Agave Holidays

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

Skiing angel copy

Every December I attempt to come up with a regionally appropriate photo for my holiday greeting cards. This one is my favorite. I was inspired by the way leaves of Agave americana “Medio-picta alba’ have a cream stripe that suggests a ski run. To keep the skiing angel firmly on leaf, I used a gumlike adhesive.

Opuntia resized copy

When I found little styrofoam squares wrapped to resemble gifts, I impaled them on the needles of prickly pear cactus. It was challenging to find a cactus backlit so the spines glowed, and to get close enough to a spiny plant to decorate it. The perfect clump was clinging to a steep, rocky slope, and I ended up lying on the ground, bracing one foot on the base of the cactus, and twisting so I could shoot up at it.

Puya resized copy

I put a cluster of marble-sized red glass Christmas balls in the center of a dyckia, a stiff-leaved whorled plant. I was trying to create the illusion that the balls were the dyckia’s fruits. But I made an amateur’s mistake: When you look at the photo, you can see my reflection.

Aloe Xmas balls copy

This is Aloe striata, commonly called coral aloe because the leaves are edged with a lovely line of orange. I was able to catch the plant backlit, so the orange glowed and echoed the warm red of the balls. This photo is on the cover of the current issue of California Garden magazine.

Agave americana resized copy

Glass balls on the tips of pointed leaves are a no-brainer.  The one above is Agave americana ‘Marginata’; the one below, Agave ferox.

Green agave resized copy

But when it comes to decorating agaves, I’ve yet to come up with anything I liked as much as what I discovered in a neighbor’s front yard one December: an Agave parryi decorated with a multicolored assortment of ping-pong-sized Christmas balls.  

Agave parryi resized copy

One year I bought a pair of diminutive Santas at a crafts store. First I had them garland Aloe ciliaris, which has dark green leaves toothed with white, and then a diminutive cholla, but I liked them best decorating a mini-forest of Crassula tetragona

Decorating10_resize copy

Cholla cropped resized copy

Related to jade (Crassula ovata), Crassula tetragona (below) has slender green leaves that grow at right angles to upright stems. The leaves are progressively shorter toward the ends of the stems, making the plants resemble pine trees.

Crassula Xmas resized copy

In addition to being a greeting card subject, this also served as a holiday table centerpiece.   It and the skiing angel composition are in the holiday section of my forthcoming book, Succulent Container Gardens, coming out next month from Timber Press.

I wish all of you a Merry Crassula and an Agave New Year!

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 Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 

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Debra Lee Baldwin

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
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