Adorable Diorama Gardens Made Easy

Debra Lee Baldwin’s column in the LA Times features “ANNA GOESER’S process for creating the retro container gardens she calls Mojave bonsai.” She has a step by step procedure laid out for you to create adorable dioramas.

I’m telling you, it’s so easy, even you could try it out. And send me your photos of the finished product, please, since I’m too busy to try it myself right now. Maybe around the holidays…

Here’s an example of one of the steps, so you can see for yourself how easy it is.

4. Buy three to five small cactuses. Leaving them in their pots, arrange the cactuses as you like. To make the plants appear larger — as in a perspective drawing — position them toward the back of the scene you are creating, so there is ample foreground.

And I like this one too:

7. Position accessories to suggest a desert experience, such as a car trip.

Nice. The full article is here, and the instructions are here.

After the Halloween Parties

Did you say you have a hangover this morning? Have you tried cactus?

Discovery Sliced Cactus, £1.29 per jar

How it works: Extracts of prickly pear cactus have been shown by one U.S. study to alleviate the symptoms of hangovers, though it’s not clear why.

Tester’s verdict: Eimear O’Hagan, 26, from Belfast, says: “Waking with a dry mouth and a sore head, I ate a few pickled cactus slices and went back to sleep.

“They were OK if you like pickled food, but had no impact on the hangover. I had acid reflux later on.”

Expert’s verdict: “Extract of cactus is rich in antioxidants that can neutralise damage caused by free radical cells. Better taken before drinking not afterwards, so the body’s defences are primed.”

Is there any science behind this prickly theory? Why thank you for asking, in fact, yes there is.

A study published in the June 28th, 2004 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who took a dietary supplement containing extracts of a species of prickly pear cactus before consuming alcohol, had reduced symptoms of alcohol hangover compared to individuals who drank but took placebo.

So there you go. You have to take it ahead of time, but it works! And it appears that an extract works better than a pickled cactus. Sorry I forgot to tell you about this yesterday before you got drunk.


Around the Video Gardening Blogosphere

Life on the Balcony‘s Fern Richardson has a book out, Small Space Container Gardening. And judging from this video she really does have just a small space to garden. So small that she’s planting herbs underneath succulents. Interesting!

Where can you get the book? We carry it. Not that you have to come all the way down to our store on a rainy day to buy a book, but you could.

Australian Cactus

Apparently they measure out very small amounts of water for each cactus in Australia to save water.

Ross Comben, of Kirisit Nursery, shows that only a drop of water is needed to take care of his succulents. Photo: Peter Holt

We prefer to water less often, but with more water. Drench the cactus and let the water drain away, never sitting in water. We water cactus only every 2 to 4 weeks. That’s what we do. But then, we don’t live in Australia where the water drains from the bowl counterclockwise.

Barrel Cactus from Seed has instructions in growing barrel cactus from seed. It seems very complicated. And you need lot’s of tools. I wonder if we do all of this when we grow them from seed?

Grow a Barrel Cactus from a Seed

Tools and Materials Needed:
(long list deleted in this excerpt. click through for full info.)

Step 1 – Collect Seeds
Step 2 – Remove the Seeds from the Pods
Step 3 – Soak the Seeds
Step 4 – Prepare the Potting Soil
Step 5 – Set the Seeds
Step 6 – Distribute the Seeds
Step 7 – Wait for Germination
Step 8 – Transfer to Pots
Step 9 – Final Positioning

Wow, that’s a lot to keep track of. I wonder how the plants do all that themselves in the wild?

Here’s a picture of a barrel cactus seed pods.

You can see the “seed pod,” also known as the fruit, in the back to the left behind the bloom. I was looking through all my ferocactus photos, and that’s the only one I can find with a fruit in the shot. I normally focus on the flowers or the spines.

Bay Area Secrets

The Ruth Bancroft Garden‘s curator of succulents shares his secrets for succulent survival in the San Ramon Valley part of the Bay Area. (Hint: it gets colder there than here.)

Growing succulents in the Bay Area is not the impossible task that it might seem, says Brian Kemble, curator of the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek….

The garden now closes for one month each autumn while workers cover the particularly frost- and rain-sensitive plants as protection against a cold snap.

“It’s worth it,” Kemble says, “to grow all of these wonderful plants.”

And if a bad frost comes, as it did in 1972 and 1990, you accept your losses and move on….

