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Creative Bird Feeder Materials & How-To 

If you’d like to make lovely bird feeders similar to those in my video, Eight Creative Bird Feeders for Your Garden, you’ll find materials, suggestions and how-to here.

Depending on the time of year, I’ll have as many as 20 birds of a dozen different species at feeders I’ve positioned outside my office, kitchen and dining room windows. I’m in the foothills northeast of San Diego where native plants such as oaks and fan palms provide nesting sites. The second-floor deck where most of my feeders are located is adjacent to trees with limbs for perching and hiding, is high enough to be safe from cats, and isn’t easy for squirrels or nocturnal varmints to access.

It’s helpful to have:
— A dozen rustproof heavy-duty steel S-hooks, each about 3 inches long
— About 15 feet of soft, flexible, rustproof wire. 
— A 6-foot-tall wrought-iron free-standing plant stand designed for hanging baskets.

If you’ll be hanging feeders from your home’s eaves, you’ll also need a hammer and nails, several feet of chain, and a stepladder.

Optional: Spray-paint for metal. I paint my repurposed metal and wire feeders with Rust-Oleum so they’re all the same color (to match my home’s trim).

Essential: Keep them clean! It’s better to not put food out than to let feeders get dirty. Feeding birds is messy. Every evening, I hose the area, bring in the feeders, and clean them with hot water and dish soap. I don’t let food come into contact with bird droppings, which can spread diseases. And if I see a sick bird at a feeder, I stop putting out food for several days.

I found this ornamental bird cage and glass dish—both candleholders—at a thrift store. About $6 total. The goldfinch was gratis.

Metal drink holders (aka “beverage stakes”) are designed to go next to lawn chairs to hold bottles or soda cans. They’re perfect for suet cylinders, providing you set each in a plastic lid that keeps the suet from crumbling away. (I give my birds suet year-round, even though I live in a mild climate, because the extra fat and protein encourages brood production. It also attracts woodpeckers, grosbeaks and jays.) Each holder has a long vertical bar for staking into the ground. I placed this one, being enjoyed by a male grosbeak, in the same 5-gallon plant container shown below.

Small dishes and votive cups are handy for peanuts and seeds. But once they get wet, birds won’t eat out of them, so clean and refill them daily. The bird is a spotted towhee.

The hanging candleholders (“tea light lanterns”) are available at Cost Plus World Market and Amazon. In them are 2.5-inch-diameter glass tea light holders (“votive holders”) that contain grape jelly (from any supermarket) and sugar water (1 cup sugar to 4 cups water, boil and let cool). You don’t want to fill the entire candleholder with food because it’s too much, will likely get wet or go to waste, and is hard to clean. You also may have to unhook the feeders to bring them inside for cleaning, which means getting out a stepladder. Tea light holders, on the other hand, can easily be removed, washed and dropped back into the candleholders. Even though they’re stable enough that their contents won’t splash onto birds, like the Anna’s hummingbird at lower right, it’s best not fill them to the brim.

The flower pot that the oriole is sitting on is by Fallbrook, CA artist-potter Alicia Iraclides, who also fashions the lovely copper loops that her pots hang from. The glass dish came from a thrift store (or possibly my kitchen cupboard). Regardless, at 5 inches in diameter, it’s a perfect fit. It doesn’t slide around, is shallow enough (1-1/2 inches) for birds to easily access, yet also is deep and wide enough to hold the right amount of food (1/4 cup of grape jelly or 1/2 cup of seed mix).

This 14-inch diameter metal bird cage came from Home Goods—a seasonal item. Here’s a similar one on Amazon. Also this “lantern.” The bars are about an inch apart, which is perfect for letting in small birds (like finches) and keeping out large ones (like jays and doves). If bars in your ornamental bird cage/bird feeder are closer together, prop the door open or bend and spread the wires so that little birds can come and go. I lined the cage with a paper towel and placed a glass saucer atop it, full of seed mix. This makes it easy to clean and helps elevate the birds for better viewing.

Both this stylized metal “nest” (16 inches in diameter) and bowl-like platter (10 inches) were thrift-store finds. I used coated, rustproof wire to secure the nest to the corner of the metal deck railing. I decided not to spray-paint it beige because it’s the same color of the railing. In the dish is Wild Birds Unlimited’s No Mess Blend which includes millet (which doves and quail like) and sunflower and nut bits that other birds enjoy. I also buy raw peanuts and sunflower seeds in bulk at Sprouts. Jays and titmice eat peanuts; finches prefer sunflower seeds—and nyger, but that’s too messy, perishable and expensive. There’s a grosbeak at left and oak titmouse at top.

