2017 Succulent Extravaganza was a blast

The 2017 Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens in Castroville, CA took place this past Friday and Saturday, September 29 and 30. Both days were jam-packed with presentations, socalizing, looking at plants, and of course shopping. I didn't arrive until late afternoon on Friday so I missed out on Friday's activities. But I enjoyed a full day on Saturday visiting with old succulent friends and meeting new ones, taking photos of the wonderful plants at Succulents Gardens (the demonstration gardens looked better than ever), and listening to four presentations. I bought a few things, too, but oddly enough none of them were succulents.

Late afternoon on Friday I attended a special happy hour to celebrate the launch of Debra Lee Baldwin's new book, Designing with Succulents, 2nd Edition. Afterwards I walked around the nursery and took some photos. Except for a few nursery employees, I was the only one there. Some of the photos are in this post, the others will be in the next one: pure succulent porn.

If you've never been to Succulent Gardens, this is what you see as approach on Elkhorn Blvd:

Many agaves along the road have flowered (I believe these are Agave 'Mr Ripple'):

Entrance to the nursery:

Every Extravanza seems to feature a new succulent tapestry. This is this year's:

More vertical arrangements:

Plants for sale are everywhere:

If you enjoying making succulent arrangements out of repurposed items, you've come to the right place for inspiration:

The display gardens are getting better and better as the plants mature. (Part 2 will have many more photos taken in the display gardens.)

This is the speaker area where most of the presentations are held:

This is one of two greenhouses open to the public. The others are for propagation only and are off limits.

Bringing a wagon is a smart idea! And take a look at that gorgeous Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light'!

So many succulents for sale! If I didn't already have one of those Agave guadalajarana 'Leon' in the photo below, I would have been tempted.

Boxed specimens for instant impact:

This area outside the main retail greenhouse looked spectacular this year: 

The painted doors are the perfect backdrop for sale plants.

More clever arrangements just outside the retail greenhouse:

Am I crazy for wanting a metal agave like the one in the photo below?

I don't know if the large Kalanchoe beharensis in the next photo was for sale but it definitely was a focal point.

Speaking of focal points, this potted arrangement featuring several Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue' is a true showstopper:

The retail greenhouse has some areas that are off limits (see below) but most aisles are stocked with sale plants.

The number of echeveria hybrids on the market keeps growing from year to year. With some exceptions, echeverias don't thrive in our climate (it's just too hot in the summer) but I enjoy looking at them. This is one I hadn't see before: Echeveria 'Purple Pearl'. It's similar to 'Perle von Nürnberg" but even more purple.

I'll have a lot more photos from inside the retail greenhouse in my next post. Here's one more to tide you over:

Very few visitors make it to this area behind the propagation greenhouses. I'm not sure if these plants are officially for sale (yet), but there are some nice ones tucked away back here.

The rows of cactus in the next photos are new. Succulent Gardens is clearly making a concerted effort to grow larger cactus specimens.

I'm not sure what this one is (some Cereus or other)...

but this is Euphorbia ammak 'Variegata':

I've never seen this method of propagating columnar cactus before (I think this is a Trichocereus, now lumped into Echinopsis). Apparently new vertical stems will grow from a section placed on the ground horizontally.

I was excited to find a flower that had just opened up (they only last a day)

The arrangements below were created by members of the Succulent Fanatics, a wildly popular Facebook group created seven years ago by San Jose gardener extraordinare Laura Balaoro. Every year, the Succulent Fanatics have their own table in the retail greenhouse where visitors can admire their creations and ask succulent-related questions. The Extravaganza is a great opportunity for people who otherwise only know each other from cyberspace to meet up in person. 

"Under the Sea" by Laura Balaoro

"Under the Sea" by Laura Balaoro

"Nemo's Magical Garden" by Marlene McCullough

Succulent pumpkin by Deana McMillion

"Autumn Splendor" by Catherine Scott

"Propagation Fairy Garden" by Gina Maloney

What would be a gathering of like-minded people like the Succulent Fanatics without a group shot!

This new photo spot, complete with a succulent-adorned frame, is the perfect place for it. I took these photos so I'm not in it. But as you can see, the y chromosome was not well represented. Not that you'll here me complain!

Debra Lee Baldwin, a member of Succulent Fanatics herself, gave presentations on both days. I caught her talk on "Designing with Colorful, Textural Succulents" on Saturday morning. Here she is introducing Agave guiengola 'Crème Brûlée', one of her favorite alternatives to the ubiquitous (bad, if not downright evil) Agave americana. Agave guiengola definitely makes a statement, especially as it gets bigger (it can reach a height of 3-4 ft and a width of 4-6 ft). Unfortunately, it's not very hardy; the specimen I once had developed unsightly blemishes every winter when temperatures fell below freezing.

Other presentations I attended were by Robin Stockwell, the former owner of Succulent Gardens ("Hybridization of Succulents") and Walker Young, assistant curator of the Ruth Bancroft Garden ("Succulent Design"). 

The final speaker of the day was Janet Sluis, Program Developer and Curator of the Sunset Western Garden Collection. Entitled "Drought-Tolerant Plants for the Western Garden", Janet's talk focused on unthirsty plants that make great companions to succulents. I had seen this cart earlier in the day and had guessed (correctly, as it turned out) that these plants were going to feature prominently in Janet's presentation.

