Low Water High Style

A tandem effort transitions a traditional home from grass to succulents.

With their structural form and minimalist, clean design, succulents have always been a popular choice for contemporary homes. But more and more often the lawns of traditionals are being swapped out for succulents. The catalyst for Margee Friend, who lives in Sherman Oaks, was building an outdoor living area with a BBQ, fire pit and seating area. “Originally we were thinking of keeping some of the grass, but with the water situation, we decided it made sense to go all drought-tolerant.” She hired Valley-based landscape designer Sarina Klemes of Danison Designs to do the yard and Katerina Morris of No Water, No Cry to do the pots. Here Sarina and Katerina elaborate on how they achieved the stunning results.

  1. KM: The orange pots keep the eye moving through the yard. Being unafraid of color and using it judiciously can make a space dynamic without being overbearing.
  2. KM: The oblong pots were a creation of mine. I wanted to bring succulent arrangements, typically done in a wide, low pot, up higher. So I developed plinths by turning tapered, cylindrical pots upside down and painting them to match. 
  3. SK: The pavers with the river rock provide transition and help introduce the garden. They also serve as a path from the pool area to the different destination spots in the back.
  4. SK: Senecio mandraliscae covers a large area really fast and doesn’t require a lot of water or maintenance. It gives a lot of bang for the buck. 
  5. SK: Cordylines australis ‘Pink Stripe’ add color which excites the eye. They are a beautiful accent to the blueish-green groundcover and yellow Palo Verde trees.
  6. SK: The drought-tolerant Palo Verde trees hide the basketball court from view, add color and fullness, and grow really fast. When not in bloom they still have a delicate, wispy beauty with green trunks, branches and leaves.


Agave Americana var. ‘alba’ The green and yellow spears offer strong, vertical lines.

Portulacaria Afra (“Elephant’s Food”) With dark stems and small green leaves, it sprays outward. Nice contrast with the more vertical Agave.

Aeonium Arboretum var. ‘atropurpureum’ With almost black leaves and a green center, it provides great contrast.

Crassula Ovata (“Hummel’s Sunset”) Round lobes that are red-tipped and seem to almost vibrate.

Senecio var. ‘mandraliscae’ Reflects the blue/green groundcover in the garden.

Sedum Morganianum (“Burro’s Tail”) Evocative of a bunch of grapes, it softens and breaks the hard lines at the edge of the pot.