Desert meets the beach

Succulents thrive in an Encinitas garden just steps from the sea

Debra Lee Baldwin

A garden that looks lush year-round yet requires minimal maintenance: That's what artist Charlene Bonney and her husband, Frederick Menslage, created on a gentle slope facing Moonlight State Beach and the ocean. Their secret? A blend of succulents that bloom brilliantly in midwinter and stand up to wind, drought, and salt spray.

Bonney, who grew up in Arizona, brought the look of the Southwest to the seaside lot.

"I inherited the property in 1990 from my aunt, who was a docent at Quail Botanical Gardens," she explains. She stuccoed the cinder-block house, added desert accents, then spruced up a cactus and succulent collection that had engulfed flower beds around the yard.

Finally she planted agaves, aloes, and other species to cover the slope without blocking ocean views. Bonney loves the plants' bold shapes and bright blooms. Arranged "like a painting, according to shape and color ― light against dark," the garden inspires her art as much as her art inspires her garden.

Next: Five great ideas from this garden