Went Justin Durango dug up an i-beam while installing the water garden, I asked him to make a planter from it for the front garden. The damaged i-beam had been removed from our house as part of a renovation project in 1999. I’d forgotten about it. Justin suggested cutting the beam into three parts so it would be easier to move and so it could be leveled closer to the ground in the sloping front garden. His suggestion resulted in a tiered effect, like the ponds in back.

December 2020: leveled but empty

After “planting” the planters with pinecones for the winter, I ordered 204 succulent plants from Mountain Crest Gardens. They sent me forty varieties of hens and chicks and seven varieties of sedum, packed for a rigorous journey. Only two of the small plants were damaged in shipping. All the others ones looked very healthy.

I filled the i-beams with Jack’s Gritty Mix for succulents and cactus from Bonsai Jack and tucked in most of the plants. (The rest went into other planters or to the dry-stream-bed slope in back.)

June 2022: the hen and chicks are colorful but not multiplying much

Alas, this gravely mixture gave the succulents more drainage than they needed, especially when temperature extremes stressed the plants. Most of the sedums died, as did a few hens and chicks. Nothing truly thrived. The hard freeze that broke the pond plumbing on Christmas Eve was the last straw for this display. Time for a change!

Before replanting in February 2023
February 2023: the i-beams echo the rusty metal birds and contrast with the lush green Euphorbia characias wulfenii

In February 2023, I emptied the planters and added about two inches of mushroom compost along the bottom of each one. Then I replanted the succulents and topped the beds off with Gritty Mix. The plants love it! Now they are multiplying and creating the lovely fractal patterns I’d hoped for.

July 2023: the i-beams and the garden behind them are filling in nicely
Planter 1
Planter 2
Planter 3
Local rocks hold the planting mixture in place

I’m thrilled with how this project turned out. People walking by often stop to look at the containers. I’m so glad we made a planter with this scrap i-beam instead of having it hauled off to the dump.

The planters serve as a low wall that encourages visitors to use the path