I Come Out in Garden Design’s Spring Issue

– Posted in: Garden Design, Succulents

GD Cover & DLB annotated_resized

No doubt you know that Garden Design is a fabulous “bookazine” for those who love luscious photos of gorgeous gardens and superb design. It’s a huge honor and a high point of my career to be profiled in the Spring 2016 issue as a “groundbreaker” (See “Succulent Chic,” pp. 32-35).

Consequently, I took the opportunity to come out as a cactus lover.

Well, I had to. They asked about trends in the world of succulents. I believe my progression is fairly typical. Most of us start out loving succulents that look like fleshy roses—echeverias, graptoverias and the like. As we gain appreciation for the lines, textures and shapes of all succulents, we inevitably arrive at those that exhibit elegant simplicity at its best—never mind that they have spines (in fact, sometimes because they do).

Note I’m not talking about common prickly pear—the plant most of us have bad childhood memories of. (Ow!) There are SO many other kinds of cacti.

The article’s portrait shot (above right, taken at Desert Theater nursery) shows me surrounded by columnar cacti with spines that glow yellow-orange in the late-afternoon sun. Yep, I wore turquoise on purpose.

If you’re a formerly closeted cactus fancier, too, we should organize a pride march. Herewith, I offer a dozen reasons why cacti are the coming thing…in waterwise gardens and in Garden Design.

Mammillaria eichlamii low res

  • In a word: symmetry. Mammillarias in particular have it nailed.  Above: Mammillaria eichlamii
  • Oreocereus low res
  • For such simple plants, they offer astonishing contrasts. I mean, c’mon, spines and fur? Above: Oreocereus celsianus
  • Echinocactus rubrispinus
  •  Endearingly, cacti don’t take themselves too seriously. Above: Echinocactus pectinatus rubrispinus
  • Pachycereus_weberii low res
  •  Some think they’re snowflakes.
  • Trichocereus low res
  • Others, waterlilies. (Trichocereus hybrids)
  • Mammillaria candida_low res
  • A few are in touch with their feminine side.
  • Lophocereus schotii low res
    • Others, not so much. (Lophocereus schottii)
    • Mammillaria gracilis fragilis (thimble cactus) low res
    • More than a few are darn cute. Each of these thimble cacti is less than an inch in diameter.
    • Ferocactus latispinus low resAnd how about geometry, red spines and buds like Russion onion domes? This ferocactus has them all.
    • Tephrocactus geometricus low res
    • Love ’em or hate ’em, you can’t deny cacti are intriguing. Like this stack of pink-and-teal golf balls I photographed at a Cactus & Succulent Society show. (Tephrocactus geometricus)
    • Echinocactus grusonii (golden barrel cactus) low res

    • But here’s what I like best about cacti (the spinier the better): How they’re haloed by the sun. When I asked horticulturist Patrick Anderson why he grows cactus, he replied, “Stand over there.” I circled the plants until he told me to stop. Lo and behold, backlit by the sun, a dozen golden barrels glowed. I’ve been circling cacti ever since. (Echinocactus grusonii)

    • Garden Design cover low res

Get the Spring, 2016 issue of Garden Design.

Succulent mini garden

View my video of the “Mini High Desert Succulent Garden” shown in the article.

Join me at Waterwise Botanicals nursery’s Cactus Chat, April 8 at 10 a.m. Free.










Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
6 Comments… add one

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Laurin Lindsey April 6, 2016, 5:58 pm

How exciting I so look forward to it. I love succulents and cacti…and GD mag!

Sheila Schultz April 6, 2016, 8:04 pm

I love this post, Deborah, and it is so timely. Your first book fueled my passion for succulents and educated me to be able to start a successful container garden design biz around the use of succulents plus anything foliage in Denver after moving from Chicago. Initially, I used a combo of cacti and succulents, but the spikes made them so unfriendly for our clients we deleted cactus and went to succulents only with our designs. the beauty of Cactus continue to intrigue me and they are already part of our designs for the upcoming season. Clients beware! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder 😉

Katie Young (Gardening Succs) April 29, 2016, 3:05 pm

OMG, Debra… I can’t believe you finally came out! Well, congratulations. Better late than never, and it’s wonderful to have you as part of the LGBTCi (Ladies and Guys who Both Think Cacti are Interesting) community. <3

Debra Lee Baldwin May 17, 2016, 2:53 pm

Ha-ha. High praise coming from you, rainbow girl.

Debra Lee Baldwin May 17, 2016, 2:55 pm

Thanks, Sheila! I’m thrilled that I helped you launch a business in keeping with your passion. Yes, spines are the worst—and the best—things about cacti!

Rob Bond October 21, 2016, 7:52 am

Congratulations on coming out! It must be a weight off your shoulders. I enjoyed reading this post as well. I didn’t know you can make cactus looking so appealing!

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