I'm sure these plants were placed on the cart in completely random fashion, but look how beautifully they play off each other:

Janet's picks included Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty', Lavandula allardii 'Meerlo', Dianella 'Clarity Blue', Festuca glauca 'Beyond Blue', Mahonia 'Soft Caress' and Mahonia × media 'Marvel'. Many plants go through rigorous irrigation trials at UC Davis, Janet explained, but only the toughest make into the "Water-Wise Plants" category of the Sunset Western Garden Collection. As I was listening to Janet, I was beginning to realize that Sunset had already done the hard work for me: determining what would do well in my climate. 

I really like the two selections from the Sunset Western Garden Collection I already have—Lavandula 'Meerlo' and Mahonia 'Soft Caress'—so I bought three more plants right then and there: another Lavandula 'Meerlo' and two Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty'. Succulent Gardens had brought in stock of both and a few others especially for the Extravaganza. I'll look for the fescue and dianella at Green Acres in Sacramento next weekend.

Walking back to my car after Janet's talk, I felt a great sense of contentment. I had met wonderful people, seen beautiful plants, and soaked up new information I would be able to put to good use in my garden. For me, the 2017 Succulent Extravaganza was one of the best ever.

The date for 2018 hasn't been announced yet, but if Succulent Gardens sticks to tradition, it should by on the last Friday and Saturday of September, i.e. September 28 and 29, 2018. If you haven't already, subscribe to Succulent Gardens' newsletter to keep up to date on all their events.



  • 2017 Succulent Extravanza plant porn
  • 2016 Succulent Extravanza (1 | 2)
  • 2015 Succulent Extravanza (1 | 2)
  • 2014 Succulent Extravanza (1 | 2 | 3)
  • 2013 Succulent Extravanza (1 | 2 | 3)
  • 2012 Succulent Extravanza (1 | 2)
  • 2011 Succulent Extravanza (1 | 2)


  1. Your photos are definitely Succulent porn and I loved them! I missed the show for the first time this year but seeing your photos I feel like I was there! Love the framed group photo, how fun!

  2. Gerhard. I never get enough time to talk to you. I also never take photos because I know you will take the best ones. Fabulous! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I went on Friday morning, and got there to attend Brian Kemble's walk and talk. My two friends wanted to go right after lunch so I had to miss most of the talks! I may go without them in the future. Great photos, what did you come back with?

    1. Why don't you plan on going with me next year? I can pick you up and we can share a room.

      I got the 'Meerlo' lavender and 'Platinum Beauty' lomandra I mentioned. PLUS an unlabeled leucospermum in a #5 pot for only $10! They were easy to miss (they were in front of the office across from the taco truck). There were at least 20 of them, all of them $10 in #5 cans (less than wholesale!). Two varieties, yellow and orange, although nobody knew which was which. I got one that looks like it has tiny flower buds already.

  4. Wonderful post ! This event has been on my bucket list for years but I always seem to get Sept filled up with business travel. Maybe next year . I yearn fro that fabulous Central Coast climate too. Have you visited Sierra Azul ? Very nice nursery with display gardens and great selection of summer dry and aussie plants.

    1. Kathy, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the ocean air. So wonderful!

      Yes, I've been to Sierra Azul several times. Great nursery indeed. HERE is a post I wrote in February 2012.

  5. I got to visit there two years ago, but unfortunately by the time we got there they were 10 minutes from closing time, but at least we got a brief look at all the plants. I too love that cool coastal climate.

    1. I think they bring in a lot of extra plants for the Extravanza. Maybe next year? It would make a nice road trip :-).

  6. Thanks for sharing, it's always been a favorite of mine too. So many great nurseries nearby in Watsonville.

    1. I love Sierra Azul Nursery in Watsonville. Can you recommend any others?

  7. Thanks for another look at a seemingly fun event which I will probably not ever attend, oh well...you can’t do it all right? I’m glad you got a few more of the Sunset intros, Janet is a great plantswoman who really knows her stuff...good solid plants.

    1. Never say never. I finally made it to the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon sale after all these years!

      Yes, Janet Sluis is phenomenal. The world needs more people like her!

    2. Puhlease... that sale was just a teaser...come up for the real thng in April!

  8. What a great little visit - I'll never get there (too far away) so it was lovely to walk through via your post.

  9. Succulent porn indeed! That Kalanchoe beharensis is the best I've ever seen. I love all the succulent displays in trunks and tool boxes and even that barbecue grill too. If only Castroville weren't so far away...

    1. The amazing thing is that that Kalanchoe beharensis (and the Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue') is indoors. Yes, the walls are translucent but it's never super bright in there. It might made a really nice patio plant!

  10. Haven't been there in years. So nice to be brought along by you and your camera. I envy your energy and how you make time for all these adventures. I think I've got to put it on my calendar early to do this trip next year. I've been to the nursery but never to the extravaganza.

    1. The Extravaganza is a great event. The talks alone are worth the drive.

  11. Okay, I was at this event too!!!! I didn't even see the cactus propagation section!!! So glad to have found this blog...great minds... :)

    1. With you being at the Succulent Extravaganza and the recent UC Davis Arboretum plant sale, I'm surprised we didn't literally bump into each other!

    2. I realized that I was there on Friday (played hooky - shhhh!) and came home Saturday morning, after spending the night with friends in Corralitos. Met a really nice lady named Ann (Anne?) who was a UC Davis Arboretum volunteer and master gardener...again, waiting my turn until I can retire and be a full time plant nut...


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