The Gardener's Guide to Cactus: The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globes, Scott Calhoun, Timber Press, Portland, OR (January 31, 2012); 228 pps, 128 color photos, paperback; publisher's price: $24.95; Amazon price: $16.47.
I was thrilled to find The Gardener’s Guide to Cactus by Scott Calhoun! I have been crazy about cacti since being transplanted from Buffalo, NY to Phoenix, AZ in 1978. Going from a wet, cold Northeast climate to a hot, dry desert was quite a shock to my system! Having 3 small boys and a job did not afford me a lot of time to garden. I did however immediately plant a rosebush and a prickly pear cactus. Watering the rose regularly caused the cactus to grow really quickly and within a few years I was painfully removing a huge part of it.
Over the years my gardening style and interests have grown and changed. I now live in the high desert in John Day, Oregon and own a nursery on the John Day River. Not only do we have extremes of heat, cold and drought to contend with but also a serious deer problem. So my interest has returned to growing and learning about cacti.
The Gardener’s Guide to Cactus has been a wonderful resource for me. I was surprised to learn how many easy care and beautifully flowering cacti are cold hardy and will survive my harsh environment! Having been previously familiar with yellow flowered prickly pear or Opuntia, I am now on the look-out for a 'Winter Glow' beavertail which has “spineless pads and ruffled pink flowers” and “exceptionally dark purple-red winter appearance” as described by Scott Calhoun.
Recent acquisitions of Opuntia fragilis or potato cactus, zone 3, the Whipple cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei) cultivar 'Snow Leopard', zone 5 and Pediocactus simpsonii, zone 3 and also native to this area, are all pictured and described in detail in this beautiful book. Information on native habitat, mature size, hardiness, flower color, flowering season, design suggestions and cultivation are all included.
Scott also gives information on tools of the trade, soil mixes, watering schedules and even explains how cacti photosynthesize at night, losing 1/10 as much water as standard plants. With a detailed description of 100 different cacti, everyone should find something to grow in their area. This is a very helpful book for those of us just beginning our journey into the world of cactus.
Gail Klodzinski is Chairperson of the Painted Hills Chapter of NARGS and owner of the Rock Garden Nursery in John Day, OR.