Gossip in the Garden

Harmony in the Garden's Chattier Side

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Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Garden

A few weeks ago I was a lucky, lucky girl and had the distinct honor of touring Debra Lee Baldwin’s own garden – and what a garden it was!

Debra is known by many as the ‘Queen of Succulents’, thanks to her amazing books, Succulent Container Gardens and Designing with Succulents.

So while I assumed her garden would be fabulous, I wasn’t prepared for just how fabulous it was!

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Debra’s 1/2-acre garden, nestled in a Southern California canyon, is clearly her playground.  Woven throughout are cactus, succulents, and natives combined with whimsical statues, pots, and artwork from her son’s childhood.  This is not a typical showcase garden, but rather a peek into Debra’s private world.

However, it’s not a mish-mash of plants and knick-knacks either.  Natural pathways meander through the different areas of the garden; some may lead up the hill, some may lead down towards the tomatoes, all designed to encourage the visitor to leisurely enjoy the garden.

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But it was her containers, though, that stopped me in my tracks.

Some were created in a deceptively simple manner, with one or two plants per pot, yet each was stunning.  As I’ve learned from reading her books, the reason these simple creations work so well is because much thought was given to pairing the containers with each plant.  It’s clear she practices what she preaches!  These containers are perfect examples of what she teaches:  repetition of color, form, shape and texture are crucial for creating artistic combinations.

And of course, what surrounds each planting is tended to with just as much detail, never left bare.  Examples of toppings I saw were decorative gravel, shells or glass – all in complementary colors, sizes and shapes.

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And then there’s the tiny containers that perfectly mimic their surrounding hillsides.  It’s like a complete ‘nature-scape’ you can hold in your hand!

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 I entered a whole new level of container-heaven when I discovered her succulent bowls, overflowing with dazzling combinations.

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Greeting visitors was this container sitting next to Debra’s front door.  I could’ve spent hours looking at all the details!

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And flanking the other side of the door was this succulent-seascape.  The mailman must LOVE delivering her mail!

I couldn’t stop ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ over the following two containers as I loved their autumnal colors which reminded me of my birch trees back home that were about to change colors.  Debra shared a few photography tricks as she helped position them with a cloth as the background, to better capture and reflect the light.

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And finally, at the end of a very long and narrow balcony, is this dynamic pairing of painted and living art.

Amazing, isn’t she?

 

 

 

 

 

 

34 Responses to Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Garden

  1. I have just gotten into succulents thanks to Lydia Dunaway and I am in love. I love your beautiful potted arrangements as well as your beautiful landscape. I have always loved flowers and landscaping, but never really thought of the succulents. They are addictive in a good way! Thank you for sharing your beautiful talent with us.

    • I’m so glad you’re now part of the ‘Succulent Club’, Lisa! And I’m glad you enjoyed a tour of Debra’s garden. As you experiment with succulents more and more I think you’ll definitely enjoy Debra’s books – she offers so much advice about designing with them, creative and fun projects with them as well as the nitty gritty on how to grow them. Have fun!

  2. Simply amazing! You were right about the containers as well as the plants that they housed. Would love a number of those dotting my landscape. But what I loved most was the painted and living art. Awesome!

  3. LUCKY GAL!!!
    If I were there, it would be hard for me to keep in my geeky-nerding out about the sheer amazingness of her garden. To see it like this too! I’m amazed not only at the combination of plants in her planters, but the solo ones? Wow. Wow!
    I have a small container with shells in it on my front porch… it’s possible I now need to get some aquatic-like succulents to help them look like an underwater scene! Gosh such inspiration! ♥

    • Hi Donna – your comment made me laugh…’geeky-nerding out’. But that’s the good thing about true plant-lovers, isn’t it? When we get together we can geek out to our heart’s content, sort of like speaking our own language? I loved her solo containers the best, I think. The way she chooses the PERFECT container creates such magic. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Wow that is such a beautiful place Debra has and your photos are so wonderful. Thank you for sharing your visit with us. Debra is my succulent Guru and she is definitely the master of container gardening. But the grounds around her home are just as lovely. Thanks again!

  5. Rebecca, you’ve done it again… your choice of photos of Debra’s gardens have inspired me. Susan is spot on, the shot at the beginning of the post drew me in and the rest was incredible eye candy. Debra’s work is amazing and her books have allowed the rest of us to experiment with creating art through succulents and cacti. Thank you for letting us see her work through your eyes. BTW, I’m lusting after the iron plant holders in the last shots!

    • Hi Sheila – isn’t Debra’s oak tree amazing? She had it ‘laced’ a few months ago and it’s probably one of the most beautiful trees I’ve seen. I’m so glad you liked the last shot – it was such a nice surprise to find at the end of her balcony: life imitating art at its finest!

  6. Wow!!!! I stopped breathing. It looks so peaceful and those pots are to die for. Rebecca, thanks for sharing and so glad you came back while you were in heaven or we would not have seen you beautiful garden.

      • Oh, and may I also say that after your tour of Debra’s I am not sure that I will let you see mine. 🙂 You will be sooo disappointed. Nothing compared to Debra’s.

        • We don’t want you to stop breathing, sweetie. I’m like most gardeners: When someone comes to visit, I tell them what’s wrong with it. A garden is nothing if not a work in progress. Sometimes I look at it and realize that every leaf is temporary. If we spent that much time and effort on a room in our homes, we could close the door and come back in a year and it would look the same. With a garden, a day can make a difference. My garden gets wind, frost, extreme heat, gophers and more. It looked like this when Rebecca was here, and now it doesn’t. Not exactly. Probably never again!

  7. What is planted on the metal archway on the left side in the first group of photos? I have the same arch with a Thunbergia that looks exactly the same right now.

  8. Hi, Rebecca — Admittedly I did fluff the garden before you came, but even so, your photos are fantastic. How come I’ve taken photos of my own garden over the past 20 years, but have never gotten an overall shot as good as that one with the oak tree? Maybe because I assume that the tree is in the way, so I shoot around it. Or the oak is looking especially good since it was laced a few months ago.

    I’m going to tell Keith Taylor, president of the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society, to pay this page a visit. He’ll recognize one of his pots (in the middle of the page, on the left, with the crested euphorbia). Come to think of it, Carmen Contreras, Ken Altman, Mark Muradian and Phil Favell should have a look, too!

    • Debra, I couldn’t get over that stunning oak! First thing in the morning, it was there in the dark shadows outside of my window and I loved watching it change as the sun rose. I’m so glad you like the photos – I don’t think they do your beautiful garden justice, but then again it’s always so hard to capture a garden’s ‘essence’ on film, isn’t it?

  9. Thanks for letting me “visit” this wonderful garden. I’m impressed by the care and thought that has gone into her containers – it’s an art form, isn’t it?