2017 Succulent Extravaganza Speakers & Presenters

We have a large group of talented professionals and volunteers participating in the 2017 Succulent Extravaganza! Here's a little more about each of our presenters.  

View the whole 2017 Succulent Extravaganza Schedule


Bryan Kemble, Curator at the Ruth Bancroft Gardens

Brian Kemble has been at The Ruth Bancroft Garden since 1980. He is highly regarded in the horticultural world and is a prolific writer and lecturer on botanical topics, especially relating to succulent plants. Kemble has a B.A. in Philosophy from Antioch College, and he began concentrating on succulents soon after moving to San Francisco in 1971. Brian's work for The Garden has included hybridizing aloes, agaves, gasterias and some South American cacti. Brian has traveled extensively in Mexico, Madagascar and southern Africa, studying and photographing plants in their native habitats. His gardening column “On the Dry Side” appears in several newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and his photos have been published in numerous books on succulents.

Ryan Penn, Horticulturalist at the Ruth Bancroft Gardens

A Diablo Valley native, Ryan has been working in horticulture for 10 years, having specialized in California natives, plants of the Proteacea family, alpines, and generally anything bizarre. Ryan has been at the Ruth Bancroft Garden for over 2 years. His horticultural experience includes irrigation, aesthetic pruning, boulder and flagstone rockeries, and the care of a wide variety of plants groups.

Ryan received a B.A. in English literature from UCLA and attended graduate school in Theology and Philosophy. He has also served on the board of Markham Nature Park and Arboretum in Concord, and is presently the Nursery Manager at Markham.


Robin Stockwell, 'The Succulent Guy,' Founder of Succulent Gardens

Robin has been focused on the functional use of succulent plants for almost 40 years. Raised on the coast of northern California, he has worked in nurseries from the age of 12. He began growing succulent plants in 1972 and operated Oceanside Cactus and Succulent nursery from 1976 to 1985. In 1980 he opened Succulent Gardens in the Barnyard Shopping Village. Robin stopped growing succulent plants in 1985, but in 2003, after 18 years away from growing, Robin opened a new location in Castroville, California and began growing succulents all over again at Succulent Gardens the Growing Grounds. Robin and his plants have received numerous awards and have been the subject of articles in many newspapers (Monterey Herald, Santa Cruz Sentinel, San Jose Mercury), magazines (Sunset, Garden Design, Pacific Coast Nurseryman). He speaks to gardening groups both large and small including garden shows in San Francisco and Seattle and Sunset Celebration Weekend and has appeared on, radio shows and TV. In 2014 Robin sold Succulent Gardens to the Rodkin family. Robin recently completed his first book on succulents, aptly named, Succulents, the Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Designing and Growing 200 Easy-Care Plants, published by Oxmoor House.  In between trips with his wife and family and frequent surfing outings, he continues to speak about succulents. 



Debra Lee Baldwin, 'Queen of Succulents'


Photo credit: Saxon Holt

Debra Lee Baldwin, an award-winning Southern CA photojournalist, designer and artist, launched global interest in succulents with her first book, Designing with Succulents, in 2007. She went on to author two other Timber Press bestsellers: Succulents Simplified and Succulent Container Gardens. Debra credits her success to a decade of contributing to Sunset magazine and applying the “Sunset aesthetic” to everything shown in her books, presentations, e-newsletters, articles, and social media pages. Her Facebook followers number over 50,000 and her YouTube videos have had more than 2.7 million views. Debra and her own half-acre garden have been featured in national publications, including Better Homes and Gardens. She recently received the San Diego Horticultural Society’s “Horticulturist of the Year” lifetime achievement award. Debra is proud to announce the celebratory 10th anniversary, completely revised and updated second edition of Designing with Succulents. Beautifully illustrated with 400 photos, it encapsulates the essentials of the original along with a decade’s worth of visually exciting ideas for succulent gardens large and small.


Janet Sulis, Sunset Western Garden Collection

Janet Sluis is a Berkeley based horticulturist specializing in low water, regionally appropriate, easy care plants. As the collection’s curator, she is responsible for selecting and evaluating which plants are ultimately chosen to carry the Sunset Western Garden Collection label. Focused on replacing thirsty, labor-intensive varieties with colorful, resilient alternatives, she works with breeders, hybridizers, and nurseries all over the world. Her plant collection test garden is featured in The Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy Care Plantings, and can be visited in person as part of the Sunset test gardens located in iconic Cornerstone in Sonoma, California.

As a sixth generation member of a Dutch seed family, Janet suspects that plants are in her DNA. By the age of six she was hybridizing ranunculus and growing kale in her garden. After studying marketing, horticulture, and agricultural business, she spent twenty years in production and product development for large wholesale plant nurseries on the west coast. When Janet is not traveling in search of new plants, you can find her pulling weeds and battling slugs in her organic Berkeley test garden.


Aaron Ryan, Horticulturalist & General Manager for Succulent Gardens

Aaron studied biology and plant science at University of California Santa Cruz, where he worked for three years at the UCSC Arboretum. His love of succulents started at the Arboretum where he helped propagate many native succulents, including those in the genus Dudleya, and Sedum. After graduating, he spent the next five years working for various wholesale and retail nurseries throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. He also ran his own landscape design business. Before joining the team at Succulent Gardens, he worked as production manager for six years at Cottage Gardens of Petaluma. It was here where he really became immersed in the succulent world and when he first heard of Succulent Gardens, coming down on frequent buying trips.  


Dylan Toms, Horticulturalist and Production Manager at Succulent Gardens

Dylan Toms studied Horticulture at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA where he propagated succulents and maintained garden beds at Cabrillo College Botanical Gardens. He is the Production Manager at Succulent Gardens.

Kristin Scheidt, Propagation Manager at Succulent Gardens

Kristin Scheidt is the Propagation Manager for Succulent Gardens. She also operates her own design and landscaping business, Desert Mandala. She always enjoys getting her hands dirty and when she is not busy planting succulents she spends her time making pottery and climbing rocks. She is excited to start doing more seed propagation at Succulent Gardens in the future.

John Rodkin, Co-Owner of Succulent Gardens

John Rodkin is the co-owner of Succulent Gardens. He has had a long career in technology entrepreneurship and law before becoming the owner of Succulent Gardens, and when he's not working at the nursery, he runs Samsung's startup Accelerator in San Francisco and teaches at Stanford Law School.

Laura Balaoro and the Succulent Fanatics

The Succulent Fanatics are a group of, well, gardeners fanatical about succulents! They always bring gorgeous creations to display at the Extravaganza, and are quite knowledgeable about how to grow succulent plants. 


Brian & Mary Merrell, Living Creations

Brian and Mary make the beautiful redwood frames that you use for planting succulent gardens. We look forward to their demonstration table at the event.


The Monterey Bay Master Gardeners

We absolutely could not host this event without the help of the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners. They are friendly, helpful, and a great source of info for gardening in our area!
and more!

Learn more about the Monterey Bay Master Gardeners

View the whole 2017 Succulent Extravaganza Schedule