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The Easy Way to Paint Watercolors

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When you dilute watercolor paint with liquid light (clear water), you can create an image that’s translucent. Because the white of the paper shines through, the result suggests a sunlit moment in the garden.

I learned this cool technique from San Diego watercolor artist Diane Palley McDonald.

  1. Select a photo that inspires you.
  2. Print the photo on 8-1/2 by 11 paper.
  3. Put the photo on a light table or against a sunny window, and tape a piece of watercolor paper over it.
  4. Using a pencil, lightly trace the photo’s main lines onto the watercolor paper.
  5. Tape the edges of the watercolor paper to a thick rectangle of cardboard.
  6. Mask any bright white lines. (optional)
  7. Have fun painting!

It’s a lot like painting a coloring book page. The worst that can happen is you’ll have to start over, but the hard part of any painting is the drawing, so you can skip that part. I often do two or three paintings of a subject before I’m satisfied.

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See more of my paintings in my succulent watercolor calendar…or paint your own! Most of them also are on my Pinterest page, Succulent Watercolors. I also have a YouTube video showing how I paint a watercolor. Enjoy!

 

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Succulent Wreath Tips and Ideas

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Do you like the succulent wreath that my friend Denise made during a wreath party at my home? To create a similar one, you’ll need about 100 cuttings, a wire wreath form, 24-gauge florist’s wire, a chopstick, and a bag of sphagnum moss. The form, moss and wire are available at any craft store. Cuttings will root right into the moss (no soil needed).

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Stuff the wire form with moistened moss, then wrap the form with wire to hold everything together tightly. Add wire loops to both top and bottom of the back of the wreath so you can rotate it, when finished, 180 degrees once a month or so for balanced growth. Poke holes in the moss and insert cuttings.

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Keep the wreath flat until cuttings root into the moss—about two weeks. To hang it sooner, secure the cuttings with U-shaped florist’s pins.

For more wreath-making tips and ideas, view my other blog posts: Make a Succulent Wreath and Katie’s Succulent Wreath Class; see 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.

Succulent wreaths

Also view the 50+ pins on my Pinterest page, Succulent Wreaths and Topiaries.

 

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Four No-Water Succulents for Your Garden

 

Succulents that need little or no water other than rainfall, grow in nutrient-poor soil, and handle searing sun and frost are native to the Southwest and Mexico: dasylirions, agaves, cacti and yuccas (DACYs). These no-nonsense plants thrive from Mexico to the Bay Area, and in parts of Colorado, Texas and the Carolinas (Zones 7b and higher). The Laguna Beach garden shown here has all four.

No water succulent garden
Above: Mark and Cindy Evans’ hilltop garden in Laguna Beach, CA has all sorts of DACYs. Also in their garden are euphorbias, crassulas (jades) and aloes.  Can you tell which is which?

Above: In the Evans garden are Yucca rostrata, Agave attenuata and Yucca aloifolia (Spanish Bayonet). A topdressing of golden decomposed granite lends a finished look.

Above: Two Dasylirion whipplei (which resemble pincushions) are 15 years old. The Yucca aloifolia at left was there when Mark and Cindy bought the house in 1999. “I think it’s pretty old; its base is huge,” Mark says. Four silvery blue Yucca rostrata also are 15 (the much larger one at right gets more sun). Mark planted the spineless paddle cactus along the wall from cuttings six years ago. Behind them, at right, is a 6-year-old blue Agave americana. Growing in the dry fountain are 8-year-old foxtail agaves (Agave attenuata).

How is it possible that yuccas and dasylirions, which have thin leaves, are succulents?  It’s because the store water in their trunks. A succulent is “any plant that stores water in fleshy leaves or stems in order to withstand periods of drought.” (Some succulents also store water in their roots, but we’ll delve into that another time.)

 

Snail on Succulent

Prepare your Succulents for El Niño, All About Pumice, and More!

Prepare Your Succulents
for El Niño!

 

In 1998, while gardening between El Niño storms, I realized I inadvertently threw a snail through the open window of a passing pickup truck. Unlike previously tossed mollusks, I didn’t hear the sound of shell hitting asphalt. If the driver had stopped, I would’ve apologized and explained that it wasn’t personal—at least not where he was concerned.

