Gardening Gone Wild is the blog I share with other garden authors and photographers, including Fran Sorin and Saxon Holt.

"Gardening Gone Wild sports a very impressive list of contributors, so check it out. They do all kinds of interesting things as a result of having put so many clever people together in one place." -- Amy Stewart


Don Newcomer's Favorite Cactus

rare cactus

Recently at his nursery in Fallbrook, CA, succulent expert Don Newcomer showed me a rare columnar, spineless cactus from Mexico. - [Read more ->]


My Crazy-Busy Spring

Garden art

With a new book to launch, I accepted numerous speaking engagements this spring. The thing is, though, events are scheduled six to 12 months in advance. You check your calendar, and if there’s a blank date, you blithely scribble it in. But as the date approaches, there are SO many details to corral - [Read more ->]


The Impermanent Hippos of Louisa's Garden

Debra Lee Baldwin

When I arrived at Louisa’s garden, the first thing I noticed was a mother hippo and her baby, made of metal, in the driveway. Well, if you had a couple of hippos, where would you keep them? - [Read more ->]


Fibonacci Spirals

Spiral aloe

Sunflowers and nautilus shells exhibit a geometric spiral that is found in many cacti and succulents. I thought you might enjoy some examples. Isn’t nature amazing? [Read more ->]


South Africa in San Diego

Aloe hybrids

There’s a nursery near my home aptly named Desert Theater. It’s nine acres of big, bold, dramatic, over-the-top succulents and cacti. It’s one of the nurseries I enjoy taking people to, because they’re invariably amazed. [Read more ->]


Highlights of the NW Flower & Garden Show…Plus Shopping!

White glass flower

I recently travelled to the second largest flower and garden show in the US, in Seattle, to give two presentations. Here’s what I enjoyed most—a subjective collection, to be sure, and one dependent on the capabilities of my iPhone’s camera. Even so, 25 photos is more than double the number I usually show in a post. (I think it might have been the shopping that did it. I kept thinking, “I can’t bring this home, but at least I can show it to everyone!”) [Read more ->]


How to Make a Succulent Wreath

Succulent wreath

To make a succulent wreath, you’ll need about 100 cuttings, a wire wreath form, 24-gauge florist’s wire, a chopstick or ballpoint pen for poking holes, and a bag of sphagnum moss. The form, moss and wire are available at any crafts store. You don’t need soil; the cuttings will root right into the moss. [Read more ->]


Behind the Scenes with my Succulents 2014 Calendar

Succulent calendar

While compiling photos for my Succulents 2014 calendar, I looked back through hundreds of photos I’d taken in 2013. I evaluated them in terms of composition and how they might illustrate a specific month. For January, I think of aloes in bloom. But these photos say more to me than that. When I look at it the photo at lower left, I remember the garden I visited and how lovely it looked that day. It’s in San Diego near the airport, and the designer is Randy Laurie. [Read more ->]


My Succulents Model for Manju

Succulent jewelry

Born and raised in India and now living in San Diego, my friend Manju Raj combines a love of the ornate and colorful with an appreciation of the colors and symmetry of succulent plants. Recently Manju began making succulent-inspired jewelry. I knew GGW’s readers would enjoy seeing out-of-the-ordinary, garden-inspired earrings and pendants, so I posed a few with the succulents on my patio. (Of course Manju’s jewelry looks good on people, too!) To see more of her items, visit Manju’s website. [Read more ->]


It's All About the Glaze

Pottery for Succulents

I had some fun recently selecting glazes for pots for succulent plants. The pots are by Mark Rafter (marktrafter@gmail.com); I chose the succulents and potted them up. What do you think? [Read more ->]


Great Repetitions at Steven's Gardens

Succulent garden enhancements

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 succulent plants, 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). [Read more ->]


