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LA’s Kids Day Features Succulents

One of the most popular areas of the annual Los Angeles Drought Tolerant Plant Festival is the “Kid’s Day” section, with fun educational exhibits and activities for children. Volunteers are members of the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society (LACSS), a community-oriented organization that’s been around 80+ years.

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The event is held the second weekend of June. Here’s how the exhibit tables looked one year before the kids poured in.

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This little girl is the granddaughter of LACSS member Kathleen Misko. When I asked Veronica what she liked best about Kid’s Day, she replied, “The videos, because I’m in them!”

I sure wish I could have gone to an event like this when I was a child. Or, for that matter, when I began learning about succulents as an adult! Below, volunteers double-check everything.IMG_7967_A_R

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IMG_7994_A_RUpon arrival, each child received a bag of items: mini wooden saguaros to paint, a pot to fill with small rooted plants, and a wine cork with a magnet on the back to hold tiny cuttings.

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IMG_7974_A_RIt was delightful to watch the volunteers—many of them grandparents—assist kids pot-up the succulents they’d selected as parents proudly looked on. See what it’s all about ~ enjoy my 2.5-min. video.

 

Related Info on This Site:

Highlights of the Los Angeles Drought Tolerant Plant Festival
At the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society Festival, I managed to smile despite sitting on a cactus cOUCH. [Continue reading]
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Gardening Books I Recommend

My books’ publisher, Timber Press, is the leading publisher of gardening books in the US. Among the Timber gardening books I recommend are:Garden Books I Recommend

When it comes to garden plants, cacti are anything but standard issue. The bulk of home gardens contain exactly zero species of cactus, and the thought of growing them makes gardeners think, “Ouch!” In The Gardener’s Guide to Cactus: The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globes, Scott Calhoun is out to change that perception, and bring the beauty and ease of cactus home. It’s high time that cacti took their place alongside the trendy succulent.

Garden Books I Recommend

Cacti & Succulents for Cold Climates: There are many reasons to grow cacti and other succulents—they’re drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, and they look great. But what about hardiness? For those who thought that these spectacular plants were only for gardens in California and the Southwest, guess again—hundreds are fully cold-hardy and can be grown outdoors from New England to British Columbia, Wisconsin to Texas.

Garden Books I Recommend

Ruth Bancroft is a dry gardening pioneer. Her lifelong love of plants led to the creation of one of the most acclaimed public gardens, The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California. The Bold Dry Garden offers unparalleled access to the garden and the extraordinary woman responsible for it. In its stunningly photographed pages, you’ll discover the history of the garden and the design principles and plant palette that make it unique. Packed with growing and maintenance tips, profiles of signature plants for a dry garden, and innovative design techniques, The Bold Dry Garden has everything you need to create a garden that is lush, waterwise, and welcoming. Garden Books I Recommend

Gardeners and garden designers are having a love affair with agaves. It’s easy to see why—they’re low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and strikingly sculptural, with an astounding range of form and color. Many species are strikingly variegated, and some have contrasting ornamental spines on the edges of their leaves. Fabulous for container gardening or in-the-ground culture, they combine versatility with easy growability. In Agaves, plant expert Greg Starr profiles 75 species, with additional cultivars and hybrids, best suited to gardens and landscapes.

Garden Books I Recommend

Outdoor style often comes at a high price, but it doesn’t have to. This lushly designed guide empowers you to create your own show-stopping containers made from everyday materials such as concrete, plastic, metal, terracotta, rope, driftwood, and fabric. The 23 step-by-step projects are affordable, made from accessible materials, and most importantly, gorgeous.

In recent years California has been facing extreme drought, and in 2015 they passed state-wide water restrictions that affect home owners. Unfortunately the drought is only going to get worse, and gardeners who aren’t willing to abandon their beloved pastime entirely are going to have to learn how to garden with the absolute minimum of water. The Drought-Defying California Garden highlights the best 230 plants to grow, shares advice on how to get them established, and offers tips on how to maintain them with the minimum amount of water. All of the plants are native to California—making them uniquely adept at managing the harsh climate—and include perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees, and succulents.

