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.
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
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.
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!)
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!