What to do in Pasadena this Weekend

28th Annual Succulent Plants Symposium

Sept. 3 (Saturday)
8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Steven Hammer, one of the world’s leading experts on mesembs (plants in the ice plant family, including lithops and other genera) will be the keynote speaker at this year’s symposium. Other presentations will highlight notable succulents from Chile, travels in Namibia, a closer look at euphorbias, and the origins of a common succulent weed.

If you’re not already registered there’s no guarantee they’ll let you in, but you could try.

If you can’t make it to the symposium the gardens are pretty nice too.

Monsoon Blogging

They have regular monsoons in India, even if it’s not a hurricane hitting New York City. And the local english language papers print monsoon photos from readers. Excellent.

First up we received this interesting image from Subhendu Chakravarty, of a cactus plant with drops hanging off that seem to create the illusion of a crocodile’s opened mouth with the teeth showing. He says, “This photograph was shot just after a spell of monsoon rain. It is the cactus growing on the boundary wall of my house.”

Looks to me like a night-blooming cereus. Maybe a Cereus spegazzinii.

Press Release Blogging

We can thank Nancy from Vorticom, Inc. for making my job this morning very easy. Here’s her press release on a Green Roof in Illinois.

Kankakee, Illinois-based Riverside Medical Center, www.RiversideMC.net, named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals four years in a row by Thomson Reuters, unveils the installation of a large eco-friendly Vegetative Living Green Roof System in celebration of the hospital’s commitment to environmental stewardship and the launch of the hospital’s East Tower. The planting system and vegetation on the living roofs act as insulation and will reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 20%. The installation of this green roof at Riverside Medical Center provides patients, visitors and employees with an ever changing landscape canvas atop a rooftop space that was previously barren.

Here’s the photo.

Well, it looks good, but I should say one thing to Nancy – if you want bloggers to post your press releases and photos, and want to make it so easy for us that we don’t have to do anything at all, then you should pre-shrink the images to fit on the blog. I had to actually open up photoshop and resize the image all by myself! And then I had to write this here whole paragraph about it too! This kind of snark doesn’t write itself you know.

Mad Cactus Makeover

A cactus-themed restaurant in Ohio is getting a Food Network makeover on Restaurant Impossible.

The Food Network will be in town to film an episode of Restaurant: Impossible at The Mad Cactus. Credit Debbie Palmer

I wonder if Chef Robert Irvine will let those cactus coat stands stay? Probably not. But then, if you remove the cactus from the Mad Cactus, will they have to rename it?!?

Stay tuned!

Tucson Cactus Society Dreams Big

They’re dreaming of making the biggest cactus park in the country.

The Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society is creating a park full of prickly pear, cholla and other desert plants at the Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department’s headquarters.

A cactus park in the desert may sound redundant but the society, in partnership with Pima County, wants residents and visitors to better understand and appreciate the rich diversity of these desert plants and their value to humans, animals, insects and the environment.

The society wants to make the 9.4-acre Prickly Park at 3500 W. River Road the largest and most complete collection of prickly pear and cholla in the United States.

That’s gonna take a lotta cactus.

What should they call the park? How about Thats a Lotta Cactus Park. Or maybe Cactus and More Cactus Park.

I have dozens more of these names, so don’t get me started. Like Tumbleweeds and Cactus on the Park.

Now, if you start to add in puns too, then there are literally hundreds of possibilities. But Hap doesn’t like puns, so this blog has sworn off them.

Prize Winning Cactus

In Hartford! I wonder if they mean Hartford, CT?

Paula McDonald’s first place cactus stands on display in the open class floral building on Tuesday at the Hartford Fair. / Jason Lenhart/The Advocate

Of course this being an American newspaper they get certain details, shall we say, wrong. Like the fact that this is not a cactus. Now it seems to me that a judged show would know the difference between a cactus and a Euphorbia, and that the newspaper writer who may not know the difference at least would be able to read the category headings at the show to know what the prize was for. That’s what I would think.

Growing Cactus in Washington

The Tacoma Zoo has it all figured out.

At Tacoma’s Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium a full blown – and often blooming – cactus garden is thriving alongside the meerkats and lemurs.

