The great thing about Instagram is that is allows us to connect with people from all over the world. Although distance may physically separate us from others, our passions and interest can certainly unite us, and that is absolutely the case with Mandy Crooks (@mirandahenrietta). Mandy is a succulent enthusiast from South Africa, so you know she has a ton of interesting plants to photograph all around her. We wanted to chat with Mandy and find out a little more about her succulent portraiture and life in South Africa. Below is a quick Q&A followed by some of our favorite photos from her Instagram. Enjoy!
Q: Obligatory question No.1. When and how did you first become fascinated with succulents?
A: I inherited my love of plants from my Mum who is an avid gardener. So from an early age I had plants that I cared for and loved. I have always had succulents and cacti and always been fascinated by them. I started collecting and propagating succulents on a larger scale about ten years ago and now they have taken over my veranda (24 meters long), and a large extent of garden too.
Q: When we think of South Africa, we think of the incredible diversity of plant and wildlife. What is it like living in South Africa among such diversity?
A: It is wonderful, an absolute feast. There are more plant species per square meter here, than anywhere else on earth. South Africa has widely diverse climates - sub tropical with lush green forests and big leafy colorful plants, savanna's and grasslands, and then the desert and semi-desert regions which have the wonderful succulents and desert flowers. There are so many beautiful flamboyant flowering species like the Aloes, Strelitzia, Protea and then the fynbos in the cape, but it's the grasses that really get my attention. Veld grass, which is so unassuming, has a golden yellow color in Winter which is absolutely exquisite, and it has the most marvelous smell which reminds me of home. Pristine grassland (which can be found where I live) is the most beautiful natural garden, produced and designed by Mother Nature. It has a wonderful mix of grass species, with subtle color tones, bristles and stripes, bottlebrushes, fluffy tufts and spears. And little veld flowers in-between. No human could replicate it. I feel very privileged to live where I do. If we were trading in plant currency South Africa would be a very rich country.
Q: You definitely have an artistic eye for photography. How did when did you get started with plant portraiture? Do you have an art background?
A: I come from a family of artists. I have studied Graphic Design and worked as a designer an illustrator and more recently studied visual art. There was an element of photography in both these art courses but it was never my intension to be a photographer. I intend to do more printmaking and painting when my life is less busy, but for now photographing my plants is part of my creative expression. I started taking pics of my environment around 2 years ago and then gravitated towards plants. This is something I do solely for my own enjoyment - it makes me happy.
Q: What is your favorite succulent and why?
A: I have so many favorites. I mostly have Echeveria and particularly love the Echeveria Afterglow (fourth photo down). The leaves are as beautiful as the flowers and it flowers more than once a year. It has powdery white sheen over pink/purple leaves that have a brighter pink edging. It is an out-of-this-world color. It is also prolific and easy to grow.
Q: Do you have any tips or tricks to share that you’ve picked up over the years growing succulents?
A: Make sure they have good drainage. Never overwater, rather give too little water than too much. They need full sunlight for at least part of the day to be happy and really thrive.
Check out some of our favorite photos from Mandy’s Instagram below!