Plant Feature: Dramatic Shape


Genus: Aeonium

Succulents grown for distinctive rosette forms topping spikes that range in height. There is also a wide variety of foliage colors available including vibrant yellow-green shades, muted gray-greens, deep blackish purples and some are green in center with red edges. Aeonium are related to and at times mistaken for echeverias. Aeonium do well in partial and full sun but can suffer from foliage burn under harshest condition. The plants are only moderately drought and frost tolerant. New plants can be easily propagated from cuttings.


Genus: Agavae

This succulent shrub features a tight rosette of fleshy leaves. Many agave varieties are available with differences in leaf color some of which can be variegated. There are also significant size differences between varieties. Agaves do well in very low water situations. Agaves feature stunning leaf arrangements and dramatic forms that can lend a modern minimalist feel to a gardenscape.

Barrel Cactus

Genus: Ferocactus

This round cactus can provide striking architectural impact in a rock garden and landscapes seeking a modern, streamlined look. In addition to the round shape, barrel cactus are noted for pronounced white or yellow spines. Flowers take several years to appear in circle pattern at the top. Obvious care needs to be taken in locating barrel cactus plantings to avoid neighboring plants that may invade given the difficulty in working amongst the sharp spines.

Dwarf Atlas Blue Cedar

Genus: Cedrus

These blue green coniferous evergreen trees can grow in interesting forms that make them ideal as garden focal points. In small gardens, these trees are best when trained to bonsai-like forms. They can be purchased already trained into serpentine shapes. The trees can also have a distinctive weeping effect. Dwarf varieties can be pruned and trained to do well in small garden areas and borders. Without this maintenance they can become quite large. Full size varieties can be huge.

Fire Sticks

Genus: Euphorbia Tirucalli

This succulent grows to approximately two feet with an appearance that resembles coral. Coloration ranges from green to an orange-red. The red versions offer very high ornamental impact. Propagation can be achieved through cuttings. The plant should be handled cautiously as the milky sap in the plant is extremely toxic but it stays compact and does not need to be pruned. New plants take some time to get going but they are hardy following this.


Genus: Arctostaphylos

As an evergreen California native plant with strong visual interest, it is unfortunate that Manzanitas are not used more frequently in our gardenscapes. Manzanitas can be grown either as a shrubs or small trees. The twisting growth habit and distinctive red color of the limbs makes Manzanita excellent focal points. The plants attract butterflies and birds (including hummingbirds). Manzanita look great in rock gardens and do very well with little water once established. California gardeners will want to consider a variety that does well with local soil conditions.

Sago Palm

Genus: Cycas Revoluta

The Sago is not actually a palm. It is part of the cycad family, sago palms have primitive origins. Fossilized remains found worldwide show that the variety we see today has changed little over time. The plant’s compact form and long dark green pointed leaves serve as a dramatic garden focal point that works well with nearly all garden styles. Sago palms are slow growing and eventually branch. Water needs are modest. Over-watering can lead to root decay.