Steven Gunther

Succulents thrive in an Encinitas garden just steps from the sea

Debra Lee Baldwin,  – October 26, 2006

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

Five great ideas from this garden

1. Add beach accents. Bonney and Menslage subtly integrate a coastal feeling by tucking shells among groundcovers and in pots.

2. Pair foliage for shape and texture. Round aeonium rosettes sit beside pointy-leafed yuccas and agaves, while soft, mounding jade plants serve as fillers.

3. Consider scale. For maximum visual impact, arrange plants in drifts ― shorter ones in the foreground, taller ones behind.

4. Make cuttings. Succulents with stems root readily, and those that form rosettes (such as agaves) produce pups ― new plants that can be dug up and replanted. That’s how Bonney and Menslage spread the plant wealth; theirs is a garden of cuttings.

5. Let the rain do the watering. Plants in Bonney’s garden are irrigated by rainfall in winter and spring, and by drip the rest of the year. (Although drought-tolerant, succulents do best with occasional watering.) They like well-drained soil.

More:  A gallery of agaves