Snail on Succulent

 

Snails reproduce in abundance in wet weather and unless stopped chew unsightly holes in plants. This is truly a shame because succulents keep their leaves a long time. An environmentally friendly bait is Sluggo, but it’s expensive, as are decollate (predator) snails—which in any case are not copacetic in every California county. The most expedient method, squashing underfoot, leaves a sticky residue on shoes. I’ve learned to step on a leaf instead, which is one reason I grow nasturtiums. Set a snail on the ground and place a nasturtium leaf atop it. If there’s no crunch, find harder ground. But not your patio; snails stain.

An even bigger concern during El Niño is that succulents, which come from arid climates, may rot. Stems or trunks turn squishy and collapse. It may be possible to take cuttings from healthy top growth and restart the plants—as I did that winter with aeoniums. Fortunately, the rest of my succulents came through fine, despite double normal rainfall. After all, it’s not water that causes roots to rot, but drowning from lack of oxygen (plus microbes). Consider: Agave attenuata, crassulas, yuccas and other succulents thrive in Hilo, Hawaii, shown below, where precipitation averages 200+ inches a year. Rain bathes the roots continually, but they stay aerated and healthy because the soil is fast-draining lava rock.

 

Succulents in Hilo, Hawaii

 

If succulents occupy low-lying areas of your garden where rain tends to puddle, and you don’t want to move the plants to higher ground, use a patio umbrella to keep them from being soaked. Channel run-off with rocks, sandbags or trenches; and top-dress soggy soil with pumice to absorb standing water.

The Scoop on Pumice and Succulents

 

Austin Petelski of General Pumice Products

 

Perhaps the best soil amendment for succulents is pumice, a lightweight crushed volcanic rock that aerates the growing medium and absorbs excess moisture. I mix pumice half-and-half with bagged potting soil for containers; and with equal parts compost and garden soil or decomposed granite for in-ground beds.

Often confused with perlite, which also is white but is inorganic and floats, pumice has always been harder to come by, especially in economical 40-lb bags. Tack-and-feed stores used to be the best source (brand name Dry Stall), but for the past year supplies have been uncertain. That’s now resolved. General Pumice Products, a Central CA company owned by brother and sister Austin and Lexi Petelski, bought the mine formerly owned by Dry Stall. AND they specialize in pumice as a soil amendment. Finally, pumice for horticulture, not just horses!

 

There are two pumice mines in California, and General Pumice owns both. Retailers include Waterwise Botanicals nursery in Escondido, CA. To find a supplier nearest you, email austin@globalpumice.com or call 760/403-7321.

Photo: Austin Petelski, 26, co-owner of General Pumice Products, holds pumice from the mine he owns with sister, Lexi. Austin’s scar is from surgery from brain cancer (he’s doing fine) and his tats are from his interest in art and his faith. 

 

Mas Muertos!

 

Folk art garden muertos

 

My online shop’s garden muertos sold out within hours after I announced them, but happily more have arrived!

Order these charming and collectible folk art figures for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (Nov. 1). Day of the Dead is a Latin American tradition of celebrating loved ones who have passed away and who, one day a year, return to be honored and remembered. Depictions of los muertos show them happily engaged in pastimes they once enjoyed, such as gardening.

Obtain Garden Muertos at My Online Shop
Free Shipping for Newsletter Subscribers
Use coupon code: Muertos  

 

Mr. and Mrs. Muerto are approximately 14″ tall and made of sturdy papier mache, $29 apiece or $49 for the pair. Because each figure is entirely made by hand, embellishments and colors may differ. Supplies are limited. Plants and pup not included.

 

 

Videos! From my YouTube Channel ~

 

Succulent Extravaganza. In which I interview Brian Kemble of the Ruth Bancroft Garden about Bay Area designer Andrea Hurd’s garden display, which features a bench made of vertically aligned flagstone. Filmed at Succulent Gardens nursery in Castroville, CA. (3:27)

Succulent video

 

Soil Mix for Succulents. I show and describe my preferred mix, made with pumice formerly sold as Dry Stall.  (2:50)

2015 Succulent Extravaganza Recap

 

These whimsical succulent cupcakes on display at the recent Succulent Extravaganza are by San Jose designer Laura Balaoro.
See more photos of the event on my blog.

Debra Lee Baldwin at Roger's Gardens

“You give away so much, how do you make any money?”

