Claire Curran

These plants lend personality to a garden

Sharon Cohoon,  – November 8, 2004

Not having succulents in his new garden would have been unthinkable to Ernest Cohen. He grew up with them. His father, Robert, adored the strong personalities of these plants and developed a succulent fantasia. But including them was a little scary, Ernest says: “Like being Picasso’s son and trying to paint.”

Jeff Powers of Earthscaping in Laguna Beach created a succulent border that pleases both father and son. Powers laid out succulents in drifts: apple green aeonium rosettes, icy blue senecio fingers, and rose-tipped pads of kalanchoe. In between, he added herbaceous perennials with comparably modest water requirements: gloriosa daisies (Rudbeckia), coreopsis, dwarf alstroemerias, penstemons, foxgloves, Salvia greggii, and coneflowers. The style of Ernest’s new garden is different from his father’s (most of Robert’s succulents are in containers), but both love its drama. “It’s one of the boldest gardens I’ve seen,” says Ernest. “But it’s a soothing sort of bold.” 


For accents, Powers set several potted ‘Valencia’ and navel orange trees behind the succulents. The bottom of each pot has been carefully sawed away, giving the citrus the best of both worlds: Thanks to its elevated position, the tree gets the good drainage that citrus requires, yet its longest roots are unrestricted. Each pot even has its own built-in drip irrigation system and an uplighting fixture.