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In The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World by Fred Dortort, the plants are organized into 28 intuitively logical groups, such as succulent euphorbias, mesembryanthemums, bulbs, succulent trees, aloes, agaves, and haworthias. Each entry includes information on the plant’s native habitat, its cultivation requirements, and its horticultural potential. As useful to novice growers as to collectors and those with an existing interest in succulents, this will be the standard reference for years to come.

 More Gardening Books I Recommend (of course!)

 

Related info on this site:

Tools and Products for Succulent Gardeners 

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How I Get Rid of Gophers

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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.

 

 

How rain benefits succulents
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How Rain Benefits Succulents

How rain benefits succulents

Don’t be surprised if after a good rain, your succulents look brighter and more vibrant. Rain provides dissolved minerals and washes away dust that inhibits photosynthesis. It dilutes and flushes salts and harmful chemicals that have built up in the soil from tap water and provides nitrogen essential to growth, especially during electrical storms. It’s odd but true: Lightning nourishes plants.

To make the most of precious rain, collect it in buckets and use it to water house plants and in-ground succulents beneath eaves. When rain is forecast, move your container-grown patio plants where rain can soak them. (Once the storm is over, return them to their earlier location, lest sun scorch leaves—or if frost is a possibility.)

Succulents do best in regions where annual rainfall is less than 25 inches.  Excessive amounts can cause roots to rot, especially if soil stays soggy. Prepare for this by growing the plants in coarse, fast-draining soil, on a slope or atop a berm.

how rain benefits cactus

 

My blog post, Succulents and Too Much Rain, A French Solution describes a French botanical garden’s simple but effective method of protecting its cactus collection.

Opuntia appears to dance

Of all succulents, cacti seem to respond the most dramatically to rain. No surprise; they’ve been waiting all year for it. If they weren’t rooted, they’d be dancing. Opuntia (paddle) cacti that have been doing a whole lot of nothing for months rapidly grow new pads that can double the size of a young specimen in a matter of weeks. It’s as though the pads were water balloons being squeezed; the resulting bulge is a new leaf.

how to protect succulents from excess rainfall

And then there are ribbed cacti…those that look like round or columnar accordions. You can almost hear their crenellations pop and stretch as they plump with water. They’re such simple plants—not much more than balls or bats—and yet the way they grow is amazing. The process of becoming engorged with rainwater exposes more of their skin to the sun, enabling photosynthesis, which equals energy, which in turn fuels new growth. In the heat of summer, those same ridges and valleys deepen, shading and protecting the plant.

Now that succulents are hugely popular, I’m asked how to grow them in tropical climates that have a great deal of rainfall. It’s like asking how to grow monkeys in Alaska. Sure it’s possible, but is it worth it? By definition, succulents have the quality of succulence: juiciness. They’re expressly designed to get by without a lot of rainfall. The flip side is that they don’t survive well with it. So grow them in containers, and move them under shelter when the weather turns too wet. Even then, in humid climates, they may mildew. In which case, move them indoors, provide lots of sunlight and fresh air, and keep a dehumidifier going. (And get my book, Succulent Container Gardens. I wrote it for succulent lovers in challenging climates.)

Frost protection for succulents

Rainstorms are often followed by clear, windless nights, during which the temperature may drop near freezing or below. Many succulents are frost tender, meaning that at 32 degrees, the water in their tissues crystallizes, expands, and bursts cell walls. This can turn leaves to putty, irreparably damaging the plants. You can gain several life-saving degrees by covering your succulents with sheets, lightweight fabric, or frost cloth. But not plastic, which by trapping moisture and blocking light and air can cause more damage than it prevents.

Frost burned aeoniums

If your succulents have been damaged by frost, they’re not necessarily goners. Learn more about this in my recent posts: Oh, No, My Succulents Froze! and Frost Damaged Succulents? Here’s What to Do. Notice the damaged tips on these aeoniums? No need to do anything. In a few months the older leaves will dry and fall off, and the rest will be hidden by new growth.

