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Ten Top Trends for Succulent Plants, Gardens and Design

Apr. 24, 2018 ~ If it seems that succulents are moving at warp speed in the world of gardens, nurseries and designers, they are. And as a journalist, I’m ON it. My predictions for succulent plants, gardens and design will help you stay on top of trends and maybe even make money from the plants you love.

Btw, I wrote this before all those native dudleyas were taken from Northern CA by tourists from overseas. Shocking. Goes to show how a little-known genus is gaining attention (see #8 below).

This is Part Two of my earlier post: Ten Predictions for the Succulent Decor Marketplace.

1. As no-water cactus gardens command the design scene, all eyes will be on high-end, professionally orchestrated, Arizona residential landscapes.

2. In Western gardens, large tree aloes, beaucarneas, Dracaena draco and columnar cacti will be sought-after focal points, commanding five figures per specimen.

3. Also popular will be golden barrels, blue baseball bats (Pilosocereus pachycladus), Cereus peruvianus‘ Monstrosus’ and any long-spined or filamented cacti (such as Pachycereus pringlei and Cleistocactus strausii) that glow beautifully when backlit.(For examples see Designing with Succulents, 2nd ed., pp 192-200.)

4. Beginning with collectors, the grafting of one type of cactus onto another will become fashionable, leading to groups on social media and a new market segment.

5. In southern and coastal CA from the Bay Area south, retail and hospitality destinations— such as theme parks, resorts, botanical gardens, restaurants and shopping malls—will hire celebrity designers to create innovative themed succulent gardens that boost traffic, PR and social-media shares.

6. Opuntia (paddle cactus, prickly pear) cultivars will be acquired by homeowner-collectors for the color and variety of the flowers, especially those with prolific, multicolored, long-lasting blooms.

7. Nurseries, having to compete with homeowners who give succulent cuttings away via “Free” signs and neighborhood sites, will offer membership-based, trim-and-share services.

8. Dudleyas native to Mexico and CA will be THE sought-after rosette succulents, unfortunately leading to the poaching of rare species from the wild. Above: Watch my video of D. brittonii last week in Baja. 

9. The indoor, urban, and cold-climate markets for succulents will continue to increase. The money’s in haworthias, gasterias, dwarf aloes, sempervivums, and those genera’s tough-and-colorful hybrids; as well as windowsill mammillarias, parodias, rebutias, and anything monstrose or crested.

10. By 2020, spineless opuntia and other minimally spined cacti—the bigger, the better—will be the hottest plants for dry gardens in southern CA and beyond.

 

Related Info

On this site: 

Why Grow Paddle Cacti? My 16 Reasons

April 22, 2018— Of the dozen or so types of cacti in my garden, I have more opuntias than any other. Also known as paddle cactus or prickly pear… [Continue reading]

Ten Predictions for the Succulent Decor Marketplace

April 13, 2018— In fabrics, dishes and other decorative items, rosette succulents such as echeverias have… [Continue reading]

 

Dec. 27, 2017 — Whenever I’m asked how to find certain succulents or services that are in short supply, I wonder why so few offer them[Continue Reading]

Is Cactus the New Black?

Aug. 9, 2017 — Long a pariah plant, cactus is becoming cool. Spiny succulents are following smooth ones in popularity, notably in… [Continue reading]


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Ten Predictions for the Succulent Decor Marketplace

April 13, 2018 ~ In May of 2016, I predicted that textiles and decorative items themed with succulents would soon be commonplace. Back then there were a few T-shirts, socks, pillows and posters, but not much from major retailers except fake succulents. (Gotta love the irony: Succulents already are the closest thing to plastic in the plant world.)  Now they’re everywhere: Pier One, TJ Maxx, Cost Plus World Market, Wayfair, Home Goods, JOANN and more.

Above: I’m holding a succulent shower curtain ($30) at Cost Plus World Market. In the foreground is a $200 faux opuntia (prickly pear).  

“Cactus Serving Bowl” from Pier One, $30

You Heard It Here First ~ Ten New Predictions for Succulent and Cactus Decor

In fabrics, dishes and other decorative items, rosette succulents such as echeverias have claimed a place forever in the palette of “florals” available to designers.

Early on, many retailers, hotels and restaurants went with mediocre, mass-produced prints of succulents. Those will be replaced with quality images that do the plants justice, along the lines of paintings by Dyana Hesson or Aaron Apsley (do follow them on Instagram).

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 numerous other varieties.

Pink flowers on a saguaro? In nature they’re creamy white. Let’s hope depictions of cacti and succulents become more accurate.

Stylized cacti, unlike their living counterparts, are always in bloom. But as designers and consumers recognize that the true beauty of cacti is in their spines and symmetry, the perceived need for flashy flowers will diminish.