It seems like an oxymoron of gardening: a cactus garden in the soggy Pacific Northwest. Don’t these leafless plants need long days of scorching sun and drought-like growing conditions?

…The garden just inside the main entrance to the zoo is now in its fourth summer. The long crescent-shaped space contains not only cacti but other arid zone plants…. “Year-round this will stop people,” Jones says of the garden. “(There are) lots of questions about how to grow these.”

Indeed if you read further into the article they tell you how they succeed. Including this truism:

“Snow is a positive. It acts as an insulator.”

Holiday Blogging

Today is National Middle Child Day and I plan on celebrating my being a National Middle Child by asking you to give me presents on my special day.

I like silver.

Here, have a silvery succulent.

Orostachys iwarenge, also known as Chinese Dunce Cap for its tall bloom spires.

Restaurant News and the Devil's Backbone

No Grumpy Cactus (Restaurant) for Dedham (MA).

This seems like an important function for this here Cactus Blog to perform for you. To let you know when restaurants with the word cactus in their names fail.

Let me know what other businesses with the word cactus in their name you would like to know about after they fail. It’s a service I will be happy to perform. Probably not on a daily basis, but maybe a monthly feature?

Here, have a photo of a Devil’s Backbone!

Pedilanthus tithymaloides variegata

Succulent Thievery in SF with Video!

Last year I posted about a succulent thief working the Bernal Heights section of San Francisco, and this year someone has photographed a possible culprit. I won’t post the photo, but you can click through to the SF Weekly to see for yourself.

Police are baffled by a string of plants thefts in Bernal Heights, where someone has been snipping off large sections of succulents from various homes.

The most recent case happened this week, when a resident called police to report that someone had ripped some cacti from their front yard…

The good news is the thief appears to be an idiot.

But what really bothers (Officer Harry) Soulette is the fact that these crooks clearly don’t know much about gardening.

“They are chopping them off at the wrong place — they are killing them,” Soulette says. “So if they are taking them for the purpose of replanting them, then they are just damaging them, which is why we think they are just doing it to be malicious.”

An officer with horticultural knowledge? Nice!

And now security footage has finally surfaced showing a drive-by succulent thief in action. The horror is palpable. I think it was an Aeonium he got away with.

Local News Photos With Cactus

The world loves a blooming cactus! They’ll write whole articles just so they can include a blooming cactus photo. Like this one from Bakersfield.

Containers provide a lot of color and interest in the Bovi-Pickard back yard; at right, Doug is watering while Sherly is checking out her favorite cactus blooms

A close-up of cactus blooming in the Bovi-Pickard back yard; they are the third owners of the the first house built in Golden Hills (by Zella Young) in 1967.

Again with newspaper publishing cactus photos without naming the plants. Local news!

Cactus Fest '11

We missed the Santa Cruz Cactus Festival again this year. I’m sure it proved to be delicious. It was last weekend.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel hasn’t posted the winners online yet, but they did post this Nopales Salad recipe for us to share with you so you could enjoy it.


2 medium nopale pads, cleaned
1 tablespoon Spanish (or other fruity) olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoon finely chopped Maui onion
1 teaspoon finely minced roasted garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced serrano chile
2 tablespoons finely minced red brll pepper
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon queso fresco

1. Slice nopales into thin strips. Saute in olive oil till just browned, but not soft.
2. When cool, toss with other ingredients. Add more lime , if necessary.
3. Serve in a chilled bowl, or iceberg lettuce cups, or on a crisp tortilla. Sprinkle with queso fresco.

Cheryl Marquez grows her own cactus for nopales dishes at her Tortilla Flats restaurant in Soquel (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)

Pennsylvania Cactus

The local Towanda, PA news is all atwitter about the cactus in Pennsylvania that blooms year-round.

Kay Shaw is pictured outdoors next to a cactus that continues to grow and bloom throughout the year — even in the winter.

Except right now, of course, when it’s not blooming for the photographer. Or, dare I say, maybe they made the whole thing up. Perish the thought. But please don’t think I’m a conspiracy nut.

Bank Fails, Cactus Remains

An old-time Milwaukee bank is brought down by its bad loans (I guess they weren’t too big to fail) and all that’s left are some scraggly cactus in the desert. Why were they investing in the desert anyway?