Succulent Extravaganza Recap

Succulent event

The Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens nursery near San Francisco was an opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones. I gave two presentations and was busy signing books, but I didn’t forget my dear friends at GGW. Here are a few highlights I hope you’ll enjoy. Photo of me by Rebecca Sweet. [Read more ->]


Potting Workshop with Bonnie Barabas

How to design with succulents

Garden designer Bonnie Barabas was the winner of the one-on-one succulent plant potting workshop in my giveaway to celebrate the release of my latest book, Succulents Simplified. Bonnie drove to Escondido from Santa Barbara recently to meet me at Oasis Water Efficient Gardens nursery near my home, bringing with her several containers to pot up. [Read more ->]


Succulent Leaf Propagation: How to Make New Plants from Old

How to propagate Succulent plants

If leaves pop off succulent plants readily, that’s a clue that those leaves probably are capable of generating roots and new little succulents. Like these of Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’. Notice how the original leaf has wrinkled as its life-giving fluids have gone into leaf and root production? I love the beadlike quality of the new little leaves, and the way the original leaf contains everything needed to create life. Interesting, too, that where the leaf was attached to the stem, the cellular tissue can form both leaves and roots. [Read more ->]


Jewels of the Cactus and Succulent Show

Succulent event

Succulent plant enthusiasts flock to the annual Cactus & Succulent Society Show at the Los Angeles Arboretum mid-August. It’s the largest of its kind in the US. Judges award ribbons and trophies based on how well a specimen is grown, its rarity, and how well it’s “staged” in its pot. Pots aren’t merely containers, they’re works of art, and may be more valuable than the plant. Below are what caught my eye and photographed well, but represent only a fraction of the unusual and beautiful succulent plants on display. [Read more ->]


Succulent Plant-Pot Pairings

Succulent plants

What comes first for you, the plant or the pot? For me it’s usually the pot. When a friend presents me with a special pot, it’s a given that I’ll plant it with succulents. But I don’t always know what will look good in it. So I ask the pot what it wants. I take it to the nursery, and walk the aisles with it, trying on plants. What I look for are good scale and proportion; repetitions of shapes, colors or patterns; and (sometimes) an element of whimsy. [Read more ->]


Summer Shadows

Succulent plants

Shadows are as much a part of a Southern California summer as sunshine itself. These play with the imagination like a midsummer day’s dream. [Read more ->]


Meet Pete the Nursery Dog

Succulent nursery San Diego

What do you think Pete is up to?[Read more ->]


A Dream Come True

Succulent event

Can you believe it? Twenty-five hundred people attended the Succulent Celebration and Book Launch June 7-8. I sold more than 350 copies of my new book, Succulents Simplified. [Read more ->]


Aeonium Flowers

Succulent flowers

When an aeonium elongates into bloom, you know the rosette is toast. But the flowers are spectacular. It’s a life lesson: Enjoy the moment. Beauty is fleeting. This is Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’.[Read more ->]


Robin's Succulent Sphere

Succulent plants

Robin Stockwell (right), owner of Succulent Gardens Nursery, has a reputation of creating over-the-top displays for the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. Like two years ago, a cube house with succulent walls and a moat. He made this huge globe of succulent plants for the 2013 show. Here are photos of the globe under construction. [Read more ->]


Celebrate Ice Plants!

Succulent ground cover

I showed this photo recently at one of my presentations. In the back of the room, a little girl climbed atop a chair to see better. I understood; as a child growing up in Southern CA, I also was captivated by brilliant ice plant blooms. [Read more ->]


Living Rocks (Pleiospilos nelii)

Succulent plants

These odd little African succulent plants start out egg-shaped, then split open to reveal a smaller capsule that in turn splits open at right angles to the first.

Succulent plants

In spring, being ice plants, they produce neon-bright, multipetalled, daisylike flowers. [Read more ->]


South African Succulents, an Adventure

Succulent plants

One of the great things about being a horticulturist specializing in succulent plants is that I’m part of a worldwide community of like-minded enthusiasts. Case in point is an email I received this week from Jeremy Proctor, who lives in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. He had visited South Africa and sent me a link to a Picasa page with his photos of the marvelous succulents he saw. Below are some of the highlights, with his comments and then mine in italics.

