The San Diego designer who created the first "coral reef" style succulent beds has started a good trend. Here in Corona del Mar is the Sherman Gardens version, not quite as "coral reef-ish" (no plastic fish) but beautiful nonetheless. Perhaps it could be called more of a tapestry than a coral reef, tapestry in its tight patterns of rosettes. It omits some plants that give a distinct coral-like effect, such as Euphorbia caput-medusae, and cristate or monstrose forms of plants like Euphorbia lactea cristata. A drawback is the price and sometimes fragility of cristate and monstrose specimens. Just a few would make an impact, however.
Even at two bucks a pop, several hundred Echeverias can get pricey. So start planning and propagating now, and by the time you have 500 Echeverias ready to plant, the "coral reef" style will be long passe. No, seriously, it is beautiful. It's glorious, as a matter of fact.
Variegated Agave americana, Senecio radicans in the basket on the left, blue Senecio and echeverias below:
My comments illustrate the wry and weary attitude a gardener develops over time. Gardening experience can be cruel: if the rabbits don't eat it, there will be a flood. If it's cheap, it will take over the neighborhood and then catch fire. If you really love it and work hard at it for months or years, it will be considered tacky and outre just as you finish. We're gardeners. This is how we live. Nasty things happen, but we endure, and sometimes beauty occurs.
Dasylirion wheelerii there on the right, on the left a few bromeliads, a blue river of Senecio mandraliscae below:
This blue and lavender combination sends me to heaven. Echeveria subridigda, Echeveria 'After Glow', Echeveria 'Perle Von Nürnberg', some small hybrid Aloes, and other species Echeverias:
I wish I had the budget to create this spectacle: Blue Curls Echeveria, grey Graptoveria(?),
This bed looks recently planted, but the very mild conditions near the ocean will keep these plants plumper and more luxuriant than they would be just a few miles inland:
The variegated Agave will quickly outgrow this setting, but it is gorgeous right now. Sedum morganianum tumbles down below:
Even the rocks look happy:
Awesome Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' (I think) there on the left, with a sparse (hard grown?) but blooming Aloe pilcatilis at the top center. In these coastal conditions the Aloe should fatten up in time:
Who says pink and blue are insipid?
5/17/2011 Update: some slight changes to this planter bed here
6/9/2015 Update: another succulent tapestry bed here.