Spherical and columnar euphorbias, easily confused with cacti, are riding the popularity wave along with them—for example, those euphorbias in the cactus curtain I’m holding above. (And what those avocado-like leaves are, I have no idea.)

“Cactus Pete” flannel fabric at JOANN, $3.49/yard. 

Expect to hear the word “cute” in the same breath as “cactus” as graphic designers give the plants personality. Rotund, “chubby” varieties will be stylized for greeting cards, gift bags, night lights, plush toys, bed linens and more.

Check-out lines, already long at seasonal Cactus & Succulent Society of America shows, will get even longer. Vendors will offer impulse-buy gifts and collectibles for newcomers—items of little interest to long-time members who are mainly plant collectors.

Shops specializing in all things cacti-and-succulent will spring up online, in flea markets and mall kiosks. If these sell live plants, they’ll be secondary to themed merchandise.

Potters, ceramicists, mosaic artists and metal sculptors will produce works designed to contain and showcase specific succulents, such as those that form Fibonacci spirals.

Kids will clamor for cactus collections, leading to garden tools for small hands, rubber-tipped tongs and tweezers, and bright-colored pot sleeves.

Retro, cactus-themed trinkets from Mexico and the desert Southwest will be highly sought-after, leading to an outpouring of new items inspired by old.

Above: “Fiesta Chihuahua Doormat” from Pier One, $17. 

Related Info…

Apr. 24, 2018 ~ If it seems that succulents are moving at warp speed in the world of gardens, nurseries and designers, they are…[Continue reading]

Earlier predictions:
“Succulent Art, Decor and Gift Items”
“Is Cactus the New Black?” and
“Seven Ways to Make Money with Succulents.”

Enjoy my post: “Did I Find the Perfect Succulent Pillow?”
Follow my quest and view photos of my redone entryway along with dog-model Lucky, who happens to resemble the pup above. (Yes, he’s really thatcute.)

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin
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Seven Ways to Make Money with Succulents

Dec. 27, 2017

Whenever I’m asked how to find certain succulents or services that are in short supply, I wonder why so few offer them. After all, there’s clearly money to be made! If you or others who might make these happen are merely unaware, hang on, I’m about to remedy that.  Btw, I’m happy to help get the word out about anyone who offers the services I’ve listed here.

Note: Most involve in-ground succulent gardening and therefore are limited to southern and coastal CA from the Bay Area south. Those that are mail-order will probably require a greenhouse. 

#1: Succulent garden maintenance. Unlike mow-and-blow yards, succulent gardens need maintaining seasonally (three or four times a year). How to make $$$: It’s the same as a gardening service, but with many more clients, much less often. Because it’s an in-demand specialization needed infrequently, charge at least 2x the hourly rate of lawn-mowing, hedge-trimming services. All you need: A thorough, hand’s-on understanding of all sorts of in-ground succulents and their care and cultivation, plus a truck, physical strength and tools. Note: You might combine this with #2 and #3.

#2: Free succulents, trimming and installation. People with large succulent gardens have loads of trimmings and pups. Because it seems a shame to haul them to the dump, they’re happy to give them away. How to make $$$: Arrange to pick up cuttings from overflowing gardens and deliver them to sparse ones. Charge for hauling, trimming and digging, and/or preparing the soil and planting. All you need: a small truck, physical strength, and garden tools.

#3: Succulent firebreak specialist. Because the plants don’t catch fire but rather cook and collapse, wide swaths of succulents have been shown to halt the progression of wildfire. (Not to mention being beautiful and supremely sensible.) How to make $$$: Charge the going rate for garden design and installation. If you’re already a landscape designer, or are already doing #1 and #2, offer this to your clients. All you need: Common succulents obtained as cuttings (jade, aloes, agaves, elephant’s food, firesticks) or customers willing to pay for quantities of nursery plants; a truck and tools.

#4: Spineless opuntia supplier.  I can’t say enough good things about this smooth-leaved succulent, which at present is in short supply. It makes a good backdrop, offers pleasing repetitions of form (those oval pads), gets by on rainfall alone (if there is any, sigh), thrives in poor soils, is a good firebreak (pads are as thick as oven mitts), can serve as a hedge or security fence (although not at all treacherous, trespassers assume it is), is edible (nopales), and is high in nutrients (including cancer-fighting antioxidants). How to make $$$: Cultivate the plants and combine them with suggestion #3. All you need: A source of the pads (Google Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’), growing grounds, and time for the plants to mature (three years).

Note: It seems easy enough to plant spineless opuntia as a firebreak, and after its spring growth spurt, slice off and sell the fresh new pads. But how to become a vendor? In order to have customers come to your home, you need to be zoned for it. You might arrange to deliver the pads to clients, or set up a booth at garden events and farmer’s markets. Or, if you own acreage zoned for commercial crops (traditionally, citrus or avocado orchards), contract with a company that’ll handle harvesting and sales. (Granted, I’m not aware of any, but it’s early days yet. Maybe start one?)

