Monday, October 31, 2011

Vertical Succulent Frame DIY Tutorial part 2

This is part two of my Succulent Frame project. "It's all about the details." is what one of my great bonsai teachers told me.  I will be covering the types of plants I used, construction details, and how to apply design concepts for the succulent arrangement.

This is an update with details from my vertical succulent frame DIY tutorial in the last post.

Specific plant names that were used include:

Aeonium Zwartkop

Anglicum Sedum

Echeveria Peacockii

My apologies for not knowing exactly what Sempervivum I used because there was no label on it ...

... but there are tons of them and most of them are very well suited to be used in these vertical succulent frames.  Here is an example of several different kinds1:

 Sedum Makinoi 'Ogon'

and lastly but not least is Echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg

Construction Details

This is the back side of the frame without the cement board covering it.  This shows the rot proof heartwood spacer nailed to the sides.  The cement board will sit directly on top of these spacers.  This is an easy way to make an edge for the cement board to sit on without using a router. The backing board is cement board normally used for a support under tiling projects in the kitchen or bath room. This type of board will not rot or deteriorate when exposed to water.

Here you can see the galvanized L-Brackets I used to attach the side wall to the back of the frame.  I also used a waterproof wood glue between the side wall and frame.  If you look closely, you will see a staple holding the green plastic coated hardware cloth.

Using a compressor and pneumatic staple gun, I put a staple spaced about every 3" apart all the way around the edge of the hardware cloth.  The wood frame is sealed with three coats of an outdoor grade decking wood sealer.

After that, you put the cement board on top.  Pre-drill the holes into the cement board before you put the screws in.  I used hardiebacker screws designed for the cement board here.  They come with a specific screwdriver bit.

Every cutting fitted in between the 1/2" openings in the hardware cloth except for the Echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg.  I had to cut a bigger opening to fit the stem in.  Notice the four sharp edges of the wire pointing towards the center of the opening.  This might bite into the stem and that's not good.  The black item above is a short section of 1/4" polytube drip line.  Here's what you do with it...

Cut a slit on one side of the tube with a pair of pointy scissors.  Then wrap it around all four sides of the opening.  This will protect the sharp wire points from biting into the stem of your larger stems.


Most people think too hard and confuse themselves or have no clue where to put what.  Some people just randomly put plants wherever they land.  As for me, I like to apply design techniques because I learned them really well.  Here's what the final arrangement looks like so you can see it before I draw over it to demonstrate how I applied design concepts:

Use a basic shape for example:

Three Perle von Nurnberg Echeverias represent pinks and purples form a triangle.  :)

I placed Sedum Makinoi 'Ogon' along in a C shaped curve.  This curve brings the bright yellows into the composition.

I arranged the Sempervivums in a S-Curve.  These basic curves create an organic element to design and are very elegant.  They are a good contrast against straight edged shapes.  Speaking of contrast , the magic word...

Our vision scientifically tends to get drawn into areas with the highest contrast.  This means as a designer, you can create contrast to guide your viewer's eyes!  Where this red circled area is, I placed the highest tonal contrast putting the dark deep shiny purple Aeonium Zwartkop rosettes next to the chalky white Echeveria Peacockii.  There is also a color contrast since Sedum Makinoi 'Ogon' is yellowish and surrounds the deep purple Aeonium Zwartkop.

Next in my mind is size, color, and texture contrast in this area under the blue circle.  The largest succulent is the Echeveria Perle von nurnberg which is placed next to tiny strands of Anglicum sedum.  Again, Sedum Makinoi 'Ogon' the yellow is placed next to the purples in the Echeveria Perle von nurnberg to provide a color contrast in addition to size contrast.  And finally, the rough textures of the Sedum sets it apart from the large smooth petals on the Echeveria.

Click here to see the high resolution image of the final arrangement.

I think if you can use a few of these ideas in your designs, you will create a more well balanced, thought out, and harmoniously composed arrangement.  I hope this will help you fellow succulent lovers out there.  Good luck and don't forget to have fun while you work!

1. Image Source:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DIY Tutorial: Succulent Frame for Vertical Display!

Welcome to my "how to build a vertical succulent frame and make a succulent arrangement" tutorial.

This is actually  the first vertical succulent frame that I made complete with a plant arrangement.

The size is 20" x 16".  The top frame is a 1" wide by 1/2" tall custom frame that i sealed with three coats of wood sealer a while ago.

I joined another wood frame using a 2" wide canvas stretcher bars to build a depth for the box to contain the soil.  The two frames were combined to make a 2" deep box using rust free metal L-brackets and some waterproof glue.

A piece of hardware cloth (wire mesh) coated with a green plastic was cut a couple of inches bigger than the size of the frame opening so that I can cut out the four corners and fold the sides parallel to the box wall.  I stapled to the folded sides of the hardware cloth to the side of the frame.  The backing board is cement board normally used for a support under tiling projects in the kitchen or bath room.  The board is screwed on to the back of the frame using rust free screws designed for the cement board.  If you're handy with a router you can cut a rabbit to hide the side edge of the cement board.

You can see a little of the details in the frame I used here.  I thought about drilling some drainage holes in the back but decided that it probably won't matter much.  The soil is a mixture of 50% cactus mix and 50% perlite.  Cactus mix already has perlite or pumice depending on which kind you buy but I like adding more perlite because it improves drainage and keeps the mix light weight which is important since we will eventually hang this vertically.

I pack the soil in with a chopstick and covered it with green sphagum moss.  This holds the soil in and fills the surface with a nice green color which will fill in any areas that are left open in between the succulents.  You can see that the moss really holds the soil in when you stand it up.

I wanted to make this succulent arrangement for my wife.  She likes pinks and purples and floral shapes so I decided to go with that color scheme and use yellow as a complimentary color to make accents.  The most affordable succulents I found were actually from The Home Depot.  For pinks and purples, I used three Echeveria 'Perle Von Nurnberg' in a triangle shape'.  The little green succulents on the bottom right is a kind of Sempervivum.  For yellow, my plan was to use Ogon.  Then the plan was to cover the rest of the frame with a ground cover Sedum.  I left the plants in their little pots and roughly arranged them here using the idea of applying S-curves and or C-curves in groups of plants.  You need tweezers and a steady hand to plant these little succulents. 

It took me about three hours to remove all the soil from the plant containers, and plant everything.  I decided to use a few Aeonium Zwartkops (Dark Prince) that are almost black with a deep purple sheen to add a bit of drama.  The planting process is tedious but not difficult.  Just remember to be patient and enjoy the process since you are making a masterpiece ;).

Here she is!  I misted the surface only to take a nice photo.  However, I will not water this for a week so that the cuttings have time to heal and form callouses.  Now we will keep this in the shade and flat on a table for 3-6 months until every cutting is rooted into the soil.  Once the succulents are rooted, they will not be easily pulled out of the frame.  At that point, I will attach a couple of wall hangers and hang it up in our courtyard!  In the mean time, we will enjoy it flat on a table for a while.  Here is a high resolution image if you want to take a closer look!