We love finding fellow succulent enthusiasts who really have a great eye for photography, and such is the case with California native, Erin Spencer Moss. Erin brings a different aesthetic perspective to the table with her fun Instagram account, @rootedinmoss. Her unique style is expressed via her photo capture of succulents, desert landscape, and her California lifestyle. We wanted to chat with Erin and find out a little more about her. Below is a quick Q&A with some of our favorite photos from her Instagram. Enjoy!
1) Obligatory question No.1. How and when did you first become fascinated with succulents? I first got into succulents about three years ago when I was tired of watching my flowers die in the hot summer months. In Los Angeles, the summer temperatures can reach well above 100 degrees and those temperatures can sustain for a week or more at a time. Three years ago, my garden was filled with petunias, gerbera daisies, cyclamen and impatiens. I always felt guilty when I would pull the dead plants and I wanted a more water-wise and environmentally conscious option for my garden. I had remembered my mom mentioning that she had started succulent arrangements in whiskey and wine barrels to replace her flower beds. One weekend, she and I went to our local home improvement store to look into succulents for my garden and about an hour and $100 later the obsession began! I started out with two-12 inch diameter pots and a larger 20 x 20 square pot. It was hit or miss in the very beginning while I was learning to properly care for the succulents but I caught on quickly. I still have many of the original plants in that first square pot which is often featured on my Instagram.
2) The feedback we receive on our Instagram page indicates that most people prefer “regular” succulents over cacti, but you seem to be quite fond of them (as are we). Tell us about the nursery we see so often in your feed and what you love about cacti. I am quite fond of cacti. Living in Los Angeles, and often vacationing in the surrounding desert areas, I have always had an appreciation for the desolate beauty of the southwest. I love to stand amongst the desert flora (especially in Joshua Tree National Park) during sunset, surrounded by the desert's perilous beauty as the light escapes the sky. It's my nature indulgence. As much as do appreciate cacti, I would say that my garden actually consists of 95% "regular" succulents and only a few cacti and euphorbia. After I purchased my first succulents from the home improvement store a few years back, I was in search of a nursery that would provide a wider variety of succulents. That's when I found California Nursery Specialties. The ranch sits on 1 1/2 acres in the middle of a suburban area. The property has three amazing greenhouses and as their website says, over 100,000 succulent and cacti plants. On the property there are old ghost town buildings, 20 foot dinosaurs, a beautiful outdoor desert cacti gallery and always a new treasure I hadn't seen in my previous trip. There's a bit of an unusual vibe going on there and that's why I love it. I stand in the same place in one of the greenhouses each time I go and the photo is always slightly different even if only a week apart. Their selection always changes and never disappoints!
3) Your photos have a distinct and beautiful aesthetic about them—almost a SoCal boho style, for lack of a better term. How would you describe your photography style and what are your influences (art background, environment, self-developed, etc)? Thank you. I love photography which I would say is a self-developed talent of mine. I grew up learning to use my Dad's Canon AE-1 film camera which he often used to shoot photos of the California coastline and even the Opening Ceremonies at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In 2010, shortly before my dad passed away, he gifted to me a Nikon D3000 to which I shoot most of my Instagram posts with. However, all of the photos I take at California Nursery Specialties are with my iPhone. I absolutely love photographing succulents whether my own or those in nature. The ideal conditions for shooting in my garden is a cloudy day during the morning hours. The clouds eliminate any shadows on the plants which gives the photos that "moody" or "boho" appearance. I like to use the apps Adobe Photoshop Express and VSCOcam for editing. However, with the right lighting, my photos need very little editing or filtering. I'm so grateful to my Dad for instilling in me the ability to see others' beauty through the lens of a camera and that I'm able to share that with so many people via Instagram.
4) Everyone has a favorite succulent. Which type is your favorite and why? Ooh this is a tough one! Since I can't pick just one, I'm going to have to break it down into three categories: Favorite Echeveria, Favorite Succulent for Indoors and Favorite Succulent for Arrangements. Favorite Echeveria: I'm obsessed with all varieties of Echeveria. California Nursery Specialties has exposed me to so many amazing varieties and hybrids of Echeveria that I would never be able to find at a local nursery or hardware store. If I had to pick one favorite though I would say it's the Echeveria 'Violet Queen'. I have five in my garden and they're so happy both planted into the ground and in potted arrangements. I love the how the Violet Queen grows into a lotus shape as it gets larger. Depending on the time of year, the color changes so beautifully from light blue, to violet, to mauve. Favorite Succulent for Indoors: I love to adorn my home with plants potted in interesting or vintage containers. However, unlike bromeliads or cacti, most succulents do not grow well indoors without ample sunlight. That's why I love Haworthia attenuata 'Zebra Plant'. They're very hearty and can grow and sustain with indirect, indoor light. Most Haworthia varieties need very little light and only an occasional misting of water which makes them a perfect houseplant. I like to look specifically for Haworthia 'Zebra Plant' with thick white striping, it makes a great contrast with the dark green leaves poking out of a fun vintage container. Favorite Succulent for Arrangements: I have apparently become known on Instagram for my succulent arrangements. I love to create big pots with varying species and complementary colors and textures. I think the ultimate succulent for texture in an arrangement is Sedum morganianum 'Donkey Tail' or 'Burro's Tail'. The long cascading stems with spindle-shaped leaves and their minty-green color add the perfect texture to any size arrangement. In fact, I don't think an arrangement is complete without a few stems of this plant.
5) Finally, do you have any tips or tricks to share that you’ve picked up over the years? For beginners, start small. Everyone's garden needs, i.e. water, sunlight, are different. It's easy to go to the nursery and want to pick out one of each but it would be a shame to have the plants die. Start with a small arrangement consisting of complementary species that have similar light and water needs. At most home improvement stores like Lowe's or Home Depot, the water and light needs are listed right on the side of the pot. If you're at an actual nursery, ask! I love to ask others who are knowledgeable and passionate about nature and gardening for their advice. I suggest not mixing cacti and succulents in the same pot because their watering needs are quite different. Below is a list of few Echeveria that are widely available and easier to care for that I suggest to people who are starting out their first container garden: Echeveria colorata 'Mexican Giant' Echeveria derenbergii 'Painted Lady' Echeveria elegans 'Snowball' Echeveria setosa 'Mexican Firecracker' Echeveria 'Blue Rose' Echeveria minima And of course, don't forget the Donkey Tail! Check out some of our favorite photos from Erin’s Instagram below! You can also visit her personal website by clicking here!