Succulent Beds

"I found the poems in the fields
And only wrote them down."
-- John Clare, "Sighing for Retirement"



The south succulent bed.  The blue-grey rosettes are Faye's kalanchoe that are too young to bloom.  The red rose and trellis are gone now.  The spiky plant in bloom at the bottom is an aloe.

These are two long, thin beds just outside the back patio where the previous owner grew her roses.  They can be seen from the family room.  The soil is almost pure sand, and it gets sun all day.  I eventually decided to devote it to the interesting succulents I had seen growing around town in older gardens and empty fields.  They are not often found in nurseries. 

Aloe vera grows here - I have described it in the section on the Herb Circle

A solitary Dutch hybrid Amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.) was planted here several years ago and comes up regularly each spring with four huge, trumpet-shaped pink flowers on a sturdy 20" stalk.  A few others are scattered in other areas, but this one does best, perhaps because it gets more sun. Amaryllises are gorgeous in bloom, sending up a thick 12"-18" stalk with up to 4 huge flowers on it, in red or pink or white or bicolors.  They are relatively easy to find in catalogs and will multiply in the ground.

Amaryllises in bloom.

In preparation for planting the Potager, I moved some Blackberry plants from that area to the southern corner of this one.  I also grow Passionflower vines, Pineapples and Prickly Pear Cactus here.  All these fruits are described in the Tropical Edibles Area

I have been interested in Echium fastuosum for some time, with its bizarre clumps of stems, each ending in a  grassy mop, and its large cones of blue flowers, having seen it in many gardens in southern California.  It wants a dry site and likes being near the ocean.  This area might just be the place for it.  Thompson and Morgan carries seeds, which I have bought, along with those of E. pinnana, and will try growing next year. 

Also in these beds are two types of Four o'Clock (Mirabilis jalapa), one growing to 5' with light pink tubular flowers, which I found in a McDonald's parking lot and collected seeds from, and one from a friend in magenta which tops out at 2 1/2'.  They re-seed prolifically, so the mown grass area between these and other beds keep them from spreading out of control.  Their scent is welcome here by the patio in the late afternoons and evenings.  I intend to add a few more from seed, as they also come in yellow and striped varieties.  Four o'Clocks come from South America and are poisonous.  They are reliable perennials here and never die down.  There is a seed strain called 'Broken Colors' with striped blooms

Several types of Kalanchoe are grown here:

K. pinnata (also Bryophyllum pinnatum or B. calycinum), commonly called Japanese Lantern or Hawaiian Air Plant, has large, scalloped green leaves with purple edges and flowers at 3' with tiers of closed green bells flushed with purple.  I got mine in a field, but have seen them growing in many old gardens. 

K. tubiflora (Magic Tower Kalanchoe, also K. serrata or Bryophyllum diagremontianum x delagoense) has long, pointed greyish leaves with black markings, flowering at 3' with an 8" umbrella shaped cluster of crimson red bells with grey caps.  These I collected from a field - they are common and numerous, but I am not sure if they are native.  Toxic.

Kalanchoe tubiflora between the Confederate jasmine trellises at the back of the house.

Another, whose species name I haven't yet tracked down, starts as a 10" frosty grey mound of long triangular leaves.  In fall, the color changes to light green and the center elongates, forming a 2 1/2' flower stalk. The flowers are in clusters, making up a 10" head of pink and yellow bells, and appear like clockwork every November.  This one is my favorite, given to me by an elderly friend whose garden has always had them.  She doesn't know where they came from.  There is a similar variety with zebra-like markings on the leaves.  I call them Faye's Kalanchoe, for my generous donor friend.   

Faye's Kalanchoe in bloom.

K. fedtschenkoi, also called October Plant, is fairly low-growing, with grey leaves with a wide white to pink picotee.  It flowers in fall with tiers of lovely peachy orange bells.  The best thing about this one is that the variegated foliage doesn't change color and is useful in breaking up the ever-present green of the garden.  It makes a great edging. 

