Great Repetitions at Steven’s Gardens

– Posted in: Succulents


At the Laguna Beach Garden Club recently, a young woman came to the book-signing table, introduced herself, and invited me to a nearby nursery where she works. I took her up on it mainly  to see the succulents, and didn’t expect such an impressive array of pots. Big ones, little ones, vivid ones, pale ones, and everything in between. Plus ceramic orbs, for which there seem no purpose, other than to do the same thing in the garden as glass globes (which I don’t understand either).


Since it’s easy to get great shots of multiple pots, I fell into photo mode. As you look at these, don’t just think “pots,” think “repetition.” It’s an essential component of design, whether you’re creating a garden, accessorizing an outfit, or composing a photo. Above: Venerable pepper trees rise above the nursery.


The location is Steven’s Gardens in Mission Viejo (vee-AY-ho), CA, but that only will benefit you if you’re within driving distance. I’m pretty sure they don’t sell mail-order…unless perhaps you want to pay shipping on a pot too heavy to lift.


I love the way the late-afternoon light illuminated these containers.


Look at the rich blue and purple glazes! But to be honest, I think cobalt is one of the most difficult colors to design with. The principle of repetition doesn’t apply; no plant is this color. You have to go with the second most important design principle, contrast. That means, plants with leaves or flowers that are the color complement of blue: orange. If that’s not possible, go with chartreuse, red or yellow. The point is to use plants that offer the same intensity of hue as that of the pot.


Did you think I was showing you exotic cocktails? I’m not sure how I’d use these, but I like their color, especially combined with that magenta bougainvillea.


The nursery has an impressive array of fountains. Can you hear the splash of water?


This was one of the more ostentatious fountains. Welcome to Italy.

OK, on to the succulents…


The quality of the plant material is impressive.


My new friend May does a lovely job of combining succulents in containers. She has a few to choose from!


So what do you think? I hope you will look for ways to use repetition and contrast to enhance your photos and garden. Nature does it best; this last photo embodies both design principles in a solo aeonium rosette, also seen at Steven’s.



Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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3 Comments… add one

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Jayme B October 20, 2013, 6:57 am

Beautiful succulents…. Wow! Thanks Debra… Seeing your photos is always a great way to start a day!

Katie October 20, 2013, 9:09 am

What do I think? That this was one of my favorite posts of yours! Useful and hilarious–DLB at her best. And thank you for your forthright opinion about garden globes. I don’t understand them, either, and it makes me feel silly. I even HAVE one, which I got for free, and since I don’t know what to do with it, it just sits idle on a bottom shelf near my rooting leaves…

Amy October 20, 2013, 9:13 am


I enjoyed this post. It is so fun to visit nurseries and just look at all the colors and textures. I have never brought my camera but I think I will start. Nebraska is getting cold and we had a couple hard frost so my flowers are done. So I depend on Gardening Gone Wild to get through the winter.( well, this will be my first winter with this site but I think it will get me through!)

Thank you

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