A bonfire of flower spikes and emberlike petals makes for a red-hot pairing in winter. The orange spires in Patrick Anderson's garden are Aloe ferox; just behind it is a coral tree (Erythrina x sykesii) that blooms from December through February before its limbs leaf out. The hint of yellow behind the tree's trunk is A. marlothii.
Although the coral tree comes from Australia and the aloes from South Africa, the plants have the same needs: fast-draining soil, full sun, a frost-free location, and minimal water once established, especially during the dry season. Because coral trees drop masses of petals in spring and leaves in fall ― and provide too much shade for succulents in summer ― Anderson planted the aloes 10 feet from the tree. (Plants appear closer because they're on a slope, viewed from below.) The coral tree has thrived in this spot for more than 12 years, and the aloes (from 5-gallon containers) for 8.
The two aloes are among many dramatic succulents that fill Anderson's garden, where the plants are positioned like works of art, blooming in different seasons. Other aloes that bloom in winter in his garden include A. arborescens and A. thraskii, which together create a curtain of bright vermilion blooms.