Stupid banks.

On an empty desert lot covered with snake holes, cactus and scraggly brush lie the clearest clues to the demise of Marshall & Ilsley Corp., the once-great Wisconsin bank company brought down by its expansion into red-hot real estate markets at the worst possible time. Photo/Roy Dabner

Nice cactus!

Corona Del Mar Succulents

The SoCal city of Corona Del Mar planted succulents around trees recently in an attempt to finally beautify these coastal california streets.

Now that’s something special. I wish every city did this. Don’t you?

Cactus Pedigree

Cactus Jane has raced once at Del Mar, and won, so that’s good. Bloodlines go back to Native Dancer and Secretariat, successful horses both. I thought you should know, in case your bets on the horses are biased on their botanically based names.

June Rains

Photos from yesterday’s record late June rains, from Berkeleyside.

If it isn’t climate change, then it must be collateral damage from alien laser wars.

(In case you were wondering the previous record was .21″ 60 years ago and we got .79″ yesterday. Courtesy of weather underground.)

Century Plant in Fremont

The Oakland Tribune wrote a whole article about someone’s Agave getting ready to bloom and didn’t include any photos. Although really, they get some of the facts wrong and they didn’t call us, the local experts, and most mystifying of all is why would they print this at all? I mean, it’s not like there aren’t hundreds of Agave blooms every summer throughout the Oakland and Berkeley hills, shooting up 40 feet tall. Just look up in the hills in mid summer and you can’t miss them.

FREMONT — At first glance, it appears that Susie and Jim Richardson have grown the world’s largest asparagus.

But the 25-foot-tall stalk that sprang up on their Niles district property last month is actually a type of cactus that goes out with a very big bang.

Commonly known as the century plant, the agave americana lives a modest existence for decades as a relatively small succulent until its final months, when it shoots up a mighty stalk that blooms like a tree in spring. Then it dies.

Errors? It’s not a cactus. Genus is always capitalized. And Agave americana is a relatively small succulent???? Hah! They get 12 feet across! They should have called us. I give good quotes over the phone to reporters.

What to Do in Michigan Today?

Hanging out on Lake Leelanau, Michigan for your summer vacation? Try this today.

Saturday, June 18; “Living Wreaths and Spheres.” Participants will create their own sphagnum wreaths or spheres with hardy succulents and sedums. This workshop is set for 10 a.m.

Later the same day, at 2 p.m. a variety of winter hardy succulents will be combined to create animal topiaries.

This seems to be a bit too specific for this blog. How many readers do we have on Lake Leelanau, Michigan? Probably none. Not even one. Makes me sad just to think about it.

Ah well, maybe next year.

Madagascar Palm

Pachypodium lamerei is in bloom. This plant is 8 ft. tall, and blooming for the first time. That is in it’s nature. Looks a lot like a plumeria flower.

In honor of our big blooming Pachypodium lamerei, we’re also now selling babies too so you can have the pleasure of growing the plant to 8 feet and watching it finally bloom.

Cactus Calls

Apparently “Cactus” is the phrase of choice for prank callers. So much so that the very act of prank calling is now called “Cactus.”


A “Cactus” has become the PLA’s mascot, as well as catchphrase. The origin of the word dates back to an old prank call by RBCP, where he would say nothing but the word “cactus,” over and over. In common usage, It can be stated with a question mark “Cactus?” or as an exclamation “Cactus!” Similar “Cactus” themed prank calls are often made by PLA members. (PLA issue #35, 1995)

At least if Wikipedia is to be believed. And I do. Believe. Wikipedia.

Growing Organic Veggies in the Bay Area

Fog? Shade? Hot Sun? The Chronicle has a good article about defining terms and determining what you can grow. Here’s a sample, but click through for the whole thing.

The short answer is that you can grow leafy and root crops, such as lettuce and beets, if you have at least four hours of sunlight, while fruiting ones, like squash and tomatoes, need six hours or more. However, I have found that a number of crops can grow with fewer than four hours of sun….

In the first situation, known as “full” or “deep shade,” it isn’t likely any food crop would thrive, while in the second, known as “open shade,” some leafy crops, such as parsley or arugula, will do just fine….

