My Crazy-Busy Spring

– Posted in: Succulents

 

The must-have mouse ears at this year's Epcot Center's International Flower Festival were green plush with a ladybug bow.

The must-have mouse ears at Epcot Center’s International Flower Festival were green plush with a ladybug bow.

With a new book to launch, I accepted numerous speaking engagements this spring. The thing is, though, events are scheduled six to 12 months in advance. You check your calendar, and if there’s a blank date, you blithely scribble it in. But as the date approaches, OMG, there are SO many details to corral: Tailoring the presentation to the group and region, making travel arrangements, coordinating with the venue’s point person, creating an hourly itinerary, deciding what to wear, and packing for every eventuality. My “Business Packing List” is five pages long, single-spaced, and includes what I call a “pharmacy in a bag,” because you REALLY don’t want to get sick if you’re going to be far from home, shaking hands, hugging people, signing books, and being on stage where its verboten to cough, blow your nose or—God forbid—lose your voice.

This spring's calendar pages, with speaking engagements indicated by stars.

This spring’s calendar pages, with speaking engagements starred.

Less than a decade ago, as a garden photojournalist and scout for Sunset, I never imagined the adventures that lay ahead. The flip side to attaining celebrity, though, is its challenges—especially if you’re not young, are your own worst critic, and have no paid staff. Peak experiences tend to be preceded and followed by an unrelenting grind. You’re “on” whether you want to be or not. You sleep in airports because of cancelled flights. You inadvertently insult truly nice people by gazing at them blankly, because they look like hundreds of others whom you’ve briefly met. You’re misquoted, plagiarized, copied and envied. Something invariably goes wrong at the venue: from having to do a potting demo one-handed because no lavalier (clip-on mic) can be found, to the location changing without anyone advising the speaker. (After receiving a frantic WHERE ARE YOU? text, I managed to arrive at the correct address as I was being introduced.) So, are you ready? Here are the highlights:

Feb. 28-March 1: At one of my San Diego Spring Home/Garden Show presentations I met succulent enthusiast and collector Matthew, age 10. He found me via my YouTube videos, so it seemed appropriate to make one of him.

Feb. 28-March 1: At one of my San Diego Spring Home/Garden Show presentations I met succulent enthusiast and collector Matthew, 10. He found me via my YouTube videos, so it seemed right to make one of him.

March 3-6. Boca Grande Garden Club, Boca Grande, Florida. L-R: At a cocktail party in my honor; Noralee Reefe and me with her plush iguana; the beachfront estate where I stayed.

March 3-6. Boca Grande Garden Club, Boca Grande, Florida. L-R: At a cocktail party in my honor; Nora Lea Reefe and me with her plush iguana; the beachfront estate where I stayed.

March 19-21: The audience at my San Francisco Flower & Garden Show potting demo. San Rafael landscape designer Gary Bartl used my succulent color wheel to channel Carmen Miranda.

March 19-21: SRO audience at my San Francisco Flower & Garden Show potting demo. San Rafael landscape designer Gary Bartl used my succulent color wheel to channel Carmen Miranda.

March 22: Three of the 60+ images I showed during my presentation for the San Diego Master Gardeners.

March 22: Three of 60+ images I shared at the class I taught at the San Diego Master Gardeners Spring Symposium.

March 29-April 3: Epcot Center's International Floral Festival, Orlando. Yes, I made TWO trips to Florida. Happily, my husband came along on this one. Lower right: Doesn't the herb shop in Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios) remind you of Amy Stewart's book, Wicked Plants?

March 29-April 3: Epcot Center’s International Floral Festival, Orlando. Yes, I made TWO trips to Florida. Happily, my husband came along on this one. Lower right: Doesn’t the herb shop in Diagon Alley (at Universal Studios) remind you of Amy Stewart’s book, Wicked Plants?

April 12: My husband and I flew to Denver, then drove to Georgetown in the mountains, for a memorial service. Back home, the three friends that I dedicated "Succulents Simplified" to came to my home. One is the mother of my son's best friend, who died tragically in March. Both my son and I spoke at the memorial service. Sadly, another's husband has inoperable cancer.

April 12: My husband and I flew to Denver, then drove to Georgetown in the mountains for a memorial service. Back home, the three friends whom I dedicated “Succulents Simplified” to visited. One is the mother of my son’s best friend, who died tragically in March. My son and I spoke at the memorial service. Sadly, another’s husband has inoperable cancer.

April 17: I hosted a photo shoot at my home for an upcoming article in Country Gardens magazine. We used one of my husband's suit jackets so the photographer could get a close-up of a succulent boutonniere actually being worn by someone. Only the model's chin will show.

April 17: I hosted a photo shoot at my home for an upcoming article in Country Gardens magazine.
We used one of my husband’s suit jackets so the photographer could get a close-up of a succulent boutonniere being worn by someone. Only the model’s chin will show.

May 1-3: Succulent designer Berna Eren visited from Istanbul. I took her to consignment stores, garden boutiques and nurseries, and we made a video that's now on my YouTube channel.

May 1-3: Succulent designer Berna Eren visited from Istanbul. I took her to consignment stores, garden boutiques and nurseries, and we made a video now on my YouTube channel.

May 9: I escorted Attila Kapitany of Australia, author of a dozen books about succulents, to the display gardens of Waterwise Botanicals nursery near me. Photo: Katie Christensen.

May 9: I escorted Attila Kapitany of Australia, author of a dozen books about succulents, to the display gardens of Waterwise Botanicals nursery near me. Photo: Katie Christensen.

May 17-18: Inspired by designer Laura Eubanks, I made a succulent butterfly to wear in my hair at the Eco-Xpo Garden Festival in San Juan Capistrano, CA. During the event, I was interviewed for local television and created a mounded succulent arrangement. Photo of me by Susan Morse.

May 17-18: Inspired by designer Laura Eubanks, I made a succulent butterfly to wear in my hair at the Eco-Xpo Garden Festival in San Juan Capistrano, CA. During the event, I was interviewed for local television and created a mounded succulent arrangement. Photo of me by Susan Morse.

May 30-June 1: At Sunset Magazine's Celebration Weekend Festival, nursery owner Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens and I gave a joint presentation as "The King and Queen of Succulents." It was Sunset's garden editor Kathleen Brenzel's idea (she's in the orange T-shirt). Upper right: My booth at the Festival was next to that of popular garden author Rebecca Sweet. Susan Morse of the San Diego Horticultural Society (wearing a hat) accompanied me. Lower right: With Davis Dalbok of Living Green Design. Photos by Gary Bartl.

May 30-June 1: At Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend Festival, nursery owner Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens and I gave a joint presentation as “The King and Queen of Succulents.” (It was Sunset’s garden editor Kathleen Brenzel’s idea—she’s in the orange T-shirt). Upper right: My booth at the Festival was next to that of good friend and popular garden author Rebecca Sweet. Susan Morse of the San Diego Horticultural Society (wearing a hat) came along to help. Lower right: With Davis Dalbok of Living Green Design, San Francisco. First two photos by Gary Bartl.

June 6-7: At the Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals in Escondido, CA, I enhanced my book table with a glass apothecary jar filled with colorful Aeonium 'Kiwi' rosettes. Lower right: During one of my potting demos, I planted a turquoise hanging basket from Pot, Inc. with echeverias, kalanchoes and Sedum nussbaumerianum.

June 6-7: At the Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals in Escondido, CA, I enhanced my book table with a glass apothecary jar filled with colorful Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ rosettes. The wonderful thing about succulent rosettes is how they get by without water or roots; weeks later these looked the same. Lower right: During one of my potting demos, I planted a turquoise hanging basket from Pot, Inc. with echeverias, kalanchoes and Sedum nussbaumerianum (coppertone stonecrop).

June 14. In the home stretch!  At Roger's Gardens nursery, Corona del Mar, CA. Photos: Susan Morse.

June 14. In the home stretch! Potting demo and book signing at Roger’s Gardens nursery, Corona del Mar, CA. Photos: Susan Morse.

I have to say, creating this post has helped me realize how amazed and grateful anyone would be to have had these experiences. Moreover, I may not want to see the inside of another airport, but I haven’t lost my passion for succulents and for opening others’ eyes to the plants’ beauty and design potential. How I go about it, though, is going to change a bit.

Steps leading to the garden are being paved with flagstone.

Steps leading into the garden are being paved with flagstone.

I live near San Diego, a great destination in its own right and the veritable epicenter of all things succulent. In the past, I’ve declined requests from garden clubs for tours, explaining that the terrain is steep and getting it ready is time-consuming. But I’m now pouring my honorariums and royalties into the garden, getting it ready for guests and groups. Berna Eren sparked the idea: I figure, if someone wanted to come all the way from Istanbul, there must be others. The classes and workshops I hope to hold here will enable me and visiting presenters to inspire, entertain and educate others, and to share our mutual passion for gardening in general and succulents in particular. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in—as a participant or guest—I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment or send me an email: Sunwriter7@cox.net. And feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested!

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications. www.debraleebaldwin.com.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy June 22, 2014, 1:20 am

I’m so excited about your new book.

Laura Balaoro June 22, 2014, 1:35 am

Wow! you have been busy girl. Can’t wait to see the stage.

Michael Romero June 22, 2014, 6:31 am

What a whirlwind of speaking engagements, clearly judging by schedule succulents have sparked a curiosity and enthusiasm that has yet gone away. I’ve loved succulents most of my life and it is exciting to meet and know so many others that love them just like i do. Congratulations on your success and for featuring these beautiful plants and spotlighting the succulent designers and enthusiasts.

ed curlee June 22, 2014, 10:41 am

Wow, other than a sincere love of sharing your passion for succulents with your adoring public, how do you manage to keep up with your busy schedule?

Cindy Hewatt June 22, 2014, 11:38 am

Wow, you were busy! Can’t wait to read your new book!

michaele anderson June 22, 2014, 1:05 pm

Best post ever..such a generous peek into your world. Thank you for sharing your passion for succulents in such an informative and entertaining way. You are a treasure to the gardening world.

Diana Clark June 22, 2014, 4:37 pm

I think your idea of opening your own garden to succulent-lovers is absolutely brilliant. I will definitely be at one of your events.

Susi Torre-Bueno June 23, 2014, 12:00 am

I loved the video with Matthew – what a delightful young man. Can’t wait to see the changes in your garden.

Landscaping Dubai June 23, 2014, 5:30 am

Must be a great book. Best of luck with that. I have just checked you website and found that you have already written 3 other books which is really great.

commonweeder June 23, 2014, 7:38 am

It looks like you can charm – and edify. And have some fun!
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Donalyn Dow June 23, 2014, 9:23 am

You must be happy to stay home for a time! I will be delighted to visit your garden and look forward to seeing you again at Succulent Extravaganza in September. New book, too? Wonderful.

Donna Williams June 23, 2014, 10:12 am

Thanks for sharing your spring travels. I also live in San Diego and would love to tour your garden.

Nancy Nygaard June 23, 2014, 12:29 pm

Boy oh boy you need a really relaxing vacation , Then it’s time for a Corgi puppy , I can help you find a breeder. Take care :D

Erik June 23, 2014, 2:15 pm

I would love to visit you at your garden… you’ve been a true inspiration to me; when I began this gardening hobby, I really just wanted to buy everything I could. But your books and videos have shaped this into a life’s work and a passion for me!! Thank you. – Erik Molenaar

Debra Lee Baldwin July 7, 2014, 2:05 am

Thank you all for your kind and understanding comments! You’ve helped me see the bigger picture. I hope, above all, to have made a positive difference in the way people view plants and gardening, and succulents in particular.