Urban Gardens and Hidden Hikes: Growing Echeveria and Exploring Your City
My friend and I had set out to hike a hidden staircase route around 6 that evening, in order to be bathed in golden hour light. We were greeted instead by a cloud cover that made the walk more San Francisco than L.A., which was perhaps a better fit for the hills and overgrown gardens of this section of Silverlake. Secret Stairs, our book guide, told us one street was so bucolic, you might find lawn chairs in front yards. Sure enough, the homeowners complied. Befitting Hollywood, in a neighborhood rumored to have housed Lily Tomlin, it seemed a bit staged, and we didn’t linger long.
We were so outdoorsy, gazing not at our phones but the printed map in the book, as views of downtown Los Angeles or the Hollywood sign surprised us at various twists and turns. A woman walking her dog stopped to recommend another set of stairs, and a man slowed to make sure we weren’t lost. Towards the end of the climb, we rounded a corner to stroll along a street filled with envy-inducing architecture, rambling Craftsman homes mixed with California bungalows, an old growth magnolia tree shading an open second-story window, its roots overpowering the yard. In the midst of a sculpture garden that looked straight from the sands of Burning Man, a succulent garden caught my eye – especially the Echeveria ‘Afterglow,’ its pink flowers blooming bright against its muted purple, waxy leaves.
I want. And thankfully, with my porch-steps-potted-garden, they thrive as potted plants, as well as in your garden in coarse, well-drained soil, that is allowed to dry out thoroughly between drinks. Most echeverias are generally best in Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24 (USDA hardiness zones 8-11). Originally from Mexico and Central America, they won’t survive in a freeze. If you live in a cold climate, move them indoors to winter, then slowly, a few hours a day, reintroduce them to the sun come spring. Though they love full sun, Echeverias don’t like harsh afternoon summer sun, so choose a home for them that receives some shade later in the day.
I highly recommend the Hidden Stairs hiking guide, or if you’re not an Angeleno, simply getting lost in your city, to wend your way through streets you may have never noticed before. What plants have you discovered while out on a walk in your world? Talk to us on Twitter @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.