My vertical hardy succulent frame from scratch

Each year for Garden Walk Buffalo,  I tackle one large project. Last year it was the hellstrip planting. Year before it was the bed of heuchera (coral bells) complete with a homemade copper heuchera fountain. One year it was the dwarf pear espalier, another year it was the Harry Potter Garden. One year it was the checkerboard garden. Another year it was the rock garden with rocks from our trips and travels.
Laid out as I plan it in my head. My wife says
I spend more time looking at things than doing things.

This year it’s a 5’x3′ hardy succulent frame made from scratch. I intend to hang it on the outside of the house under my kitchen window. There’s a large blank space there just begging to be filled. It is 5′ long because that is the width of the kitchen window.

Once this is up, there’s pretty much no more room outside walls in the backyard for hanging things. Between the house and fences, I’ve got an ornate grate, a collection of Garden Walk Buffalo posters, three mirrors, a fish head fountain. a diamond-shaped dwarf pear tree espalier, and now this succulent frame. The gallery walls are now full.

I’ll be asking for hardy succulents for Christmas this year (hint hint). I need to fill it in as full as I can. In addition to hardy succulents, I have some Scotch Moss that was growing elsewhere in the garden, and a few sedum. 

I found a place online that sells hardy succulent plugs in large quantities and in many varieties and colors. I may buy a tray of those. In addition, Arrowhead Alpines has a decent selection, though not in larger quantities, and not all a lot that are hardy in my zone – but in some great colors! For now, I have grow lights over the frame. I have until April to collect and let root before it gets picked up, moved outside and hung.

I figured that I’d be having to add soil to it as soil settles once it’s hanging. So I left an opening across the top.
I can water it from the top if I want, too. Corners were secured with corner “L” brackets.
Rigged up a table to work on to lay out all the pieces.
You can see why I chose the chair rail trim. I had considered a rough barn board but this was cheap and easy.
Once I had the frame done, I stapled chicken wire to the edge that the frame will be attached to.
I looked up plenty of succulent frames online before I began. Very few are this large.
Then I started the painting process. I chose to not buy any paints, but to only use paints on hand from other projects that have been sitting around for years. I started with the same green color used on my house. Once it was dry, I scuffed it up, rubbed areas with wax and kept adding layers of other paints, scuffing up and scraping here and there and some sanding too.
I started collecting a few hardy succulents a few weeks ago. I’m a zone 6, and I won’t be taking this in for the winter so they all have to be hardy. I don’t have nearly enough to fill the frame, but I have all winter to collect and add as I can.
Plus, over the summer, I had been encouraging a couple hypertufa pot-fulls of hens and chicks that I had on hand.
I just kept layering on the colors: blue, purple, another green.
Then I found a can of the iridescent orangy-red from our kitchen.
I went in with a fine brush in the lines around the frame.
Next was adding drainage holes. There’s landscape fabric stapled across them on the inside to keep dirt from getting out (and on my house).
I had some plastic netting from another project around, so I added that to the chicken wire. It’s really more to hold the sphagnum moss in, more so than the plants.
I added a first layer of sphagnum moss for holding the plants in and holding the soil in.
After the sphagnum moss was the soil I used some soil meant for cactus and succulents then on top of that some regular potting soil, mixed with vermiculite to lesson the weight.
The top edge will need more soil as it settles when it does get hung up.
I forgot to take a picture of it, but I added a cleat (a 2×4 cut in half at a 45º angle). Half gets attached to the back of this – with the screws and bolts you see (and some Gorilla Glue). The other half of the 2×4 will be bolted to the house. That should hold the weight of it. That’s how I hung my enormously-heavy window boxes on the front of my house.
Once teh back is secured to the frame I turned it over. DAMN was it heavy. When I take it outside in the spring, I be enlisting help.
Then the fun part. The planting!

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

5 comments on “My vertical hardy succulent frame from scratch

  1. That is an enormous project. I worry now that with so many things on the walls your house will, one day, open out like a flower and the insides be exposed. One day, I'd like a mirror in my garden to make it look bigger – but that is the extent of my wall-ambitions. Congratulations on the work, the effort, the strength and the thinking power that you put into your garden.


  2. Anonymous

    Really nice work, Jim. It will be beautiful hanging next year.


  3. Just catching up on your posts. Love these latest ones.


  4. Pingback: Garden deadlines

  5. Pingback: A garden post post

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