This spherical candleholder came from a second-hand shop that specializes in utilitarian antiques. It originally was black, so I spray-painted it beige. Items like this are fun to hunt for and not difficult to find (hint: they’re often hanging from the ceiling, so look up). The best ones have an open design that lets you easily view birds that visit. Yes, birds will use feeders made of wood, plastic and other non-transparent materials, but isn’t getting a good look at these flitting, fleeting creatures what birdwatching is all about?

Related info on this site:

On my YouTube channel, check out my playlist: Debra’s Bird Feeders.

 

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Cochineal Scale on Paddle Cactus, What To Do

White fuzzy lumps on paddle cactus indicate the presence of a parasite that pierces the plant’s skin and consumes its juices. A bit of cochineal (coach-en-ee-al) scale is no big deal, but it does tend to spread and may eventually kill the plant.

Your first line of defense is to blast what appears to be bits of cotton with a hose to dislodge them. However, in crevices and where a hose can’t reach, they’ll proliferate. I take preventive action and scrub my paddle (opuntia) cacti at the first sign of infestation with insecticidal soap. I also remove any badly infested pads and those growing quite close to each other (slice them off at the joints).

Then I treat the plants with Safer insecticidal soap. So named because it’s safe for the environment, it controls soft-bodied insects without harming plants like harsher soaps may. (Don’t use dishwashing liquid on succulents.) I mix 4 or 5 tablespoons of concentrated Safer soap to a gallon of water, then dip a long-handled, soft-bristle brush into the solution and scrub the pads.

This removes the insects (which are not mealybugs, a common misconception), won’t scratch the pads, and leaves a soapy residue that inhibits the pests’ regeneration. I do this “as needed”—about every six weeks in the summer. In winter, if the problem persists, I spray with Neem oil.

In my YouTube video, How to Treat Cochineal Scale, helper James squashes the bugs with his thumb.

Cochineal scale does have the odd benefit of entertaining garden visitors, especially kids. Squish a white lump and you’ll get marvelously realistic “blood.” (Use cold water to remove any stains on clothing.) Of course if the opuntia has spines—as most do—real blood also is a possibility. If so, simply use a stick to squash and smear the cottony bumps.

Insects nestled within the waxy white fuzz are rich in carminic acid, a red liquid that repels ants, birds and other predators. Used by ancient Aztecs to color woven fabric, cochineal scale was highly prized by Spanish conquistadors, who considered it second in value only to New World silver.

Cochineal insects under a microscope. Actual size: 0.2 inches (5 mm).

Because harvesting cochineal dye is labor intensive, it was replaced by synthetic dyes in the 1800s. But due to cancer-causing concerns, natural red dye is now back in favor with food and cosmetic manufacturers. Next time you pick up something that’s edible, red and packaged, read the label. If ingredients list “carmine,” “cochineal,” “E 120,” or “natural red 4,” it’s been colored—ironically, to make it more appealing—with insects.

Related info on this site:

Uh-Oh, Is My Succulent Sick? When a succulent isn’t looking quite right, you may wonder if you’ve done something wrong. Here’s what to look for [Continue reading] 

On my YouTube channel:

Go to my 6-video playlist, “Succulent Pests and Diseases.”

Watch my 2-min. YouTube video, How to Treat Cocineal Scale. Under my direction, James, 9, scrubs opuntia pads with a bathroom brush and squashes popcorn-like bugs with his fingertips.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel. 

In my books:

Succulents Simplified, pp 76-77: “What’s Wrong with Your Succulent?”
Designing with Succulents, pp 137-143: “Pest and Damage Control.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Care for Succulents: Heat and Sun Concerns

Don’t let summer sun and heat harm your succulents! Heat, unlike frost (temps 32 degrees F and lower), usually isn’t a concern for succulents. Although some tend not to thrive in temps above 80 or 90 degrees F, the majority can handle more than you’re personally comfortable with…as evidenced by greenhouse temperatures that soar into the triple digits on summer days. However, heat plus sun can be deadly to succulents. Unless they’re desert cacti or agaves, most smooth-leaved succulents need sun protection in summer, especially above 80 degrees.

