South African Adventure

– Posted in: Garden Adventures, Garden Travels, Succulents

One of the great things about being a horticulturist specializing in succulents 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.

“A kokerboom tree (Aloe dichotoma) — the first of many I saw up-close on this trip.”

And it’s in bloom! People may not realize that there are succulent trees. This one grows well in Southern CA, too, if given excellent drainage.

“Aloes blooming in front of the Cape Agulhas lighthouse, near Africa’s southernmost tip. Even this most challenging environment is teeming with life, including many succulent plants.”

I like the way the color of the aloes repeats that of the lighthouse.

“It is hard to resist climbing down to see what’s growing in the nooks.”

Uh…you go ahead, Jeremy.

“The biodiversity in South Africa is such that one can be completely flummoxed by the morphology. This plant, which had been uprooted, seems to be one thing at is base, another at its stem, and still another at the leaf. Surreal!”
 It looks a little like a pelargonium or artemisia to me…at least, the leaves do.
“The iconic Aloe ferox (I believe) were in copious bloom here in July.”
I agree they look like Aloe ferox due to their size and smooth leaves. But based on the horizontal inflorescence some exhibit, those might also have Aloe marlothi in their lineage.
“Conophytum, I believe. Effortlessly growing at the Kokerboom Kwekery.”
That’s a large South African nursery. These are each about the size of a wine cork. They have ice plant blooms.
“It wasn’t technically flower season, but this little succulent still obliged us with this lovely blossom.”
A lovely ice plant.
“I must have this plant in my garden!! Somebody please tell me what it is named. Look at those awesome seed heads.”
I’m thinking it’s another ice plant, possibly related to carpobrotus. 
“Bulb plants scratching out an existence at the (literal) ends of the earth.”
“A wonderfully savage euphorbia (I think). In African gardens, these are largely substituted for cactus, which are exotic — and often destructively invasive.”
Cacti are native to the New World, euphorbias—many of which look similar—are native to the Old World. I love all the multiple star bursts. Odd we have so many euphorbias in cultivation and available in nurseries in Southern CA, but not this one. It certainly looks commercial. 

“Some great compositions in gardens of Pretoria.”


This looks like it came right out of a Southern CA garden. The large red succulent is Kalanchoe luciae. It’s surrounded by graptoverias (on the left) and echeverias.

“These plantable retaining walls were everywhere in Pretoria.”

This one has Crassula ‘Campfire’ and echeverias. It’s a clever and easy idea for a retaining wall/planter, and concrete blocks are inexpensive and readily available. 

“I don’t know if everyone buried in this cemetery was a succulent lover, but it certainly seems that the succulents love everyone buried in this cemetery.”

Hm. Being buried beneath a blanket of ice plant…what a cool idea! (Forgive the pun.) This has got to be one of the most unusual uses for succulents I’ve yet seen.

See more of Jeremy’s photos of South African succulents. Thanks very much, Jeremy, for sharing!

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. 














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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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