Opuntia cacanapa ‘Ellisiana’

#5: Cactus boutique owner. As succulent aficionados gain sophistication, they appreciate simpler, geometric shapes as well as spines that glow beautifully when backlit. Small cacti are highly collectible. How to make $$$: Cultivate and sell specimens (especially spherical ones) online and at farmer’s markets and garden shows; come up with cool new design concepts; host workshops. All you need: A good eye, creativity, a wholesale source within driving distance, a lathe house or greenhouse and shipping materials. Note: Read more about this trend in my post, “Is Cactus the New Black?” 

#6: Echeveria grower-specialist. This is the yin to the yang of cacti. These rosette succulents are popular because they resemble fleshy flowers, and interest will boom as even more jaw-dropping varieties become available. How to make $$$: Grow your own fancy ruffled varieties (by beheading; it’s easy) and sell them online, to florists and nurseries, and at farmer’s markets and garden shows. Speak at clubs and offer workshops in echeveria care, cultivation, propagation and design. Aim to become known as “the echeveria expert.” All you need: An initial investment in starter plants, a lathe house or greenhouse, time for offsets to reach maturity, soil, pots, tools, and shipping materials.

#7: Skilled rockscaping. Boulders, decomposed granite and crushed rock need no irrigation or maintenance, look great forever (especially when artfully arranged), don’t catch fire, and create a practical, beautiful environment for plants. How to make $$$: While working on your degree in ornamental horticulture, get a job with a major rock supplier (in the San Diego area: KRC, RCP or SW Boulder). Apprentice yourself to a landscape contractor. After several years, launch your own business. All you need: Time, energy, physical strength, design ability, and the ability to prepare a site and transport and position rocks of all sizes.

P.S. If the above info helps someone find their calling, I’d love to know! ~ Debra

Related Info ~

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]
Long a pariah plant, cactus is becoming cool. The first edition of my book, Designing with Succulents (Timber Press, 2007) showed few cacti—mainly golden barrels. A decade later, the completely revised second edition devotes 15 pages to numerous varieties of spiny succulents in gardens large and small. [Continue reading]

Succulent coloring book
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Announcing My New Succulent Coloring Book!


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I’m proud and pleased to announce the release of my latest book: “Sensational Succulents, an adult coloring book of amazing shapes and magical patterns” published by Timber Press. The line drawings, based on my photos, are by illustrator Laura Serra.

Succulents beautifully illustrate nature’s artistry. By immersing yourself in the patterns and geometry of succulents, you’ll discover yet another reason to enjoy the plants, and gain greater insight into why you love gardens and gardening.

All photos used for the coloring book are on my website so you can refer to them, if you like, when selecting which colors to use.

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Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'
I used the line drawing of Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’ from the book and the photo that inspired (shown above) it to paint the watercolor I’m holding below.

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I also made a 4-minute video that shows how I traced the image onto watercolor paper, masked white areas of the photo, applied washes, and painted one leaf at a time by dropping in dabs of color.

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Adult coloring books are popular because they offer hours of stress-relieving, creative fun. Sensational Succulents is filled with a huge array of plants that inherently have geometric patterns—in fact, succulents are known for them. Illustrations appear on only one side of a high-quality paper that supports a variety of mediums, including pencils and markers.

I hope you’ll discover the relaxing pleasure of coloring via my new book.

Postscripts ~

Sunset magazine recommended the book in their “Best of the West” column:Sunset item

This example is from the book’s back cover:

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I used colored pencils for this one. The book’s page on my website has the line drawing for the same image, which you’re welcome to download.

Succulent coloring book

 

“What could be better inspiration for artists than the intricate rosettes and fractal-like patterns found in so many succulents? They are vividly-colored and have varied gradations in tone, making them an ideal subject for that grownup coloring trend I’ve come to love. Sensational Succulents, a new coloring book from the queen of succulents Debra Lee Baldwin and illustrated by Laura Serra, has 75 images from Debra’s books that have been transformed into line drawings, ready for you to color. The paper is thick, and unlike many coloring books which have so many lines that it’s hard to do anything freehand, the outlines of the succulents give just enough room for us to take some artistic license in shading. She even has instructions on her website for transferring the illustrations to watercolor paper, if you want to get creative in another medium.” — Genevieve Schmidt, North Coast Journal (Northern CA)

 

Greenhouse for succulents in display garden
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Succulents at the Spring Home/Garden Show

Succulent display garden

I zipped around San Diego’s Spring Home/Garden show right before the judging, cell in hand. (When in a hurry, I use my phone to take photos in dim light instead of my fancy-schmancy Canon.) I was delighted with what I saw. No question I’m biased, but the display garden (above) showcasing plants from Desert Theater nursery, and designed by Steve McDearmon of Garden Rhythms and Katie Christensen of Miss Katie’s Garden, was my favorite. You could plunk the whole shebang in your front yard for a great-looking, low-maintenance lawn-replacement landscape.

