March 2009

Blogs31 Mar 2009 04:13 pm

Digs Inside and Out in Portland is potting up mixed succulents in odd containers for centerpieces.

National Parks31 Mar 2009 12:12 pm

From the Arizona Republic.

A stiff wind blows out of Alamo Canyon on a sunny day. It whistles past organ-pipe-cactus needles and sends ripples across pools of water in a rocky wash below.

Questions31 Mar 2009 10:43 am

Hi there,

I bought 3 black knight echeveria’s a while ago. Being a complete novice, I had no clue when the mealy bugs began to feed on them. Despite my efforts late in the infection to combat the mealy bugs, the plants’ leaves all fell off and I purchased 3 new repotted echeverias in September. They’ve been doing well, until a few weeks ago. One of the echeveria’s is looking quite small compared to the other two. I came back from a vacation today and noticed about 3 leaves from the larger two were wilting and came off quite easily. I meticulously studied the plants for a sign of infection. NO LUCK! All I noticed was that they have a few little black holes on the bottom of a few leaves and that they look wilted. Can you suggest what to do?

It’s cold in Vancouver, BC (in fact it snowed about 1 week ago) so they’ve been inside all winter. I’ve kept them in a room that gets at least 3-5 hours of sunlight, WHEN IT’S SUNNY. The room is colder and they are right next to a glass door. I water them maybe 1/4 c. every 2-3 weeks. Except, when I noticed it looked like they were wilting I watered them a little more. The soil doesn’t feel wet, rather, slightly damp. The water is able to drain if they are too wet.

I’m at wits end and need some advice. Thanks. I’ve attached some photos.

dscf0174 dscf0179



My first guess is the smooth polished pebbles are staying wet under the leaves and causing fungal infections. As a rule of thumb we do not use smooth rock as a mulch or decorative top-dressing since the surface tension of water loves to cling to smooth round pebbles and stay wet forever. This gives a place for mold spores to “hatch” and start eating the leaves. Try to find black lava rock or a nice crushed black gravel which is rough and faster drying to use under the rosettes. You can keep the polished black rock on the exposed surface, but don’t let the leaves touch it. It should help keep them from staying too wet. Also during the winter water them well, but only about once a month. They should dry out completely between watering’s. It is OK if they look a little thirsty during the winter since they are basically asleep.

You can treat the plants with 1% Neem Oil solution to help fight off any infection they currently have. Just don’t spray and have in bright sun right away, treat, put somewhere shady for a day or two and then move back to the sun.

Good luck,

Costa Rica31 Mar 2009 07:39 am


These are scattered around the Arenal Volcano area, and they come in many colors.

Travel30 Mar 2009 01:07 pm

Apparently it’s the time of year for Northerners to head South. Here’s another travel article where the people living in cold areas marvel at the cactus in the warm areas.

When I met up with my brothers in Arizona in March for a family get-together, I wanted to… get out into the desert.

Don’t we all. But you know it’s a good article when they publish photos of cactus, and they did not disappoint. They have 5 cactus photos with the article! 5! Woohoo! Here’s one I borrowed.


JIM TIMMERMANN, The Holland Sentinel

News30 Mar 2009 12:01 pm

Apparently they’re now using cactus in men’s fragrances. What will they think of thinking about for thinking reasons thinkingly next?

Until a short time ago I had never heard of Annie Oakley fragrances….

Uh oh, that’s not a promising start for any article.

(T)he biggest surprise and by far my favorite in the group is Stampede. It… contains “woody herbals, cactus rose and the essence of Spanish moss.” Frankly, I have no idea what is meant by cactus rose, unless it is a nickname for cactus flowers… In any case, Stampede is much softer in character than many masculine types of cologne and is very easy to wear.

Well, I think I’ll pass. I don’t think a cologne called Stampede is right for me, even if they do use cactus flowers and tillandsias. Maybe we should sell it at the nursery. Would you buy it?

Travel30 Mar 2009 09:49 am

Kayaking in a little discovered part of Mexico’s Baja California, resorts and tequila bars are Baja California’s best-known attractions. But up the coast, the quiet waters of protected Loreto Bay hold almost 900 species of fish — and few tourists, at least for now…


(Darryl Leniuk for The Globe and Mail)
Limestone cliffs, dolphins and cardon cactus: The park and its five islands – including Danzante, offer an unusual combination of marine life and picturesque desert.

I wonder why Canadians insist on skipping right over the US and traveling to Mexico for their vacations. Don’t they know they are very close to Sandusky, Ohio, home of the Sandusky Speedway.

I always have enjoyed my visits to Minnesota’s Walker Art Center and it’s fish sculptures.