Summer-stressed Aloe bainseii tree

If you live in an arid climate like Southern CA’s and grow succulents in the open garden (as I do) ~

— Know your property’s orientation to the sun. In North America, plants growing on your home’s north side will get the least amount of sun exposure; those on the south, the most. East-facing gardens like mine get morning sun and afternoon shade. Gardens facing west have afternoon sun and morning shade.

— “Bright shade” (no direct sun but not deep shade) is ideal for non-desert succulents in mid-afternoon when temperatures peak. Bright shade is essential for low-light succulents such as haworthias, gasterias, euphorbias, faucarias, sansevierias, echeverias, and anything light-colored or variegated. (Of course there are exceptions; for the requirements of specific plants, see the “Succulents A to Z” chapter of Designing with Succulents.)

— Whenever you buy a new plant, notice where it was located in the nursery. Was it out in the open or beneath shade cloth? Even if it’s a “full sun” succulent—like an agave—if it was growing in a sheltered area, it’ll need to be “hardened off” (shaded, especially in the afternoon) until it acclimates. Such exposure is similar to tanning: Start with half an hour of sun and increase it by an hour or so each day.

— Give aloes and crassulas enough sun to turn hues of red and orange but not so much that leaf tips shrivel or burn—at least half a day, ideally morning. (See “How to Stress Succulents and Why You Should.”)

— Because sunburned stems are less able to transmit moisture from roots to leaves, cover exposed, horizontal stems of trailing succulents (aloes, senecios, othonna and the like) with dry leaves or mulch.

— Protect newly installed plants and in-ground succulents susceptible to sun-scorch with temporary shade structures. I use old window screens secured with bricks, but you can buy shade cloth at any home improvement store. Leafy branches trimmed from trees works, too; insert branches in the ground next to the plant you want to protect, making sure it’s shaded on the side that gets the most sun.

— Plant trees and shrubs that will provide shade where needed during long, hot summer afternoons. (For low-water varieties good in succulent gardens, see the Companion Plants chapter of Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed.).

When it’s too late (what sunburn looks like)

Beige patches on succulents indicate sunburn. Cells have been irrevocably damaged, which turns them white or putty-colored. This looks similar to frost damage, but instead of leaf tips, you’ll see patches on leaves. An otherwise healthy plant will outgrow the damage. If marred areas are on outer leaves, so much the better; new growth from the center of the rosette will conceal sunburned areas over time. In any case, lower leaves, damaged or not, naturally wither and fall off. Depending on the succulent and the season, recovery from sunburn may take several months to a year.

More Info on this Site:

How to Water Succulents in Summer.  OK, we all know that succulents are low-water plants. But they’re not “no-water” plants. Although they may survive without irrigation during the heat of summer, they’re unlikely to be lush and healthy. Be sure you… [continue reading]

Aloe nobilis, in bright shade on left, in full sun on right

How to Stress Succulents (and Why You Should). Plenty of sun brings out brilliant reds and yellows in certain succulents, but how much to “stress” the plants varies depending on… [continue reading]

On my YouTube channel:


Succulents, Sun and Summer. On an 89-degree day in my garden, I show you what’s in bloom and lookin’ good (or sadly dreadful), and explain how to evaluate the health of your in-ground succulents, small and large.

Twelve Low-Water Trees for Succulent Landscapes.  I help you evaluate garden areas in need of shade and select trees to plant when the weather cools in the fall.

Sun and Your Succulents. Most succulents are sun lovers, but how much do they really need? And what happens if they get too much or too little light? (Filmed at the Succulent Extravaganza.)

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My Bird-Feeder Hobby

It may surprise you that my hobby is making bird feeders for my garden from repurposed objects. Most of my bird feeders are elegant and pretty, which is my preference. But a silly one—made from a brand-new bra (not mine, it’s way too big, ha)—went viral on Facebook and has had 26,000,000 views. Yep. Twenty-six. MILLION.

It’s a perfect example of how combining disparate items—in this case birds and bras—creates a third concept that transcends the two. And because it’s amusing, never-seen-before and a bit risqué, people have shared it to a fare-thee-well. If only I’d made even a penny per view!
I love to watch wild birds interacting with airy feeders, so I’ll often use wire bird cages. I think it’s fascinating (and ironic) to see wild birds try to squeeze their way into a cage. This one, which is both ornamental cage AND candle holder, is outside my office window. It’s one of several repurposed candle holders that have multiple glass votive holders filled with birdseed.
Above: “Staircase” candle holder ornamental birdcage, about $35 from Amazon. I spray-painted it off-white. 

