my new dudleya patch

Can you call a patch of dirt of about eight square feet a garden? I’m starting to consider my recent planting of succulent a miniature little dudleya patch. But a garden?

I’ve already shown off the new species I picked up at my recent native plant society’s sale. Recently I finally got around to giving them their place in the larger garden. The location is more shade than I’d like–maybe four to six hours’ sun with afternoon shade. Situated on the edge of a somewhat irrigated area devoted to fruit trees it might be more moisture than the plants really want. Most of what I’ve read about dudleyas suggests using an inorganic mulch like pebbles instead of the bark that you see here. Still, there’s an older clump of Dudleya edulis that you can see in the near-back of these photos. The clump has done well so far, so there’s hope for the new arrivals.

There are eight Dudleya species in this area of the garden, but they get to share space with a couple other other succulents, a blackish-purple aeonium and the blue chalk fingers plant (Selecio mandraliscae) that is getting to be pretty popular down here as a groundcover. The finger-shaped leaves play nice with the fingers of several of the dudleyas most easily seen in the upper left picture: edulis, viscida, and attenuata.

In the center of the space is this ornate column made out of cast concrete. The previous owners of the house must have gotten a good price on architectural molds because there’s this little column, and another, much larger, outdoor feature that looks like part of a Doric column. Either the owners were of…um, eclectic?…taste or they were postmodern two decades before Charles Moore designed the Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans. The features are made of concrete, however, so it’s a little hard to do much more than try to live with them. Maybe one day I’ll bring the diamond-bladed saw to deal with this feature. Still, living with other people’s choices can sometimes push you towards a solution you never would have come up with yourself.

So, what to do with this column in the Dudleya Garden? One obvious thing would be to place on top of it a mirrored reflecting ball, sort of a garden gazing ball that was popularized in Victorian times. I want to be a little more subversive, though. How would a bowling ball hold up to the elements? I wonder. But for now I’m auditioning a couple of rocks, an irregular chuck of green stone that John picked up somewhere, and a rounded river rock of the sort that you dig up in gardens in my neighborhood, remnants from the days when this land lay many hundred miles to the south in what’s now Mexico, days when the land was lower and drained the big river that formed the area’s Copper Canyons.

In a rock wall about fifteen feet away I had space for a single plant. This will best represent how many dudleyas are found in nature: on steep ground, often growing out of what looks like no soil at all. This is Dudleya virens ssp. hassei, a species found only on Santa Catalina Island. While some dudleya species will form a single, perfect rosette, this single growth should before too long develop into an ever-widening clump of starry foliage.

This little planting in the rocks should soon look a little like something you’d find in nature. But the other patch of dudleyas with maybe a mirrored disco ball? Well, that’s definitely going to be a human-created garden.

11 thoughts on “my new dudleya patch”

  1. I’m especially intrigued by the last dudleya from Catalina. I’ve got Catalina granite all over my succulent garden, mainly brought in to line plantings so the dogs wouldn’t stomp them. And though I sense you’re conflicted about them, I love the little concrete columns!

  2. I like Dudleyas! That will amazing to see how they all bloom and I don’t think that the garden is too small. It’s a feature garden! I vote for the rounded rock, too.
    I once saw a concrete pedestal, two in fact on trash day on the street…heaviest thing I EVER got into my car, but it was too good to pass up. hahaha Love your dudleya garden!

  3. That looks really good. I like the rock on the pedestal because it is unexpected, and bowling balls get terribly sun-bleached after a while.

    D. edulis seems to be quite the survivor–mine has taken terrible abuse (swallowed up by a Limonium) and lived…

  4. Wow, now there’s an idea. Maybe as I’m rearranging the furniture – eh plants in the garden this fall I’ll make a little succulent garden as well…

    How about a large tea pot on that stand, planted with some dudleya? Kind of an Alice-in-Wonderland theme?

  5. How do you do it, James? Just love your Dudleya patch! I’ve been trying to achieve the same on a small slope on the south side of our house, but have been deterred by bunnies and irrigation issues. Based on your comments, I think I’ve been under-watering and depriving my guys of some essential nutrients so they’re not exactly thriving (they’re growing in straight decomposed granite with no extra irrigation summer through fall). I think I’ll have to rethink the watering strategy for the drier months.

  6. Denise, Catalina dudleya to go with Catalina granite? You need to grow this plant!

    Brent, I’m leaning towards the rocks myself…

    Sue, the column is heavy, yes, but it’s also set into a foot-square block of concrete. And when they poured it they poured it just a little crooked, enough to bother the perfectionist in me to no end.

    Loree, I should get one of those fake rocks with speakers and pipe in Donna Summer and the Beegees to go with a disco ball…

    Fer, thanks! They’re getting a good watering this weekend with some rains. They should have a nice winter to establish themselves.

    Hoover, I have other D. edulis plants that seem to have endured the same kind of abuse yours has–and they’ve even self-sown! It probably helps that they’re native to my neighborhood.

    TM, I could imagine the nearby gopher holes are rabbit holes instead, with the mad queen just a few feet away…

    Arleen, I don’t have to endure the same bunny menace as you do, for one big advantage. Another of our local species, lanceolata, seems to grow not as much on rock faces as on steep clay embankments–probably more nutritious than your DG. I guess we all get along a little better with just a little pampering.

  7. A mirrored disco ball with the succulents sounds good to me! Better yet get you a bowling ball and make it mirrored yourself. A project on my to do list. The bowling balls hold up fabulously but they fade pretty fast. The only drawback. You could even stucco a bowling ball and that might fit in better. I think your patch is indeed a garden. It has soil and it grows something so to me that is a garden. Enjoy your Thanksgiving if I don’t speak to you again before then James!

  8. Looks good to me. I kind of like the pedestal; I think I prefer the rock on it. Seems like you could have the rock for a while and then switch it out for the bowling ball when you get bored. We mulch our dudleyas; doesn’t bother them if you keep the mulch from rotting the crowns. Dudleyas have never cared too much about sun/shade in my experience, too.

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