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I must have a mild form of an STD, as that totem pole cactus is fabulous! How many of the warm-weather cactus (all the coolest ones are) will survive with minimal light in an unheated garage? My house has no useful south-facing windows for overwintering, but the garage seems to work for the couple of cactus I have right now.

Looks like a great book for the collection!

As a New Englander, whose suitcases come back packed with cacti and succulents whenever we visit southern CA, I can attest I can't stop looking at this group of plants. So many textures and forms. Have to add! this book to my collection

I could learn to love more cactus, especially with that prickly pear margarita recipe.

I live in zone 5 and thought there was absolutely no hope of growing cacti outdoors. I used to work at a greenhouse, and one day while tending to the prickly pear cacti we had on sale, I accidentally broke off a chunk. Feeling adventurous, I stuck it in my pocket and took it home, where I promptly realized that I had absolutely no idea what to do with such a thing. Despairingly, I tossed the little cactus chunk into the yard and forgot about it. A year later, imagine my shock to find, under the poppies which had begun to die down, that tiny prickly pear hanging on by a thread-like root, having not only survived the winter but also grown a couple new lobes. That was several years ago, and the tiny thing is still holding its own. You may not love them at first, but cacti are persistent. They'll wait for you.

You have some of the best looking and interesting photos of cactus online. In the higher regions of the southwest many of those cactuses will not survive the cold climate.

The cold snaps we've had in the last couple of years have done much damage to some of these plants. I believe it has something to do with "climate change".

It would be a big shame to lose the natural beauty of the southwest.

I ripped out my lawn a few years ago (front and back, with a spade. A spade.) and replaced it with a rock garden complete with cacti, succulents and other xeriscapy plants. Now I can head outside, and do my yardwork in the evening with a wine glass in hand. Try doing that while mowing!

Alan: to treat the symptoms of your STD, give money to nurseries in exchange for cactus.
Katherine: It sounds like you are in a high risk group. Watch yourself.
Brent: You posted at 5:17am--it is a little early for cocktails--even for me and Ms. Stewart. If you come to GWA this fall though...
Andrew: There are many cold hardy prickly pear and as you discovered, anybody can propagate them.
Paul: Thanks for the kind words. Yes, the cold last year hit saguaros hard in AZ and killed Ferocactus near El Paso. It sucked. This year, no bad frost so far.
ST: Rock gardeners rule. They almost always grow some cactus. Congrats on your conversion.

Brent...furthering the stereotype that all garden bloggers have cocktails at the ready no matter the time of day here is a link ( for that margarita recipe.

Scott, thank you for outing me and my "issues"...loved the book!

Cacti arranged in a bowl may not seem like an obvious Valentine's Day present, but my husband loved the one I did for him.

I may switch from the benign succulents to prickly cacti simply because the deer won't eat the prickly things. (they do love to graze on my succulents)This new book needs to be in my library!

Loree: Thanks for going public with your "issues". I'll have to try your recipe.

Deirdre: Wait, I didn't get a cactus bowl for V-day? (Deirdre is my wife's name too).

Cheryl: Yes, come to the prickly side.

Scott, I agree that the Totem Pole is awesome and I'm hoping I'll be able to find a place to buy one, but I can't agree that a plant that looks like it has a hundred little breasts is very masculine. (Though, being enamored of such a plant may be very masculine.)

Oh man, I need this book! Been wanting to add cacti to the plant collection for awhile, need to get started with this book.

First with the chickens in the garden post and now with the cactus - is there a reason why my comments don't post?

Cacti bring back fond memories of working at a public garden and taking over the maintenance of the cactus garden. I learned how to get at weeds growing up in the cactus with a pair of stout gloves and good long dandelion digger. Only thing I did: love the low maintenance aspect.

Oh darn ! I don't tweet & won't sign up just so I can win a prickly pear pad :(((( Maybe the book will tell me what I need to know.

I've been contemplating where I might put a prickly pear in my garden, and which variety to place for a while now. See, Dear Hubby spent part of his childhood in Arizona & fell in love with prickly pear jelly. For a few years now, I've been foraging for the fruit from front yards of various homeowners to make the jelly for him, but the taste is never quite right. Suggestions on variety ? Where to purchase ? I live in CA so I'm hoping shipping these cacti here won't be illegal.

@ John : are you making sure to enter the no-robo-reply text at the bottom of the screen each time ?

Laura Bell - lately I haven't been seeing the no-robo-reply thingy. It allows me to preview and shows my comment and acts just like it always did in the past but nothing shows up.

it didn't show it for this comment either!

I really enjoyed this pro-cactus defense. It's a shame that not everyone has a garden full of them. I only have about 600 Oputnia/Cylindropuntia accessions, which of course is not nearly enough. I have to say though my favorites are the Trichocereus (Soehrensia, etc) of South America. Here's a short piece I did last summer on anti-cactus discrimination:

I'm a rare fruit gardener, and think you've convinced me to add some cacti fruit to my menagerie.

I live right on the northernmost limit to the organ pipe's natural range. They are beautiful, but I have not yet had the chance to try the fruit. We are still deciding where to plant our edible cacti...the local wildlife are rough on cacti (no one loves cacti more than the javelina that broke down the neighbor's gate).

@Laura: Prickly pear cacti have been selectively grown for fruit or for pads (nopales) for a long time. You might be picking fruit from cacti that are grown for their pads...or ones that are ornamental varieties.

I'll comment again from my home computer and see if this time it will show up.

I have the ultimate prickly pear cactus - just your basic looking mound of pads but when it blooms each flower changes color depending on its age, going from bright yellow to dark pink in four days. Since all the flowers open at different times on different days the overall effect is a multicolored mass. I have no idea which species it is and it doesn't matter, I've grown it for over 20 years and have no desire to stop.

Michelle: Well, I suppose...:) I've never looked at a totem pole as "a hundred little breasts" but I suspect I'll never be able to *not* look at it that way now:)

Laura: The variety of prickly pear most often used to make, jelly, syrup, etc. is Opuntia engelmannii. It is everywhere in central/southern AZ.

Ian: Love your blog treatise on cactus and I'm glad to find your blog. I too wonder why people categorically ignore this large and diverse family.

Niko: Bravo. Enjoy your prickly growing and eating.

Kathleen: Where do you live, it must be close to me? Are you in Ajo? Did you know that they found an organ pipe growing in the Tucson Mountains last year? I suspect someone planted it there.

John: It sounds like a great prickly pear. Do you know Timberline Gardens in CO? Kelly Grummons there does a lot of prickly pear breeding there and might be interested in your plant.

I can't wait to read your book! I garden in Michigan in a Zone 5-no wait-Zone 6a garden, according to the new USDA map, and have an opuntia. Actually, I have 2, and they are growing in hypertufa troughs. I never knew they had horrible spines until a little girl touched one at my daughter's graduation party. She cried so hard, and I felt so bad. I touched it, too, because I was sure there were no spines. I found out very quickly that those little spines hurt and are easy to get out-with a magnifying glass and tweezers! Yikes! I garden around the troughs now. Very far around. The weeds can grow through them and will be undisturbed by me.

I've been working diligently on building up my succulent mojo—I think it's time to add cactuses!

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