Want to see more, and maybe make some bird feeders for your own garden? Watch my YouTube video, Eight Creative Bird Feeders for Your Garden. And even if you’re not into my odd hobby of creating bird feeders, I promise you’ll enjoy the dozen different kinds of wild birds who come to mine.

Related info on this site:

If you’d like to make lovely bird feeders similar to those in my video, Eight Creative Bird Feeders for Your Garden, you’ll find materials, suggestions and how-to…[Continue reading]
A house finch sits on a glass creamer I repurposed as a bird feeder. It once belonged to my grandmother but isn’t worth much because it’s…[Continue reading]

On my YouTube channel, check out my playlist: Debra’s Bird Feeders.

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Thrifting for the Birds

House finch on a glass creamer I repurposed as a bird feeder. It once belonged to my grandmother but isn’t worth much because it’s chipped. She loved birds, so I know she’d approve.

My pastimes of thrifting and birding inspired me to create bird feeders from repurposed items. It began a few months ago when I was given a commercial feeder to trial. Its peaked roof is “cute” (to quote a friend), but it’s made of plastic (shudder) and is a color I call “hose green”—a blue-green not found in nature.

It also was too efficient. House finches (linnets) emptied it quickly, and one cup of seed mix is all I wanted to give them daily. Plus, watching these mice of the bird world stuff themselves became boring. All they did was sit, eat, and lunge at rivals who wanted to share the feeder.

I read up on wild birds—their habits, what species frequent the foothills of inland Southern CA, and what they eat. I also researched the ideal bird feeding experience for both birds and humans. Feeders should be located where you can watch easily from indoors, birds can dart into nearby branches, and well above the ground so cats can’t pounce and it’s difficult for rodents to help themselves.

So with bird-feeding in mind, I trolled estate sales and thrift shops. I decided to go with inexpensive objects I found in abundance: wrought iron candleholders with metal rings for votives in glass cups. It seemed that such shallow vessels (sans candles) would hold the right amount of bird seed, and metal rods in pleasing ornamental shapes would make good perches.

Although I planned to do only one feeding station at first, I went on to create three on the deck outside my kitchen and dining room. Much thought, creativity and fun went into modifying these three stations to maximize their appeal to me and to my feathered guests.

Bird feeders on a plant stand create a feeding station. Wire ball at center contains suet. Birds are house finches and, at the hummingbird feeder, an orange-crown warbler (also shown below).

I discovered that house finches will feed vertically if need be—beaks straight down and tail feathers skyward. This made me wonder what other antics and acrobatics these highly common little birds might do. Although I stopped short of adding a maze, I decided the ideal feeder needs an entertainment factor.

Also on the plant stand I hung an old wire birdcage. It’s still my favorite feeder. I love watching wild birds eagerly enter the cage, the door of which I’ve wired open to avoid accidentally trapping one. (I’ve also spread the wires a bit on the opposite side, so they have a second exit. They enter the cage that way, too.) A plump mourning dove, seduced by the scent of peanuts, also cages itself from time to time.

House finches come and go like adolescents with cars. They arrive all at once, boisterous and noisy; pushing, flapping, and ravenous; each with a wary eye out for the Lady of the House. When she appears, they take off with a whoosh, offering no thanks, apologies, or stacking of dishes.

In my tea party themed station, glass feeders make the birds easier to see.

I nailed two matching S-shaped candleholders horizontally beneath the eaves, then wired chains to them, and added hooks to hang tea cups, a sugar bowl and creamer, a tea pot, and a serving tray with a handle. The initial version used floral china cups, but I soon switched to glass. Glass is like solid air, so it suits an airy feeder, plus you can see the birds better as well as how much seed is left. I still need a transparent tea pot. Which is to say, I really need to go thrifting. Soon.

