Debra Lee Baldwin

Succulent Plant Maven and Author

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As the author of several lovely books on our favorite plants, Debra Lee Baldwin is a well known personality in the succulent plant world.

Her pictures of succulents and landscapes have been an inspiration to many budding and knowledgeable gardeners in many climates.

Debra Lee Baldwin

I've been fortunate to catch Debra between speaking engagements and book deadlines and have a chance to ask a few questions. I hope you'll enjoy this revealing and inspiring Q&A with Debra.

Tell me something you feel is important about yourself.

My secret of success is basically this: I defined what I had a passion for, set goals, had a high level of commitment, and spent years working 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week. I was also fortunate to have a supportive spouse and to be in the right place at the right time.

What words would you use to best describe yourself?

Garden photojournalist, bestselling author, watercolor artist, entrepreneur. At least that describes "Debra Lee Baldwin," the brand I've created.

What was your most important time in your gardening life, have you always been a gardener or was it an epiphany?

I learned how to garden from my father. Early in my career, while I was living in a small apartment and writing articles about luxury homes with large gardens, I longed to grow flowers, the bigger the better. When my husband and I bought a house on a half-acre, the first thing I did was plant roses and cannas.

Kalanchoe  'Butterfly Wings'

Every afternoon, sometimes until the streetlights came on, I was out in the garden. I did everything except pruning large trees.

Careerwise, I was interviewing innovative designers and homeowners, writing feature articles for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and scouting gardens for Sunset and other publications. Consequently, I was aware of trends, experimented with a wide variety of plants, and fine-tuned my own design sensibilities. Perhaps most importantly, I gained an aesthetic appreciation for foliage over flowers.

What defining moments have there been in your life, and what changes did you make because of them?

I have a degree in English Literature, love words and storytelling, and wanted to write fiction. But nonfiction is easier to sell, so I started out writing articles on general lifestyle topics.

Kalanchoe luciae variegated

I narrowed that to homes, gardens, architecture and interior design.

Then to gardens, dry-climate gardening, and finally to geometric, architectural plants that survive periods of drought by storing water in fleshy leaves and stems.

Five years ago, Kathy Brenzel at Sunset magazine suggested I write a book on succulents and their use in garden design.

She recommended Timber Press, the largest publisher of gardening books in the US.

The timing was perfect: There are more varieties of these easy-care plants now than ever before---dozens of genera and hundreds of species---and new hybrids continually are being introduced.

In mild climates, smooth-leaves succulents can be used to create lush and lovely gardens, large and small. The plants range from groundcovers with tiny leaves to trees that resemble something out of Dr. Seuss.

Designing with Succulents

Books: Designing with Succulents, and Succulent Container Gardens

Blog (shared with other garden authors and photographers): Gardening Gone Wild Blog

Succulent Container Gardens