Posts

12 Days of Cactus
,

The 12 Days of Cactus

When putting this together, I envisioned friends and family sitting around the tree with a fire going. They’re finishing hot mugs of cocoa (laced with whiskey for the grownups). I hand out Xeroxed copies; they peer at the words. Teens giggle at the word “obesa.” Someone asks how to pronounce “saguaro.” But no one groans. They all know the tune. I clear my throat and begin…

On the first day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

A dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the second day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the third day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the fourth day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the fifth day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the sixth day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Six obesas blooming, five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the seventh day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Seven saguaros spinning, six obesas blooming, five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the eighth day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Eight mams a-milking, seven saguaros spinning, six obesas blooming, five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the ninth day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Nine lithops dancing, eight mams a-milking, seven saguaros spinning, six obesas blooming, five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the tenth day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Ten chollas jumping, nine lithops dancing, eight mams a-milking, seven saguaros spinning, six obesas blooming, five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the eleventh day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Eleven trips to Tucson, ten chollas jumping, nine lithops dancing, eight mams a-milking, seven saguaros spinning, six obesas blooming, five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

On the twelfth day of cactus, my true love gave to me:

Twelve ‘Sunburst’ drumming, eleven trips to Tucson, ten chollas jumping, nine lithops dancing, eight mams a-milking, seven saguaros spinning, six obesas blooming, five golden barrels, four claret cups, three hens-and-chicks, two agave pups and a dove in a prickly pear tree.

Now, if you’d like to suggest alternative or more alliterative lyrics, please do so. I likely have photos to match. I’ll update this as good suggestions come along. 

See the YouTube version, set to music:

12 Days of Cactus

Happy AloeDays, one and all! — Debra

Succulent topiary tree
, , , ,

Six New Holiday Designs to Inspire You

To inspire and entertain you, I’ve selected six new, never-seen-before holiday design ideas featuring succulents. Do consider each as a launching point for your creativity, and feel free to share them with friends. I’d love it if you’d post photos of what you come up with on Instagram or Facebook, and tag me @DebraLBaldwin. Regardless, have fun and enjoy!Succulent topiary tree
Sempervivum topiary tree.
This is a riff on my 2017 topiary tree. I love hens-and-chicks but only recently have grown them successfully year-round. The concept for this year’s mini-tree was one by Margee Rader in my book, Succulent Container Gardens. I used nearly 50 assorted Sempervivum heuffelii (hew-FEL-ee-eye) hybrids in 2-inch pots from Mountain Crest Gardens. When the holidays are over, they’ll join my other “heuffs” in the garden. (Most semps don’t like our hot summers here in Southern CA but so far, heuffs–which used to be classified as Jovibarba–are doing well.) See my materials list for a topiary tree. Succulent pine cone ornaments
Ready-made succulent ornaments.
Speaking of Mountain Crest Gardens, the succulent pine-cone ornaments they introduced this year are a super deal. The set of three includes six sempervivums atop sequoia cones (each 3-inches tall by 1.5-inches wide) for $10. So that means you get six semps that you can wiggle off and plant after the holidays for under $2 each! Be sure to check out MCG’s other fetching succulent ornaments too.

Crassula tetragona Christmas tree

Mini succulent Christmas tree. This desktop tree is 8 inches tall with a 4-inch-wide base. To make glass balls appear to hang from branches, I held the three-stemmed cutting upside-down, dotted the leaves with white glue, then added beads. A small, shallow container makes the cutting look proportionally large and treelike. A glass jar lid sort of looks like ice, but any container will do including a flowerpot. A small floral frog (a flower holder made of metal pins) holds the cutting upright, and white sand with blue sparkles hides the frog and suggests snow.

Succulents Lit for the Holidays
Succulent garden of lights.
Every year Sabine Hildebrand of  Weidner’s Gardens nursery in Encinitas, CA, decorates her own garden with holiday lights. In December night falls by 5:00, so Sabine and husband Rob enjoy their glowing garden for hours every evening. She keeps the design simple—no colored or twinkling lights—to showcase the plants’ shapes and colors. There’s not much difference in decorating succulents instead of shrubs, Sabine says. “Do it late in the afternoon so you can see the results as it’s getting dark. Then rearrange the strings of lights as necessary.” See more in my new YouTube video: Sabine’s Holiday Succulent Garden.

Cactus decorated with lights

Ferocactus glaucescens in a gold-painted terra-cotta pot glows with mini lights.

