In the garden there are aeoniums tucked around the base of trees and in other unexpected places. This branching species (Aeonium urbicum) mimics a small forest, and its much bigger neighbor.

The so-called black aeonium, 'Zwartkop'-from a distance it can read as a shadowy gap in the garden planting, but up close it is stunning.

Other aeonium species have a trailing habit and this can be put to good use in the garden to clothe rock edgings along pathways or in containers.

In her book on designing gardens with cacti and succulents, Debra Lee Baldwin describes how easy this group of plants is to propagate, since many form "pups," infant plants that rise around the base of the parent plant. These babies can be separated and planted on to colonize the garden, just as Patrick did with these barrel cacti. A prickly job but worth it for the final stunning effect. Aeoniums are also a breeze to propagate; just snap off a piece and root it in a loose, gravelly soil.

"Cyclops" makes a stunning mop-headed sculpture in a corner of Patrick Anderson's garden. Thanks to southern Callifornia's mild, Mediterranean-like climate, he can grow aeoniums in the open garden, but aeoniums make good container plants.

Learning from Patrick's container displays, I've decided to make a similarly inspired display with my own collection of succulents, beginning by collecting an assortment of pots all in the same glaze color but in different shapes and sizes. The soft pearly gray-greens of the various plants Patrick used are another unifying factor adding to success of the collection, and one I hope to emulate. Wish me luck!

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Amazing Aeoniums

An arid California garden teems with life

Written by Ethne Clarke
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