In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
May, 2006
Regional Report

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Cactus flowers in bloom at a nursery show off their vivid color.

Cactus Flowers

I take an almost silly pleasure in my saguaro. I planted it as a small spike 15 years ago. Even though it was only about 4 feet tall and 6 inches in diameter with no arms, it was surprisingly heavy, requiring two people to hold it steady during transplanting.

The first year I watered it with occasional deep soakings, and for another few years I watered it a couple times during the heat of summer if there was no rain. But since then, it has survived nicely on rainfall and no doubt some moisture-sneaking from other areas, assuming its roots have spread out. Saguaro root sytems are shallow but can travel quite far in their quest to absorb scant rainfall in the desert.

Just eyeballing my saguaro's height, I estimate it has grown to 15 or 16 feet tall, and it's too wide for me to wrap my arms around the circumference. (Not that tree-hugging would be a very smart practice with those cactus spines.) Last year it flowered for the first time, perhaps encouraged by the steady winter rains we enjoyed. Two green knobs of the same size, spaced perfectly on opposite sides of the cactus, started to show. Before the flowers themselves popped open, the round buds looked just like Shrek's ears. I was inordinately proud, I admit it. Not that I had a cactus that resembled an imaginary movie character, but that it had matured into such an impressive specimen.

Just a few days ago I noticed a couple dozen of the little knobs poking forth, scattered all over the top of the saguaro. In nature, the saguaro provides for many creatures, so I'm looking forward to seeing what wildlife will be drawn to those blooms and later the bright red fruits.


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