Plus, here in the US we have the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, North Dakota. I can vouch for it; I’ve seen it in person. And the Canadian border is so close, they can practically smell it.

Costa Rica30 Mar 2009 06:44 am

We knew we would see lots of orchids up in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, epiphytic orchids of all types, and many of them in bloom. We didn’t know there would be so many ground orchids in the hotter and drier areas.


Epidendrum radicans is a fairly common orchid through Central America. This was near Arenal Volcano. Everyone visits the volcano. This is also extremely similar to the Epidendrum ibaguense, a hardy terrestrial orchid we are carrying at the nursery.

Hap29 Mar 2009 09:11 am

It is finally spring and like the birds I feel like nesting, In my spare time I am cleaning the garden, pulling or flame throwing the weeds in to submission. And as usual wondering why I didn’t get the Corn Gluten spread last fall to stop all the winter sprouting weeds from germinating. Pulling grass and chickweed tangled in the spines and ferocious arms around my spiniest cactus is not fun. If I had done what I tell my customers to do and use the Corn Gluten most of the seeds would have died as they sprouted and I wouldn’t be getting grumpy at myself for ignoring my own advice.

But as the nursery grows I need to face that fact that I have less time to garden in my own yard. I need to work on the whole “Keep it simple stupid” mantra or perhaps “cheat” and bring one or two of the crew over and have them weed the front yard, after all, all the plants are “parent plants” for the nursery and it will be time to take cuttings of the summer growers soon and we are quickly getting to the point that we will no longer be able to take cuttings from the winter growers, since they are heading in to summer dormancy and would rather not grow roots while they sleep off the summer drought.

Spring is always a busy time. Too much to do and all any of us really want to do is find a quiet spot and take a nap in the sun. But it is also a great time to get your hands dirty and make things grow. My big home project this week will be finishing planting a new bamboo run along the west side of the property. You have to love how fast a few 15-gallon bamboo plants can mask a bad view corridor of “the neighbor’s mess”. Nothing grows as fast or is as big for the buck as robust running bamboo. Of course in choosing a big running bamboo it also needed a barrier installed and digging down two and a half feet in Berkeley flatland heavy clay was sweaty job.


 I used help for that but hey I am the “old guy”. I put in four big plants in an 18-foot run and decided it really needed two more to really give me the view block that I wanted. It is interesting the older you get the more you want instant gratification….

When we bought the house I planted bamboo on the east side, hoping to block the second story windows from the Transmission Shop next door. Funny how they show houses on Sundays when the “mixed-use-industrial” businesses in our neighborhood are closed and there was no hint of the pneumatic air tools constant loud whine, loud enough to make your teeth hurt and bring back every dentist drill trauma from childhood…. Having stretched to afford the house, I splurged on only one 15 gallon bamboo plant for in front of the bedroom window and planted 5-gallon plants along the rest of the length. It took a few years to cover the windows, but when you stop and think, that the now 25-30 foot tall plants are only in an 18 inch wide planning strip that runs the entire length of the house and gives a dappled green screen in front of all the windows and quiets down the annoying air tools whine you realize that really there is nothing like bamboo. It really is grass pretending to be trees and like grass the more you water and fertilize the faster it grows. Though these days the drought tolerant bamboo I planted is lucky to get one summer watering and then only enough to wash in a bit of slow release organic fertilizer.

So this time on the west side of my house, I am older, have my own nursery and can splurge to put in six big plants that will block the view of the neighbors mess and have that bit of instant gratification.

If only I could just as quickly weed between all the cacti….


Questions28 Mar 2009 04:38 pm

From the Press-Enterprise, one of a rapidly shrinking number of newspapers:

Q: I saw a hanging basket plant called orchid cactus that is supposed to have fancy flowers. Before I give it a try, I’d like to know how it is grown.

A: Unlike the desert cacti we see most often, the orchid cactus, Epiphyllum, is a jungle plant. In their jungle environment, they usually grow as epiphytes, with their roots exposed to the air and rain. It’s not possible to grow them that way here, but they will grow quite well in hanging baskets filled with a rich, fast-draining soil mix.


Science28 Mar 2009 10:50 am

It turns out there’s more than one use for cactus.

The cactus is one of the edible vegetables in Mexico and is very nutritious,” (Dr. Norma) Alcantar says. She recalls her grandmother saying how the water was used to cook the cactus was then used to clean sediment from drinking water.

At USF, Alcantar began testing the filtration properties of the gooey substance inside the cactus called mucilage. Her research found the mucilage not only filters out sediments, it removes arsenic from the water. 

The cactus mucilage is ideal because it’s natural, biodegradable, abundant and sustainable.

