plant more of, and one medium size.
Consider naturalistic combinations rather than neat, evenly spaced rows or symmetrical designs. This way of arranging plants follows a more mysterious natural logic just beyond our rationale understanding. Put away your measuring tape and tap into your intuition. Everyone has some sense of "aesthetics" - what looks good based on the principals of balance and composition.
Here's a foolproof formula to try:
Start by choosing one (1) larger plant, three to five (3 - 5) medium plants, and seven to 11 smaller ones.
1) First, put the biggest (feature) plant in the middle or back of the composition.
2) Clustered the medium ones in groups of odd numbers.
3) Stick the little guys in the front, or have them flowing around the other plants like a little school of fish.
Tip #3 - Soften it Up
Who says succulent gardens can't be romantic? Soften up the somewhat masculine lines of the succulent garden with contrasting finer-textured plants. Try adding a soft drift of seasonal of color with Mexican primrose (Oenethera) or a soft textured grass like pink muhly (Muhlenbergia). Acacia 'Cousin Itt' is a plant with universal appeal has a way of looking both soft and modern. Seaside daisy (Erigeron), Sages (Salvia), and rockroses (Cistus) make great companion plants with succulents. Consider a ruffley succulent. Consider a trailing groundcover succulent that has a look of a string of beads or tiny perfect rosettes.
Anyone can care for succulents! Whether you are making a teacup arrangement or you have an expansive hillside, these three tips will help you create a high-impact design. Enjoy!