The highlights of this week are my breadbox poppies, which are treating me every day to a new colour and form, and the cold hardy opuntia that have made me so very, very happy to have chanced into the good fortune of exceptionally well-draining soil that is on the sandy side. This garden is an absolute pain in the butt to water, but the growing possibilities are mind-blowing for someone like me who has a longstanding fixation/fascination with dry land flora. It’s going to be unreal next year when all of the new opuntias I have added are abloom. I may pass out from the sheer joy of it.
At least a decade has passed since I first discovered and started growing cold hardy opuntia and yet it still comes as a surprise that they exist, like some mythical unicorn come to life. And there are so many of them! Some have thick paddles like the big opuntia that produce edible pears in southern climates. Others have thin leaves and stand tall — a lot taller than you’d think possible in freezing climates.
I used to grow winter hardy cactus in pots on the old roof garden, and I had small success (and mostly failure) growing them in the barren earth next to the building; however, moving to a place with a yard was an opportunity to give them a permanent place of importance and experiment with a dry garden bed, albeit on a small scale.
Yesterday we drove to Nebraska to see some fields. That was not a difficult task to achieve and is in keeping with what I expected.
But what has surprised me on this trip is just how dry it is here.
Take this picture, shot in Colorado on the way back from Nebraska. This is High Plains and Front Range land that sits in a rain shadow, and not the lush farmland I wrongly imagined.
I love it! I didn’t prepare myself much for this trip. I decided not to look at tons of pictures online or try to imagine what I would see. I came here with little knowledge, leaving open the possibility to be happily surprised.
What’s that hiding in the grass? Opuntia! Hardy opuntia grows everywhere here. I’ve learned so much about the plant by seeing how it grows in the wild and how it protects itself at these high elevations. This has been the happiest surprise so far. A dream come true.
I’ve shot lots of images of all kinds of hardy opuntia and will do a larger post when I get back home on what I’ve observed here.
One of my pal Barry’s hardy opuntia plants was flowering today and I was lucky enough to be there to catch it. And with my new lens in tow. Iiieeeeee…….
This plant comes with a fun story — Barry got it free from the compost bin of a gardener that was throwing it out.
I just happen to have a new, and free hardy opuntia myself. It was a gift from a gardener we visited last week. He just plucked a paddle from the parent plant and stuck it in a roll of newspaper for the ride home. When I got back I laid the cutting on the surface of a pot filled with sandy soil. Eventually the plant will root itself and I’ll have a new plant that I can break up and give away to friends that visit my garden.
Most plants are easy to propagate and in my experience gardeners are generous people who are always eager to share a bit of their wealth with those that show interest. For that reason alone I have no idea why some people feel the need to steal plants from gardens.
Okay, maybe not hot, but merely an epiphytic cactus hitching a ride on a large opuntia. Pretty cool though. I’ve never seen this before!