Wednesday 29 August 2012

Plant Of The Week

Opuntia engalmannii
Hardy opuntia

This prickly pear survived the double winter of 2010 without turning a hair. I think it is Opuntia engalmannii. The rocks and gravel cover ordinary garden soil. 

In recent years I have returned to my childhood passion of growing cacti: this time in the guise of growing them outside.

This completely hardy variety is
called ‘Smithwick’. I love that name!
Sometimes the birds peck off its pads
which then root in the ground. They get
quite a shock pecking these prickles!
Winter in Yorkshire is not a good time for cacti. The problem is not the cold, it’s the wet soil and high humidity. For any success, cacti must be planted in well drained, fertile soil and be in an open sunny position. I now have half a dozen cacti that are completely winter hardy and stay outside all year round. With the rest, I cheat. I lift them to my unheated glasshouse. There they stay, un-watered, from mid December to March. This short respite from the winter wet is enough for them to remain strong and healthy outside for the rest of the year. If it snows after March, they look great and are completely unharmed. In the UK, most cacti will not grow outside all year round, but if you search the net, you will find at least a dozen that do. Perhaps fifty more respond to my ‘bedding out’ system. Have a look at The Cactus Shop.

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