Harmony in the Garden Blog

Mixing flowers with succulents in Debra Lee Baldwin’s garden

There’s no doubt about it, Debra Lee Baldwin certainly knows her succulents.

But while visiting her Escondido, CA garden again a few months ago, I was struck by something else – the flowers!

Not succulent flowers, but perennials, annuals, and native flowers that are planted throughout the garden.

Sure, she’s known as an expert and authoritative figure on everything succulent-related.

But does that mean her garden has to be 100% succulents?  No!

Debra takes a casual approach with her garden.  She pays careful attention to succulent and cactus placement, and then loosely fills in with flowers and grasses to soften any harsh lines.

The entire garden uses very little water, so the flowers that thrive must be able to do so with just a bit of occasional supplemental water.

This is definitely not a garden filled with plant collections, but rather it’s a garden that quietly beckons you to explore the winding rustic pathways, overflowing with tempting textures, and colorful combinations.

Over the past two years, Debra has been working on this part of her garden, appropriately named the ‘Tapestry Garden‘.

Having seen it years ago in its infancy, the technicolor patchwork of ice plant flowers ,combined with various shades of gray, gray ,and dusky plum caused me to literally gasp in delight.

I love the placement of the three containers in the center of the bed.

It’s a fantastic idea to add much needed (and year-round) vertical height and interest.

Don’t you just love the way the blue color is repeated in the urn, the succulent and the iris? It’s the very definition of a creative color echo.

The highly structural (and pointy!) agaves seem to cry out for soft and billowy flowers – a perfect example of contrasting shapes.

Debra had one of the most beautiful Honeysuckles I’ve ever seen (I think she said it was a gift given to her many years ago).  She wasn’t sure of the name, but I’m pretty sure it’s a ‘Major Wheeler’ (aka: Coral Honeysuckle).

Anyone happen to know for sure?  All I know is the colors in my photographs don’t do it justice.  


Another perfect example of contrast and repetition.

Contrast in the agave’s rigid spikes with the iris’s graceful foliage.

Repetition of the blue color from the iris flowers and the agave’s foliage.

Quite the harmonious combination, don’t you think?



The towering flower stalks of the our native Matilija Poppy frames the soft salmon flowers of a succulent drift, and is backed by bright spots of color from the orange tree.



If you’d like to see more of Debra’s garden, click here for a few of my favorite succulent containers that are liberally sprinkled throughout her garden.

And in case you haven’t heard, Debra’s third book, Succulents Simplified, has just hit the bookstores!

A perfect complement to her other two books, Succulent Container Gardens and Designing With Succulents.

Thanks for stopping by!

Enjoyed this article?  Please share it with others: 

Please leave a comment below


  • Hi Rebecca. We have just a rental with a small garden. The soil is not too good and only a small amount of sun. Can you suggest some plants with color and spreads a bit? Many thanks,

  • Debra has created my dream garden… using sculptural agave’s and other beautiful succulents as the drama then adding a fun mix of flowers with different leaf textures as the perfect compliment. What a great marriage, and obviously it doesn’t have to be either/or! It’s delightfully playful.
    I’m also lusting after that urn, it’s so perfect with the agave and iris. Actually, it would be perfect anywhere… like in my garden?
    The honeysuckle… considering the age, any chance it could be Gold Flame?

    • Hi Sheila! Debra’s garden is certainly dreamy, that’s for sure. And I agree – that urn is to die for, isn’t it? The agave pairing is probably my favorite color combination in her garden. You might be right about the honeysuckle, though some of google’s images make it look a little more bleached out than it actually is. The colors are truly saturated and gorgeous and if I ever see one I’m buying it as fast as I can!

    • Wouldn’t it be great if I finally could tell visitors the name of that plant? I got it 20 years ago, before I cared what things were called. I have a couple of other ornamental shrubs that are decades old that I’m not sure about. Something I’ve been calling “witch hazel” because that’s what it smells like probably isn’t. Hm. I should do a blog post of my own, humbly asking for help IDing my own mystery plants!

      Many thanks to all of you who enjoyed seeing my garden through Rebecca’s lens. Sweet!

      • My daughter just bought a home in El Cerrito and I am excited to be going to help her put in a brand new garden. She is new to this and it would be inspirational and instructive and downright delicious to tour some of these nearby gardens!
        I have gardened in Pennsylvania, Miami, and the sandbar known as Outer Banks of North Carolina, but my knowledge of my daughter’s region is mostly y from Rebecca’s blog! I expect it will happen over many visits. Is now a good time to start or is it better to wait til spring?
        Thank you for sharing your beautiful garden!

        • Hi Nivenka, I’m so happy for your daughter (and you!) to have her nearby and to introduce her to gardening! Now is the perfect time to plant, with spring being the next best. A plant’s new roots will have plenty of time to settle in, if planted now, and will be growing underground (even though not much is happening on top of the ground) and then once warmer temps arrive – look out! Tons of new growth! Have FUN!

    • Thanks for coming along with me, Pam! I hope you can visit it for yourself someday – I know you’d love it as much as I do!! 🙂

  • I really enjoy your articles. They are informative & inspiring! I am subscribed to ‘Gossip’ but have tried repeatedly to subscribe to ‘Harmony’ without success. If you could help me, I’d be very grateful.

    • Hi Michele – I’m so sorry you’ve had problems subscribing to my newsletter! I’ve added you to the list so you should receive my next newsletter which will come out in the fall (somewhere during the first week of Sept.) 🙂

  • Debra’s garden is indeed lovely. Did she have the bit of whimsy she has now in her ‘Tapestry Garden’? She has a beautiful little adobe colored (if that is a color) tiny village set in front. It is wonderful! I love her garden so much just like you. I even have pups from some of her plants in my garden. She is such a sweetheart and I am so pleased to call her my friend. Wonderful post sweetie!

    • Hi Candice – she sure did, wasn’t that the cutest little village? Lucky you to have some pups from her garden to call your own – we are lucky to have her as a friend!

  • Thanks for sharing your stunning photos of her amazing garden. Really inspiring what she’s been able to accomplish on a mere 1/2 acre using varieties of color, texture, and form against a “borrowed backdrop”. I can hardly wait to get back to California (from WI) to start gardening year-round again. In the meantime I’ll have to order a copy of one of her books (and yours too!)

    • I agree – Debra is definitely talented. And welcome to California (once you get here, of course)!!

  • Thanks for sharing your pictures of this wonderful garden. I love the little vase of blooms presiding over the wine and cheese!

    • I loved that little vase so much and took about 10 photos of it! Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, Jo!

  • Wow, Rebecca, you certainly made my garden look good! Honestly, your photos make it look SO much better than it really was…and I use the past tense because you were here in spring when succulents take a back seat to flowers.

    I’ve been here 25 years, and the garden reflects my changing tastes and the horticulturists I’ve interviewed. It seems every time I profiled someone for the San Diego Union-Tribune or San Diego Home/Garden magazine, I fell in love with a different plant. Their passion became mine, at least for a time. Roses, irises, lavender…and lots more that didn’t survive the harsh environment at 1,500 feet in the foothills, with frost and near-desert heat, not to mention decomposed granite soil.

    Anyone who might like to learn more about my garden and its challenges, and my own passion for succulents (going on 8 years now) is welcome to stop by the blog I share with Fran Sorin and Saxon Holt, http://www.gardeninggonewild.com.

    And thanks, Rebecca, for mentioning my new book, Succulents Simplified! It was fun having you here, and I hope you come back soon!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to my blog

Popular Categories

Favorite Garden Books

Favorite Sources for Plants, Bulbs, & Seeds

Helpful Garden Sites