Designing with Succulents

Most books on succulents treat them as treasured collectibles or as individual works of art. Few address the value of succulents as landscape material, which they decidedly are, at least for much of the West Coast and Southwest.

Debra Lee Baldwin discovered succulents relatively recently in her gardening life when she realized that they could provide the color, texture, drama, and diversity that she was looking for, with far less water than her roses and tropicals, which had long seasons of minimal interest, even in her Southern California garden. She began redesigning her garden with succulents and discovered a new world of endless fascination. She wrote numerous articles on succulents for Sunset and other publications—and eventually for her own book.

The result is Designing with Succulents, a delightful and inspiring journey through the world of succulents, which are presented as viable options for private and public landscapes, particularly in regions where water is a serious concern. Baldwin opens with a review of the design process, with an emphasis on how succulents can be a part of the finished project. Chapters on cultivation and propagation are clear and succinct; a section on gardening with succulents in cold climates opens the subject to gardeners beyond the West’s coastal banana belts. Dramatic examples of containers and topiary give an idea of the breadth of applications for which succulents are well suited.

In three chapters, Baldwin discusses the best succulents to consider, grouping them according to size and then by genus or family grouping. A fourth chapter presents a solid group of plants that make appropriate companions for succulents in the landscape. Throughout, the text is richly illustrated with photographs of succulents used effectively in gardens large and small, with and without other types of plants. This is an exciting new addition to anyone’s library.

Richard G Turner Jr, editor