Protecting your plants from frost damage is very important. The Ruth Bancroft Garden puts many specimens under plastic-covered wooden frames from November through March. The clear plastic lets light in and helps trap warm air inside. The bottom of the cover is raised above ground to allow for air circulation. Because the garden has so many plants, the covers are routinely placed, but in a home garden, covers can be added only in a threat of frost or extremely cold temperatures.

By the way, Friday they’re having,

Bluegrass, Brats and Beer in the Garden! Friday September 9, 5:30 till 8 p.m.

Boston Succulents

They love them some succulents in Boston, what with the disastrous season for the Red Sox this year. And they’re inviting you to join them.

Succulent Container Workshop with Carrie Waterman
Saturday, November 17 2012, 10:00am – 12:00pm

Make your very own succulent container. Learn from an expert how to plant an attractive container of these wonderful plants. All materials will be provided including a nice selection of succulent plants suitable for a mixed container, pots, special soil mix, plant labels and top dressing. Aftercare instructions will be included along with information about how to propagate succulents and how to exhibit your container at the 2013 Boston Flower & Garden Show!

Put it on your calender.

Build a Skylight for your Cactus

<a href=";entry_id=1631" title="" onmouseover="window.status=’’;return true;" onmouseout="window.status=”;return true;">Sunset Magazine</a> traveled to San Francisco to help a homeowner build a light well for a cactus, becuase you know, there’s never enough sun in the city and light wells will help your cactus to thrive. If you can afford the $7200, I say it is a wise investment for your cactus.<br /><br /><div style="margin-left: 40px;"><span style="font-style: italic;">It took $7,200 and about 10 full days to complete. Although the cost was high, the rewards are great….<br />
<br />
A handmade bench serves as a… place to sit and admire the… cactus, and assorted succulents.</span><br /></div><br />I may have edited that one a bit much. But you’ll never know unless you click through the link.<br /><br />

Cactus and Fossils

Keith sent me this photo of a Ferocactus pottsi and a carnivorous dinosaur and a fossil. He says this is the proper way to use a fossil in a cactus pot. Did he come up with this himself? Or did a customer ask him to repot this cactus along with adding the two toys?

I shall never know for sure. It is a mystery.

I wonder if that is a mammal fossil? It is a mystery.

Cactus and Hedgehogs, Together Again

No, I don’t understand why someone put a cactus costume on their adorable pet pygmy hedgehog.

I don’t understand!!

Even more amazing is the whole thing is at a site for DIY and they give instructions on how to make your own cactus costume for your pet pygmy hedgehog. Awesome is not the right word I’m looking for, but it will have to do for now.

Just so you know, these cute little animals are illegal in California. I know this because I had one back before I lived in California and I was sad to learn I couldn’t have another pet pygmy hedgehog after we moved here. They are the cutest pet in the whole wide world ever, but nocturnal so not the greatest pet ever. Plus they eat mealworms which was OK since we also had geckos at the time.

I know what you’re thinking – you never know what you will find on the Cactus Blog! Woohoo!

Cactus Cupcakes

CactusBlog reader Elizabeth saw these cactus cupcakes and for some reason thought of us! They do look delicious.


The secret ingredient is a lot of frosting.

And the Alanna Jones Mann website this is from comes with a full, complete and fully daunting set of DIY instructions so you can make these yourself.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I took inspiration from a recent gardening project to make a variety of house plant cupcakes.  And it resulted in a whole bunch of cacti cupcake cuteness! Click below to check out a tutorial for these delectable edible house plants

Cactus Cuts

I don’t give a lot of gardening advice on this blog, unless someone asks a question directly. But here you go.

If you like to take cuttings of your plants and propagate new ones then you should know that we’re taking our final cactus cuts of the year so they’ll be rooted before winter – any later than this and they’ll rot away to nothing.

Phew, that was useful.

Maybe I should make a video.

Cactus Fruit are Easy to Peel

If you know how. Here’s some instructions, with a really nice illustration. Now you too know how to get to the meaty pulp of a spiny cactus pear.

How to peel a cactus pear.

Step 1: Holding the cactus pear with a fork, cut off each end.

Step 2: Make a long vertical slice down the side of the fruit. Cut deep enough to go through the thick skin but try not to cut into the fruit.

Step 3: Gently pry open the skin and it will peel away quite easily.

Step 4: Remove the fruit from the skin and discard the skin.

That looks really easy. Much easier than the technique I used last time I made prickly pear margaritas. They were delicious.

Cactus Nails


Goth Garden sends along a remarkable photo of Cactus Nails.

Nails of the Day says:

Well if this isn’t the cutest nail art I’ve ever seen!

