Book Report: ‘Succulent Container Gardens’
Like admitting that I love someone based on the fact that they’re totally gorgeous, I admit I love Debra Lee Baldwin’s SUCCULENT CONTAINER GARDENS very much. And, I’m not ashamed, either. How could I not love a book so laden with color — with ideas and inspiration — for a succulent lover like myself? Containing page after beautiful page of photography filled with sometimes dizzying combinations of plants and complementary pots, I was completely smitten. Mitigating this love of mine, though, is the fact that all this gorgeousness is surrounded by tons of useful information, including tips for caring for succulents based on region and season, and advice and how-tos for successfully combining plants and pots. I have to admit, though, that I was most smitten by this book’s use of each plant’s Latin name in the photo captions: beauty, brains and fluent in that classic romance language? I was a goner! Here’s a look at some of the photographs that won my heart …
See what I mean? This is the picture that faces the title page for Part One: Pairing Plants with Pots, and it’s hot! The combination of cobalt blue pot (barely) containing ‘sticks on fire’ (euphorbia tirucalli) really gets my pulse racing. I love complementary color pairings and this picture defines why they work so well. Additionally, visual tension is achieved by pairing the very geometric pot with a dynamic, jutting plant; very different colors and shapes but both thrust upward.
In the Plant Palette section of the book we find this more subtle, but no less striking, example of plant and pot enjoying a truly beautiful long-term relationship. This sunset jade (crassula ovata) has been in the same pot for 20 years, and become “bonsai’d” as a result, remaining much smaller than it would be naturally planted in the ground. The colors here are remarkable, subdued yet vibrant at the same time. Like many successful long-term couples, neither pot nor plant fights against the other.
As calm as that last pairing was, this couple is all about the drama: the container’s sleek, art nouveau lines are challenged strenuously by the wild explosion of lepismum cruicforme inside it. There’s nothing subtle about plant or pot and each is a major attention-seeker. Best to leave them in a corner by themselves, as they don’t share the spotlight easily.
The section labeled Creative Designs and Displays features this charming landscape of diverse succulents in a birdbath filled with soil-retaining pebbles. The smooth stones, the cool, pastel colors of the various succulents, the round bowl of the birdbath, all say calmness and peace. This arrangement of container and plant lends itself to endless creative variations, depending on the materials you might have on hand.
Also getting along swimmingly is this multi-colored collection of succulents in a tiered fountain. So many shapes, sizes and types of plants in one place, you’d think they’d be visually chaotic, yet they’re not. Single plant arrangements are great but groupings can bring big impact, creating a hard-to-miss focal point.
In the same section, under the Succulent Seascapes heading, this fantastic boat vignette really captivates. Inside a simple bowl are succulents, pebbles, a piece of driftwood, wooly thyme, and a witty sculpture of a boat that only the most bravely foolhardy of mariners would board. I love the approximation of water provided by the plants chosen, as well as the overall feeling of a small, separate world contained in a bowl. Really sweet and a great composition.
SUCCULENT CONTAINER GARDENS is a great book for anyone interested in gardening with succulents. I can’t stop looking at it — reading it — and finding new things to love about it. You can buy the book here, or at your local bookstore, and it would make a terrific Valentine’s Day gift for the lover of succulents in your life. It’s small in format but would make a huge addition to any juicy-leaf plant aficionado’s library. I guarantee it’ll be love at first sight for you, too!
NOTE: All photos in this post by Debra Lee Baldwin, from her book ‘Succulent Container Gardens, Design Eye-Catching Displays with 350 Easy-Care Plants’, published by Timber Press, copyright 2010.