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Succulents Simplified – An Interview with Debra Lee Baldwin

Anyone who knows Debra Lee Baldwin is aware of her extraordinary prowess as an author, writer, photographer, and artist. As a co-contributor at Gardening Gone Wild for 4 plus years, I’ve had the good fortune to develop a professional relationship and friendship with her. Not only is Debra Lee all of the above, but she is also a kind and generous individual. In this discussion, she talks about her newly published book, Succulents Simplified ~ it is a work of art. Fran Sorin

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1. Can you share where your passion for succulents began and how it developed over the years?

I grew up with succulents in dry gardens in Southern CA and never thought of the plants as special. They were what people grew if they couldn’t afford automatic irrigation. If you neglected to hose-water, the succulents usually survived, at least the big, mature ones did—agaves, jade and prickly pear were bulletproof. Later, I planted cuttings from my parents’ garden in my own, and succulents proved to be the least trouble. But I was much more enthralled with cannas and roses. Then several things coalesced: the seemingly endless CA drought; more varieties of succulents than ever before; and a realization on the part of the gardening public that flower or tropical gardens may be unwise in terms of time, water and aesthetics over the long run. Rosette and sculptural succulents were what forward-thinking designers were installing. After seeing my scouting shots of many such gardens, my Sunset editor suggested I write a book. Designing with Succulents, the first in the trilogy, came out in 2007.

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