I never knew that. Now I do, and so do you.

News28 Mar 2009 08:52 am

…and unruly neighbors can be a problem in Singapore. Fortunately, one lady has a solution.

A housewife put two dustbins with stickers of the Buddha and Goddess of Mercy in front of her house… along with… cactus, mirrors, incense burners and shoes… to protect herself, China Press reported.

According to the housewife, her neighbours had crashed into her front door several times when reversing their cars.

“After putting up the ‘arrangement’, the situation has improved,” she claimed.

Let me know if you have the same problems, try out this particuilar solution, and also have success. I’ll print your story, right here on this cactus bloggy thingy.

Whippets28 Mar 2009 07:16 am

Special Saturday Whippet Edition

People complained yesterday, so here’s your whippet picture fix for the week.

Jaxx in a hat.


Whippets27 Mar 2009 12:29 pm

Special New Caledonian Crested Gecko Edition


Yes, that is a Peperomia in the back. Thank you for asking.

News27 Mar 2009 10:42 am

Here’s the 3rd building I’ve heard of claiming to be inspired by a cactus. Yeah, right, whatever.


The Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture (MMAA) in Qatar is getting a brand new office building that takes the form of a towering cactus. Designed by Bangkok-based Aesthetics Architects, the modern office and adjoining botanical dome take cues from cacti and the way that they successfully survive in hot, dry environments.

Here’s another one.

Peter Eisenman’s barrel cactus and football emporium also.

Honestly, I’m just plain skeptical of architectural claims of inspiration. Nothing is worse than an architect claiming her building is inspired by Mozart, or based on the organic principals of earth wind fire and water. Oy, the agony. I hope none of my old classmates read my blog, or they might recognize themselves there a little bit. ;-)

Travel27 Mar 2009 08:38 am

The LA Examiner (never heard of them) go traveling a few miles up the road and reach the cholla garden at Joshua Tree NP. Nice photo:

Photo: Seth Smigelski

The Cholla Cactus Garden is… (p)erhaps the cutest cactus on the planet, the Cholla is know as the “teddy bear” cactus. But this is one teddy bear you should never hug (or) back in to a Cholla. That is not a pleasant experience, or so I’ve heard…

I think he’s speaking from experience. Plyers are a good tool to have around if you find yourself in a cholla forest.

Costa Rica27 Mar 2009 07:22 am


That’s a lot of Tillandsias.

Tillandsias can make for very scenic photos. They add a good dash of color and texture to any garden picture.

Do you have tillandsias in your garden? No? Then you’re not getting the most from your garden photography. I recommend both terrestrial and epiphytic bromeliads for everyone.

Puyas have some of the most amazing blooms. Aechmeas are stunning. Who can resist a simple billbergia in bloom? Not I, that’s for sure. Not I.

News26 Mar 2009 10:34 am

Out of the UK, comes this touching tale of a local favorite on the comeback trail.

More than 1,000 people have joined an internet campaign to bring back the world’s first talking plant to Aberdeen.

Fond memories of childhood conversations with Spike, a talking cactus formerly found in Duthie Park’s winter gardens, have prompted an online petition calling for his immediate return.

In the 10 days since the campaign group was formed on social networking site Facebook, more than 1,000 people have demanded Spike’s reinstatement.

I love talking cacti! I just thought I was the only one who could hear them. Good to know I’m not the only one, because I was starting to get a bit worried.

Questions26 Mar 2009 07:54 am

I have a small cactus, only about an inch and a half tall. I left it on my radiator while I went home for spring break, and it curved in a right angle towards the window. Thinking it wanted light, i put it on the sill above the radiator, where it proceeded to turn a pale, bleached color. I would like to keep this plant living the best I can, and am wondering now if it should be watered more/less, and how much light I should be giving it.

Thank you,

It sounds like your cactus got a sunburn. It depends on how severe it was as to whether or not it will come out of it. Can you send us a picture?

As for watering, in general we recommend watering every 2 to 3 weeks, drenching the pot and letting it drain away. Cactus like lots of light, so a west or south facing window is best. Always keep it a few inches away from the glass because heat can build up at the surface. Also, as you’ve discovered, moving a cactus, or any plant, from low light directly to full sun can cause a sunburn.

News25 Mar 2009 03:11 pm


Two Drug Smugglers Who Crashed into Cactus Near Casa Grande Sentenced to Federal Prison.

The truck crashed through a barbed wire fence and into a saguaro cactus. Due to the force of the crash, an arm of the cactus crashed through the windshield of the truck, pinning Pablo in the driver’s seat. His passengers… fled on foot.

Vicious cactus, helping the police.

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