The last one, K. blossfeldiana, stays around 8"h, with dark green leaves which turn bronze to complement the clusters of starry bright red flowers in the cool season.  It makes an excellent edging and is also perfect in a strawberry pot (I have one on the walk by the front door).  Cuttings will root if simply broken off and stuck in sand in the garden and left alone - too much water would kill the cuttings.  It can be found in many local gardens, but seldom at garden centers. 

All the above are easy to propagate, forming new plants around the edges of leaves that touch the ground.  The flowering parents will die, leaving many babies to carry on the show.  Kalanchoes used to be known as Bryophyllums

Some pink-and-yellow flowering uprightLantanas (Lantana camara) grow here, too, having escaped from the Butterfly and Hummingbird Border a few feet away and directly across the path.  This is one of several plants that are special to me because my grandmother grew them in her Orlando garden when was growing up.  I prefer the softer colors of this older variety to the garish new hybrids one often sees in garden centers.  There is also a prostrate form (L. montevidensis) which comes in white, purple and yellow. Either type can be trained into a flowering topiary standard.  There is an annual one, commonly called Lavender Popcorn (L. trifolia), which has pink fl; the interesting thing about it is the seed heads, which are purple and lengthen into cones that look similar to Beautyberry berries.  It becomes a 2-3' tall lanky shrub.  Pinch back early to make it as bushy as possible.  All Lantanas attract butterflies.  They produce a fruit that looks a lot like a Blackberry, so be extremely careful because all parts of this plant are deadly poisonous.  They won't just make you sick - just one fruit can kill you or a child! 

There is a plastic arch over the patio door - it is white, but has been out there a few years, so is pitted enough to take paint.  I will paint it purple this season.  Growing over it and mingling on top are a purple Passionflower(Passiflora spp.) on one side and a Morning Glory (Ipomoea spp.) with miniature heart-shaped leaves and little lavender-purple flowers.  This last I saw growing through a hedge in a parking lot.  One day I decided to collect seed from it, but when I got there just as darkness was falling, I realized someone had just sheared the hedge and any flowers and seeds were gone!  Undeterred, I located a few strands of vine with a flashlight, pulled them out and took them home.  The cut ends were dipped in Rootone and all but one took.  Now I always have these lovely little flowers!  Miniature Morning Glory vines are not as rampant as regular-sized ones and only get around 6' long.  You can also train them over coat hanger wire or a wire trellis in a pot for a flowering topiary if you like. 

Miniature morning glory.

I have grown two climbing Roses in a corner here in the past, 'Don Juan' and 'Kathleen', which died for various reasons and are discussed in the Rose and Perennial Court section.  A cheap wooden trellis from a garden center proved a woefully inadequate support, so I intend to install a 4"x4" post here instead for new climbing roses, as the screen enclosure would not be able to withstand anything being attached to it.  Most of the plants here have soft leaves that do not damage the screen and everything with thorns is planted so as not to contact it. 

To match the vines that will be grown in the Butterfly and Hummingbird Border and provide space to grow more of them, I would like to place several large pots in these beds with vines growing teepee-style in them.  Most would be various Passionflowers with different flowers and scents and some with edible fruit.  The pots will be lifted off the ground on concrete pavers, then raised off those by bricks or pot feet for drainage.  This will prevent them growing their roots into the soil, then spreading rampantly.  The way to control vines here is by keeping their root-run small. 

I would also like to grow some Agave (Agave spp.) here.  These are very tough, dramatic-looking plants with long, sword-like leaves.  Some look a lot like Yucca, but they are usually smaller.  The buds and flowers of Agave are edible if boiled first.  There are agaves that are native to Florida.  Another dramatic plant I would like to grow here is Aloe polyphylla, which has foliage spiraling out from the center - very interesting!

Note: These beds have been transformed into the new Berry Beds as of 2011 and into 2012.  The succulents are still there at the very south end, but everything else was mulched over and replanted.  Blackberry plants were moved from other parts of the garden to the south bed and Pineapples and Prickly Pear Cactus were added.  The north bed now contains Raspberry and Blueberry plants, as well as several self-watering containers of Tomatoes and Peppers, which will be rotated to various areas as needed.  The Raspberries and Blueberries are experiments, so things may still change a lot here.


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