As you all know, I have been waiting for Debra Lee Baldwin’s latest book to come out for some time. And I am here to tell you that Succulent Container Gardens lives up to all of my hopes and expectations for the book. So many gardening books skimp of good quality color photographs. This book is overflowing with them. But the abundance of photos didn’t preclude Debra from including plenty of useful information as well.
My review copy of Succulent Container Gardens was delivered to my office, and once I saw that it was from Timber Press, I shredded the cardboard, I couldn’t get the packing off fast enough. A coworker and I giddily flipped the pages, practically drooling over all the inspiring ideas in the book. Honestly, it is an absolute steal at Amazon’s $19.77 price.
I don’t want to overemphasize the photos though, because there is plenty of text describing ideas for matching succulents to the right pot, different topdressings, and suggestions for creating miniature landscapes in each pot. There are ideas you’ve seen before, though done better or with an interesting twist. And then there are ideas that you probably haven’t, like placing colored balls on the tips of Aloe leaves (don’t knock it until you check out the photo on pages 190).
One thing I’ve been attracted to lately are landscapes and pots that pair succulents with other xeric plants, and Debra included page after page of possibile succulent companion plants. For example, I would have never thought to combine geraniums (pelargoniums) with succulents, but Debra points out that pelargoniums do best when crowded, which is how most people like to plant succulent pots. And once established, they can be pretty drought tolerant. The photo of aeoniums and geraniums spilling out of a low bowl certainly proves they look beautiful together.
Also useful is the section on growing and caring for succulents. It will certainly help beginners get started growing succulents, but it has enough depth to teach seasoned succulent aficionados a thing or two. Not that I am a succulent expert, but I was surprised to learn that most succulents prefer 3-4 hours of direct sun, max. I thought most liked much more sun than that. And I know that I will be referring again and again to the sections on repotting, grooming, pests, and propagating.
If you’d like to make your own succulent containers, as opposed to borrowing an idea directly from one in the book, Debra included useful lists in the back that recommend plants for height, fillers, cascaders, and succulents organized by color. I’m sure professional gardeners will particularly find that section useful.
To sum it all up, if you’re thinking that 2010 will be the year you give succulents a try, this book will help you create a unique and beautiful pot or two or ten. Not to mention give you enough information to keep your new plants alive for many years to come. And if you already have succulents on your balcony or patio, you will be inspired to try new things and find your passion for succulents renewed.
p.s. To give you an idea of the quality of photos in the book, all the photos I’ve included in this post were taken by Debra, but were among some 350 amazing succulent containers that did not make it into the book. So I’ll leave it to your imagination just how inspiring the photos are that made it into Succulent Container Gardens.