Some incredible photos by Debra Lee Baldwin. They are inspiring me to go and plant some containers this weekend. I will share often as I begin mixing and working on container arrangements with succulents. Debra is a great inspiration with her photos and designing with succulents books, as well as her new one coming out this spring which I am sure to get.
Optunia Engelmanii otherwise known as the Prickly pear has come into bloom. This has to be one of my favorite cacti, it gives of itself over and over. Some call it the weed of the desert, yet sadly I see alot of dead Prickly pear this year. I think it might have to do with the drought we have been suffering from. I am working on propagating my fine friends. It is quite easy to do so. You take a clean cutting of a pad. Then you need to let it sit for about a week or two. Then it will scab and it is ready to transplant into the ground. Just stick your trowel into the ground, move the dirt a bit and with leather gloves protecting your hands from the glocoids, and prickles and pat around it to make sure it is secure. It should root in about 1-3 weeks. Don’t water it until it has rooted to protect it from rot as the roots need to grow first to absorb the water. Oh and by the way if you do get thorns in your hands rub them with rocks it helps get the thorns out.
Now why you ask would you grow a desert weed. Well in the republic of Seed we take propagating and growing seriously and when we see a species having a hard time we like to just fill a few in for good measure. Besides look at these wonderful gifts of flowers. Do you want a sustainable flower arrangement? Just take a pad and cut it cleanly. Make sure it has blossoms, set in a vase that will allow it to sit half way up and do not add water. You are letting it callous standing up. For a more decorative look add rock to the bottom of the vase, set in the pad, and wait a few days. You won’t believe it but it will share the most beautiful blooms with you. Once it is done blooming it will usually be a bout a week or two and you are ready to transplant the prickly pear pad. What a gift right?
There is more. This fine specimen will offer up fruit (tunas) soon after it blooms, sometime in May and June. This fruit makes a wonderful jam. The recipe follows: 15-30 tunas-skin and take thorns off with stones or a knife. You know the fruits are ripe when they are a dark, dark purple and sort of soft. Now get lemon or lime juice, powdered pectin, about a cup and a half of sugar ready. Mash the fruits, follow the directions on the pectin box, bring to a boil and add sugar stirring till the juice starts to get a jammy feel. Bottle up in sterile jars and let sit. Refrigerate for an unusual tasting highly nutritious jam.
Not only does it make tasty jams, but you can eat the fruits after you take off all the thorns. They are quite tasty.
Prickly pear also makes a fine landscape plant as you get wonderful flowers, fruits, and nice structure as they grow into groups, and at times even prickly pear trees. Sometimes the pads look like Mickey mouse ears…Quite fun for the kids.
So before you call the prickly pear or any thing native to the desert a weed…. think about all the wonderful benefits they bring not only to us but to the wildlife , prickly pear feeds many species of wildlife, it benefits the land by keeping down the dust and dirt, and the beautifies the desert landscape. The republic of seed loves the prickly pear. I will show you how the transplants are doing in a later post. Until then…go plant some prickly pear pads, or at least enjoy the blooms.
As the spring comes to an end….. I think of springs gardening chores calling me..Yes you can have a desert in the arid southwest. Where we get less than 9 inches of rain. Where the hot sun blisters you at 124 degrees during May June July and August. Where it seems it is summer for 8 months of the year….But still when you hear the bird calls, see even the faint wisp of color pop up from under a the shade of a rock. Yes..that is when it is all worth it. So I begin my spring clean up and chores to bring on more of the color, more of the fragrance, and allow myself to soak up the deserts sculptural beauty…
To Do : March, April, May:
clean up the stone circles that need clean up
mulch my trees, and gardening beds, add grit and top stones to the containers and beds
start my container fruit trees-the best in the desert I have found so far are Fig, olive, pomegranate, permission. I am trying as well this year a peach and a nectarine-in pots. They are not doing so well at this point from the winds shredding their leaves-all of them poor things. I may have resign myself that fruit in Terlingua is wishful thinking.
move some rocks and make rock garden, then plant wild flower seeds among the rocks before rains.
propagate my cactus, plant some cactus seeds to see if I can grow them from seed. Remember to wear leather gloves and bring Kraft paper to wrap the cacti in…unless you want the cacti prickles.
take some tree cuttings to see if I can grow more trees in the desert-I am attempting the hardy mesquite tree..right now it is in a small container with 1/2 top soil, 1/2 perlite, and grit from the desert.
plant yucca from our garden, and pachypodium seeds-they are planted yucca in jiffy pots I do not recommend these as they dry out too quickly, and the pachypodium seeds in top soil and perlite with a plastic baggies.
water-once a week if dry.
start to harden off plants I kept in the greenhouse, these are now outside.
Start to rehab my side gardens.
Planted cactus cuttings on the side of the studio-they already have flower buds and new pads-yipee.
Ocotillo cuttings…we shall see how these do. They look a bit dreadful at this point.
Guyacon root cuttings, look about the same as the ocotillo-dreadful.
Divide up some of my Aloe plants and transplant the Kalonoche plants. Start some on the side of the house. They seem to be liking their new area, but I am scared it will be too hot in the summer. We shall see.
Lastly I want to buy and start some succulent cuttings, plant some Adenium seeds, finish planting my cacti seeds, and plant some San Pedro cacti as I love the flowers…Flowers in the desert..Yummy!
Happy Spring..In the desert May starts to heat up like an oven on fire..May your May be a bit gentler.
Okay, I found this picture on the internet and it depicts exactly the pain those darn spines on a cactus feel like. Pain….So here is what you do about it, and I should know as the last few weekends I have been propagating cacti. For those pesky little glocoides from the prickly pear, or Optuia species I use my favorite duck tape. Yup-slap it on and rip it off. Ouch you say but it goes quick just like a waxing job. I wonder if they use duck tape when waxing-Ha.
Now for those big spines that get under your skin. Well, I hate to tell you but you have to wait it out with them. Hot water seems to help a bit, but really only time gets those suckers out. Eventually they work themselves out.
So your best bet is don’t get em to begin with, but really that is almost impossible working with cactus. I wear leather workers gloves, wrap the cactus in paper bags to transplant, and other than that grin and bear it.