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Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties Paperback – May 21, 2013
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"Anyone who knows Debra Lee Baldwin is aware of her extraordinary prowess as an author, writer, photographer, and artist...her book, Succulents Simplified, is a work of art." --- Fran Sorin, Gardening Contributor, CBS Radio News
"As with all of her previous books, I'm a huge fan. However I was particularly excited to read about the crafty succulent projects shown in the book. From quick and easy succulent rosettes for bouquets, to teeny tiny mint-tin gardens, to succulent-topped pumpkins there's a project in this book for even the most craft-challenged." -- Author/designer Rebecca Sweet in her blog, Gossip in the Garden
"Ms. Baldwin's step-by-step projects for crafters as well as numerous container and dish gardens give Succulents Simplified a wider appeal than a straight gardening book. It's the perfect starter volume for those new to succulents, while satisfying and delighting veterans with the variation and solid growing tips based on the author's evident joy in succulents and cacti." -- Geri Laufer, New York Journal of Books
"Debra is nothing if not passionate about succulents...In Succulents Simplified (Timber Press) she demystifies these popular low-water beauties." -- James Baggett, editor, Country Gardens Magazine
From the Author
Yet even as I say this, around the edges of my awareness floats a much earlier memory. I was eight or nine years old when I went with my mother to a home in a wealthy community for an occasion I don't remember. When we returned home, my mother described the house to my father: "Big picture windows, but imagine having to clean them. Views of the golf course, but the property is too steep. Surrounded by trees, but they shed leaves and bark. Big deck off the living room, but no garden."
No garden? There had been an astonishing one, in pots on the deck, with plants unlike any I'd seen before. They looked like eels, starfish, and coral. One was a perfect little sphere with a green-and-maroon herringbone pattern. Others were necklaces of blue-gray buttons, rubbery silver-blue roses, and sticks of green chalk with windowed tips.
My mother concluded wistfully, "Maybe someday Debbie will have a house like that."
Why would I want it, I wondered, if it came with dirty windows, messy trees, and near-vertical land? On the other hand, who wouldn't want that deck garden? It became something I longed for, along with a saltwater aquarium, a hot air balloon, and an unlimited supply of chocolate marshmallows.
I no longer want any of those, but succulents continue to seduce me. I'm that little girl again when I see a succulent I haven't seen before, or even a well-grown one I may have seen dozens of times. You might assume I have a vast collection, and although I do own dozens of varieties, I don't consider myself a collector. Fascination need not be possession. I'm equally happy looking at succulents in a nursery, at a show, or in someone else's garden. In particular, I enjoy capturing and recording succulents' myriad shapes and textures with my camera.
For most of my career, I've written about all sorts of plants. Words are still my first love, but nothing describes a plant or a garden as well as a photo. As I practice this art form, I often think of how "photography" means "writing with light." Camera in hand, I circle a succulent, looking for the best light. In slanted early morning or late afternoon sun, red margins burn neon bright, spines incandesce, fuzzy filaments shimmer, and leaves reveal glowing hues of rose, orange, purple, and blue. As you might imagine, it was difficult to winnow the selection of photos for my books. So many have merit, or illustrate an important point, and I was continually thinking, "But I have to show them this one!"
Succulents Simplified, my third book about succulents, is a kind of prequel to the previous two. It's a guide for novice enthusiasts, a quick reference for anyone seeking an overview, and a vehicle for presenting design ideas I'm excited about. Throughout, I share my perspective on a subject that has become my passion.
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In certain situations, I think it can be even more helpful to have a simpler reference which condenses the most actionable information available into one easy-to-use guide. That's where Debra's new book, Succulents Simplified, comes in.
Succulents Simplified has three sections:
· How to grow and design with succulents successfully
· How-to projects that showcase succulents
· Debra's top 100 easy-care succulents
Even though I'm a landscaping professional, I'm definitely no succulent expert, so having Debra's keep-it-simple tips for how to succeed with them are incredibly useful to me. She goes over everything from creating designs using the varied shapes, colors and textures of succulents, choosing the right location so they'll succeed, and the right way of maintaining these plants so they continue looking fresh. The information is presented in a clean, easy-to-peruse format with a lot of bullet points and lists making it easy to find the information you're looking for.
Then, the second section has eight gorgeous DIY projects to get you more enthused and involved in the succulent world, with each section having multiple pages of detailed how-to photos and instructions. Want to grow succulents in a low light situation? Create one of those living picture vertical gardens you keep seeing in the magazines? What about a succulent-topped pumpkin to sit by your front door as autumn decor? She even goes into how to make succulent bouquets for special occasions, such as a wedding. What I love best about this section is that Debra gives us the tools to create our own projects from her instructions - not only is there endless variety in terms of which succulents you choose, but each project has huge potential for you to personalize it and make it your own in other ways.
Though the first two sections are the most immediately exciting, I suspect the third section, 100 Easy-Care Succulents, will actually get the most use from me after I learn from the first section and do a few of the projects in the second. I confess that when I go to the nursery, I feel a hint of trepidation when I try to choose which succulents to use in my container planting projects.
Debra demystifies the hardiness, habits, and best uses for each of the 100 succulents featured. This is exactly what I have needed all these years - a pictorial guide to some of the most common and useful succulents out there. With Debra's help, I feel like I'm finally learning to identify and understand Kalanchoes, Graptoverias and the rest. The only thing that could be better is if Debra would also release an app that I could take along with me to the garden center!
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the quality of the photographs in this book. Debra Lee Baldwin isn't just a writer; she's a noted photojournalist and took many of the pictures for this book herself. One of my main complaints about many recent releases in the horticultural book world is that the photos and the writing often don't seem to go together as smoothly as they could. Either the photographs are close-ups of plants and don't fully illustrate the design tips, or the pictures don't have a consistent style throughout the book. Because of Debra's skill at both writing and photography, her book is a shining example of all that print publishing can and should be doing to ensure that photos and text work seamlessly to enhance one another and the aims of the book. The book is packed full of photos, with multiple pictures illustrating each point or plant. I can't say enough about what a difference this makes to my enjoyment of the text.
Succulents Simplified is being marketed as a prequel to her other books, and I think that's completely accurate. I adore the in-depth information in her other two books and refer to them frequently, but I think the ease-of-use, inspirational photos and DIY projects, and the simple reference guide to the most common and noteworthy succulents is going to make this my favorite of the three to recommend people start with, because it has a little bit of everything you need, no matter how deep your interest in succulents.
Pros: the descriptions of 100 easy-care varieties was great, good examples to help you understand designing with succulents, and the projects look good and easily adapt to individual tastes.
Cons: the author could spend less time trying to sell you on the benefits of succulents and more time on propagation and care