[Read more ->]


Why I Love Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense)

Succulent plants

Of all the succulents I grow, ghost plants are among the easiest and most remarkable. They are true survivors. Damaged stem? No problem. No water? The plant hunkers down and looks pretty much the same for months. Frost? It’s gotten down to 17 degrees in my garden, and the graptopetalums were fine. [Read more ->]


Warm Wishes from GGW Cactus flowers

Nature is astonishing, isn’t it? How delightfully ironic that many cactus flowers resemble water lilies and the tops of some, snowflakes. Here are 18 examples to warm you this chilly season. Apologies to cactiphiles; I wasn’t able to identify all of them. If you would like to provide one or more IDs, please do! — Debra [Read more ->]


Of Succulent Wreaths and Cuttings

 

Succulent wreaths

I’m often asked to recommend sources of succulent cuttings for wreaths, topiaries and other projects. Unfortunately, most online sources sell succulent cuttings for around $1/apiece, which means a wreath—not counting its moss-packed wire donut—may cost $100 to make. But pre-made wreaths available this time of year not only cost much less, they’re also a great source of succulent cuttings. Garden Life offers wreaths similar to those shown here for $30 plus shipping. Another good mail-order supplier of seasonal wreaths as well as assorted succulent plant cuttings—including a mix of highly desirable echeveria, sedum and sempervivum rosettes for vertical gardens—is Robin Stockwell’s Succulent Gardens. Continue Reading ? [Read more ->]


Succulent Extravaganza Recap

 

Succulent events


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. [Read more ->]


How to Create a Succulent Tide Pool Garden

 

Sea creature succulents


An article I scouted and wrote for Sunset is in all regional editions of the September issue. (Most Southern CA garden articles appear in the Southern CA edition only.) One reason is Brett Gum’s gorgeous photography. These are my own photos here. [Read more ->]


Are Succulents for the Birds? You Bet!

 

Succulent birdhouse


Bird houses, bird nests and bird cages with succulent plants…some of the designs I’m seeing are quite fetching. There must be something eggy about succulents, or they have the look of plants that grow on thatched roofs. [Read more ->]


Echeveria Flowers

 

Echeveria flowers


Echeverias, succulent plants native to Mexico, have the most amazing blooms. [Read more ->]


Why I Can't Resist Cactus Flowers

 

Cactus flower


I can’t help it. I’m fascinated by cactus. [Read more ->]


Alien Cactus at Grigsby

 

succulent nursery near San Diego


I saw many strange succulent plants on recent visit to Grigsby Cactus Gardens in Vista, CA. This one seems to be greeting a fellow citizen of another planet. [Read more ->]


Proteas Please and Tease Me

 

Protea


The Proteaceae family was named after the mythical god Proteus, son of Poseidon, because the flowers have so many forms. Proteus could foretell the future, but changed his shape so he didn’t have to. Doesn’t the king protea above look like a snow cone? [Read more ->]


Roger's Garden

 

Succulent garden


In Southern California, Rogers Gardens is famous, the largest independent nursery on the West Coast. But this post is about a different Roger’s garden, one cultivated by Roger Martin for 40 years. When I visited him and wife Gerry, Roger pressed succulents on me—anything I admired or asked about was added to a box of cuttings and potted succulents Gerry thoughtfully packed up for me. Roger, you see, can’t bring himself to throw away a cutting when he’s pruning back his succulents. So he pots them up. He sells them, too, for the cost of the pots and soil plus a little extra for his time. If you live in the San Diego area, do look him up (gmartin@san.rr.com). He has some treasures, not to mention a garden only a mountain goat could love. [Read more ->]


