After the Lawn: A Front Yard of Succulents

– Posted in: Succulents

Gleason, 12.13 & 3.15

Chris and John Gleason of San Diego did a brave thing: They tore out a perfectly fine front yard. Most people who want to save water merely let their lawns die and replace them with less thirsty plants. The Gleasons went several steps further. They got rid of a healthy ornamental plum tree and a privacy hedge that divided their home from the neighbor’s.

Chris in particular likes the look of succulents—their colorful leaves and intriguing shapes—so the couple hired a local landscape designer who specializes in them. Enhancing the new front yard are ultimate no-water embellishments: boulders, swaths of rocks, and a topdressing of decomposed granite. Warm-toned pavers replaced concrete and visually unite house and landscape. The path to the front door now is wider and curves gracefully. Plantings took about a year to fill in.

I’ll show more “Stunning Succulent Front Yards,” Saturday July 25 at noon, at the Palomar Cactus and Succulent Society meeting, Escondido, CA. Guests are welcome; parking and admission free.

Gleason, install & after 4 mos Gleason5, 1.15, 1 yr_2

Photos: John Gleason. 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
7 Comments… add one

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Peony Fan July 21, 2015, 7:19 am

Wonderful post; inspirational; Mr. Gleason is indeed brave. Thank you, Debra.

Kelli July 21, 2015, 10:32 am

I really like the transformation. It has so much more visual interest than it did in the before picture. All the different colors and textures of the succulents and even the rock and gravel add interest. The best part is almost zero maintenance and watering. I wish I could do something like this but I live right smack in the middle of Illinois and we have quite a bit of rain and snow in the winter. Kudos to John for such a beautiful transformation.

Olivia July 21, 2015, 4:18 pm

Love this story, and the before/after photos, but especially the photos of the first year’s landscape growth. After a big change in landscapes, unless you can afford to buy some big plant specimens, the new landscape and plants can look a little sparse and austere. So it’s reassuring to many out there wondering if they can take the plunge to change their landscapes, to see evidence that the landscape fills in very nicely in a short period of time. Also like the change in hardscape (driveway and walkway).

Cute Bianca July 28, 2015, 3:43 am

Looks amazing. 🙂 I really want a front yard like this.

EPA WaterSense July 31, 2015, 1:42 pm

What an impressive transformation! EPA’s WaterSense program is hosting a #WaterSavingYard photo challenge to help prove that you can still have a beautiful landscape by choosing low water-using plants, and this is exactly the type of submissions we’re hoping to see ?:)

For those with a #WaterSavingYard at home, we encourage you to submit a photo of it via Facebook (, by using #WaterSavingYard on Twitter or Instagram, or by emailing us at Enter by August 27th and then vote for your favorite by September 10th!

Saxon Holt August 9, 2015, 9:37 pm

Kathleen – Thanks for posting with the contest link. I hope we can help spread the word. – Saxon

Lori Rivero May 17, 2016, 11:47 pm

how do you keep your crushed granite from washing out of your beds on a heavy rain?

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