- Author: Erin Mahaney
I confess that I haven't yet embraced the succulent trend. I understand their appeal given the wide variety of colors and shapes mixed with a dash of eccentricity, as well as their tolerance for dry conditions and neglect. And I'm flirting a bit with the plants in a shallow bowl here and in a strawberry pot there. But I'm not the enthusiastic fan that others seem to be, at least not yet.
My hesitancy stems in part because I don't know enough about growing succulents once they have outgrown their cute little containers. I once kept a beautiful, large, gift bowl of succulents on my front porch and watched it grow taller and taller, and leggier and leggier, for years because I didn't know what to do with the maturing plants (and was too busy to research it). While the Master Gardeners have put on some wonderful workshops in the past, I needed to know more.
In despair of that beautiful gift bowl looking more and more unhappy and shabby, I decided to shop for a book that would help me with my questions. I didn't spend much time and simply grabbed the first book I saw with a pretty cover and comprehensive table of contents. It turned out to be the perfect book for a beginner like me!
Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing, and Growing 200 Easy Care Plants, by Robin Stockwell, is a practical guide to growing succulents. Mr. Stockwell is the founder of Succulent Gardens in Castroville, California. His book, which is wonderfully photographed, begins with his own fascinating story of growing succulents since the 1970s and the change in gardening styles, including a series of droughts that focused attention on drought tolerant landscapes, that boosted their popularity. After the introduction, the book provides inspiration by highlighting design ideas, including designs for small spaces, challenging sites, and living art. A section on DIY projects includes ideas for arrangements, found objectives, gift toppers, wreaths, seasonal décor, and more. The book then identifies Mr. Stockwell's favorite plants, with a succulent selection guide that runs the gamut from basic landscaping plants to hedges to plants with “special effects,” such as colorful foliage and “undersea” succulents. The book then concludes with a section on planting and care.
In the Succulents book, I found not only a rich description of many types of succulent and ideas for their use and display, but also the practical gardening advice that I sought. I emptied my succulent pot, pruned the plants, took some cuttings, freshened the soil, and planted again. With so many cuttings left over, I went a little overboard and planted succulents in every little container I could find. I'm even trying some as landscaping edging in difficult areas. While I still prefer more traditional shrubs and flowers, this book gave me ideas and guidance for integrating succulents into my garden design.