Kreepy kacti and kuddly kritters

2 12 2008

(Hey, if the Kactus Korral can take liberties on the spelling of their name, I should be able to do the same!)

Creepy cacti and sumptious succulents weren’t the only photographic subjects on our visit to the Kactus Korral. (See my previous posting here.) As soon as we entered the greenhouse, a small and elusive black cat appeared. We later discovered she was checking on her three tiny, six-week-old kittens. I discovered the kittens under a table and fell instantly in love! One was a calico and the other two were torties—one with a neat yin & yang stripe down its nose.

Plants and kittens…do I have to choose?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Kactus Korral revisited

2 12 2008

On this trip to Texas, we stopped at the Kactus Korral in Harwood, Texas, before heading to our final destination—San Antonio. Usually we stop at the Kactus Korral on the way back to Virginia (after leaving space in the car to fill with plants, of course). We learned from Molly (our friendly plant expert/cashier pictured in the last photo below) that the Kactus Korral will probably be closed by January 2009.

Saddened by that news, I bought more plants than usual, knowing I wouldn’t get a chance to see this many gorgeous plants in so many varieties again. I picked up some that I don’t ever see in our local nurseries, such as two variations of the otherworldly “Ghost Cactus” (Euphorbia trigona ‘Ghost’), which is native to Mexico. Once again, we scored bargains. Essentially everything was 50% off—the plants I picked out ranged from less than $2 for the smallest size to under $6 for the largest. After gathering my bounty, I photographed my favorite plant heaven one last time while Molly calculated the (minor) damage to my cash-on-hand. Many of the plants were in bloom, so I got to see what one of my favorite plants—Lithops or “living stones”—might look like when they finally bloom. This time around, I bought 4″ pots with large “colonies” of these amazing little brainy-looking plants rather than the small single specimens. Many of them were already blooming with pink, yellow, and white fringe-like flowers. (See my posting last year on the Kactus Korral here.)

If you’re in the San Antonio/Austin area, you might want to check out the Kactus Korral before it closes. The selection is overwhelming, the plants are very healthy, and the prices (plants are 50% off, pots are 60% off) are amazing. I just wish I had the money (and the space) to offer to buy their inventory! Michael and I pondered that insane idea, thinking we could start a cacti/succulent nursery in Virginia—since no one in our area offers such an incredible variety of cacti and succulents. My only problem would be letting go of the inventory!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Died and gone to (50% off) cactus heaven…

29 01 2008

suc·cu·lent: (of a plant) having fleshy and juicy tissues. a succulent plant, as a sedum or cactus. having thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems.

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After packing up the car (floorboard to roof) this past Friday, I insisted that we leave open space in the back seat for our trip to the Kactus Korral (http://www.kactus.com/), in Harwood, Texas. Taking an alternate route back to Virginia, we stumbled onto this place in 2006, about 70+ miles from San Antonio. The best part of our 2nd trip? Everything was 50% off this time around! Heart pounding, steps quickening, I was in (deeply discounted) cactus heaven! And to top it off, everything I bought fit exactly into its allotted space in an already full car.

Although the Kactus Korral (some Texans take liberties with spelling, don’t they?) is primarily a wholesale nursery, they are open to the public. They have the healthiest, most interesting and diversified selection of cacti and succulents I’ve ever seen in a nursery. If we had more sunny windows in our townhouse (and uh, more space in the car), I would have bought one of everything (especially at 50% off). This place is very out of the way, across some railroad tracks, down a two-lane road. And just like the first visit, we had the greenhouse to ourselves. I bought just over a dozen lithops, or living stones (for about $1 each!). They germinate quickly from seed, but are very slow growing—not ready for transplanting until they are about a year old.

Lithops is drived from the Greek lithos, meaning stone-like or stone appearance. As the “stones” mature, they split open, revealing babies (sometimes of a different color, too)…and they continue to split, forming little colonies. In the wild, these flowering plants occur mainly in the western, drier areas of South Africa.

http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantklm/lithops.htm

(http://www.lithop.supanet.com/

I just love these unusual plants. If one is good, a dozen (plus) is gooder!

Obviously I bought more than just that dozen lithops (it’s not my fault). I was so very tempted by the “crown of thorns,” available in various shades of apricot, yellow, red, pink, and white. This plant’s botanical name is Euphorbia millii, and is also know as the Christ Crown. This common name refers to legend that a crown of thorns was placed on Christ’s head at the crucifixion. Originally from Madagascar, these easy-to-care-for plants seem to bloom continuously all year long. I have two miniscule ones but they are not as lush as the specimens at Kactus Korral. So, with great hesitation, I refrained from adding one to my collection. One other thought occurred to me during this agonizing decision making process—purchasing even one (and who could choose just one color?), would mean leaving behind a suitcase or…gasp—a box of gardening books!

http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/HomeHort/F1Column/2006%20Articles/AUG6%20Euphorbiaceae.htm

Michael and I were amazed at how large their pencil cactus (or milkbush) plants were. Several were over nine feet tall! These plants are also a member of the Euphorbia family, Euphorbia tirucalli. I have one that is about two feet tall (picked up in Louisiana when we drove down to Texas for Christmas), but after reading about the cons of this plant, I’m rethinking its placement right now. Note: If a plant is classified as a Euphorbia, it will have poisonous sap (crown of thorns included, but the properties of poison in each plant vary from species to species. Poinsettias, for example, are also Euphorbias, and aren’t as poisonous as most of us think (according to vets writing on the subject online), but they are irritating to the mucosal tissues. Some Euphorbias are very poisonous, though.

http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/Pencil_Cactus.htm

Kactus Korral is a wonderful place to shop, and with its rows and rows of exotic, twisty, otherworldly, prickly, hairy, spiky, medusa-like, and colorful plants, it’s also a dream place to shoot graphically-rich shots, as you can see. Some shots looks like miniature landscapes with rows of “skyscrapers” and “crowds.” I shot these with my little Nikon Coolpix L3 compact camera (couldn’t get to my “pro” cameras buried in the back of the car).

I am especially enamored with the “non-cacti” succulents, of which Kactus Korral had several kinds (lithops, aeoniums, crasulas, aloes, echeverias, and astrolobas, to name a few). Here’s a great site with an extensive inventory: http://www.gosucculent.com

To learn more about growing cacti, check out this site: http://cactiguide.com/growcacti/

And remember, all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


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