Skip to content

Book Report: ‘Succulent Container Gardens’

February 10, 2010

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 …

A fiery combination

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.

Happy together

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.

Drama, drama, drama

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.

A peaceful coexistence

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.

Outpouring of color

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.

Who needs water?

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.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth Han permalink
    February 11, 2010 3:18 am

    You’re like the Tim Gunn of gardening, Reuben: witty, fun and delightful!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 11, 2010 4:00 pm

      Right, except you left out ‘shorter’! … thanks, Elizabeth! Your comment sent me to bed laughing …

  2. February 11, 2010 7:17 am

    LOVE love love your blog. I’m sorry for neglecting your comment (and everyone else’s) for the past few months. I came over to check it out from the comment you left and am glad I did. I did add it to my blogroll and appreciate the link back. Can’t wait to see more. It’s right up my alley – literally as I live pretty close to the cemetery myself. Keep up the awesome work and let’s check out what is going on in our neighborhood together 🙂 Take care!

    Dianna –

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 11, 2010 4:03 pm

      Dianna, thanks … let’s get together soon, I’d love to meet and exchange blogging stories … and never apologize for blog neglect … I know how hard it is to keep up with postings. Reuben

  3. faroutflora permalink
    February 17, 2010 6:45 am

    We’re loving Debra’s new book! Anyone who even just kind of likes succulents should get this book.


    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 18, 2010 4:57 am

      Hey, Megan, thanks for the comment!… I don’t need to tell you how much I agree with you…

  4. March 12, 2010 1:14 am

    I blogged about this book, too, over here:
    Your have a beautiful way of describing!
    I am in Northern California, but used to live in Redlands. Succulents would have sooo been the answer to my prayers, if I had only known their beauty as they are portrayed here.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      March 12, 2010 1:24 am

      Lois, hi! It’s amazing how many people from The North checked in; glad to have you… While I envy your rainy weather (especially during the deadly summer months here) I’m totally happy here with my succulents and cacti… Thanks for the comment

  5. April 1, 2010 1:19 am

    Hi, Reuben — I almost missed this! What a glowing review of my book. Thank you SO much. I’m very glad you like it. You’ve pointed out some things that expand on what I wrote, like the way the upthrusting blue pot marries well with the upthrusting orange succulent.

    Let’s connect on Facebook, too. Debra

  6. January 18, 2012 5:22 am

    love this book too and I am loving your blog. Found it while searching Moorten’s in Palm Springs. I will be definitely be checking in to see more of your adventures.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      January 18, 2012 5:52 am

      Hey, Mari! Yes, it’s one of my fave books ever and I always find it inspiring. Thanks for commenting, and stick around; I think you’ll find it interesting here at the Rancho!

  7. March 30, 2012 6:30 pm

    Hi, Reuben! When WordPress notified me that you had subscribed to my blog (after I commented on your 3/30 post) I followed one of their “recommended posts” and arrived here. Darn! Just when I swore that I HAD to quit subscribing to blogs I liked, you tackled me to the ground.

    As a plant lover, did you notice my link on my blog to my extensive streptocarpus collection on Flickr?

    Light Garden 3


    • reubix1 permalink*
      March 31, 2012 2:54 pm

      Hey, J.A. the blog life is very ‘Alice down the rabbit hole’ isn’t it? I’ve given up, though, on resisting, I’ve met so many great people because of blogging. Great photos in your flickr album, too! Thanks for commenting …

  8. cindy permalink
    August 24, 2012 7:09 pm

    I purchased this book and love it!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      August 24, 2012 8:08 pm

      It’s a must-read … and see … so many gorgeous pictures and examples to inspire!

  9. March 1, 2015 2:06 am

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Love, love these. Very inspirational!


  1. Trying to Save Our Sempervivum: Succulent Garden « Brooklyn Roof Garden
  2. Year One « Rancho Reubidoux
  3. Tube-in’ « Rancho Reubidoux
  4. Turning 50K « Rancho Reubidoux
  5. Far-Flung Extravagance « Rancho Reubidoux
  6. Fresh Ticket « Rancho Reubidoux
  7. Click: Chic « Rancho Reubidoux
  8. 19 Awesome Low-Budget Garden DIY's - Find Fun Art Projects to Do at Home and Arts and Crafts Ideas | Find Fun Art Projects to Do at Home and Arts and Crafts Ideas
  9. 20 Beautiful And Attractive Gardening Design Ideas Torn From Fairy Tales
  10. 20 Beautiful And Attractive Gardening Design Ideas Torn From Fairy Tales | PopoBuzz
  11. Another 10 Creative Garden Container Ideas | Site For Everything
  12. 10 upcycle ideas for garden planters | Tiphome
  13. 20 Ideas to make your Garden Look out of the world Fairy Tales Designs – Aditya Portal
  14. 20 Beautiful And Attractive Gardening Design Ideas Torn From Fairy Tales | Home Design
  15. 20 Beautiful And Attractive Gardening Design Ideas Torn From Fairy Tales | | Kiddiz
  16. 20 Beautiful And Attractive Gardening Design Ideas Torn From Fairy Tales - Minimalist Home Design
  17. Un giardino di piante grasse! 20 esempi stupendi da cui trarre ispirazione...
  18. 15 Amazing Succulent Garden Ideas - Garden Pics and Tips
  19. Succulent Plants: The Hip DIY Trend To Bring Color To Your Home Living

Leave a Reply to reubix1 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: