Screenshot from the main page of Drought Smart Plants.
This week, I had the opportunity to interview certified horticulturalist and garden blogger Jacki Cammidge. Jacki learned gardening alongside her parents as they built gardens for several different homes. Later, she took courses at raser Valley College Chilliwack Campus. She eventually earned her certification in horticulture. Today, Jacki runs a gardening blog called Drought Smart Plants, where she shares her experience growing succulents, how to start a business selling these drought resistant plants and offers many other gardening tips, ebooks and courses.
Exclusive Interview with Jacki Cammidge
You are a certified horticulturalist, but your passion for gardening is something that started when you were young. Can you tell our readers a little about your parents’ enthusiasm for gardens and what you learned from them?
Jacki: My parents (and theirs before them) always had a garden. I think it’s something that, if you see it as a child, you’ll somehow get some of the soil in your blood.
During WW2, my Mum was a young girl, and one of the things that everyone did was plant a Victory Garden to grow the only fresh produce that was available to them. This instilled in the young people the need to be self-sufficient, and that’s something that they have passed along to my generation.
Gleaning and wildcrafting are both good ways to have better nutrition; going through a farmer’s orchard or field after the main harvest is done can net lots of usable produce, even if it is misshapen, and picking wild berries and nuts is like getting delicious food for free.
You have a real passion for succulent plants. Why these plants in particular? What is it you adore about them?
Succulents, especially the hardy kinds, became my passion after I moved to my current location. It was due to the lack of water. We have a surface well, which supplies us with plenty for our own use, but later into the summer and fall, it can get very low. This made it really important to grow only those plants which don’t require (or like) lots of irrigation.
You built an online nursery business, which you’ve since sold. What are the advantages of selling your plants online?
Succulent plants are great to sell online. They are easy to ship, because you don’t ship any soil with them, plus they need to be dried out for shipping. This prevents them from ‘etiolating’ or continuing to grow in the week or so that they’ll be in transit to their new home. With no soil, there is much less risk of any fungal diseases, and the cheaper shipping costs are just a bonus.
You also write ebooks on gardening. What are some of your more popular titles and what are you working on now that we can expect to see soon?
The most popular e-book is one on my favorite aspect of growing plants – making more of them! The Succulent Plant Propagation E-Book is a handbook to get going with propagating – both from cuttings and seed.
The language is non-threatening because even though I have had training, not all novice growers will know all the terminology.
The Xeriscaping with Succulents E-Book gives a bit of background on what xeriscaping means and how to get started with your very own low maintenance gardening with our favorite plants.
The Plant Pests E-Book is chock full of pest and beneficial insect information (after all, not all bugs are bad, but you need to recognize the difference).
The next thing on the agenda is a brand new e-course with tutorials about Rustic Garden Art to complement the Succulent Crafts E-Course. These (and the e-books) will be available on my other website, Xeria.ca
You train people how to start a “succulent business”. What exactly do you mean by that and what types of things do you teach in this course?
Starting a microbusiness with succulents is almost like falling off a log – guaranteed you’ll get so interested in them, growing these super easy and fun plants and figuring out ways to display them, that you’ll want (or run out of room and need) to share with other people. There are so many niches, from making wedding arrangements to growing them in mosaics or topiaries.
How much space does a person need to grow succulents and sell them?
Succulents don’t need a lot of room. They can grow in very little soil, so they don’t require a lot of water either. Bugs don’t seem to be a problem either, unlike other types of plants.
You have a feature on your blog called “Ask the Horticulturist“. What kind of questions can our readers come ask you?
People ask all kinds of questions. Right now, I’ve had to discontinue the service but I do still answer questions for a small fee (scroll down to the bottom of the page for the Buy Now button). The most common questions are asking me to identify a particular plant.
Do you have any other hobbies besides gardening? If you had not one garden weed or plant that needed attention for a day, what would you do instead?
My other big passion is building the rustic garden art. Right now I’m putting together a collection of items to sell locally. For those further away, the Rustic Garden Art E-Course will be all about building the same crafts yourself.
You share a lot of tips on your site about Xeriscaping. I live in fairly humid region (southern Indiana) and I’d not heard of this until I started reading about it on your site. Can you share what it is with our readers?
Xeriscaping is a coined word meaning ‘dry landscaping’. I was forced into it by lack of water, and it looks like the rest of North America will be too. I could see the drought coming down the pipe a long time ago – water is such a precious resource that it’s a shame to waste it on something so unproductive as a grass lawn. Use it for something beautiful that will benefit butterflies and bees, or to make food to eat.
Any other advice for our readers?
In 2010 I was diagnosed with MS, and it’s steadily getting worse, and it’s not so unimaginable that one day I will no longer be able to do the things I want. My advice is to grab your passion with both hands and not put off the joy of creating something beautiful.
A special thank you to Jacki Cammidge of Drought Smart Plants for taking time out of her schedule to share some details about succulents and xeriscaping. Whether you are looking for a new type of plant to grow, or are interested in starting a new business, this is a unique type of gardening.