Twenty years ago, cacti and succulents were oddball plants, little known among the nursery industry or gardening community. North San Diego county was where the wholesale growers were located, and many still are. But unfortunately Cooper’s Cactus and Succulents no longer exists; not since John Cooper passed away. The good news is that his plants live on, as does his kindness. Above: I photographed this Aloe nobilis ‘Variegata’ and the other succulents shown here at Roja’s Succulents, 2005 E. Alvarado St., Fallbrook, CA. “John Cooper made it possible for me to have my own nursery,” says Rosalina Rojas, one of his former employees. Above: Echeveria ‘Cante’ in bloom.
Her own one-acre nursery has been in existence more than a decade. Above: Ruffled echeverias. “I’ve been in the US for 26 years, and I’m a citizen,” Rosalina says proudly. She originally is from Guanajuato, Mexico. Above: A striped aloe.
“One of my sons is fighting for our country,” Rosalina told me. Francisco, 26, is in the Special Forces. Above: Aloe tomentosa flowers are unusual for the genus: pale green, fuzzy and appear in midsummer.
“It’s my passion and my living,” says Rosalina, adding that having her own nursery made it possible for her to raise her sons as a single mom. Above: Aloe dorotheae.
Following in her mentor’s footsteps, Rosalina cultivates many beautiful, rare and unusual varieties. Above: This variegated Graptopetalum pentandrum is one of her own introductions.
So, what treasures did I bring home? One was this unusual senecio with beadlike leaves. And this variation of Kalanchoe luciae (paddle plant) with rolled leaves. Rosalina calls it the “taco kalanchoe.” When you’re in the area, do visit Rosalina and mention that you heard about her here. You also might want to have my comprehensive list of “San Diego Succulent Destinations.” Incidentally, Rosalina wasn’t the only one Cooper helped; others continue to cultivate plants once grown at his nursery. Above: An Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ variation.