8th annual Succulent Extravaganza

On Sept 28-29, Succulent Gardens hosted their eighth annual Succulent Extravaganza, located at 2133 Elkhorn Rd. in Castroville. Succulent enthusiasts from all over the Bay Area gathered to experience the assortment of tours, lectures and workshops being offered, as well as the usual products for sale, which includes over 400 varieties of succulents.

Despite being 8 a.m. on a Saturday, at least 50 people were gathered to embark on Brian Kemble’s tour of the nursery. Kemble began the tour by clarifying a common misconception, “All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. Succulent is a descriptive term.”

Crowd gathered outside while on a tour of Succulent Gardens and Gifts. Photo by Griffin Dehne.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a succulent has “fleshy tissues that conserve moisture.” Despite this, cacti are often excluded from the succulent family due to their large amount of variations and exceptions from what typically defines a succulent. Cacti are native to the Americas, due to their ability to thrive in harsh, dry conditions.

When it comes to working with larger succulents that have extremely sharp, protruding leaves, caution and perseverance are key. Kemble told the group a story about working with Ruth Bancroft, of the Ruth Bancroft Garden and Nursery in Walnut Creek, where they were gardening together until Kemble noticed an obscene amount of blood cascading down Bancroft’s arm. Frantic, Kemble exclaimed, “Ruth! You’re bleeding! You should get that cleaned up!”

In response, Bancroft laughed and reassured him, “If I stopped every time I got cut, I would never get anything done.”

After the tour, The Lutrinae attended a lecture from Robin Stockwell, also known as The Succulent Guy. Stockwell is the founder of Succulent Gardens and author of “Succulents: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing, and Growing 200 Easy Care Plants.” Stockwell started growing succulents professionally in 1972, though retired and sold his business four years ago to a young couple whom are equally as enthusiastic about plants.

Robin Stockwell giving a lecture on how to transfer plants. Photo by Griffin Dehne.

Stockwell’s lecture focused on the ways in which to manage transplanting (no pun intended) plants once they outgrow their pots, without damaging the plant or yourself. The act of transplanting was demonstrated on a variety of different species and sizes, proving that every plant is able to be repotted if handled correctly.

Questions were welcomed throughout the demonstration and a member from the audience inquired about how Stockwell initially got into the art of gardening succulents. Stockwell prefaced his actual answer of securing a part-time job at Half Moon Bay Nursery at the age of 19 with, “I studied political science and it all went downhill from there.”

Stockwell revisited his political humor later into the presentation after removing the head of a succulent from its overgrown stock and briefly explaining the number of ways to repurpose the now severed parts of the once whole plant. Stockwell jokingly asked the audience, “Does that make sense? What doesn’t? The state of the world today?”

Despite not being able to stay until the event ended at 4 p.m. later that day, The Lutrinae left with a delicious latte from Tico Coffee Roasters, a beautiful T-shirt commemorating the 8th annual Succulent Extravaganza and newfound knowledge concerning the art of succulent gardening.

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