Book Review: Succulents

Succulents have been having a vogue for the past several years, as everything from bridal bouquets to interior walls have been covered with these water-wise, geometric plants. Succulents include all plants that have a fleshy appearance and conserve water, including such northern favorites as hens-and-chicks and sedum. But many of us think of succulents as largely plants of the southwest and other desert regions, which is indeed their home territory. (To clarify: all cactus are succulents, though not all succulents are cacti.)

Robin Stockwell gardens in California and has devoted more than 40 years to growing, selling and designing with succulent plants. In his new book, Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing and Growing 200 Easy-Care Plants (Oxmoor House, 2017), Stockwell offers inspiration and information on growing and caring for more than 200 types of succulents. Not surprisingly, most of the gardens he profiles in the first section of the book are California gardens, and it is really impressive how much can be done in the right climate with these plants. A large raised bed filled with a tree form of aloe and barrel cactus makes you want to immediately book a trip to the southwest this winter!

Fortunately, the section of the book on projects includes many that anyone with a source of succulent plants and a bit of creativity can carry out, from succulent arrangements in a vase to wedding cake decorations and boutonnieres, as well as lots of ideas for table centerpieces and even gift wrapping using succulents. With their varied shapes and colors, succulents are indeed a flower arranger’s dream.

The last third of the book is devoted to 203 of Stockwell’s favorite plants as well as detailed care instructions. The variety of aloes, Echeveria and Sempervivum and others is impressive, with so many variations in form and color. Each variety is pictured, which is a big help in deciding which succulents you like best. The care instructions are useful, too, and include information on sun, soil, mulch and how to prune succulents to keep them healthy and looking good.

If you are a succulent lover, this book would be a helpful guide and a source of much inspiration. For those who have not yet fallen for succulents, this book might convince you to give them a try.


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