Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do you love succulents? May I suggest a book?

I have well over 200 garden books, despite the fact that I donated a substantial number to a local library when we moved 4 years ago.  I love each and every one but I've never felt the urge to gush about one on-line, until now.

Back in October, when a friend and I made a mad dash through 6 nurseries in San Diego County, I picked up a copy of Jeff Moore's new book, "Under the Spell of Succulents," while visiting his nursery, Solana Succulents.  I was impressed as soon as I opened the book but I remained mum about the book because I decided to buy 3 more copies as Christmas gifts for friends.  I didn't want to ruin the surprise.

Front cover

Back cover


The subtitle on the book's cover describes it: it's an introduction to the wide variety of succulents available in cultivation.  It's loaded with beautiful photos - there are few pages without one or more and, unlike the succulents you find in most nurseries, the featured plants are labeled.  The book contains chapters on a variety of subjects from common topics, such as container and vertical gardens, to the special qualities of selected succulents, such as crests and caudiciforms ("fat plants").  Interspersed between the chapters are sections the author refers to as "interludes" which describe different genera.  Among other topics, Moore describes succulent theme gardens, including the use of succulents to create undersea style landscapes.  In fact, Moore gained a reputation for these landscapes when he designed an exhibit for the Del Mar Fair in 2002 and a permanent display for the San Diego Botanical Garden.  You can find photos on his website.  Coincidentally, when I visited his nursery, I picked up an octopus-like succulent, Dyckia marnier-lapostollii.



This is not a how-to book, although the author does offer advice based on his experience.  Its clearer purpose is to share the enthusiasm the author clearly feels for these plants.  The tone throughout is casual, akin to a discussion one might have with a garden club speaker.  There are no pretensions or heavy-handed lectures, just obvious enjoyment in these plants and a desire to share them. 

If you're interested in the book, you may face a challenge getting hold of a copy.  It's not available from Amazon or another large book retailer.  The softcover book is self-published.  You can contact the author directly through his nursery to purchase a copy or pick one up by attending events at which he is scheduled to speak, including one on January 12th sponsored by the San Diego Horticultural Society.  I bought the copies purchased as gifts for my friends on-line through a San Diego area bookstore.  

Note: This review wasn't requested by the author or any representative of the author and I wasn't compensated in any way for offering an opinion.  My purpose is solely to share a resource other succulent enthusiasts may appreciate.


 All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

26 comments:

  1. I like the sound of this, thanks for the recommendation. I like books with a casual tone. Sometimes gardening books can be awfully stuffy and highbrow.

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    1. This one is more like a conversation than a lecture, Alison. In fact, he uses a Q&A format in some places. I gather that Moore is a frequent speaker at garden events so I expect he has a handle on the most common questions people ask.

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  2. Dear Kris, I am actually not a big succulent fan, but I know they are ideal plants for our climate, especially with the current drought that we are having, so some eye candy might get me more interested into them. Your enthusiastic review is certainly tempting to have a look at this book. Solana Succulents is actually in driving distance from me, so I might just stop by the nursery, flip through and maybe buy it and at the same time pick up some succulents to start with as well. Wishing you nice rest of the week!
    Christina

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    1. I wasn't a succulent fan either, Christina, when they started creeping into my garden. I think my "gateway" succulent was Aeonium 'Kiwi,' which I added to the edge of a border at our old house to keep soil from eroding during watering. (My mother-in-law got a similar introduction through cuttings of the same plant from my garden and she became a convert too.) Their sculptural beauty is their main appeal but their hardiness in our climate, the ease with which many can be propagated, and the occasional flowers are big pluses.

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  3. My goodness-over 200 garden books. I thought I had a lot. I have visited Solana Succulents-even have a T Shirt with their name on it. I bought a number of succulents there, some obviously cared about coming to live in Texas. Still I love succulents and am glad to hear about this book.

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    1. San Diego seems to offer the optimal climate for succulents. I know that gardeners in areas that face winter freezes have to take precautions to protect many of them. In fact, a friend who lives in one of our local valleys reported this morning that some of her succulents were damaged by the recent frosts there.

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  4. You could open a library! That looks like a beautiful book. The agave with the curvy spines really grabbed my attention.
    (also, I am chipping away at my post, some of the questions are difficult to answer! Getting there...)

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    1. It is a beautiful book. Don't worry too much about the award questions, Amy - you can always say, I something like "nothing comes to mind."

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  5. We haven't the right climate over here for succulents, its too wet and damp but I do grow Sempervivums in pots. Lovely review Kris, its good to have recommendations.

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    1. There are lots of pretty Sempervivums, Julie. You could probably grow Echeverias and Aeoniums in pots too.

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  6. Oh my, I was about to search on Amazon partway through reading your post when I got to the part it's not available there. And no overseas shipping yet on the link! I may have to wait to get a copy of this exquisite looking spiky book. Patience is a virtue...

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    1. The Cactus Bookstore seller I ordered my friends books from has a reference to foreign orders. His instructions say to e-mail him to verify availability before placing an order so that may provide a way of getting hold of the book if you're interested. When I purchased my own book from Moore, he was very clear he didn't intend to deal with Amazon.

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  7. Wow! It looks like a great book, Kris! Thanks for the links as I'll be adding this to my own library. Although some succulents aren't winter hardy here, they're the easiest of plants to winter over inside!

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    1. I'm glad you found the links useful Peter!

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  8. I do love these plants, but they don't love my garden. I do have a few that are hardy, but covered in snow now....looks like a great book.

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    1. The photos are incredible - no matter how many pictures I see of succulents, there's something new and surprising the next time I look.

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  9. Every year as I haul succulents in pots into the greenhouse to winter over (no room in the house plus we have cats that really like to nibble plants) I swear I'm going to pare down. And every year I do the opposite, propagating the succulents I already have and buying more. Hmmm.

    Hello, my name is Texas Deb and I (might) have a succulent problem.

    I don't make it habit to buy many gardening books (our local library has a great section) but the fact this author won't deal with Amazon has me thinking this book might prove the exception. Thanks for the tip and the links!

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    1. My name is Kris and I definitely have a succulent problem. But I think I can control it. Probably. Maybe. Who am I kidding - if I'm not careful, the time may come when my garden's taken over by succulents.

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  10. Great post Kris, who've certainly got me looking at hardy succulents for my garden! The gardening magazine I subscribe to (digital version, otherwise it wouldn't arrive) had 3 articles about succulents and gardens in Southern California this month, you might like to check it out you can buy single editions. It's called Gardens Illustrated and is the best gardening magazine I've seen.

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    1. The last remaining bricks and mortar bookstore in our area usually carries Gardens Illustrated, Christina. I'll look for this edition. Thanks for the tip!

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  11. I love succulents but they have to live in pots here; I would love to be able to plant them out like you can. The book looks worth seeking out.

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    1. The on-line retailer I listed in my post references overseas orders - I gather you need to make contact with him before arranging payment. The author admittedly isn't making foreign orders easy.

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  12. That looks like a great book. Until I saw your posts on succulents I didn't know how colorful and versatile succulents are.

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    1. Watch out, sweetbay - succulents can be habit forming.

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  13. I just found your review of Jeff's book. It's the nudge I needed to order it. Can't wait!

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    1. I expect you'll love it, Gerhard. I doubt you'll learn anything you don't already know but the presentation of the plants is beautiful. I understand he's working on a second book, too...

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