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.










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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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