Cactus: great plants and an AWESOME new book...

 First..the plants! This is Echinocereus reichenbachii (although I would still like to call it E. albispinus), a distinctive race of the polymorphic lace cactus that comes from Oklahoma (that much overlooked, flown-over and insufficiently appreciated state full of treasures: I will be telling you more about Oklahoma in another blog to come..) This spectacular gem bloomed for me three days ago. The flowers last only a few hours. The Japanese celebrate Cherry Blossoms not only because of theri beauty but because of their transience. I celebrate cactus flowers for the same reason...Hossanah!


 Not all cacti are spectacular: this is a highly local species from the Big Bend country that has proved very hardy: Echinocereus chloranthus is basically our local green flowered hedgehog on steroids, but this is its first blooming for me. I got the plant from Agua Fria nursery in Santa Fe--added reason why I am so pleased to admire and photograph it. Many plants I grow I value as much for the nurseryman or friend who provided it to me as for the plant itself.
Just as subtle is Escobaria missouriensis, the universal ball cactus of the Great Plains and the Intermountain region to boot: despite its vast range in nature, I have only found it a few times in the wild. I think much of its range is now wheat field or strip mall. All the more reason to propagate and treasure it...the flower color is surprisingly variable, from nearly pure yellow to dark browns and every amber and bronzy shade in between. I'd love one of each, please! This is the large, clumping form from Kansas (in this case) and yes, Oklahoma...


If you are the least bit enchanted with these treasures, you must obtain Leo Chance's brand spanking new book on them: Leo is a dear friend of mine who has grown more hardy cactus than almost anyone I know (okay, Rod, you may have grown a few more in your day!), and he has certainly succeeded with more Southern Hemisphere cacti in Zone 5 than anyone I know. His book is chockablock full of first hand information gleaned from not just his own experience, but our entire regional community. The pictures throughout are wonderful and show the extent and complexity of the hardy plant enthusiasm in the Southern Rockies: Congratulations, Leo: may your book hit the stratosphere in sales!

(Disclaimer: I did write the Foreword to Leo's book, but I shan't even get a toaster if it does hit the stratosphere: my praise and delight in the book is pure as the driven snow! Or as a cactus blossom).

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