Succulent Extravaganza Recap

– Posted in: Garden Adventures, Succulents

See the seahorse? It’s sempervivums planted in vertical panels. This was one of many lovely and unusual sights at the second annual Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens nursery in Castroville, CA last week.

A terrace at the nursery is planted with Agave ‘Blue Glow’ (foreground) and Agave ‘Blue Flame’ (background).

One-third of my forthcoming book, Succulents Simplified, is all about using succulents in design projects, and that was the topic of my presentation on Friday.

Saturday, I spoke on Companion Plants for Succulents. If you’d like to view the photos I showed, they’re at this online storage site. You’re welcome to download and share them however you like so long as you leave the watermark intact.  Above: Two textural and colorful drought-tolerant companions for succulent landscapes are blue fescue and California poppies.

A succulent-bedecked hat worn by Laura Balaoro of San Jose (above), founder of the Succulent Fanatics, stole the show. No way would daisies or other flowers have held up for two days without water, exposed to hot sun!

The nursery was looking terrific. There were lots of cool plants in abundance, such as these spiral aloes (Aloe polyphylla)…

…sempervivums (above) and variegated aeoniums (below).

Speakers included Brian Kemble of the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, who conducted a walking tour of the nursery…

…Bay Area garden designer Rebecca Sweet—here is a photo of succulents in her own garden


…and Flora Grubb of Flora Grubb Gardens, a nursery in San Francisco (yes, that’s really her name). Flora, a renowned visionary in the world of horticulture and design, made these key points:

  • Succulents will be in demand as houseplants because they’re long-lasting, thrive on neglect and are more interesting than the traditional houseplants. Low-light succulents, such as rhipsalis, hatiora, sansevieria, haworthias, etc., will become popular, especially with residents of downtown urban areas who lack garden spaces.
  •  We’re going see succulents used in design applications, like wired onto florist’s picks for bouquets, that take advantage of the plants’ remarkable tolerance for difficult conditions. They’ll be used creatively as a decorative option that lasts a lot longer than flowers, and afterwards can be planted.
  • Non-cactus rosette succulents, small and large, will be increasingly incorporated into traditional landscapes to help reduce water bills, so that people can have a look of lush abundance instead of a “xeriscape” that they feel pressured to have but really don’t like the look of.
What I enjoyed most about the event wasn’t the plants, however. I enjoyed making new friends and seeing old ones, especially Succulent Gardens’ owner Robin Stockwell.
Remarkably, the event was free of charge, and attendees were invited to stay for a barbecue Friday. Now that’s hospitality.
I don’t have stats on attendance, but there were 250 seats in the makeshift auditorium, all filled (SRO at times), and I’ll bet nearly 100 stayed for grilled burgers that were large, juicy and, well, succulent.
My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified. 
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
9 comments… add one

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Candy Suter October 4, 2012, 4:23 pm

Yea Debra! We posted on the same day! Great post girlie! And you know I love the photos!

Ibukun October 5, 2012, 5:42 am

By Spiral aloe’s you mean aloe vera right? They look amazing. I’d like to get a plant that thrives on neglect like these succulents..

Patrick October 5, 2012, 6:55 am

Simply stunning. I’m a Midwest guy and can’t grow grow sempervivums like that but I can daydream and oh how are daydreaming right now!

Patrick October 5, 2012, 7:08 am

Simply stunning! I’m a Midwest guy and I can’t grow sempervivum like that but I can daydream and oh how I’m daydreaming right now!

Plant Stands October 5, 2012, 3:57 pm

I didn’t know that sempervivums could be so colorful…I may have to add a few to my succulent pot indoors. Does the light need to be bright for them to retain/turn these colors? I hope not!

TyrantFarms October 5, 2012, 9:40 pm

Great post and stunning photos! My wife (the “Tyrant”) will swoon when she sees that “succulent-bedecked hat.” 🙂 Question: was there any particular edible succulent that you found particularly noteworthy (for indoor or garden)?

Elaine October 7, 2012, 9:56 pm

Love the hat!!!

Aidan Healy October 8, 2012, 2:19 pm

Aggghhh! Such amazing plants, and fantastic photos! I may have to get my hands on some of those aloes (the spiral ones), they are so wild looking!

Debra Lee Baldwin October 23, 2012, 12:09 pm

Candy Suter (see above) has a blog dedicated solely to succulents: Sweetstuff’s Sassy Succulents. She shares her passion for the plants and posts great photos.

Ibukun, no, there are many, many aloes. The spiral aloe is Aloe polyphylla, not Aloe vera. And it doesn’t thrive on neglect—it’s one of the most difficult succulents to grow. Isn’t that the way it goes with gorgeous plants? Not fair!

Patrick, you can grow anything you want. It’s a matter of providing for the plant’s needs. So in your area, that might mean growing them in a greenhouse or sunroom, or overwintering them in your basement. Most succulents do need bright light to retain their tight geometric shapes and bright colors. In low light, they’ll etiolate (stretch) and revert to green.

There are very few edible succulents. Perhaps the most notable is prickly pear cactus (pads and fruit), also called nopales. They’re a delicacy south of the border, not so much here.

Yes, Laura Balaoro’s hat was the hit of the show!

Aidan — Thank you! You might want to follow me on Facebook and/or subscribe to my seasonal newsletter to find out the latest and greatest where succulents are concerned. I’ve written three books about them, too — Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and (coming out in 2013) Succulents Simplified. More info at

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