The show is the first Fri.-Sat.-Sun. of March every year. You’ll have to pay parking, but you needn’t pay the admission price of $9 at the door. Obtain a FREE PASS by going to the show’s Buy Tickets page and entering this special code for my fans and followers: DLBA.

Have fun!

Succulent display garden

Apologies for photos that lack credits. None of the display gardens had names on them because they were about to be judged. If you want to ID them in a comment below, please do!

Greenhouse for succulents in display garden

St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center (display garden above) helps adults with developmental disabilities. Gardening, propagating plants and selling them is a big part of it. I love the greenhouse in their display garden!

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Do I detect a trend brewing? This lovely display combines succulents (dudleyas) with red bromeliads and other low-water tropicals.

Succulent vertical display garden

Melissa Teisl and Jon Hawley design gardens as Chicweed Design & Landscaping. Although they sold their floral shop in Solana Beach, you can still see aspects of it in their gardens, like the lovely vertical display above. I’ll bet the sandbox behind it was inspired by their little boy.Potted aloe garden by Chicweed

This mosaic pot filled with succulents also is in Chicweed Design & Landscaping’s display garden.

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Speaking of lovely succulent container gardens, this one is by Katie Christensen for Desert Theater. The gorgeous purple plant is a dyckia, a type of bromeliad that’s succulent. Dyckias would doubtless be more popular if they didn’t have leaf edges as sharp as steak knives. (Katie, are you bleeding?)

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Also in the Desert Theater display is “Miss Katie’s potting bench.”

Succulent container gardens

Miss Katie brings a feminine aesthetic to succulents.

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Judges give bonus points for labeled plants. This is a charming way to do it, don’t you think?

IMG_4306The display garden above, which incorporates agaves and dasylirions, utilizes a lot of interesting hardscape and topdressings, which after all are THE ultimate way to have a waterwise garden.

echeverias in metal bowl

And isn’t this stunning? So simple! Pass the oil and vinegar. (Kidding.)

Don’t forget, you can get a free pass by going to the Show’s website and entering my special discount code: DLBA. If you missed it this year, subscribe to my newsletter (below), and I’ll give you a head’s up for next year.

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.

 

How to Kill Succulents

How Not To Kill Succulents

What IS it with New Yorkers? Whatever we’re cheerfully crazy about on the West Coast is dismissed by somber-clothed subway sprinters as idiotic. Or at least that’s the vibe I got from a reporter with New York Magazine, who disguised her weather envy with a lot of polite questions. Evidently what she really wanted was yet more reasons to diss succulents.

Jamie Lauren Keiles emailed that she was researching an article on how to kill succulents, and would I be available for a phone interview? I responded that I had killed plenty and would be happy to explain how.

I figured she was kidding.

SHE WASN’T. An excerpt:

“What kind of asshole hates a plant? Me, I guess. A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop in Bed-Stuy, glowering at a jade plant in a ceramic mug, unable to get the phrase benign uterine polyp out of my head. The surge of disgust took me by surprise. For most of my life, I believed myself to like succulents. I loved them, even. In the same way that a baby’s oversize head and round eyes provoke empathy, the plump and whimsical leaves of these desert plants felt undeniably cute. But as with babies, more plants does not necessarily equal more cute. One baby? Adorable. Hundreds of babies in twee upcycled teacups atop every coffee-shop table and windowsill in your neighborhood? A nightmare.”

I emailed her: “just read your article on killing succulents, and would like you to know that they forgive you, sappy plants that they are.”

To not leave the question begging—and because succulent lovers (as well as haters) need to know—

“But what if one did want to kill a succulent? Or many succulents? Hypothetically speaking.

‘Their roots are not set up to deal with too much water,’ Baldwin told me. ‘So the No. 1 way to kill a succulent is to love it too much.’

With this in mind, we succulent-haters wait in hiding. It’s only a matter of time.”

Btw, I had told Jamie, “Every reporter’s favorite quote from me seems to be, ‘People used to say they hate succulents. Now they say they love them.’ So would you please use a different one?”

She wrote:

“Baldwin worked with succulents before the current fad, in an era when plant-lovers considered them ‘common’ and ‘for poor people.'”

But hey, she did mention my books. Even linked to them…more or less. (After the article appeared without links, I sent her a heart-rending reminder.)

 

For another East Coast reporter’s opinion and perspective, you might enjoy my post: Why Are Succulents So Popular?

 

Also see: How to Keep Succulents Happy Indoors