Tips for creating a feeding station and making your own feeders:

— Be patient. It may take birds several days, even weeks, to find a feeder.
— If you leave food sitting out, even if it’s not in a feeder, house finches will find it. Although wild birds are endearing when hopping on patio furniture, they do make a mess.
— Visit your local Wild Birds Unlimited store. The employees are friendly, knowledgable and happy to share information. Pick up a bag of WBU’s “No Mess Seed Blend” of nuts and seeds already shelled.
— Add a birdbath or fountain. They’ll drink from it, splash around in it, and it’ll attract birds that aren’t interested in the feeders. (Not all want seeds or nectar.)
— Expect a bonanza of birds on a rainy day, which also is a great time to install a new feeding station.
— Hang breakable objects so they won’t hit each other if jolted by wings or wind.
— At dusk, bring indoors food that might attract nocturnal varmints like rats and opossums.
— In winter, add suet (from a bird store or garden center) to your feeding station.
— Don’t add food coloring to hummingbird syrup. The red of the feeder is enough to attract them and the dye may even harm them.
— Keep hummingbird feeders clean; mildew and fungus can make birds sick.
— When placing a feeder, don’t forget that whatever is below it will be showered with bird droppings and seed husks.
— Hardware stores sell black S-hooks in the garden department; regular S-hooks (which are cheaper but silver colored) in the hardware section. You’ll also need chain (sold by the foot), flexible wire, and a wire cutter.
— Turn off the lights in the room in which you’re observing wild birds, so it’s harder for them to see you. Regardless, avoid making sudden movements.
— Enrich your experience by identifying the birds that visit your feeders. Obtain a Sibley’s birding guide specific to your region. (No, the Internet and Google aren’t enough.)
— Get a good pair of binoculars (mine are Polaris Optics). They’re a portal to another world, both at feeders and beyond.

Related info on this site:

 

On my YouTube channel, check out my playlist: Debra’s Bird Feeders.

 

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How I Get Rid of Gophers

Trapped gopher

A newly caught gopher (lower right) in my garden.

Over the past quarter century, I’ve trapped four to six gophers a year in my half-acre garden near San Diego. If I can catch gophers, so can you. Here’s how.

— Obtain at least four Macabee gopher traps.

— Tie one end of a string that’s several feet long to the end of the trap opposite its pincher-jaws. At the other end of the string, tie a loop.

— If you don’t know how to set the traps, watch a video that shows how. Tip: If you’re having trouble inserting the trigger wire into the little hole, use your thumbs to push down firmly on the wires between the trap’s open jaws, then thread the trigger wire up and into the hole with your fingers. As with any trap, be careful not to catch yourself!

— Dig down into the tunnel with a shovel. Aim to expose two openings, one in each direction, so you can catch the gopher coming or going. (Granted, two holes aren’t always possible. Gopher tunnels seldom go in a straight line, nor are they necessarily parallel to the surface.)

— Use a trowel to clear each opening of dirt and to create space to insert a trap. Sometimes it’s easier to reach into a hole with your hand and scoop dirt out, which also is the best way to discern if a hole does indeed lead into a tunnel. (If someone’s with you, snatch back your hand as though bit. No worries. The gopher won’t come near you.)

— Insert a set trap into each hole. I hold the trap by the string end and push the metal square forward with my thumb to keep the trigger wire in place, lest it become dislodged. (This will become obvious when you do it. Again, no worries—if the trap snaps, your thumb won’t be in the way.)

— Extend each trap’s string outside the hole and drive a stake through the loop into the ground. This ensures that you can find the trap later, that a squirming gopher can’t drag the trap deeper into the hole, and that you won’t have to reach into the hole to remove the trap. (Simply extract it by pulling the string).

— The more tunnels you open and the more traps you set, the better your chances…which is why I set four traps, minimum.

— Cover the trap holes, because if a gopher sees light, it’ll push dirt into the trap while trying to close the opening. I place palm-sized pieces of flagstone upright to cover trap holes, but nearly anything will work—just don’t let pebbles, leaves and dirt fall into the hole.

— Check traps the next day. If they’re empty, reevaluate their locations and try again. Keep doing this until you catch the gopher or it exits on its own (evidenced by no new mounds). Sometimes—rarely—a predator gets the gopher first: snakes go into tunnels; and owls, raptors, cats, and coyotes pounce on gophers as they emerge from their holes at night.

— Traps are too expensive to discard with a gopher. If you’re squeamish about such things, have someone who isn’t extract it from the trap. Shake the gopher into a plastic grocery bag, tie the top, and set it out with the trash.

“Gopher spurge” in the Euphorbia genus is supposed to repel gophers (the roots exude a gummy sap gophers don’t like) but I’ve always wondered why a gopher wouldn’t simply go around them!

Poison bait also is an option, but it has a shelf life, may possibly endanger pets and beneficial animals, and you don’t know for sure that you’ve caught the gopher because there’s no evidence (but maybe that’s a good thing). Use a metal bar to poke the ground around a gopher mound until the bar goes into a tunnel. Funnel bait through the hole into the tunnel. Cover the hole so light doesn’t enter.

