By Lisa Lonsdale
Over 25 years ago, my husband and I moved to Hidden Meadows and have spent most of our spare time making improvements to the house and our 2.5-acre lot. I swore, then, I would never plant anything with spines, due to a very bad experience with Cholla cactus while working on San Clemente Island in the 1970’s.
Something happened a few years ago when a friend talked me into planting some cutting from her garden; I fell in love with the somewhat menacing-looking subgroup of succulent, the cactus. I now have an entire area of my yard devoted to flowering cacti and spiny Euphorbias. The flowers on the flowering varieties of cactus range from 1/2-inch to 8-inches and bloom white, bright pink, yellow, orange and red. One plant bloomed for the first time in March and was the most surprising; the blooms were small, deep pink and formed rings around the top of each arm (see photo.) I have no idea of its proper name but I call them “Cactus Leis” because they remind me of the floral rings Hawaiian dancers wear on their heads. My sister named it “Fiona,” after Shrek’s girlfriend; cute and ugly at the same time. Another of my favorites has 3-inch lemon-yellow flowers and puts on dozens of blooms several times each year. In March, a very large arm broke off due to bloat from the heavy rains causing it to get top-heavy. I plopped it back in the ground and a month later it’s showing new buds that will open soon. How can you find fault with such an agreeable plant that will also provide a reward of beauty?
If you decide to add some of these prickly specimens to your garden, buy yourself some “gauntlet gloves” that are made of suede or leather and reach to the elbow. When handling large plants, get a helper and use a folded strip of landscape fabric or newspaper, to loop around the top to support and guide it while the second person handles the root ball. The moral of this story is: Never say never, because you might miss out on one of the most enjoyable treats in your garden. Enjoy!