Related info:

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Debra on Garden America Radio

On Garden America Radio, I spoke with hosts John Bagnasco and Sharon Asakawa about how aloes provide midwinter color in the garden and how they can serve as nectar sources for endangered monarch butterflies (it helps if you plant milkweed, too). Listen to the full interview below!

 

Debra Lee Baldwin on Garden America Radio

 

I welcome your questions or comments!

 


 

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Why are succulents so popular
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Why Grow Succulents?

There are numerous reasons why succulents have become so popular.

Many more people are growing succulents nowadays because the plants…

  1. Are a good lawn alternative for regions with water shortages.
  2. Are fire-resistant plants for backcountry gardens prone to wildfire.
  3. Are easy to cultivate and propagate.
  4. Need minimal maintenance.
  5. Range in size from ground covers to trees.
  6. Have pleasing geometric shapes
  7. Add interest to gardens large and small
  8. Are intriguing year-round
  9. Come in every color including blue
  10. Produce long-lasting, vivid flowers
  11. New cultivars are being introduced all the time.

Succulent Terrarium by Debra Lee Baldwin

For a New York Magazine reporter’s shocking take on the Succulent Phenomenon, see How to Kill Succulents.

 

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Katie’s Succulent Wreath Class

On a December Saturday that couldn’t have been more perfect weather-wise, a couple dozen ladies assembled at Buena Creek Gardens nursery north of San Diego to make succulent wreaths. Katie Christensen, a talented young designer from the Seattle area conducted the class. I had fun helping her, seeing old friends and making new ones, and recording the occasion with my camera.

For more about wreath-making, see my other blog posts: Make a Succulent Wreath and Succulent Wreath Tips and Ideas; go to my books Succulent Container Gardens pp. 176-178 and Designing with Succulents (1st ed.) pp. 113-117; sign up for my Craftsy class (get 50% off); and watch my YouTube video, Design and Plant a Succulent Wreath.

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For more wreath-making tips and ideas, view my other blog posts: Make a Succulent Wreath and Succulent Wreath Tips and Ideas; see my books Succulent Container Gardens pp. 176-178 and Designing with Succulents pp. 113-117; sign up for my Craftsy class (get 50% off); and watch my YouTube video, Design and Plant a Succulent Wreath.

Debra Lee Baldwin on Craftsy
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Stunning Succulent Arrangements Class

 

Stunning Succulent Arrangements

I’m very pleased to announce my online succulent design classStunning Succulent Arrangements. It’s available through Craftsy, a Denver-based company that offers a fresh, high-quality approach to online learning. Craftsy began in 2011, and their success has been phenomenal, doubtless due to their dedication to quality. Craftsy spends upward of $15,000 to develop and film each class. To create Stunning Succulent Arrangements, a five-person Craftsy crew came to my home and garden and turned them into a film studio.

Good news: Use this link to take 50% off the regular enrollment price of $40!Debra Lee Baldwin Craftsy Review

“The chance to take an affordable course from an expert doesn’t come along often. But if you’re interested in learning more about creating beautiful succulent arrangements, you’re in luck: You can learn from Debra Lee Baldwin, the queen of succulents.” — Garden Design magazine

WHAT YOU GET

  • 7 Streaming HD video lessons with anytime, anywhere access
  • Class materials
  • Hours of close-up instruction
  • Answers to student questions from instructor, Debra Lee Baldwin
  • Closed captioning available (web only)

CLASS OVERVIEW

Renowned succulent expert Debra Lee Baldwin shares the secrets to caring for these low-maintenance plants and explains why they lend themselves well to container arrangements. First, create a color wheel container composition and stress your plants to reveal beautiful hues. Then, make a gorgeous floral-style arrangement and add dimension and interest to your piece. Do you only have shade to give your succulents? Choose plants that thrive in low-light areas and learn how to care for their unique needs. Next, create a terrarium arrangement that’s straight from the pages of your favorite magazine! Debra shows you how to care for succulents in no-drain containers and add colored sand and pebbles for a special touch. Moving on, learn how to create a show-stopping succulent bouquet and never settle for ho-hum table decor again with this gorgeous centerpiece. Plus, attach succulents onto a wreath for beautiful door decor— the perfect way to greet guests!