Chicken wire protects the roots of an agave from gophers.

Chicken wire protects the roots of an agave from gophers.

The Sunset Western Garden book suggests protecting roots of young plants by lining planting holes with chicken wire. If you look closely at this photo taken in Patrick Anderson’s garden, you’ll see chicken wire around the agave. Gophers don’t go after many succulents, perhaps because the plants are shallow rooted, but they do like agaves. Below, my Agave americana ‘Marginata’ after a gopher ate the roots and up into the heart of the plant. Gopher-eaten agave Collapse gopher runs by slicing into them with a shovel, thereby making it less easy for a new gopher to use them. Gophers are antisocial except when mating, but if there’s a unoccupied network of tunnels, a new one will soon move in.

Keep open a run that leads into your yard from a neighbor’s. When the tunnel opening fills with soil, you’ll know a gopher is active. Clear out the dirt the gopher used to seal the opening, then trap the gopher before it enters your garden.

And no, it doesn’t help to put a hose down a gopher hole.

RESOURCES:

Macabee traps, set of four, about $25. (Five stars on Amazon.)

Videos produced by the University of California Cooperative Extension:

How to Set a Macabee Gopher Trap

Pocket Gopher: Finding Tunnel Systems

Pocket Gopher: Trap placement

Also on YouTube for your entertainment: Debra Discusses Gophers During a Potting Demo.

 

 

Agave victoriae-reginae
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Create a Soothing Succulent Sitting Area

If you enjoy gardening, you’ve no doubt experienced how it can be a form of meditation and a treat for all the senses. But have you considered how simply looking at certain plants induces a feeling of serenity? You can discover this by enhancing a sitting area with succulents that incorporate geometric patterns and spirals.

Agave victoriae-reginae

Stretched canvas print of Agave victoria-reginae ‘Variegata’

The eye never tires of following circular patterns. For example, I sometimes catch myself gazing at this canvas print, above, in my living room. It’s more relaxing than the TV.

There are many possibilities for an intimate garden of symmetrical succulents. Here’s a hypnotic euphorbia I enjoy near my outdoor dining table: E. polygona ‘Snowflake’.

Several more to inspire you…

 

Treat both mind and body

Silence may be golden, but it’s not always an option. A fountain is a great way to muffle neighborhood noise and attract birds that are relaxing to watch. When I sit in my home’s entry, I’m captivated by goldfinches that flit back and forth from a fountain across the driveway to a feeder under the eaves. Another auditory option is deep-toned, bell-like “Corinthian” wind chimes.

As for fragrance…my spring garden has scents of orange blossoms and wisteria, and I’ve often thought of trying to grow jasmine again (my first attempt failed), but it’s easier to go with incense or potpourri. Doesn’t the fragrance of, say, sandalwood for a breezy outdoor area sound wonderful?

To indulge the palate, enjoy my favorite fast and refreshing chilled drink: ice water with a few drops of mint essential oil.

Coloring a detailed line drawing also reduces stress, and a mandala (which means “circle” in Hindu) is a useful meditation aid. You’ll find succulent mandalas plus line drawings of your favorite plants in my coloring book for adults, Sensational Succulents. Here’s a page from the book that you’re welcome to download. Enjoy!

Related articles:

April 13, 2018 — Cactus as a design element is trending, popping up on pajamas, place mats, wallpaper and more. As awareness of the plants grows, cliche images of “cactus” as saguaros and prickly-pear will give way to… [Continue reading]

Recently I embarked on an intensive, two-day hunt for the perfect succulent pillow. I wanted it for the love seat in my home’s 5×5 entry, where I keep 40 small, low-light succulents in a dozen containers. These are shades of…[Continue reading] 

29 May 2016 ~ We’ll see stylized succulents used more and more in art, home decor, clothing and gift items. The way succulents are trending, they’ll soon become the “new florals” for…[Continue reading]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many cacti and succulents form geometric spirals similar to those of sunflowers, pine cones and nautilus shells. Spiral leaf arrangements… [Continue reading]


Debra Lee Baldwin in her succulent garden
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Debra’s Own Garden

My goal with my own garden is to create a three-dimensional art form that serves as a backdrop for videos, photo shoots and casual get-togethers. Whether in books, photos, videos or presentations—or with plants, rocks, and sweat—I’m invariably about entertaining and sharing in equal measure. It’s one way I define joy.

