You Had Me at ‘Aloe’: Notes From the Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals

Photos by Ryan Benoit

Last weekend we attended the second annual Succulent Celebration hosted by Waterwise Botanicals in Escondido, CA. A grower, nursery, and all around bewitching place to spend an afternoon, Waterwise Botanicals specializes in legions of perennials, cacti, roses, and native, unusual and drought-tolerant shrubs and trees.

And of course, our most fleshed-out friends: succulents!

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Opened in 2010, Waterwise Botanicals extends over 20 acres in Escondido, CA, and is a utopia of ponds, paths and diverse plants.

Opuntia chlorotica 'Pinta Rita'

Isn’t that purply Opuntia chlorotica ‘Pinta Rita’ a doll in front of the agave?

New succulents at 2014 Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Nurseries

New succulents introduced at the 2014 Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals: Echeveria harmsii ‘Ruby Slippers’ Plush Plant (left), Aeonium ‘Mardi Gras’ (top right) and Echeveria imbricata variegata (bottom right).

The Succulent Celebration brought hort lovers together with industry “movers and shakers” (as described by the charming Tom Jesch, who founded Waterwise with his wife Jackie), experts who served as speakers and vendors. Presentation topics included: “The Creation of Succulent Art” by Peter Loyola, creator of the showstopping Succulent Café; “Succulent Bonsai” with Tom; “Perfect Succulents for Containers” with garden photojournalist/legend Debra Lee Baldwin; and “Succulents Escaping Boundaries” with Robin Stockwell, owner of Succulent Gardens and the man Sunset Magazine crowned “King of Succulents.”

Alas, we were off the ball last week and weren’t able to catch most of these talks — so we’re already keenly looking forward to next year.

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It’s a (succulent) celebration!

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Garden Design magazine celebrated its relaunch with its initials planted and designed by Robyn Foreman.

But we did wander a large slice of the property’s 20-plus acres, and buzzed around the booths. We saw more beautiful Pacific Northwest driftwood than you can shake a stick at, some of which was implanted with sassy succulent arrangements, we fell in love with the latest issue of the newly relaunched Garden Design magazine, we learned about nifty aloe hybrid that that stops wildfires cold. Not to mention the oceans of aeonium we navigated while drinking old-school cream soda from a food truck. Needless to say, this was a most successful Saturday.

And of course we brought home some plump new succulents for our garden. Hoarding-wise, we think we might be the past the point of no return…

Check out the memorable moments from the day below!

—TH

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Cars lined up along Old Highway 395 outside Waterwise.

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…as did some agaves at the entrance!

Succulent wall at Waterwise Botanicals

Sproinging with sedums, crassula and moonstones, a succulent wall welcomed guests. It was designed by Waterwise co-founder/owner Tom Jesch.

Succulent wall.

Succulent wall.

Designed by Susan Rojas for the "Fall Garden Party".

Succulent bathtub designed by Susan Rojas.

Succulent oven display by Katie Christensen of Ms. Katie's Garde

Succulent oven display by Katie Christensen of Ms. Katie’s Garden.

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John Alesi acrylic painting.

Amid onlookers, John Alesi painted the garden in acrylic.

Dr. Brown's Cream Soda

Before heading into the tents, we obtained from one of the event’s food trucks a cream soda by Dr. Brown’s (est. 1869).

Tom Jesch co-founder Waterwise Botanicals and Robin Stockwell of

Chatting about landscaping with aloes, euphorbias, echeverias, crassula and other succulents: Tom Jesch (left), co-founder Waterwise Botanicals, and Robin Stockwell (right) of Succulent Gardens, located in Northern California’s Castroville.

Tom Jesch co-founder Waterwise Botanicals

Interesting takeaways included planting tips for wildfire-resistant landscapes. You know those chunky and invasive ice plants by the highway? Contrary to one of its intended functions, Delosperma can continue to smolder, harboring potential blazes.

Aloe ciliaris 'Firewall'

Instead, Tom recommends Aloe ciliaris ‘Firewall,’ previously only available to the trade. Trial by blowtorch (!) made the plant only steam slightly. To an advancing fire, a whole hillside of this aloe would be “like hitting a wall of sponges,” Tom said. It’s now available to consumers!

Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens

Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens.

Succulents planted en masse up the slope create a wave-like effect.

The slope, with succulents planted en masse, provided a dreamy backdrop to the presentations.

Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'

Ay, ay, ay, Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop.’

Euphorbia, 'Amak Green', also known as African candelabra.

Euphorbia, ‘Amak Green’, also known as African candelabra.

Pedilanthus bracteatus, Tropic-tillo

Bringing the vertical interest is this Pedilanthus bracteatus ‘Tropic-tillo.’ Think of it like a thornless ocotillo!

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Golden barrel cactus as far as the eye can see.

Euphorbia tirucalli

Blazing today are the sticks on fire plant (Euphorbia tirucalli), left. On the right are aeoniums.

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Succulent celebrants carted their hauls in wagons.

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I guess aloe just makes me ecstatic.

Crassula argentea 'Sunset' or sunset jade

As cultivators of the classic green variety, we were dazzled by this Crassula argentea ‘Sunset,’ or sunset jade.

Crassula argentea 'Sunset' or sunset jade

Sunset jade is a slower grower than regular green jade, and prefers full sun.

Crassula argentea 'Sunset' or sunset jade

Agave

Agave a go-go.

Seafoam Driftwood

Here we are about to be swept away by Seafoam Driftwood…

Seafoam Driftwood

Wood is sourced from the Pacific Northwest, and planted with (you guessed it!) succulents. We adore the eruption of colors in this arrangement.

Sea Foam Driftwood

More charming arrangements by Seafoam Driftwood.

Peter Loyola's succulent door. Succulent Cafe

This door, designed by Peter Loyola of Succulent Cafe, runneth over.

Peter Loyola's succulent door. Succulent Cafe

Plants here include aeonium, echeveria, sempervivum and crassula.

Garden Design crew

We also saw our friends from the just-relaunched Garden Design magazine. With our subscription we got a copy of the latest issue, a tome full of tours, tips and breathtaking plant/design photography. (A more in-depth post about this to come.) From left: editor-in-chief Thad Orr, publisher Jim Peterson, social media director Dayna Springfield and contributing editor Khara Dizmon.

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From a miniature sea of sedums, lithops, sempervivums and aloe, we stalked some new additions to our yard.

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Ryan snags a ‘Firewall’ aloe (left) and an Aloe ‘Forlirpa’ (right).

Our haul. In addition to the aloe, we picked up a medusa head euphorbia (dig the yellow blooms on ‘er!) and stone-like lithops and Pleiospilos nelii, known also as a split-rock plant.

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Sun’s out…

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Drive through Escondido without stopping by Stone Brewing? Crazy-talk! We filled up our growlers with a saison and the Belgian-style Quadro Triticale. Both delicious. ROAR.

10 minute growler parking.

Better recognize.

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Our new split-rock and lithops will soon be planted in Ryan’s table.

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Aloes, welcome to your hammock habitat.

  • Another great post. Thank you for sharing the event with us, and all your fun photos. Succulents are seriously addicting! I just bought three more when I had no business doing so since we’re about to completely renovate our home. They called out to me! 😉

    • Thanks, Angela! Those agaves do have temping little voices 😉

  • Candice Suter

    Great post! You guys crack me up!

  • You gotta love a carparking spot for growler fillers. Classic. Also will be interested to see how you use those succulent beauties in your garden. I haven’t heard of Firewall aloe before. Very unusual form – aloes usually look like a star burst and this is more like a tower. Do you know if the flowers are good too?

  • Lisa Harper

    Another great field trip!!! I love succulents too and will look forward to seeing their new home in your beautiful garden. I look forward to The Sunday blog from you two – always well written, well photographed and with a side of humor – enjoyable. Have a real challenging new patio area – next time you are heading to OC, stop by, we miss you two 🙂

    • Lisa, we’re so happy to have you as a reader. And we’re up for the challenge — looking forward to swinging by the next time we’re in your neighborhood! Plus, it’s always fun trading plant stories with you.