My income is mainly from honorariums from speaking engagements and royalties from sales of my books. Also—you may not know this—if you go to Amazon.com via my website’s Books page, regardless of what you buy, as an Amazon Associate I receive a small percentage of your purchase amount. 

Whoever made that whopping purchase in Sept. after clicking through to Amazon via my Books page, may I just say THANK YOU? Wow, what a lovely surprise!

My new catch phrase: Click on a book, buy something else.

Debra Lee Baldwin books

 

To bypass my website and go straight to Amazon, here’s the link:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1604693932/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1604693932&linkCode=as2&tag=debrleebaldss-20

P.S. The snail photo above is from my first book, Designing with Succulents, which means the snail would now be 8 years old had it lived. Of course it didn’t. 

 


Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

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KPBS and NPR with Debra Lee Baldwin
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Debra Talks Succulents on KPBS News Radio

Debra’s interviews on KPBS radio news have been making the rounds on television and the Internet. Succulents are more popular than ever and—as Debra explains on-air—San Diego is taking the lead in championing their success.

 

 

Check out Debra’s YouTube channel and her three bestselling books for more expert info on succulents.

 


 


Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

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Debra Lee Baldwin on Craftsy
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Stunning Succulent Arrangements Class

 

Stunning Succulent Arrangements

I’m very pleased to announce my in-depth online class: Stunning 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 turned my family room into a film studio. Good news: Use this link to take 50% off the regular enrollment price of $40!

Debra Lee Baldwin Craftsy Review

 

 


 

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San Francisco Flower and Garden Show: Sublimation

An innovative display garden won multiple awards at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. Landscape design students Eric Arneson and Nahal Sohbati of the Academy of Art used the concept of sublimation (water going straight from solid to gas) as a metaphor for the California drought, i.e. “missing water.” Clever design ideas include weatherproof walls of wire cubes (gabions); rounded stones stacked below smaller ones hanging like bubbles from wire; a bench made of vertical 4x4s repeating the squares in the design; succulents planted vertically still in their nursery pots; and succulents combined with drought-tolerant ornamental grasses for appealing texture.

 
 


Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

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Got a Pot? Elevate it!

“Everything looks better elevated,” says San Diego succulent designer Diana Clark, who has wood stands custom-made to enhance her potted compositions. Diana, who calls her business “The Perfect Plant” because she pairs vessels found at antique stores or estate sales with a “perfect” succulent, created the plant-pot pairings shown here. As you look at them, ask yourself: Does the stand matter? Would the composition look just as good without it? And if you agree that the stand makes a difference, do you think you might you might try it?

It’s surprising how easy it is to find stands that will work for pots, at thrift stores. Learn more about Diana’s Asian-inspired design aesthetic in this YouTube video I created. And if you’re in the San Diego area, do come to a show-and-sale she’s having in Point Loma November 7-9. I’ll be there Saturday morning, Nov. 8, signing books, and would love to meet you!

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Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

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Don Newcomer’s Favorite Cactus

Recently at his nursery in Fallbrook, CA, succulent expert Don Newcomer showed me a rare columnar, spineless cactus from Mexico.

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It can be chubby and lumpy, tall and skinny, or columnar and spiral-forming. Here’s the spiral form:

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Don told me that these monstrose forms of Lophocereus schottii 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 CactusPachycereus schotii has spines. The monstrose form has club-shaped trunks with spineless protruberences. There are three monstrose varieties: fat (obesa), spiral (spiralis) and skinny or totem pole (mieckleyanus). 

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.

 
 


Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

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Spiral Aloe
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Fibonacci Spirals

Sunflowers and nautilus shells exhibit a geometric spiral that is found in many cacti and succulents. I thought you might enjoy some examples. Isn’t nature amazing?

Aloe polyphylla, also known as Spiral Aloe

This is Aloe polyphylla, the spiral aloe. Next, some cacti.

Sempervivum arachnoideum, cactus spiral

Sempervivum arachnoideum, cactus spiral

Sempervivum arachnoideum, cactus spiral

These are Sempervivum arachnoideum (cobweb houseleeks).

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This is a Medusa euphorbia.

Medusa euphorbia

And another mammillaria. If the spiral form of its spines wasn’t lovely enough, it’s beautifully in bloom. Have you noticed Fibonacci spirals in your own plants or garden? Do look for them. You may be surprised at how common they are.

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Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

Debra Lee Baldwin, Garden Photojournalist, Author and Succulent Expert

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