Held for the first time in 2011, Succulent Extravaganza is an annual two-day event organized by Succulent Gardens, Northern California’s premier succulent grower and wholesaler. In the months leading up to the 2012 Extravaganza held this past Friday and Saturday, the online succulent forums I frequent, such as the Succulent Fanatics group on Facebook, had been abuzz with anticipation.
Entrance to Succulent Gardens
But as is the case with all things we look forward to for a long time, the 2012 Extravaganza came and went in the blink of an eye. I had a fantastic time meeting old friends and making new ones, listening to awesome presentations and looking at thousands of succulents.
In today’s post I’ll take you on a tour of the nursery. Tomorrow’s post will be straight succulent porn—my favorite plant photos taken during my visit.
Succulent Gardens is located just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean outside of Castroville, CA, the self-proclaimed Artichoke Capital of the World. (A complimentary bit of trivia in case you’re thinking of going on Jeopardy!: In 1948, a young Marilyn Monroe on the cusp of becoming a major star was the Castroville Artichoke Festival’s Artichoke Queen.)
I find the climate of the Central California coast dreamy: The thermometer rarely climbs much above 85°F and it rarely freezes. Many succulents love that kind of weather, as is evidenced by the exuberant plantings on the nursery grounds.
Even though the average annual precipitation of Castroville is only 11 inches (we receive about 19 inches here in Davis), the area gets a good deal of fog, especially in the summer months. Driving to Succulent Gardens on Saturday morning from my motel in Marina, about 20 minutes south, this is what I saw:
Cabbage field in the fog along Highway 156 to Castroville
Cabbage, the other succulent
Having left Davis on a 90°F degree day, with temperatures around the century mark predicted for the weekend, I relished the cool, damp air. Unfortunately, the fog burned off by mid-morning but that still gave me enough time to take the photos you’ll see in today’s and tomorrow’s posts.
Mailbox at Succulent Gardens
The first activity on Saturday morning was a nursery tour led by Brian Kemble, curator of the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek. Brian is a world-renowned succulent experts and drew quite crowd.
Brian Kemble at entrance kiosk
He started with the basics—What are succulents? Where do they grow? What are their basic requirements?—and then progressed to talk about specific genera and species as we walked around the nursery grounds.
Here are the most interesting photos I took during our walk.
Potted echeverias and other succulents
Dozens of potted Echeveria elegans
Mixed cactus bed
Very large Agave americana ‘Striata’
Row of Agave sisalana ‘Variegata’, many of them in bloom
Giant agave flower stalks; Brian Kemble said that each flower
contains several thimblefuls of nectar
Sh*t happens, even at Succulent Gardens!
Close-up of sempervivums used in one of the murals on the entrance kiosk
Rows of aeoniums and Aloe plicatilis
Colorful succulent mosaic
One of my favorite planting beds: dozens upon dozens of spiral aloes (Aloe polyphylla)
Agave ‘Blue Flame’ (top row) and Agave ‘Blue Glow’ (bottom row)
After Brian’s nursery walk, it was time for the first presentation of the day. Debra Lee Baldwin, author of Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens and the upcoming Succulents Simplified, spoke about “Companion Plants for Succulents.” Debra’s talk struck a chord; in my own experience, succulents shine even more when paired with non-succulent plants. The photos Debra used in her presentation can be viewed and downloaded from this Picasa album.
Next up was Los Altos-based garden designer Rebecca Sweet, co-author of Garden Up! Entitled “Harmony in the Garden—Incorporating Succulents into Everyday Gardens,” Rebecca’s talk was a great complement to Debra’s. Using actual design projects as examples, Rebecca showed us ways to add succulents to existing plantings and to solve specific problems common in many gardens. This was the first time I’d heard Rebecca speak, and she was engaging, witty and energetic. I had the opportunity to chat with her over lunch, and she does her last name proud.
After these two talks it was time for me to explore the sales areas. Just like last year, there were so many plants and accessories to chose from, my head started to spin.
The range of decorative items available for outdoor spaces is getting ever bigger
Hypertufa containers, with and without plants
“Living Picture” frames, with and without plants
I loved these containers. Unfortunately, they were too pricey for me.
Chimenea surrounded by potted agaves
Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ and one of my favorite new plants of the year,
a variegated flapjack (Kalanchoe luciae ‘Fantastic’)
Another exciting new introduction, variegated ponytail palm
(Beaucarnea recurvata ‘Variegata’)
Colorful baby gasterias
Trays of small Echeveria agavoides
More echeverias in trays, forming a mosaic when viewed from above
Fancy echeveria cultivars…
…as far as the eye can see
It was fantastic seeing such a tremendous variety of succulents, both in the ground and in containers waiting to be sold, but it was even more enjoyable hanging out with fellow succulent aficionados and making new friends.
Debra Lee Baldwin and yours truly (photo by Candy Suter).
Debra is wearing Laura Balaoro’s hat decorated with live succulents.
2012 Extravaganza posts: