Succulents have been described as the “retro” plants of today - with shapes, colours and textures that fit in well with the modern, simple style of décor and home design.
As gardening takes on a more environmentally conscious approach, aspects such as water conservation and wildlife gardening are incorporated into the design.
Whether you have or would like to install a more conventional rock garden or something more modern, here are some tips for creating a beautiful succulent garden.
Soil type and soil landscaping
Succulents are not very fussy about soil type (Just not water retaining clay) as long as it is healthy and well drained.
To ensure that soil does drain well one can condition it with the addition of sand and loam, and shaping soil so that you create undulations assists with the drainage of soil.
When creating a rain water harvesting garden, succulents are an excellent addition to the drought hardy section of planting that does not ever have soil saturated for a prolonged time.
A little natural, slow release 2:3:2 fertilizer can be added once or twice a year, as well drained soil can mean that many nutrients are leached out.
Although succulents are low-water in their requirements they are not “no-water” plants.
All plants need some water.
Succulents are well adapted to long dry periods , and a general rule is that the more fleshy and “fat” they are, the more drought hardy too.
To keep them looking their best, water succulents through long dry periods, letting the soil dry out between watering. NEVER over water.
Plant succulents together with some non succulent plants for striking effect. In nature, you may often find grasses, drought hardy small shrubs and bulbs associated with succulents.
Copy nature and be rewarded with beauty and increased variety of wildlife visiting the garden.
Use containers to either enhance or raise succulents in your garden, or to add repetition to your garden planting - one of the key successes to good garden design.
If space is short for putting in an entire large succulent garden, containers planted up with miniature gardens can be hugely successful.
Consider the garden users
The more habitat you create in your succulent water conservation garden, the greater the variety of visitors you are likely attract.
Include rock, wood and water in your garden, as well as areas of mulch where some creatures will be able to enter the soil.
Again one of the key elements of good garden design, it does need to be in keeping with the style and feel of the rest of the garden.
ALWAYS consider putting a focal point in the garden. Plant this first, and then continue planting around it.
Repetition creates rhythm in the garden and ties it together beautifully. Repetition can be in the form of plant species, shape or form, colour or in the containers that you use.
Repetition creates visual simplicity, and this will enhance the harmony in your garden.
Group plants together for stronger effect. Make a statement with a couple of the same species of succulents. This is particularly impactful if you use plants with different leaf and stem colours.
Succulents come in an array of shapes, textures and colours. Contrasting these against each other can accentuate their features, providing variety and interest, but always keep the harmony of the design in mind.
Height and Scale
Be aware of the eventual size of plants newly planted in your garden relative to the size of your garden and other planting.
Tall, bold succulents are wonderful focal points, but keep their scale in proportion to the size of your garden. When planting, leave space around younger large plants to accommodate their eventual size.
Using Rock and other accessories
Apart from creating interest in the succulent garden, accessories such as rock, pebbles, driftwood, create habitat for wildlife.
Accessories such as pots and sculpture can even be used to create a focal point or enhance a plant that is the focal point. Keep accessories in context with the rest of the design.
Ultimately, whatever garden style we choose to adopt in our gardens, we should endeavour to act sustainably, conserving energy and water in every way possible.
By preserving natural habitats and incorporating all or at least some elements of sustainability in our gardens we can maintain the biodiversity that urbanisation so often displaces and often exterminates.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work together with our neighbours to turn Johannesburg and its surrounds into a flourishing environment, with healthy waterways, gardens and open areas that can sustain a biodiversity second to none.
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