Friday, October 26, 2012

Barrels of fun...New Mexican autumn

These are the literal barrels, Echinocactus grusonii to be precise. What makes this clump special is that it survived subzero temperatures two years ago for several nights (with cold days between) and survived without damage. It is growing in the Arboretum attached to the Visitor Center at Bosque del Apache, one of New Mexico's secret gems...more at the end about this wonderful place...Much could be said about Golden Barrels, but this is not the blog for just them.

Here is another view of the very artistic Arboretum plantings of succulents. These were begun nearly two decades ago by Dan Perry and Socorro Gonzalez Valdez. Big clumps of Opuntia microdasys survived the subzero devastation with equanimity.

Here is another glimpse of the cactus plantings (notice the golden barrels to the far left?)

Dan and Socorro also have a wonderful private garden with many treasures at their home (where their nursery, Rio Grande Cactus, is also headquartered. One of the MANY plants there that amazed me with this large clump of Echinocactus polycephalus var. xeranthemoides--an endemic of the high Mojave Desert that was planted by the previous owner and has persisted for many years.

There are several greenhouses, each filled with treasures in anticipation of winter (and next spring's sales): above is Gibbaea davisii, a South African succulent. Can one ever have enough?

I find rare plant nurseries like this irresistible, when they have vast arrays of the same species that are so interesting to compare. You never know when a special variation may show up. This is Mammillaria hernandesii, a rare Mexican miniature from Oaxaca.

A closeup of the Mam....CUTE!

And here are masses of Fenestraria aurantiaca in its pure white form. I find those baby toes irresistible! Don't you just want to pinch them? I am slipping! There...I can proceed more soberly...
How about these flats full of Adromischus sp. all coming to bloom simultaneously?

And one last plant: Ceropegia sandersonii in very cute bloom. Reminds me of certain stapeliads or possibly an Aristolochia (all three groups totally unrelated!)...

but perhaps some day you will meet Dan and Socorro (they take their cacti to Cactus Society meetings throughout much of the central and south western USA--including Colorado where I met them many years ago). Above is a picture of Dan--Socorro was at Angel Falls in Venezuela while we visited NM...that lucky guy!

I finish with a lovely sunset (look carefully and you will see some Greater Sandhill Cranes flying through it). Dan worked at the Refuge for many years, and seems to genuinely enjoy revisiting and taking along newbies like me and Jan. We had a magical sunset watching hundreds of cranes fly back from the fields where they were gleaning all day, and came back at dawn the next morning to watch most of them fly off for another day's hardwon food.

I have decided we must go back next year and join Dan and Socorro to climb the nearbyChupadera mountain at 5,700' and find the giant Opuntia engelmannii that grows on top. And oh yes, the yellow Penstemon pinifolius he saw a few years ago. Meanwhile, one can dream about the fact that so many "tender" cacti survived the worst cold in a century so well...perhaps we might imagine golden barrels one day that we might grow outdoors in Colorado with a bit of pampering...who knows?


  1. And you didn't call?!?

    Looks like a great trip, and I can see those plants are recovering well from where they were beaten down. Dan and Socorro are great. And Echinocereus polycephalus, too...nice. I need to revisit that garden, as I go by it often.

    You said some zingers - was that Golden Barrel clump covered in the Uber-freeze of 2011, or out in it? (winds in that event were E, so building might not protect at all - I also thought most or all froze in El Paso) And there's an Opuntia engelmannii on top of the Magdalena Mtns? (I've never seen them much above 7000', at least in central NM) Amazing stuff!

  2. The barrel cactus survival of exceptional cold is especially good information. I found more info on their website as to how to get mine through their first winter here in south Texas.

    Thanks for this tour of such a special place. Those baby toes and the other succulents are so cute.

  3. Glad you checked out their website, Shirley: they have a lot of good information on it. The Golden Barrels are tucked under a ledge facing south--so they may well have gotten some protection. I doubt that we will be landscaping with them very soon! But the fact they could endure even a few days of extreme cold is fascinating: I wonder if a perfect microclimate in Albuquerque wouldn't work? We are probably not warm enough long enough to build up carbohydrate stores up north--even if we did protect some in the winter. But I have some glimmers of hope!

  4. Wonderful post!
    I love the reads on the plants that should not be as the golden barrel. It gives good hope for places like a zone 8 or colder. I seen in SE Arizona where they almost all died that winter (East of Tucson), but a few somehow lived temps as cold as -2F. And many palms that lived after -5F amazing!
    Also thanks for posting the pic of the Echinocactus polycephalus. Great cactus and will live in a dry zone 5b with good drainage and covered from snow in the winter.


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