Debra Lee Baldwin’s become the leading advocate for these gorgeous, easy-to-grow plants, and it’s easy to see why. Her photographs are crisp, colorful and modern, and her writing is just infused with enthusiasm and love for her topic.
I confess that until a few years ago, I thought of succulents as kind of old-fashioned, because I’d seen them used in such stale ways. However, Baldwin smashes those stereotypes with new ways of combining succulents and using them in the landscape that are fresh, sustainable and fun. Her use of color and textural contrasts blows me away, and I love the keen eye she takes in pairing succulents to their perfect pots.
If, like me, you are new to growing succulents and need a primer on their varying textures, colors and care needs, there’s an extensive section on each type of succulent that she recommends for container planting, along with photos and design tips on how to use them effectively.
She covers the flower-like Echeverias and Aeoniums, the vining Hoyas and rosary vines, the paddlelike Kalanchoes (pronounced “Kah-lan-KOH-ee” – thanks, Debra!), and the minimalist living stones (Lithops and others). There are also some wonderful tips for which plants pair well with succulents, in terms of having similar water needs and looking good together.
I particularly loved the little cheat sheet in the back that provides a fast reference for anyone trying to create their own succulent container design. With categories like “fillers and cascaders”, “succulents for height”, and all the color categories listed, you can quickly flip to the back for ideas in creating your own succulent plantings.
I’m mostly an in-the-ground, landscape gardener just because I find it hard to remember to water containers every day. But with the lovely plants she recommends, I’ve even felt confident creating a few container plantings that are low-maintenance and have low water needs. I’m also totally inspired by the holiday decorations, living wreaths, topiaries and other floral-like displays she profiles.
Since reading this book, I’ve found that gardening with succulents is one of the easiest ways of making new gardening friends. Succulents divide and root easily, so as soon as you admire someone’s pot of Echeverias, be prepared to be sent home with some snips and divisions for your own garden. Then, of course, you’re waiting impatiently for your own succulents to fill in so you can share the joy with someone else.
Here’s the video trailer for the book:
Want to learn more about designing with succulents?
You can buy her books directly from her website, and if you order from Debra, you’ll get a personalized, signed bookplate illustrated with her artwork.
Check out a few of my favorite of her blog posts over at Gardening Gone Wild: