Rosalina’s Dream: A Nursery of Her Own

– Posted in: Succulents

IMG_1877 Twenty years ago, cacti and succulents were oddball plants, little known among the nursery industry or gardening community. North San Diego county was where the wholesale growers were located, and many still are. But unfortunately Cooper’s Cactus and Succulents no longer exists; not since John Cooper passed away. The good news is that his plants live on, as does his kindness. Above: I photographed this Aloe nobilis ‘Variegata’ and the other succulents shown here at Roja’s Succulents, 2005 E. Alvarado St., Fallbrook, CA.   IMG_1780 “John Cooper made it possible for me to have my own nursery,” says Rosalina Rojas, one of his former employees. Above: Echeveria ‘Cante’ in bloom. 

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Her own one-acre nursery has been in existence more than a decade. Above: Ruffled echeverias.  IMG_1870 “I’ve been in the US for 26 years, and I’m a citizen,” Rosalina says proudly. She originally is from Guanajuato, Mexico. Above: A striped aloe. 

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“One of my sons is fighting for our country,” Rosalina told me. Francisco, 26, is in the Special Forces. Above: Aloe tomentosa flowers are unusual for the genus: pale green, fuzzy and appear in midsummer.

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Her other son, Carlos, 24, helps with the nursery. Carlos introduced himself to me at last year’s Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals Nursery, and urged me to visit. I wasn’t able to do so right away, but it was on my radar. I’d already heard good things about the owner and the quality of the plant material. Above: Aeonium canariense has velvety leaves. 

IMG_1821 “It’s my passion and my living,” says Rosalina, adding that having her own nursery made it possible for her to raise her sons as a single mom. Above: Aloe dorotheae.

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Following in her mentor’s footsteps, Rosalina cultivates many beautiful, rare and unusual varieties. Above: This variegated Graptopetalum pentandrum is one of her own introductions. 

IMG_1841 So, what treasures did I bring home? One was this unusual senecio with beadlike leaves. IMG_1880 And this variation of Kalanchoe luciae (paddle plant) with rolled leaves. Rosalina calls it the “taco kalanchoe.” IMG_1864When you’re in the area, do visit Rosalina and mention that you heard about her here. If you’d like a comprehensive list of “San Diego Succulent Destinations,” email me at Sunwriter7@cox.net. Incidentally, Rosalina wasn’t the only one Cooper helped; others continue to cultivate plants once grown at his nursery. Above: An Aeonium ‘Sunburst’ variation. 

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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michaele anderson August 21, 2014, 6:41 am

What a wonderful nursery about which to share special commentary. I am so glad that this exceptional woman has been able to make her business a success and that we ordinary gardeners have caught up with her passion for succulents. Please tell her to thank both her sons for their service…each one making a contribution in their own way.

John August 21, 2014, 8:34 am

Great photos. I used to visit when I lived in San Diego. Sadly here in North Dakota, succulents are more oddities that can’t stay outside year round and need to be brought in for the winter. Sadly, this limits the number of them that I can obtain.
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Dawn August 21, 2014, 9:41 pm

Dropped by Rosalinas place today – wonderful variety and super healthy plants. She is a delight and very gracious gardener! We loved everything and hope to get back soon!

Tammy August 22, 2014, 1:20 pm

Wow! this is such a beautiful nursery. I would love to share this my friend who loves these types of cacti and greenery and going to start her own garden. :-)

Nicole August 22, 2014, 1:59 pm

That is a lovely story, debra, how wonderful of John Cooper to help others. I also read story in NYT recently of the growing ownership of farms in California by former immigrant workers. BTW caps is not working in the comment box and its also centered.

LInda Lehmusvirta August 29, 2014, 7:44 pm

What a lovely story! I dearly hope to meet her someday but for now, thank you for the introduction and pictures of these gorgeous succulents.

Carrie Goode September 5, 2014, 6:25 pm

Rosalina’s nursery is one of the best! When I lived in Valley Center I always got my succulents from her!! I miss her and her beautiful nursery so much. She is passionate about succulents!

Marilyn Guidroz September 6, 2014, 10:20 am

I am so glad that you were able to meet Rosalina and visit her nursery. I have been fortunate enough to use her as a supplier for my large succulent design projects for years now. I am very proud of her ability to keep these beautiful plants available to us. I highly recommend a field trip to this nursery for all succulent and cacti lovers!

Jane McGarry September 13, 2014, 9:20 am

I’ve always liked succulents and they are obviously perfect for the heat of Texas. I’m getting ready to do a new garden, and i’m going to try and find a place for some! Thank you.
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Debra Lee Baldwin September 13, 2014, 11:47 am

I’m so pleased that all of you liked Rosalina’s story. She didn’t want to be photographed, and was self-effacing and unassuming. As much as she appreciates customers, what she’s all about are her plants. Like many of us, she comes alive when talking about them and tending them. It’s what all gardeners have in common. Regardless of where we live or how many and what kind of plants we grow, we’re kindred spirits!