Succulent Tapestries

| September 6, 2017 | 0 Comments

I went with the Mission Hills Garden Club for an entertaining presentation by Laura Eubanks showing how she assembles gardens and is paid for doing so. Eubank’s path is both interesting and amusing. I know she has an incredible innate sense of design as she was completely untrained. Eubank has always loved gardens. With four children, it was a few years before it was no longer “cool to volunteer to help at school.” She decided to use the extra time to plant her garden with lilies of the Nile and marigolds. Unfortunately, she made several mistakes. The snails devoured her marigolds. She was terribly disheartened but felt succulents were “beneath her.” Eubank was a garden snob. Eventually she had a garden of impatiens. While they were in full bloom and health, Eubank held a garage sale. An elderly man came to it and said, “Young lady, you have the loveliest display of backyard impatiens I ever seen.” He hired her to plant him a garden.

Despite her lack of training, Eubank, with no advertising whatsoever, found herself with a successful practice of installing landscapes. By 2007 she decided she needed to know something about what she was doing; she joined the Master Gardeners and became one.

She worked hard, and she was conscientious about making certain the gardens were well maintained. Maintenance eventually took so much time that she had no time to design and install. With four school-aged children, she could only work from nine until three. To enable her to have a life and a job, Eubank decided to install succulents. She says, “Now I just plant stuff. I go back once a year.” This is when she does the little maintenance needed for succulents – trimming and replanting.

Eubank began her garden installations with containers. Using moss and regular school glue or Aleene’s Clear Gel Tacky Glue, she decorates pots, statues, odd items from garage sales, which she may or may not paint, and anything else that strikes her fancy. She has even planted on napkin rings. Eubank begins with one plant which she breaks up. She glues moss to the found objects before gluing the succulent pieces she had broken up. Succulents are not fussy. They apparently are quite content to live in glue-flavored moss. Eubank likes using gourds or pumpkins as objects on whose hard surface skin she glues moss. She advises keeping the squash intact, as it will last months instead of becoming a sodden mess like a carved Halloween pumpkin collapsing with mold within a week.
In both containers and on the ground, Eubank likes to use rocks, pebbles or even boulders to enhance the look. She stressed her lack of pre-planning; she says she just gathers plants and accessories and somehow it works. One of the gardens she was asked to do was a fairy garden. It had several tiny houses, tiny paths, and wonderful, scaled down plants.

Word spread about Eubank’s talent. She transformed miniature condominium and townhouse gardens into tranquil resting spots. She relishes the idea of her clients stepping outdoors into one of her gardens to refresh and re-create themselves.

While Eubank says she has “no actual plan; it just happens,” she does suggest putting your focal point off center. It may be a rock or mounds of dirt. She avoids leaving the ground flat. Laura advocates having a half cubic yard of good well-draining soil delivered. If your soil is clay or decomposed granite, you may need to mix it with the good soil and some sand. Have at least three three kinds of plants, and don’t forget irrigation. Once established, the plants don’t need much, but in the beginning, cuttings love to be misted. Too much water will rot them. Another caution she mentioned was to avoid using black rocks or paving as they absorb heat, especially if your garden or a portion of it, will be in very hot sunlight. Stress is not always bad for succulents. Stress often turns a succulent a lovely, bright color.

When you are ready to place your succulent, cut off the head leaving just a small stub of stem below it. A dab of glue will both seal the wound and help the plant stay upright. Eubank likes to crowd the plants tightly together, grouping them for texture, size, shape and color. Until they are established, don’t let them get too hot. Once they are established, they should thrive if they are ignored.

Eubank frequents hardware stores, and goes to places in Lakeside (KRC) and in Pacific Beach for pebbles and rocks. San Marcos is good for rocks and perhaps boulders. None of these are cheap. Succulents, on the other hand, are like rabbits. They reproduce like mad; and since they grow so well from cuttings, you could exchange yours with friends’. Best of all, you will not be slaving in your garden.

Beginning September 23, the Mission Hills Garden Club will be meeting at Mission Hills Nursery (1525 Fort Stockton Drive) from 6 until 8 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the odd- numbered months. November’s meeting will be on the third Wednesday to allow for Thanksgiving preparations. Our goal is to have fewer but better meetings. It is also membership renewal time. $35 gives you a year’s membership plus a ten per cent discount at Mission Hills Nursery. A family membership is $50.

Laura Eubanks created this whimsical garden design with a variety of succulents and imagination.


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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.