And what about all that summer fog? Photosynthesis is definitely slower on low-light days. But a certain number of such days are factored into the standard advice for growing plants….

The same number of hours of sunlight on a cool coastal day will allow for less plant growth than they would on a warm inland day…. At the coast, even full all-day sun is unlikely to be enough to let a melon plant grow to maturity and develop sweet fruit.

On the other hand, on extremely hot days, photosynthesis will shut down, and plants will not be able to use all the sunlight they get. This is why we hear, for many plants, the advice to “grow in full sun at the coast, partial shade inland.”

So there you go. It’s a long excerpt from a much longer article.

Up next we have a backyard farm tour of Oakland and Berkeley so you can see for yourself how others do it. That Chronicle, with such helpful information!

Next Sunday, the institute will offer tours of five backyard farms of varying sizes to demonstrate various sides of urban sustainability and show people how they can use the land they have….

The Institute of Urban Homesteading’s Urban Farm Tours take place at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. next Sunday (June 19) in Oakland and Berkeley. Choose up to three farms to visit; each tour lasts up to 45 minutes. $5 per tour; $3 for children under 12. To register and receive maps and directions, contact the institute at www.iuhoakland.com/farmtour.html

In case you were wondering, we do still have lots of organic veggie starts at the store, and we will keep carrying them throughout the summer and fall too since we can really grow them year round around here, if the articles above are any indication.

Scheduling Months in Advance

Henry Shaw Cactus and Succulent Society Show and Sale, July 23 through July 31

Show and sale hours are noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 24 through July 31. The event is included with Garden admission. Novice gardeners can begin to grow their cacti and succulent collections with a variety of inexpensive and easy-to-care-for plants. Collectors and serious enthusiasts will enjoy browsing many unusual and hard-to-find varieties.

I’ll keep it in mind.

Chattanooga Succulents

How to care for indoor succulents in Tennessee is a question I often get asked. Finally, the Chattanooga Times Free Press has the answers. I’ve reduced their 5 tips to bullet points for you, but you can click through for the full Tennessee tale.

1. Make sure succulents have full sun to part shade.

That’s kind of a broad standard that will hold true for most plants in the world. Yay!

2. Do not overwater.

Now I love this piece of advice, because it’s so true. If I had to tell you one thing to take away from this article, it’s bullet point number 2.

3. Use a good-quality “soil-less” soil.


4. Recommended varieties: Aeonium Tip Top, Dyckia Hybrid Burgundy Ice, Echeveria Nodulosa, Sedum Coppertone, Echeveria Black Prince and Kalanchoe Thyrisifolia

I don’t know why those particular varieties, many of which are patented, are the recommended varieties for Chattanooga. I suppose it’s all good. Of course, species names should be lowercase and cultivar names, especially the patented ones, should be in quotes. There I go getting all pedantic on you again. Shame on me.

5. Planting pointer: Mix them with hardy succulents (not listed) for different textures.

Now that’s just not very helpful. Pictures would have been helpful though.


Southfield Nurseries, of Bourne Road, Morton, won ‘best in show’ for an exhibition of cacti at the Spring Gardening Show at Malvern.

They received their award from the Duke of Gloucester.

That is very good news for the Bourne Road Cactus Growers of Morton. Nice Echinopsises, too. For some reason the local paper didn’t take a picture of the award winning exhibition, but instead after the show had closed went to Bourne Road in Morton and took a picture of the growing greemhouse with the blooming Echinopsises and some Cleistocactus and Echinocactus in the background too.

Portland Succulents Come Cheap

I think this article is telling Portland residents to steal succulent cuttings from their neighbors. I’m not sure why, but then I may be exaggerating.

You have probably seen them growing in pots and on rocks, nestled within the well-landscaped and manicured lawns of Portland. It turns out succulents can be easily reproduced and need little to no care, making them a cheap and sustainable addition to any garden….

The first step to creating a sustainable succulent garden is to track down a few plants that you find most attractive. A saunter through almost any Portland neighborhood will surface some of the more popular varieties in the area such as Sedeveria, Seduum, Sempervivum (also called hens and chicks), Echeveria, and Pachypytum.

What do you think, am I right? Are they telling you to walk around Portland and steal succulents when you find ones you like?

June 2023

US Constitution


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