Succulent Terrariums in Seattle

 

succulent terrarium


At Seattle’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, I shot photos of succulent container gardens on the skybridge, a glass-enclosed walkway. It wasn’t until I downloaded the images that I realized most included terrariums. The display “Portholes in Time: Gardens on a Minor Scale” created the pleasantly weird feeling of viewing a window on the past, complete with old-time music that fit the show’s “Floral Symphony” theme. [Read more ->]


The Perfect Potting Area

 

succulent potting area


Every so often, when visiting a noteworthy garden, I see a potting area I envy. Like this one, in Modesto, CA, which doubles as a dog grooming station. [Read more ->]


Glass that Enhances Gardens

 

topdressing for succulents


I’m enraptured by anything that glistens. I enhance my living spaces, indoors and out, with prisms, rhinestones, crystals, globes, mirrors and more. As the sun shifts during the day, these objects flash and glitter. I become a child again, living entirely in the moment. Sometimes this happens in other gardens, too. Like this Aloe marlothii in Patrick Anderson’s succulent garden, bright with mid-winter blooms and a perfectly placed golden orb. [Read more ->]


The Easy Way to Paint Watercolors

 

How to paint watercolors


Several years ago, I met artist Diane Palley McDonald while doing an article about her studio’s makeover for the San Diego Union-Tribune. (The news angle was that it was on HGTV’s “Designer’s Challenge.”) When I saw Diane’s paintings, I wistfully told her how much I loved watercolors. She asked, “Well, then, why not paint your own?” I said I couldn’t possibly, never having done it, not to mention being too old to learn and too busy. She showed me paintings by her students—adults who’d never before taken a class and were convinced they had no artistic ability. They were amazing! Diane graciously invited me to attend a class, and I ended up taking a dozen. Since most of my subjects are garden-related, and you might want to paint your own flowers and plants, here’s what I learned. [Read more ->]


Lani's Garden

 

Lani Freymiller


I hadn’t been to Lani Freymiller’s garden for nearly a decade—not since I covered homes, gardens, architecture and interior design for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Would it be as incredible as I remembered? So few gardens stand the test of time. The occasion was a visit from Bay Area designer Rebecca Sweet, and we weren’t disappointed. If anything, Lani’s garden was better than ever. [Read more ->]


The Exquisite, Elusive Spiral Aloe

 

Aloe polyphylla


Alan Beverly was fresh out of college and a Peace Corps volunteer when he discovered a succulent plant that became a lifelong passion.
[Read more ->]


Oh, My, Aeoniums!

 

Aeonium_nursery


Aeoniums are succulents native to the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa. They do really well in Southern California, because they like our dry summers. Aeoniums go dormant during the summer, and if they’re watered during that time, they may rot. Most of those shown here are cultivars. [Read more ->]


Spectacular Succulent Flowers

 

Aloe David Verity


Is it any wonder I’m such a fan of succulent plants? In addition to being easy care, low-water and having architectural shapes, they send forth spectacular flowers. Some of the most amazing are those of aloes, most of which bloom in midwinter (in temperate climates). Shown above is Aloe x ‘David Verity’, in Patrick Anderson’s Fallbrook, CA succulent garden. [Read more ->]


Heliconias in Heaven

 

Botanical Garden


The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (HTBG), a 40-acre, former estate garden near Hilo, occupies a rainforest canyon. The first plant that blew me away was this bromeliad near the visitor center. [Read more ->]


Succulents that Like Stress

 

Red succulents


If there’s a good thing about our too-hot Southern California summers, it’s that heat makes certain succulent plants turn color. A case in point is Aloe nobilis, which in my garden grows in nutrient-poor decomposed granite with minimal water. [Read more ->]


The Suggestion of Water: Trompe l'oeil garden design

 