OK, so maybe. Maybe not. What do I know about nail art anyway?

Cactus News

Not much going on in the news. People are focused on other things this time of year. Maybe a christmas cactus or two, but that’s about it. Well, let’s look a little deeper and see if we can’t find something in news.

Well, now this is interesting. Giant Jeans Parlor has turned a breadpan into a succulent trough. I’ll bet they drilled holes in the bottom, and then you’ll never be able to use it for bread again. They do have instructions along with this nice picture I’m borrowing:

Now it looks like they have an Aloe, a Anacampseros, and a Fenestraria (aka Baby Toes) in there. I’d worry about the baby toes getting too much water, but with a little careful care, it should do well.

Cactus Roots Grow Deep

Cactus in the desert can have wide spreading shallow roots. But what about in wetter areas like here, this winter?

Cactus Museum has this to say.

Roots: Cactus roots help to gather and preserve water in several ways. In some cacti, shallow, extensive root systems spread laterally away from the plant (e.g. some prickly pear roots spread 10 to 15 feet away). In brief showers which only wet a few inches of soil, the shallow roots help the plant maximize water intake from a large area.


Cactus roots also change characteristics as the water supply fluctuates. After a rainfall, existing dehydrated roots become more water conductive and new rain roots are formed to help soak up water. In times of drought, the rain roots shrivel and fall off and the existing roots dehydrate. The shrinkage of the existing roots creates an air gap that helps to prevent water in the roots from escaping back to the soil. A corky layer on the roots also helps to prevent water loss.

Now that may be true in the desert, but we have found in a densely planted garden where there is water down in the (fast-draining) soil (that you’ve added or amended in your garden), the roots can be deeper. Competition between adjacent plants will cause roots to try deeper than wider, and when they find water down there, which they won’t in the desert but they will in your garden, they’ll want to stay down there.

In fact, we notice that they will go down until they hit the water table in winter, and then they’ll rot off back up to the drier parts of the soil, which also tends to match up with the depth to which you amended your soil to make it faster draining.

This will then cause them to spend the early part of spring growing new roots before they start growing new branches. Every year this cycle repeats, and if you haven’t amended your soil deep enough, then eventually the cactus will fail.

The Lesson: make sure you have amended your soil to be fast draining deep enough that the roots will have plenty of depth to establish and survive the winters. For larger cactus, we recommend at least 2 feet of depth, and don’t crowd them too close to each other either. Give the roots room to grow above the winter water table.

Cactus Tea Cozy

Today seems to be all about the How-To’s, so here we have a unique and rather fascinating look into how to knit a cactus tea cozy.

wootwoot teaches us the rare and tender skills.

First you buy the yarn.

Yarn:  Araucania Nature Wool (100% wool, 240.59 yd/100 gr) : 40 and 08, 1 sk each,  Cascade 220 Quattro (100% wool, 220 yd/100g): 9436 1 sk, approx. 20 yds natural colored lace weight wool.

Then you make a copy of the stitch guide to keep alongside you while you’re knitting.

Stitch Guide:
• m1p: make 1 purl:
stitch by picking up the horizontal bar before next stitch and purling into the back of it.

• S1: Slip 1 stitch

• mb: make 2 stitch bobble:
kfb, turn, p2, turn, s1, k1, psso

• dd: double decrease:
Slip 2 stitches as if to k2tog, k1, pass slipped stitches over.

OK, now you’ve lost me. I don’t know what that is all about. I better stop right here. Here’s a picture of the final product.

Very cozy. If you want to know more, then click through the link already, for crying out loud. The rest of us are going to scroll past this post and get to the good stuff. Margaritas.

Carnivorous Plant

We were not having a lot of success with our pitcher plants this year so Hap tested the water. In the past, EBMUD’s water was nicely neutral, but this year it has become a lot more alkaline so we’ve had to start correcting the water.

Everyone recommends distilled water for carnivorous plants, and we agree.

But we’re using a teaspoon of vinegar in a gallon of regular water at the nursery since it’s cheaper. And at home we’re using our refrigerated drinking water – we put lemon slices in the water and that works too!

Nepenthes alata growing a new baby pitcher, finally. It’s only about an inch right now, but it will eventually get to 12″.

Cleveland Succulents

Apparently gardeners in Ohio are lazy because the Plain Dealer recommends you replace all your difficult to grow plants with the easy to grow Sansevieria.

One reason for the drop in popularity of house plants is that so many varieties were just too difficult or demanding to grow….

