Succulent Wall Backdrop Anyone?


succulent wall, wedding backdrop

The Suc­cu­lent Wall Back­drop, completed!

This time of year we aggres­sive­ly take time to enhance the estate for next sea­son’s wed­ding and lodg­ing sea­son. I always have a pret­ty long list of action items. Tony and I feel very lucky that most of these projects are now small­er tweaks! Our last huge project being the 90 pan­el solar install that no one sees (hid­den on the low­er half of the estate cap­tur­ing lots of sun­shine). We also built a nice fence near the front of the estate. And, added love­ly aggre­gate walk­ways around our guest bath­rooms (done, done, and done!)

But, I real­ly want­ed to do a bet­ter job hid­ing our well pump this win­ter and replac­ing the old ‘blind’ we had cre­at­ed a few years ago. Since wed­ding guests and lodgers see this area when they first arrive at the estate, I want­ed to remove this one unat­trac­tive area that need­ed a make over. Cre­at­ing a suc­cu­lent wall back­drop for wed­dings seemed like a cool solution.

How we designed our succulent wall

So, like many of our brides, I scoured Pin­ter­est for great ideas and came up with the con­cept of a suc­cu­lent wall–and some­where on the way, I hap­pened to scope out full wed­ding back­drops from botan­i­cal gar­dens and tem­po­rary struc­tures that cou­ples cre­at­ed. To my poor handy hus­band’s cha­grin, our project dou­bled in size along the way to cre­ate this 8 foot tall, 400 suc­cu­lent strong liv­ing garden!

Since I had some great help online and here at home with Tony and our garden

er Joey Gre­ja­da, lend­ing a hand, I did want to doc­u­ment how we did it and I think if we are suc­cess­ful long term, you will see it in our @thecasitasestate tags and hash­tags via social media. I also feel my babies will keep grow­ing and sup­ply more of my sev­en acres with even more sus­tain­able, drought tol­er­ant suc­cu­lent gar­dens. I’m so excit­ed about that and already have friends ask­ing to trade plants from my suc­cu­lent wall around the Cen­tral Coast.

The materials we used to create our backdrop

So we used pre-treat­ed ply­wood to resist water rot and anchored two 10 foot 2X6 pre-treat­ed boards 8′ apart in con­crete and then used 10 1X4 red­wood planks as rows. In hind­sight, I won­dered if I should have tried build­ing the suc­cu­lent wall with chick­en wire where all the suc­cu­lents could be ‘cut in’ as need­ed. This would allow a tighter palate, but I do like the uni­for­mi­ty each ‘shelf’ offered to hold in the soil and retain water. Time will tell of course.


My good friend Laura Greaves of Viva La Succulents stopped in to impart wisdom!

My good friend Lau­ra Greaves of Viva La Suc­cu­lents stopped in to impart wisdom!

If you are a suc­cu­lent lover, I will share that no one inspired me more than the won­der­ful help­ful blog­posts from Matt of DIY Green­walls and of course, the world famous Patrick Blanc ‑he is off the charts amaz­ing. We plan to dine at Juvia, one of the restau­ran­t’s he installed in Mia­mi lat­er this Spring! (Look at their ‘ambi­ence’ tab for a real treat.) Maybe we are the only cen­tral coast wed­ding venue with this unique fea­ture to offer!

After the red­wood shelves were placed, I cut 8′ long strips of per­me­able gar­den fab­ric and used a sta­ple gun to cre­ate a pock­et for every row. The fab­ric is the type that will allow water to flow, pos­si­bly slow­er as it trick­les down, but would hold soil in place for each row of suc­cu­lents so they have a uni­form envi­ron­ment to grow into. I need to keep this entire wall look­ing hap­py and healthy for images our bridal cou­ples. Lodg­ing guests might choose to take dur­ing their stays here too! I think this method is actu­al­ly work­ing quite well. My hope is that once each suc­cu­len­t’s roots take hold and min­gle, the wall will become that much hap­pi­er and the red­wood slats will dis­ap­pear as they pati­na anyway.

We resolved a few issues

Tony and Joey building our original succulent wall at the Casitas Estate

Tony and Joey, the Abstract Arborist, with an assist!

Soon in, we did real­ize that the weight of the plants, soil and water would cause bow­ing in the cen­ter of the 8′ planks, so Tony and Joey added L‑brackets as sup­ports and I did a pret­ty good job of hid­ing them with moss or a dou­ble stacked set of suc­cu­lents in a giv­en row. I think this did the trick.

Joey, our gar­den­er, also helped me by adding a new sta­tion. We used drip irri­ga­tion for each and every row. This way the water­ing would be uni­form through­out the struc­ture and not allow the top to dry out or water to set­tle and have the low­er plants much happier.

We are still going to have to play with this aspect over time, but hold cau­tious opti­mism. In the mean­time, I have a nice mist wand that I am using to baby each row and water uni­form­ly at this stage. I feel the drip isn’t enough solo while the plants have not root­ed them­selves in the structure.

You may also notice a few key plant­i­ngs on my suc­cu­lent wall with larg­er ‘stun­ners.’ I strate­gi­cal­ly posi­tioned these to show in the images, where a cou­ple would­n’t be stand­ing. This includes an agave that will cer­tain­ly over­grow the struc­ture in 4–8 months and need to be replaced.

Found these babies at Home Depot for $5.99 and divided them up, giving me $1 plants.

Found these babies at Home Depot for $5.99 and divid­ed them up, giv­ing me $1 plants.

Succulents for the future, to trade and spread

But that’s the beau­ty of this wall, I can pull out babies and larg­er suc­cu­lents to place down in my sea gar­den by the pool or one of our patio gar­dens off the guest hous­es here on the estate. I secured these larg­er suc­cu­lents with string wrapped around their base and sta­pled the string to the back ply­wood wall — this way, even as they are top heavy, they will be held in place until they root. (at least that is the plan!)

I wish I'd thought to take a picture of how muddy I was but the wet soil method worked best.

In progress

Finishing the project

Sourc­ing the plants for the wall was also a fun albeit cost­ly project, but I was able to find some six packs at local nurs­eries. Some had large clus­ters of plants I could sep­a­rate. Hav­ing amaz­ing local places for suc­cu­lents like Native Son and Grow­ing Grounds did­n’t hurt. I focused on NOT buy­ing green suc­cu­lents, as they are so per­va­sive. This way, if I con­cen­trat­ed on blues, reds, pur­ples and the occa­sion­al yel­low, maroon and oranges, the greens would­n’t end up over­pow­er­ing the palate. I feel like this was a great move.

Even the green suc­cu­lents I used pos­sess a spe­cial qual­i­ty like the flow­ers they pro­duce or col­ors their edges turn when stressed. So, time will tell but ini­tial­ly, I am very hap­py with the bal­ance of my suc­cu­lent wall. Hap­py to hear what you think, we are excit­ed to offer this at our wed­ding venue, and I hope you are enjoy­ing your suc­cu­lent gar­dens as much as I am.

Update-as of 7/2017–just six months lat­er,  it is thriv­ing. Many guests love it as well as the wed­ding cou­ples and it’s pret­ty pop­u­lar for self­ie walls. I’ve had to replace a few top-heavy suc­cu­lents, and try to con­trol snails that love to eat spe­cif­ic plants, but over­all it’s been a huge hit!

Our wall as of 07/2017, ?: Amy Wellencamp Photography

Our wall as of 07/2017, ?: Amy Wellen­camp Photography