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Required Reading: Succulents, The Ultimate Guide

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Required Reading: Succulents, The Ultimate Guide

March 23, 2017

Since the once-humble succulent is still having its day (read: decade), we were delighted to learn that longtime succulent grower, gardener, and evangelist Robin Stockwell—owner of Succulent Gardens in Castroville, California—finally published a book on his beloved plant genre.

Though there’s nothing new about gardening with succulents (they’ve been in and out of fashion for as long as any living gardener can remember), Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing, and Growing 200 Easy-Care Plants makes clear that their current renown can be attributed in part to Stockwell, who has been creating some of this decade’s succulent DIY mainstays (including succulent wreaths and wall hangings) since the early 1980s.

Sunset magazine featured Stockwell’s succulent bouquets in 1981, then his living picture frames in 1984; more than 30 years of collaboration would follow. In her Forward to the book, celebrity nurserywoman Flora Grubb credits Stockwell with a good part of her own success. So no matter your level of succulent prowess, if you’re at all interested in keeping a succulent garden, Stockwell’s book is, indeed, required reading.

Photography courtesy of Succulents.

Above: Stockwell opens the book with an image of a succulent field beneath flowering palo verde trees at the Sunnylands Center & Gardens in Rancho Mirage, California, designed by the Office of James Burnett.
In a feature on landscape designer Brian Kissinger&#8\2\17;s own garden, Stockwell advises readers on how to recreate the look:
Above: In a feature on landscape designer Brian Kissinger’s own garden, Stockwell advises readers on how to recreate the look:

“Give the stars enough room to show off, and then restrict the supporting cast to a limited selection of plants that complement them,” he writes.

Above: Stockwell relies on a Carmel, California garden by designer Bernard Trainor to demonstrate the concept of succulent “meadows:”

Pair aloe and aeonium with ornamental grasses, he writes, and the succulents will “look a little ghostlike when settled among grasses that sway in the breeze.”

A dry garden in California&#8\2\17;s Coachella Valley, designed by Marcello Villano, pairs fan palm and golden barrel cactus with varieties of yucca and aloe.
Above: A dry garden in California’s Coachella Valley, designed by Marcello Villano, pairs fan palm and golden barrel cactus with varieties of yucca and aloe.

Said the garden’s owner, “I did not want grass and flowers…I wanted this garden to look like nature planted it.”

A San Francisco-area garden by landscape architect Keith Willig features tightly packed beds of single-varietal succulents &#8\2\20;to enhance the garden&#8\2\17;s minimalist look.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: A San Francisco-area garden by landscape architect Keith Willig features tightly packed beds of single-varietal succulents “to enhance the garden’s minimalist look.”
For clients who wanted a low-water, low-maintenance garden, Richard Risner of Grounded Modern Landscape Architecture planted asparagus fern, aeonium, and aloe beneath a single olive tree.
Above: For clients who wanted a low-water, low-maintenance garden, Richard Risner of Grounded Modern Landscape Architecture planted asparagus fern, aeonium, and aloe beneath a single olive tree.
Above: One of the book’s handiest features is a varietal guide to Stockwell’s 203 favorite succulents. The section is sorted both by requirement—shade-tolerant, sun-loving, ground cover—and by type (large agaves shown here).
Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing, and Growing \200 Easy-Care Plants by Robin Stockwell is \$\15.74 on Amazon.
Above: Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing, and Growing 200 Easy-Care Plants by Robin Stockwell is $15.74 on Amazon.

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