Trompe l'oeil gardens


These vignettes suggest water—flowing, tumbling, cascading, splashing or dripping water—yet there is none. Each illustrates the ingenuity of a garden designer in the dry, hot Southwest, where water is scarce. Yet the same concept, of creating the look of water, might apply to any garden. [Read more ->]


Bling for Pots: Crushed Glass

 

topdressing for succulents


Leave it to LA. Designers in that city are using crushed glass to snazz potted plants. The glass, tumbled so the edges are smooth (it’s often from recycled bottles) lends a splash of glamor. Landscape designer Laura Morton married a pink-edged phormium with an Italian terracotta pot, using a topdressing of peachy-pink glass that also draws attention to a yellow sedum’s pink tips. (Photo from Succulent Container Gardens.) [Read more ->]


How to Redo a Succulent Garden

 

How to redo a succulent garden


In about 5 minutes, you can transform an overgrown succulent dish garden like this... [Read more ->]


The Scent of Confederate Jasmine

 

Star jasmine


This time of year, South Carolina’s warm, moist air is fragrant with Confederate (star) jasmine, above, and robust gardenias like those in the garden below. I was there recently to address the Charleston Horticultural Society (CHS) on my specialty, designing with succulents. Naturally I wondered if I’d see any.         [Read more ->]


Grow This Succulent For Its Flowers, Then Throw It Away

 

Supermarket kalanchoe


Prior to hosting the 2011 biennial convention of the Cactus & Succulent Society of America, a San Diego hotel replaced water-thirsty annuals in planters with succulent plants. After several months, hotel management discovered a surprising benefit: $4,000 in reduced water bills and labor costs. Ironically, a showy succulent used extensively by the hotel, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (dubbed “supermarket kalanchoe” in my book, Succulent Container Gardens) probably didn’t impress hundreds of cacti-and-succulent collectors who came from all over the world. [Read more ->]


My Garden's White Lily

 

succulent garden


Arguably, there is no better gardening companion than a dog. My husband says he knows where to find me by which way the Westie's nose is pointing. [Read more ->]


Dogs in the Garden

 

Cathy Carey with golden retriever


The above photo captures a sweet moment between artist Cathy Carey and one of her golden retrievers. [Read more ->]


Art in the Garden

 

Garden art


What defines “art” is subjective, and its forms are infinitely variable. But in general, when positioning a delicate sculpture in your garden, silhouette it against a solid surface or the sky. Otherwise, the piece may disappear. (Photo taken at Taliesin West, near Phoenix.) [Read more ->]


The Twelve Days of Cactus

 

Cactus Christmas carol


Feel free to hum along
: On the First Day of Cactus, my true love gave to me: A dove in a prickly pear tree. [Read more ->]


Succulent Centerpieces

 

Succulent centerpiece


The ideal succulent centerpiece…
– Is low so guests can see over it.
– Is festive, in keeping with the holiday.
– Has colors that convey the season.
– Looks good with your decor and china.
– Doesn’t take up too much table space.
– Is simple to assemble and can be done days ahead.
– Is in a pretty container.
– Is a conversation piece. [Read more ->]


The Sea-Sand Plants of Desire

 

Aloe vanbalenii


Every year, as Halloween approaches, I recall my visit to Professor Mordant’s garden on the forbidden island of Desire. I call it forbidden because it was rumored to be an eerie, inhospitable place—a volcanic outcropping devoid of vegetation. Nothing like the mainland resort where I and other garden writers had been sunning ourselves in style. [Read more ->]


Sweeten Your Writing with Metaphors

 

Sedum rubrotinctum 'Pork and Beans'


One of the challenges of being a professional writer is to think metaphorically---to describe an item in terms of something else, so that readers make an association that clarifies, enlightens and perhaps also entertains. Metaphorical thinking can be learned and is a great memory aid. Food metaphors often occur to me when describing plants. [Read more ->]


