Succulent People of the San Diego Botanic Garden

While spending the day at the San Diego Botanic Garden, my favorite moment was walking around the corner and discovering I was in the middle of a party with life-sized Succulent People.

Pat Hammer (who was also the Botanic Garden’s Director of Operations,) is the genius behind these incredible works of art.  She even made clay masks of select members of the Horticultural Society to use as their faces!  (Pat and her topiary art can also be found at Samia Rose Topiary.)

Take a close look at the photos to get a sense of just HOW MUCH detail went into each person, the expression on their faces, the grace, and the humor.  

Simply amazing.

I’m guessing he’s grumpy because he doesn’t have a dance partner.  Or maybe he’s just sick and tired of Covid19.  I bet that’s it.    😉

 

p.s.  When I originally published a different version of this post in 2011, Pat left a comment, filling in more of the details.  I thought you’d all like to read a bit more:   

How wonderful so many people are enjoying our topiary. For the record, these figures were originally created for the Philadelphia Flower Show in 2003 and they were covered with many cultivars of Hedera helix.

When they returned to California they traveled around to several other venues including the San Diego County Fair in 2003. When I closed Samia Rose Topiary in 2005 and joined the staff at the San Diego Botanic Garden I brought my favorite topiary with me. They were like part of my staff.

Actually, many of the faces are cast from my SRT staff so each of these figures are like good friends. However, I must give credit to the SDBG Topiary Team made up of all volunteers and led by Margaret Jones.

Inspired by the work of Margee Rader and Debra Lee Baldwin our volunteers set out to replant them one by one with succulents which require much less maintenance here in southern California.

I hope everyone will visit the San Diego Botanic Garden and continue to watch our progress.

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27 Comments

  • Hope to view the succulent people sometime when 8 can visit San Diego again. Thanks
    Connie B.

    Reply
      • So creative and unusual. Love the faces replicating people she knows. Evelyn

        Reply
        • I agree, Evelyn, it’s the faces that make these living sculptures so amazing, isn’t it?

          Reply
  • Hi Rebecca!
    I just found your blog! As a succulent lover myself and I have admired the photos taken at this beautiful garden. Especially of these succulent ladies! Absolutely stunning. I had not seen the second one. Those huge echeveria ‘after glow’ (I think) on her skirt are so beautiful! Someday I would like to see this wonderful place. Thank you for showing us!

    Reply
    • Hi Candy – thanks for stopping by! You would most certainly love the Botanical Garden (these ladies, in particular!) I hope you get the chance to see it someday!

      Reply
  • Wow! I just got off the phone with Margaret Jones – I was telling her about an article I saw in Dirt du jour about this amazing succulent art and she said, “I working on them right now!” She directed me to this link for more details….I keep forgetting that Quail Gardens changed to San Diego Botanical Garden!
    Now, I am even more excited to take a road trip with my garden club friends to see San Diego Botanical Garden and Margaret’s amazing work! She is slowly removing the ivy and replacing it with different succulents to “dress the form”. If she doesn’t like how it turns out, she tries some other succulent! Her favorite is the dancing girl – exquisite! Margaret is an inspiration and artist!

    Reply
    • What timing, right Darla! The more people who comment about these beautiful works of art points out an important fact – it takes a village to create a masterpiece in the garden (or something like that!!). Pat, Margaret, Debra and all the other docents who help with the topiaries always-changing succulent ‘wardrobe’ have my complete admiration. I hope to meet some of them in person someday!

      Reply
  • How wonderful so many people are enjoying our topiary. For the record, these figures were originally created for the Philadelphia Flower Show in 2003 and they were covered with many cultivars of Hedera helix. When they returned to California they traveled around to several other venues including the San Diego County Fair in 2003. When I closed Samia Rose Topiary in 2005 and joined the staff at the San Diego Botanic Garden I brought my favorite topiary with me. They were like part of my staff. Actually, many of the faces are cast from my SRT staff so each of these figures are like good friends. However, I must give credit to the SDBG Topiary Team made up of all volunteers and led by Margaret Jones. Inspired by the work of Margee Rader and Debra Lee Baldwin our volunteers set out to replant them one by one with succulents which require much less maintenance here in southern California. I hope everyone will visit the San Diego Botanic Garden and continue to watch our progress.

    Reply
    • How wonderful you stopped by, Pat, I’m truly honored! And thank you so much for giving us all a little more information about your beautiful works of art. I love hearing about their transformation from ivy to succulents. So similar to gardens which are always undergoing some form of change.

      Reply
  • Those are absolutely magnificent, thanks for sharing. I surely wish those succulents were winter hardy for me, but alas not.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry, Susy. I think I’d just die if I wasn’t able to plant at least a few succulents. Are you sure even the super cold-hardy varieties of sempervivums or small-leaf sedums wouldn’t survive?? Might be worth a try? My parent’s home is in Lake Tahoe, and some of the sempervivums regularly covered with 10′ of snow and I’m always amazed that they come back stronger than ever in the spring!

      Reply
  • The pictures are wonderful and yes Pat Hammer designed them and made them. At first they were planted with ivy and were used in various places such as the fair. Since Pat put them in San Diego Botanic Garden the docents have slowly changed them to succulents. A mention needs to be made on their hard work and artistry!

    Reply
    • You’re absolutely right, Bette! As a landscape designer, it’s one thing to create and install a beautiful garden but it’s those who maintain it throughout the years that sometimes deserve as much credit! Thanks for letting me know who maintains them!

      Reply
  • Whoa!!!! Those are incredible. Putting this place on the list of gardens to check out the next time we’re down south.

    Reply
  • Pat is my kind of artist. I can’t imagine the time it took to dream of these pieces. She has the vision I can only dream of… Keep having fun, Pat!

    Reply
  • Oh dear, new gardening goals… I can only dream. These are amazing. Absolutely amazing.

    Reply
    • Glad you liked them, Barbara. I love them too – walking around the corner and running into them was such a welcome surprise!

      Reply
  • These are just wonderful! I also enjoyed your last post on black plants. I usually do not incorporate black in my landscape, but I am leaning toward some of the darker plantings like Euphorbia Blackbird and the Ninebarks, Dark Horse Weigela, etc.

    Eileen

    Reply
    • Thanks Eileen – I think you’ll be pleased with the ‘shadow-y’ element dark plants can give to a planting bed, creating depth when there isn’t any, etc. I’ve had the best luck with the euphorbias in a 5-gallon vs. a 1-gallon size. Seems they’re hardier that way.

      Reply
  • Yes! They are quite amazing! The masks are a little creepy though, maybe too lifelike? (for me…). Guess the San Diego Botanical Garden had better go on my “must see” list.

    Reply
    • Yes, the masks add a whole other dimension to these topiaries, don’t they? That one guy looks downright angry! I probably wouldn’t be too happy either if I had clay all over my face. Still, they’re pretty darn awesome and you should definitely check this place out. It was probably the best botanical garden I’ve seen yet.

      Reply

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