Probably the easiest house plant to grow is the… extremely hardy houseplant is sansevieria….

Low light, low water – easy is right.

Size-wise there are two types, low-growing Bird’s Nest (Sansevieria trifasciata) that is perfect for a desk or table, or the old-fashioned taller varieties that look spectacular in an 8-inch or larger pot….

The taller types are definitely old-fashioned, but the bird’s nest types can actually be very modern and quite appropriate even for your well-designed home.

A study by NASA found that it is one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality by passively absorbing toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde.

NASA got in the act studying sansevierias too? Nice!

Clumps of Blooming Airplants

Tillandsia stricta “Green” is huge. And it has purple blooms! What more could you want? You could want for nothing more. I assure you.

People ask us how do you take care of airplants? And I tell them to keep them in bright indirect light, a little direct sun is OK but not too much. Mist 2-3 times per week, or dunk in water once per week – I usually run my under a faucet weekly and then shake it off. Always make sure they dry out within about 4 hours of watering them or they might rot. And finally you should add nutrients to the water once per month. We use an organic Liquid Seaweed at low strength.


Corking Your Succulents

Apparently this idea is an idea for upcycling – otherwise known as re-using, but with a fancy name.


There’s no instructions at the Upcycle site. And it doesn’t tell you how long they will last in those tiny “pots”. Good luck!


Cotyledon orbiculata v spuria

Cotyledon orbiculata v. spuria has gorgeous flowers this time of year. Wow!

And then there’s the pest problem. Aphids. Don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see the gruesome little buggies in closeup. But just so you know, these are on a different plant than the one above.

As it is, aphids love succulent blooms, especially those in the Crassula Family (Crassulaceae) like Cotyledons and Echeverias. Often when the blooms get aphids I will just cut the bloom stalk off and be done with it. In the case of the flowers below, though, they are too pretty for that and too early in the bloom cycle, so we dipped a soft paintbrush in rubbing alcohol and very carefully wiped them off the flowers. Then we sprayed the stalk and area below the flowers with neem oil to try to prevent them from coming back. Good luck!

So now we get to the aphid picture. Turn away!

succulent aphids

Oh. You looked. OK then.

Crochet Succulents

If you know how to crochet and just need some patterns for crocheting succulents, then this here is the find of the century.

Planet June is selling succulent patterns. So hurry up, get those patterns, and crochet yourself some christmas gifts ASAP! I wonder if you could use those as a tea cozy?

And don’t forget the crochet dinosaurs.

Cute! I know what I want you to crochet for me for christmas this year…

Digestible Facts

The Amateur’s Digest has some interesting information about cacti and succulents. For instance, here we have an article about Ceraria namaquensis, a plant that we grow but have had trouble rooting, and right there is some advice that we might have to try out.

This year I have been using commercial peat blocks for rooting more difficult items such as rarer euphorbias, Madagascan thorn bushes and stems of Pachypodium succulentum. While I was at it I put some of the ‘unrootable’ stems of C. namaquensis into the blocks. The cuttings survived well in the moist peat blocks and after about three months began to root and grow.

We’ll see.

Link via Turn Your Thumb Green.

DIY Cactus

The Arizona Republic features DIY home renovations.

The cactus wall-hanging is made of leftover wood-flooring slats that Michelle attached. She covered the whole piece in contact paper. Then she projected the cactus image onto the piece, drew around the image with a pencil and used an X-Acto knife to cut around the design. She peeled off the background and painted it white, then peeled off the cactus design. She figures she spent less than $10 on the piece. Michael McNamara / The Republic

Seems easy enough. If you have a nice branching cholla that you can put a strong light behind to get a shadow on a piece of paper.

Easter Succulents

DIY takes on the traditional Easter Egg and cracks open a fine succulent surprise.

Do you decorate for Easter? Do you like to make unique tablescapes? Do you like to upcycle items?


If your answer to one or all of these questions is yes, then this miniature succulent garden in an egg carton is for you!

Upcycle is an interesting word. I hope that means you are supposed to eat the eggs before upcycling the shells. Otherwise its just wasting food.

Euphorbia Sap

Euphorbia sap in the eye in Iowa?


Let that be a lesson to you all to not get Euphorbia sap in your eye. Don’t get it on your hands and if you do wash your hands thoroughly and immediately. Don’t wait ’til later because you will have forgotten long enough to touch your eye and then look at what happens.

By the way, don’t touch your lips either.

In the meantime, here’s a Euphorbia picture.


Euphorbia lactea “Crest”

October 2021

US Constitution


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