August 25, 2017

Flashback Friday

Sunday morning, with border collie and barrels.

A kind and extraordinarily generous neighbor gave me this humongous golden barrel (Echinocactus grusonii) last week. To say I was flabbergasted doesn't even come close. "Are you sure? Are you sure?" He was. His dear wife — she passed away a year ago — had brought this cactus home when it was smaller than a grapefruit, had looked after it for decades, and my neighbor wanted it to go to a good home. I was moved and honored. You can see what wonderful care this barrel has received: it lived in (increasingly large) pots, sheltered from rain and snow, with filtered sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, until it grew so big that its size and spines became a hazard. 

So how do you move a 200+ lb barrel cactus? Believe it or not, we didn't even need gloves. Three men and yours truly used a dolly to get this beautiful barrel into my yard and settled in its new pot, and we were able to do it because I'd had the opportunity to watch a master cactus-mover at work.

Rob Roy MacGregor is a Riverside plantsman and cactus maven, and back in April I watched Rob (with cactus fanatics Aaron and Paul) move big barrels like this one into the bed of Aaron's truck, using not much more than a long piece of old shade cloth. Rob puts the shade cloth around the barrel, and uses the loose ends to maneuver the barrel without risking life and limb, and without harming the cactus. It works! Two strong men with shovels had tried and failed to budge this beauty toward a wheelbarrow (never mind into the wheelbarrow) after it fell out of its old pot, but with shade cloth in hand, we moved it to my place with the dolly, potted it in its new, 24-inch container (with an essential plant caddy), and then potted up another barrel at my neighbor's. Note to self: always keep old shade cloth handy.

Before it came to my yard, this cactus lived for years in a big container at my neighbor's house, in dirt. Not potting mix or cactus soil with pumice added — just native clay soil. Wish I'd thrown a few handfuls into the current container.

So now the girl who swore she'd never have a golden barrel has four of them, three little ones and a very, very big golden barrel, all in my very, very small backyard. "Don't be afraid to use big objects in small spaces," right? One more photo, with Jasper yawning and stretching: 

I'm not in the habit of giving names to plants. Anyhow: golden barrels Huey, Louie, and Dewey are in the background. I'd kind of like to call the new guy Jonathan Gold, because he is blond and on the round side and sharp as a tack and thoroughly awesome. 

(Both these photos were first posted on my Instagram account. Here's a link.)

August 22, 2017

Inter-City Cactus Show and Sale 2017

This beauty is a Melocactus. Frost-tender, so I should avoid them.

Great plants and great plant people at the L.A. Arboretum weekend before last for the The 32nd Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale. Saw many plant-loving buddies, and enjoyed a picnic lunch with Denise of A Growing Obsession. (Denise is one of the nicest, coolest people you could ever hope to meet, and her blog is sensational.) I had a wish list of exactly two plants, and failed to find either one at the sale. Bought a few others instead :~) Also bought about 50 lb of top dressing. A few photos:

Ecninocactus texensis was one of the two species on my want list. You can see why: it's gorgeous, and not huge. It's also hardy to at least 15° or 20°F.

Not much into plants with caudices, but if I were, I'd have tried to smuggle this beauty home.

 Uebelmannia pectinifera, endemic to Brazil, turns a deep chocolate or purple color in sun. Fabulous looking but said to be a challenge to grow. Low tolerance for cold.

Dream plant right here: a gorgeous, variegated Ferocactus. Just perfect.

This variegated beauty is a hybrid between a Ferocactus and a Thelocactus, both species native to Mexico and the Southwest.

One Astrophytum...

... three Astrophyta? Plants in this genus are native to the Chihuahuan desert. "Easy and hardy," says palmbob. Good from 125°F to 20 °F.

Echinocactus parryi, high on the want list. Another native of the Chihuahuan desert.

Gorgeous little agave - sorry I didn't get the name of this one.

Agave parviflora v. flexiflora, now on the want list. This variety is native to the Mexican state of Sonora.

Running from a hungry Arboretum peacock. Denise saved me by offering it a small child.

My new Thelocactus bicolor, yet another Chihuahuan desert native, blooming like mad in the truck on the way home. I love the Inter-city show.