Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Desert drama in a cinder cavity

One year ago, I described an unusual garden I painstakingly designed to support twenty-three species and variants of cactus and succulent plants.
It was made out of the type of cinder blocks and cement capstones available for very little money at any hardware store, and it turned a useless corner of my micro-yard into an inviting bower of sorts.  In the past year, I have spent many hours sitting on that front bench with a good book and that black tea pot you see on the ledge to the right.   
If you look at the cinder block at the lowest right-hand location in the photo above, you'll see a little white fuzzy barrel cactus, species unknown (it's whatever they had available on the half-price table at Houston Garden Centers).  Here is what that same cactus looked like yesterday:
My husband called them "Phoenix flowers" because they look like they have risen from the ashes of this withered husk of a cactus. 

But the cactus is not nearly as decrepit as it appears, obviously.  The secret lives of cacti:  How is this thing even able to photosynthesize?  I don't see a speck of green anywhere.  It doesn't seem to have grown a single millimeter in the past year, but it obviously managed to gather sufficient energy for this riotous display. 
Bluebonnets may be making the news right now, but flowering cacti also have a cult following, and there are a number of sources that provide regular updates on the status of the spring bloom, especially around areas such as Big Bend.  My husband and I are consummate Big Benders (gosh, that sounds obscene), but we're also family folk, and with the demands of school schedules, we've never been at liberty to time a trip to hit the height of the annual bloom.  Despite persistent state-wide drought, the rainfall has improved somewhat in the Trans Pecos over the past few months, and this year's bloom might turn out to be pretty good, despite the devastation caused by the drought of 2011.  Until such time as we are able to experience the likes of a good spring bloom in west Texas, I'll be nurturing my own little micro-desert in my micro-back yard.
And it's positively other-worldly. 

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