Collectors know where to find rare succulents: at shows hosted by Cactus and Succulent Society affiliate clubs. Attend one near you to see unusual plants grown and displayed perfectly; blue-ribbon winners; reasonably priced plants not found in nurseries; growers and experts; and one-of-a-kind, artist-designed pots. I like to pick out a collectible art pot and carry it with me as I choose a plant for it...and vice-versa.
Larger Cactus and Succulent Society of America affiliates host shows once or twice a year. One of the biggest is the San Diego Cactus & Succulent Society's summer show and sale at Casa Del Prado, Balboa Park, the first weekend in June. Admission is free, but if you want to get in early to shop before the crowds, become a member ($15/year).
Q&A with Christie
To help you get the most from this and other shows, read my Q&A with SDCSS spokesperson and art potter Christie Lothrop of MadPotters:
Q: Christie, why the SDCSS?
A: I'm a super novice newbie, and I can always find someone to answer my questions. I had some weird dots on my echeveria leaves that I thought could be a fungus so I brought a few with me in a baggie to a meeting. I left with a link to buy a product that a grower himself uses. It was really cool that I could ask a question and not made to feel stupid that I didn't know the difference between scale and sun spots. He even spent a few extra minutes telling me about scale, how it spreads and what I can do to try to prevent it. And how it differs from fungus and what to look out for with that.
Q: Are visitors welcome at meetings?
A: Yes! Anyone can come for free. Also, our location in Balboa Park is perfect for travelers whose vacation dates coincide with our meetings.
Q: Do you have members beyond San Diego?
A: We do, and I've suggested that some or all of our speakers be videoed and uploaded to YouTube for people to learn from outside of the meetings. Members also receive a beautiful newsletter with informative essays.
Q: What sort of social media presence does the SDCSS have?
A: Our Facebook page gets the most engagement. We're also encouraging our members to upload their plant photos with the hashtag #SDCSS to share and find new plant friends online.
Q: How many members does the SDCSS have?
A: Nearly 2000, with almost half being family memberships. Our numbers have been pretty steady over the past few years, with the increases being around February and June, which are our show and sale months.
Q: What's going on that's new?
A: The new board and president strongly believe in making our club THE best in the nation, if not the world - and that means being open and accessible to all levels of succulent and cactus lovers. We're working hard to add more perks to being a member. While our monthly speakers are the best any club has to offer, we also are planning field trips, and adding conservation efforts and more activities. Last month, for example, the club organized a trip to the Central Arizona Cactus & Succulent Society Show and Sale and covered entrance fees to both the Phoenix Botanical Gardens and the Boyce Thompson Garden Tour.
Q: What should people know about the San Diego show?
Q: What's at the show for novices and new members?
A: We've added Family Day on Sunday for families with younger children. We'll have a hands-on planting workshop for kids, an informative workshop on soil for adults, and barrel cactus seed pods for everyone to take a look at and learn from. All free.
Q: Anything else different this year?
Q: What can you tell us about the vendors?
A: They're all local. We take care of our long-time vendors and offer the best opportunities for new ones to join. We accept new vendors by recommendations from a current vendor or member, which means they're top-notch and proven to have great, healthy plants. Bringing in new vendors also means we support local artists and showcase unique and sometimes never-been-seen-before pottery, all by artisans who understand the plants' needs.
A: Start by searching online to see if anything already is in place. Facebook especially, as I've found there are a lot of little niche groups - Love Lithops, for example. Meetup.com, Eventbrite.com and your local community calendars are also great resources.
To see amazing succulents in elegant art pots, attend a Cactus & Succulent Society Show. The largest in the US is the annual Inter-City Show at the Los Angeles Arboretum mid-August. Judges award ribbons and trophies based on how well a specimen is grown, its rarity, and how well it’s “staged” in its pot. Pots aren’t…
Long a pariah plant, cactus is gaining popularity. You could even say that in the gardening world, “cactus is the new black.” Here’s why spiny succulents are catching up with smooth ones, notably in art, home decor, clothing and gift items. A little perspective: The first edition of my book, Designing with Succulents (Timber Press,…