Blue-Ribbon Succulents

 

award-winning succulents

The annual cactus and succulent show at the Los Angeles Arboretum is the largest in the world. It’s a 2-hour drive for me, but I wouldn’t miss it. When I see a succulent plant I’ve never seen before or a perfect specimen of something I’m familiar with, I go slack-jawed and stare. And this year there were dozens. [Read more ->]


A Salute to Saguaros

 

saguaro cactus


Saguaro (pronounced “sah-wah-roh”) cactus evokes Arizona and the desert Southwest. With arms raised to the sky, each tall cactus has great personality. [Read more ->]


The Joys of Cholla

 

cholla cactus

Recently when I addressed the Tucson Cactus & Succulent Society, I made the mistake of saying I don’t recommend that anyone grow cholla (pronounced “choy-ah”). I mean, look at it. Could there be a more unfriendly succulent plant? Well, you’d think I’d insulted a favorite son. [Read more ->]


Fierce Color

 

iceplant in bloom


Why are we so shy about color in our gardens? What’s with all those pastels? Give me loud hues, fierce and bright. Like this pair of ice plants, which is anything but icy. [Read more ->]


April Fool Garden Photos

 

Portland Chinese Garden


In anticipation of a day famous for pranks and spoofs, I offer a few garden photos that are not at first what they seem. Like this pagoda. What exactly are you looking at? If you guessed a reflection, you’re right. In fact, most of the photos below are reflections. I hope you’ll have fun with them and perhaps be fooled by a few. [Read more ->]


Tiny Vases

 

Tiny tomato teapot


I collect tiny vases, but seldom buy them unless I’m out of town. There’s something about being on the road that revs me up for shopping, but that’s also the worst time to buy anything big. So I browse antique and gift stores for tiny vases. Even wrapped in tissue, they take up no room at all. [Read more ->]


Wabi-sabi in the garden

 

Wabi-sabi rose hips


Autumn is a good time to look at the garden in terms of wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic that finds beauty in imperfection and transience. In seeking wabi-sabi, one cultivates an appreciation for the ordinary and becomes aware that age offers its own poignant beauty. Because wabi-sabi evokes a feeling, it sometimes is defined as the ability to see the invisible. For me, it’s savoring what normally is ignored. [Read more ->]


Firewise Succulent Plants

 

light an agave on fire


Wildfires making national news are a wake-up call for us Southern Californians who live near canyons and wilderness areas. Hot Santa Ana winds blow from the desert, desiccating already stressed plants and threatening to push backcountry brush fires all the way to the sea. We’ve had no rain for months and everything is tinder-dry. [Read more ->]


Uh-oh. My agave’s blooming.

 

Agave bloom


I’m going to miss my toothy Agave potatorum, shown here beginning to form a bloom spike. When an agave flowers, it is not a happy event, unless you’ve been waiting forever to collect its offspring. Agaves are monocarpic, meaning they die after flowering.[Read more ->]


Luther Burbank’s Garden

 


Luther Burbank (1849-1926) sent this to my grandmother, an elementary schoolteacher who had her class write letters to the famed horticulturist. Burbank, though childless, enjoyed children---something I learned recently while touring his historic home and gardens in Santa Rosa, CA. [Read more ->]


Sharklike Agaves: Why I’m Fond of Fangs

 

Agave bud imprints


I’ve gone from disliking thorny-edged agaves to loving them, because their leaves have embossed patterns that are fun to hunt for. I used to overlook such shadow lines. Now, the spikier the agave and the more wickedly fanged, the more I lean in for a closer look. [Read more ->]


Aloes Bloom in Southern California Gardens

 

Aloes for Southern California


Aloes brighten Southern California gardens this time of year. Shown above is the most widely grown aloe, Aloe arborescens. The location is about halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, in Laguna Beach. This is an artist’s enclave, and not surprisingly, aloe flowers against [Read more ->]

 

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog posts, newsletters, public speaking and workshops, photos, videos, merchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. ~ Debra Lee Baldwin