Wanda Mallen and Debra Lee Baldwin with Wanda's euphorbia collection (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Wanda’s Collection of Weird & Wonderful Plants

Wanda Mallen's collection of weird and wonderful plants on two acres in Fallbrook, CA, is a must-see for succulent enthusiasts.  For 25 years she's directed husband Gary Vincent in planting (sometimes jackhammering) the property's decomposed granite substrate. "The good thing is DG drains well," Wanda says.

Wanda Mallen and husband Gary Vincent in their garden (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Wanda and Gary in their garden

The result is a many-layered landscape unlike any other. Not only does Gary continue to expedite Wanda’s vision as to where new plants will look good and do well, he builds, maintains, and adds to structures; and grooms the garden daily.

Wanda collects "anything unusual, variegated, colorful or bizarre."

Intriguing color variations on a succulent euphorbia (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

A variegated euphorbia's pigments appear to swirl

Multi-room greenhouse

"Fallbrook is mostly frost-free," she says, "but our garden, being in a low spot, does experience the occasional frosty night." To protect his wife's ever-expanding collection of tender succulents and tropicals, Gary constructed a large multiroom greenhouse. Underfoot is shredded redwood bark; overhead, wood lattice.

Multi-room greenhouse with lattice walls and redwood bark underfoot (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

Unlike typical greenhouses, theirs is a series of rooms with lattice walls and ceilings, inviting sitting areas, and outdoor art and sculptures.

In some areas, such as one with euphorbias, haworthias, gasterias and dwarf aloes, Gary installed translucent panels and gutters above the lattice ceiling to protect rot-prone plants from excessive rain during winter dormancy.

Art pots with aloes and gasterias on greenhouse shelves

Basking in bright natural light on greenhouse shelves are hundreds of plants in art pots.

Progression of a collection

"I started with bromeliads back in '89," Wanda says, when asked which plants first seduced her.

Colorful bromeliads in art pots in Wanda Mallen's garden (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

A few of dozens of bromeliads in Wanda's collection

She went on to succulents, palms, and lacy trees from Australia. Also in the greenhouse, look for crested, monstrose and caudiciform succulents, an impressive assortment of peperomias, and epiphytic succulents from Asia and South America (including Hoya and Rhipsalis species).

Butia capitata (pindo palm) and succulents in Wanda Mallen's garden

Butia capitata (pindo palm) helps shade succulents that include agaves, aloes and the dyckia in bloom in the foreground

In-Ground Rarities

In the larger garden are in-ground specimens of paddle and columnar cacti, palms, cycads, conifers, euphorbias and much more.

Perfectly symmetrical medusa form euphorbia in Wanda Mallen's garden

A perfectly symmetrical Euphorbia inermis

Flanking the long driveway, amid boulders and dry creekbeds, are sun-loving agaves, dasylirions, aloes, barrel cacti, and surprises like cyphostemmas. There's also the most symmetrical medusa euphorbia I've yet to see. Near it is another medusoid that's partially crested, and yet another that flows over boulders.

Pink Hoya flower with leaves variegated pink and green (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

A pink hoya flower with leaves variegated pink and green

Mainly in spring, Wanda and Gary welcome local garden clubs and affiliates of the Cactus & Succulent Society of America. (In my video, you may recognize a few.)

Wanda's latest "addictions"

I also show plants that Wanda is newly into, like mangaves, hoyas---which she says are "an addiction"---and colorful crotons (Codiaeum sp., in the Euphorbiaceae family).

"You can't find unusual crotons here," Wanda says of her area, adding she gets them from a  nurseryman formerly in San Diego who is now in Hawaii: Tom Piergrossi.

Garden sculpture: A metal flying dragon holds a flower pot in Wanda Mallen's garden (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

A metal flying dragon appears pleased with a trailing cactus

Even more to see

It all invites exploration, and there's lots for non-gardeners, too: brightly painted Mexican Talavera pottery; bold-colored walls; shady areas that offer relief on hot days; and whimsical metal art that ranges from stone-and-iron rattlesnakes to a six-foot, winged metal dragon holding---appropriately---a trailing cactus in a flowerpot.

What do you like best about the garden? Tell us in the Comments below!

Want to visit? Wanda and Gary's garden will be on tour during the Cactus & Succulent Society's biennial convention in San Diego April 23-27, 2025.

Gallery of maybe 1% of Wanda's Plants (Which is Still a LOT)

Related Info on this site

Euphorbia lactea crest (c) Debra Lee Baldwin

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Enjoyed this article? Please share it!


  1. Elizabeth Madrazo on June 26, 2024 at 10:41 am

    Hi Debra, I’m the secretary and tour planner of the Chula Vista Garden Club. How can J get in touch with Wanda Mallen for a spring tour? I loved your video on YouTube. 😍
    Thanks, Elizabeth Madrazo

    • Debra on June 26, 2024 at 5:08 pm

      Thanks, Elizabeth, glad you liked it! I don’t want to give out Wanda’s contact info, but I’m happy to forward messages to her.

  2. Mike Biehop on July 6, 2024 at 1:41 pm

    What a fantastic garden and an amazing collection! Where in the world (or in Southern CA) can we find pottery like those in the pictures and video? I caught that the pots are “ Artist-designed one of a kind pots” but a resource list to help us find people making pots like this would be a great sidebar to this web page. Hint, hint… 🙂

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