(The Sonoran News 2004)
I had occasion to drop by my sister’s house the other day. When Kathy and I first moved here in 1980 we bought that house and lived there for six years, before moving and selling to my sister and her husband. The thing I love about the old place is the vegetation, all desert, but thick and lush. And the cactus are huge and over planted, creating a cool, green oasis feel. Snuggled in with the forty-year-old mesquite trees the house is secluded and feels more like a jungle than a desert. The yard is an ongoing labor of love that requires constant care.
In our current home we have been planting trees and cactus for eighteen years. I’m quite happy with the progress but we have not achieved the jungle feel yet. This brings me to my point. If you’re new to the area and want a real cactus garden, I advise you learn how to steal… that’s right, become a thief of sorts. I have been stealing cactus cuttings and agave pups from my friends and neighbors for the past twenty years. I would caution you against taking any natural vegetation out of the desert as the fines are stiff and they will seize your vehicle. But most folks will let you take a cutting here and there. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to propagate cactus. Just cut below the joint, allow to harden (the cut to dry out) in the shade for three to five days and then plant it and forget it. Did you know that there is a variety of stag horn that blooms bright purple! Or that a beaver tail blooms bright pink. I have about twenty different kinds of agave and ten or so different prickly pear. Not to mention several different members of the saguaro family, some with hundreds of white flowers as big as a soccer ball that bloom at night. I’ve never seen a saguaro cutting successfully transplanted. But season-by-season I keep adding new varieties with different color flowers to my yard. Now each year I start a few trays of cuttings and pups to share with my friends and neighbors. And so the cycle continues.
Lately, Kathy and I have been having our morning coffee on the front porch. It’s a chance to really enjoy our garden and start the day in a natural setting. It’ quite relaxing and reminds me why we live here.