LESSON BREAKDOWN

1. Succulent Starter Information 29:37
Meet your instructor, Debra Lee Baldwin, as you immerse yourself in the wonderful world of succulents. Debra explains how succulent plants grow and propagate, and demonstrates how to trim sections off without harming the plant. Next, she shares basic design ideas for potting beautiful single-plant containers.
2. Color Wheel 22:20
Discover the range of color and value that succulents offer as you create a beautiful color wheel container arrangement with Debra’s expert guidance. You’ll learn how plants can be stressed (depriving them of optimal growing conditions) in order to bring out different hues such as pink or yellow that you wish to add to your designs. Next, consider different arrangements that group plants according to color and value.
3. Floral-Style Arrangement 12:27
Create beautiful arrangements that resemble flower bouquets, using various plant shapes and heights to create dimension. Debra shares traditional and unusual container ideas as she demonstrates techniques for planting gorgeous floral-style arrangements.
4. Low-Light Composition 22:02
Succulents often thrive on access to lots of sunlight, but Debra has helpful tips for selecting plants that thrive in low-light areas such as patios or inside the home. Explore plant-care techniques as you become more familiar with the variety of plant textures that you can choose from, ranging from beautiful flowering plants to succulents with variegated leaves and much more.
5. Terrariums 33:08
Transform ordinary arrangements into magical microcosms as Debra shows you how to plant succulents in glass terrariums. Discover how to care for plants in containers that don’t drain water. Then add flair with colored sand and glass pebbles for additional interest. For a fun surprise, you can also add figurines and thematic elements to create a delightful miniature scene in your terrarium.
6. Bouquet 28:34
Try a new design idea as you create stunning, unique floral bouquets. Debra shares tips from professional florists that entail wrapping your plant stems in flexible wire and floral tape. Next, arrange your bouquet in a beautiful vase or jar to show off the rose-like blooms and sculptural petals. The final product provides a perfect gift or centerpiece for a special event.
7. Wreaths 26:28
Succulents don’t have to be confined to pots, planters or yards; they can make surprising additions to wreaths as well! Debra shares her method for creating beautiful mossy wreaths that are dotted with a variety of plant cuttings, buds and more. You’ll finish the class with dozens of new ideas for arrangements that can be used all around your yard and home, in addition to knowing how to keep your succulents healthy and thriving!
Use this link to take 50% off the regular enrollment price of $40!

 


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Lophocereus schottii (Totem Pole Cactus)

Recently at his nursery in Fallbrook, CA, succulent expert Don Newcomer showed me a rare columnar, spineless cactus from Mexico: Lophocereus schottii (totem pole cactus).

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It can be chubby and lumpy, tall and skinny, or columnar and spiral-forming. Lophocereus (Pachycereus) schottii has spines. The monstrose form has club-shaped trunks with spineless protuberances. There are three monstrose varieties: fat (obesa), spiral (spiralis) and skinny or totem pole (mieckleyanus). Here’s the spiral form:

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Don told me that these monstrose forms of Lophocereus schotii date to The Cactus Ranchito in Tarzana, a suburb of Los Angeles. Owners Ed and Betty Gay, who introduced Don to succulents at age 14, were instrumental in salvaging unusual cacti that otherwise might have been destroyed by livestock in the plants’ native habitat. This photo of the couple is from the archives of the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society.

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Thirty years ago, after Ed passed away, Don bought the nursery’s inventory from Betty. He opened Serra Gardens in Malibu, where clients included Barbra Streisand, who bought cactus to surround her property to keep paparazzi at bay. Seven years ago, Don and wife Beth moved their home and nursery to Fallbrook, a rural community north of San Diego, where it occupies three acres.

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Listen to Don tell about the monstrose forms of Lophocereus schottii in this 4-minute video I made for YouTube. His sense of humor is delightful: Don Newcomer’s Favorite Cactus

Do visit Serra Gardens if you get a chance—it’s a great destination nursery, with many more rare and unusual cacti and succulents than this. They also sell mail-order at www.cacti.com.

Related Info on This Site:

Bizarre succulents


Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin