Design with cactus and succulent plants in Southern California
Landscapes in Southern California are ideal for growing cactus and succulent plants. These are plants that have adapted to handle periods of drought by storing water in their stems or leaves. The result is the fascinating array of sculptural shapes and forms that these plants grow in. Because they come in all shapes, sizes and colors, cacti and succulents can be as decorative as flowers. Some of them bloom with impressive and colorful flowers, too. Plus, they will handle the long dry summer season of Southern California better than most other garden plants.
Designing with cactus and succulent plants offers many more styles and effects than most people think. Because these plants come in such a wide variety of shapes and forms, they can be used to create more effects than most other plants. There are plants that grow in the form of roses called ‘rosettes’ that can fill a garden with leaves that look like big flowers. Others grow like fingers. Still more form columns or spheres.
Because these plants have so much character to their growth patterns, you can virtually paint with them and they will stay within the design you create. Leaf forms can be of any shape or color so you can draw out your pictures without having to wait for blooms. Big leaves can create a tropical effect whereas rivers of ground-cover succulents can paint riverbeds in a drought-tolerant woodland theme. The range of plants for Southern California landscapes is so wide you will be able to find just about any look you desire.
The materials that set the stage for your garden will also help create ambiance. Natural rocks and boulders blend well with gravel for a Western or Southwestern theme. Gravel mulch works well with these plants since cacti tend to rot at the neck where the body joins the roots if moisture is allowed to remain in that area, something that doesn’t happen with gravel in our climate. You can expand your design by adding colored gravel to enhance your ‘picture’.
Flat slabs of stone will give an entirely different feel to a Southern California succulent garden. Wood and clay can create interesting backdrops or containers. In fact, because of the neat habit of growth of many succulents, you can even design patterns for vertical walls or green roofs that will be much more exciting than ordinary construction. Use them for dish gardens or enjoy the miniatures to create tiny landscapes in fairy gardens.
Don’t become stuck on the idea that using cactus and succulent plants in the Southern California landscape design means a dull garden with the traditional spiky look. Explore all the different possibilities. These plants can cover a whole landscape, claim individual gardens, snuggle in with other drought-tolerant plants, or decorate walls, containers and other surfaces to make your garden into easy-care magic! For more information on succulents, check out Debra Lee Baldwin’s books.
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