Succulent Extravaganza 2013 Speakers

Click here for the 2013 Extravaganza Schedule

Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra has a passion for plants that drink responsibly. Not only are succulents beautiful to look at, she says “They're a great option for lazy gardeners (like me).” Debra is hardly lazy. She gardens on a half acre in the foothills of Southern CA, where temperatures range from below freezing to 110 degrees F. She grew up with succulents, has grown them for years, and as a garden photojournalist, author, speaker and consultant is keenly aware of ways to use the plants in landscapes and containers.

Debra got her start covering homes, gardens, architecture and interior design for the San Diego Union-Tribune. She went on to scout, write and shoot for major magazines. In 2005, her Sunset editor suggested that she do a book on succulents. “That changed my life!” she said. “Designing with Succulents came out in 2007 and spent 19 weeks on Amazon's list of the Top Ten Bestselling Gardening Books. The sequel Succulent Container Gardens (2010) also topped the charts. Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties was a spring, 2013 Timber Press release.”

Debra shares her photos and expertise via articles, blog posts, newsletters, workshops, YouTube videos and on her website,

Brian Kemble

Brian Kemble has been involved with The Ruth Bancroft Garden since 1980, where he currently serves as the Curator. He is highly regarded in the horticultural world and lectures in this country and in South Africa on the Agave family, Aloes, Bromeliads, the history of The Ruth Bancroft Garden and other horticultural topics. Kemble has a B.A. in Philosophy from Antioch College. His work has been in the area of horticulture since 1976, including garden design and installation, tree trimming and garden maintenance. Brian's work for The Ruth Bancroft Garden has included hybridizing of aloes, agaves, and some South American cacti. Brian has traveled extensively in Mexico and South Africa, studying and photographing plants in their native habitats.

Learn more about the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Tony Krock

Tony Krock is a Goleta native who has 20 years' experience working with local nurseries. His interest in plants began at age four with his grandmother in Hawaii who could grow anything. He continued his passion for all things plants studying at Santa Barbara City College with respected local horticulturist Jerry Sortomme. Tony, who for the past 10 years has been at Terra Sol Garden Center in Santa Barbara, has focused largely on collecting and cultivating agaves and other rare succulents. He has spent countless days in the garden and greenhouse testing different variegation techniques.

His co-workers at Terra Sold describe him this way: “Tony Krock is our nursery's main succulent buyer, as well as a co-manager with Mike Tully. He is the main reason why we have the best selection of succulents in the Santa Barbara area. His passion for this group of plants is shared by all of the staff here at Terra Sol, but his obsession with agaves not only exceeds our tastes but goes beyond most plant nerds to the extreme.”

Gary Bartl

Gary has been drawn to horticulture all his life. He pushed lawnmowers as a kid, and spent many an hour immersed in his grandmother’s garden. Throughout his academic studies, Gary pursued his horticultural education, as well, through the mentorship of professionals and the practical application of knowledge he gained supporting himself with jobs in the commercial tree business and interior plantscaping. During his graduate student days in San Francisco, he was the only apartment-dweller that he knew of that owned a pole saw! He became the ‘go-to’ guy for friends and neighbors who needed help rehabilitating trees and shrubs in their backyards.

Gary earned a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology, which led  him to complete the California State requirements for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

He has incorporated the principals of horticultural therapy into jobs by gardening with the youth at a residential treatment program for developmentally disabled children. He has combined his passion for succulents with his professional work with severely emotionally disturbed youth, starting school gardens and adding vocational training in landscaping, horticulture, and arboriculture to the curriculum for at-risk teenagers. He finds that succulents are an ideal medium for teaching both horticulture and coping skills to children with ADD and emotional problems. He finds that these children connect to the metaphor of plants as survivors and appreciate their resiliency despite hardship. Learning how to nurture a plant helps them learn to nurture themselves.

Visit Gary's website.

Marialuisa Kaprielian

Marialuisa started working with succulents more than 15 years ago while raising her triplet boys.  Part of her routine was walking with them and looking at plants in the neighborhood, in parks and public spaces throughout San Diego.  It was during those walks that she took notice of succulent plants and began growing them in her yard and in pots.  “I was impressed with their beauty and how they thrived with little care,” she said.

For the past 10 years, she has been experimenting and working with succulents and putting her art and design background to work. First with centerpieces and then with bouquets.  She began selling her creations locally and from there started her business, Succulently Urban. She specializes in creating one-of-a-kind succulent bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages and table arrangements. To learn more about Marialuisa and how she turned her passion for succulents into a thriving business, visit

Tom Jesch

Tom grew up in the Tahoe/Reno area of Nevada giving him a great respect and love of the outdoors, which carries through in his love of horticulture.  He refers to himself as a “farmer” to put it in his own words.  When he was just a kid he started growing a collection of cactus on his windowsill. He says “I suppose that’s where it all began.”  Tom and his brothers loved the freedom of the land and would hike and camp out regularly in the hills and canyons of Nevada. 

Tom has spent over 30 years in the nursery business “Waterwise Botanicals,” which is the fruition of drawings that Tom did when he was 11 years old. (I don’t quite get this sentence)  In addition to the great agri-tourism location of Waterwise Botanicals, the company produces design and project-management for innovative, and artistic landscapes on projects ranging from residential to hotels, and commercial projects and cities.

To learn more about Tom, visit his website

Laura Balaoro

Laura Balaoro is the ringleader and founder of the Succulent Fanatics Facebook group that has 1,500 succulent lovers growing daily. She is a landscape designer and a certified Master Gardener specializing in incorporating succulents in the garden, but she stole the show at last year’s Extravaganza with her elaborate succulent hat. If that doesn’t say “Passion for Succulents,” we don’t know what does. Recently, her son got married, and Laura even worked succulents into her beautiful outfit for the event! She will be helping others learn how to accessorize with Succulents at this year’s Extravaganza.

In addition to creating succulent accessories, Laura conducts workshops and gives presentations to the general public about succulents and other gardening topics.

Join the Succulent Fanatics

Kim and Kristin Scheidt

Kim and Kristin Scheidt are mother/daughter co-owners of Desert Mandala, a succulent design business located in Novato, CA.  Kim's background includes retail plant store and nursery experience.  Kristin is an artist who designs containers and spaces, both in and outdoors.  We enjoy sharing our love of succulents with others.

Kim and Kristin create one-of-a-kind succulent container gardens using vintage containers such as trunks, suitcases and tackle boxes. They take their garden on the road by helping people throw planting parties in their backyards—converting ever more gardeners into succulent lovers. Learn more at their website:

Candice Suter

Candice Suter of Roseville, CA, near Sacramento, has turned her passion for gardening and photography into a global phenomenon. To date, her Facebook page, Pinterest boards and Sweetstuff's Sassy Succulents blog have a combined total of 20,000 followers. In particular, Candy's fun and easily understood descriptions of how to grow succulents have made her a must-see, must-read garden personality.

Candy, who also conducts workshops and gives presentations to horticultural groups in the greater Sacramento area and beyond, has been featured twice in the garden section of the Sacramento Bee. Undaunted by her area's less-than-ideal climate, she has figured out how to protect an astonishing variety of cacti and succulents from inland Northern CA's chilly winters and scorching summers. 

No upcycled object is safe from Candy, who delights in transforming unusual things into succulent planters and works of found art. Recently, she was featured in Florida artist Steve Asbell's popular gardening blog. He summed Candy up by saying, “If Debra Lee Baldwin is the queen of succulents, Sweetstuff is their court jester. Her colorful arrangements are pure laughter manifested in physical form---fun and irreverent concoctions made up of plants that anybody could grow.”

Visit her website


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