Debra Lee Baldwin in her succulent garden

Yours truly in the lower garden with “Big Blue.” Photo by Craftsy.


Debra's Garden

My steep, terraced half-acre garden as viewed from my house. 

Succulent rock garden

IMHO, a garden can never have too many rocks. This sloping bed is home to dwarf aloes and haworthias growing in a pumice-rich mix. 

Succulent lily pond by Debra Lee Baldwin
My dry pond has thin, nearly spineless cactus pads I ordered from Florida (!). The “water lilies” are graptoveria rosettes. 


Succulent tapestry garden

One of two succulent tapestries by designer Laura Eubanks.

Related articles:

My succulent meditation garden

Spring in my succulent garden

Succulent garden design essentials

How to grow succulents

I’ve filmed numerous YouTube videos in my garden. The most popular shows how to replant an overgrown bed:Debra shows how to trim and replant succulents

If you REALLY want to come see my garden, I do occasionally give private tours for visiting VIPs. Email me. 

My garden is also featured in my book, Designing with Succulents (2nd ed.).

 

 


 

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Should You Let Your Flapjack Plants Bloom?

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You’re probably aware of flapjack plant (Kalanchoe luciae), a succulent that’s popular because of the color of its leaves. (Shown above at Waterwise Botanicals nursery, perfectly timed for Valentine’s Day.)

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Like other succulents with overlapping leaves along a single stem, when Kalanchoe luciae blooms, the entire plant elongates. This is how those in my window box looked in March of last year.

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If your goal is to have a lot of new little plants, one option is to let the mother plant bloom. Providing it survives the effort (they usually do, but not always), you’ve hit the jackpot. Harvest each cluster with several inches of stem attached to anchor it, and start it as a cutting. Roots will grow from leaf axils (where leaves are attached to the stem).

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I didn’t want awkwardly tall plants in my window box, so when the flapjacks started to elongate in March, I snipped off the bloom spikes. The mother plants seemed determined to flower regardless, and buds grew from leaf axils beneath the cut. I was just as determined they weren’t going to flower, so I pinched out the buds.

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Within a month, the plants’ topmost leaves turned beige and crisp along the edges. I’m not sure why this happened, but I trimmed them to keep the plants tidy.

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By June, new little leaves concealed the truncated stems, indicating that the plants had been gearing up to produce offsets. When they couldn’t do it along a bloom spike, they did so closer to the core.

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Here’s how one of the plants looked in August.

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And again in October. Other plants in the window box are blue echeverias and Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’. The composition looks fine, but would be even better if those flapjacks would turn as red as they were at the nursery! (Hm. Topic for a future post? “How to Keep your Flapjacks Red.” Advice welcome!)

 

 

Favorite Photos from My Garden

Certain photos that I’ve taken in my garden over the years continue to be my favorites—some for their color, others for composition, whimsy or subject. I hope you enjoy them, too.

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I never tire of observing how what’s on the pot is the same as what’s in the pot.

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Above is the photo of my garden that publications request the most. They really like those maroon aloes. (It’s because they’re dying. Our secret.)

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I’m a sucker for great shadows.

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This diminutive stapeliad looked great in this thrift-store pot even before it bloomed. I ask visiting children, “Is the fish eating the plants or throwing them up?” Girls invariably say the fish is ingesting; boys, the other option.

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More fish.

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And an ant.

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Echeveria flowers in windowsill vases.

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This is the floral-style arrangement I made for “Stunning Succulent Arrangements,” the online Craftsy class I teach.

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When I discovered Euphorbia mitriformis, I fell in love. That shape! Those stripes!

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This, of course, is all about color. The orange plant isn’t a succulent—it’s coxcomb.

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This fenestraria surprised me not only with a flower, but also by its sepals’ perfect star.

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My favorite miniature landscape, from my book Succulent Container Gardens.

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The background looks like a poster, but it’s actually plants. I love the repetitions of form and the complimentary colors of orange and blue!

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When someone gave me a little stamped-metal box, I knew it would make a great treasure chest for an undersea themed terrarium.

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Speaking of undersea, doesn’t this haworthia look like it’s undulating out of a shell?

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Love the textures and the lighting—Mexican feather grass and variegated Agave americana.

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These aeoniums look metallic, sort of like vegetable steamers. Great sheen and symmetry.

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Ah-choo!