Barrel cactus aglow. Inspired by Sabine’s garden, I added tiny lights to a ferocactus to create a holiday centerpiece for the patio table outside my kitchen and dining room windows. The plant’s translucent spines shine, making an intriguing display. See how to make it, step-by-step, on my website and in my latest DIY video: Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights. I also painted the pot to match the gold of the spines, and to make the combo look good during the day as well as at night. [Continue reading]

Cactus pad Christmas tree

Cactus pad Christmas tree.  Jim Sudal’s cactus-pad holiday tree reinterprets the traditional fir, and is perfect for the dry, hot Southwest. Like Jim, many residents of Phoenix (and well beyond) have stands of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica), a succulent iconic to the region. About 250 cactus pads from Jim’s garden cover a 7-foot-tall cone that he and friend Mark Faulkner assembled on an iron frame wrapped with poultry fencing. “We wore special gloves called Thorn Armor that did their best to protect our hands,” Jim says. [Continue reading]

Wonder why I didn’t include succulent wreaths? Well, there are so many gorgeous ones, I created a Pinterest page for the best of the best! 

Related Info on This Site:

Succulent Topiary Tree

 

Cactus Pad Holiday Tree

 

Decorate a cactus w lights

 

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin

Cactus Christmas tree
, ,

Jim Sudal’s Cactus Pad Holiday Tree

Jim Sudal‘s cactus pad holiday tree is a great reinterpretation of the traditional fir tree, and perfect for the dry, hot Southwest. Like Jim, many residents of Phoenix (and well beyond) have stands of prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica). The juicy-leaved succulent is iconic to the region. “Last year I built a garland around my gallery front door made from fresh prickly pear pads,” Jim told me. “They lasted at least eight months and even started to sprout new pads.”

 

About 250 cactus pads from Jim’s garden cover the 7-foot-tall tree. He and friend Mark Faulkner spent two days assembling it on a conical iron frame wrapped with poultry fencing. “We wore special gloves called Thorn Armor that did their best to protect our hands,” Jim says. The men wired each pad at its stem end, then hooked it to the frame. Jim’s not planning on leaving the tree up past winter, but it has the potential to look good for at least six months.
Jim, a renowned ceramicist, gets much inspiration from succulents. He sells his work via mail order, so if you’re looking for home decor items or the perfect gift for a succulent lover, do visit his site. A few of many lovely items:
Ceramicist Jim Sudal

L-R: Cactus pad soap dish comes with a bar of prickly pear soap and a cactus ornament; two pots decorated with agave leaves; an aloe-in-bloom plate; a vase inspired by columnar cacti.

Cactus tree Q&A 

If you’re keen to make a cactus tree or just want to know more, here’s my Q-and-A with Jim. 
Q: What’s the approximate diameter of the base of the tree?
A: Probably 4 ft.
Q: Did you secure the chicken wire to the frame with zip ties?
A: No, we used bailing wire.
Q: Where did you get the frame?
A: I bought the metal tree frame from a retail display company, Tripar.
Prepping cactus pads for holiday tree
Q: How and why did you remove the spines?
A: We removed some of the daunting spines, not all, with scissors to make them easier to handle and to make a bit safer for spectators who are taking pictures of themselves next to the tree.
Q: What’s the cloth under each pad, and what purpose does it serve?
A: It’s natural colored burlap, and it was simply an aesthetic choice to give the pads some distinction between the layers.
Christmas tree frame
Q: Figure 3 lbs/pad x 250 = 750 lbs. What’s the tree standing on?
A: The tree is on one of the iron table bases I have made for making my ceramic-topped tables. We wanted to bring the tree up a bit higher above the prickly pear garden in front of my gallery. I clamped the base of the tree to the top of the table base.
Jim Sudal Christmas tree
Q: What kind of hooks did you use?
A: We made our own hooks from bailing wire. We threaded the wire through the woody end of the pad and looped it around, twisted it and bent it into a hook.
Thorn armor gloves

Thorn Armor gloves

Q: Despite wearing $50 Thorn Armor gloves, did you get poked?
A: They worked really great, but by the end of the day, they were a bit saturated with spines that eventually made their way through. They really helped. We couldn’t have done it without them, but nothing is foolproof.
Q: I see that you used seed pods and gourds for the garland, but what’s the white-dotted vine?
A: It’s a garland from a floral supply shop that we added natural elements to.
Cactus pad Christmas tree
Q: Anything else a do-it-yourselfer should know besides “start at the bottom, overlap the pads like shingles, and use smaller pads as you go higher”?
A: That’s pretty much it, except that we ended up using a lot more pads than we originally anticipated…probably by twice as many!  Also, as you mentioned, it’s a lot of weight so we really needed to secure the tree frame wherever we could and secure it tightly to the base.
Q: What are you going to do with all those pads when you take down the tree?
A: Being a lover of succulents and succulent gardening, the pads will come back home with me and be planted in my yard!

Related Info on This Site:

Decorate a cactus w lights
Reasons to grow opuntia
Books by Debra Lee Baldwin
Cactus decorated with lights
, , , ,

Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights, Step-by-Step

These DIY step-by-step instructions correspond to my YouTube video: Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights

Inspired by my friend Sabine’s holiday succulent garden, I decided to light up a succulent of my own. The resulting potted ferocactus is the holiday centerpiece for a patio table visible from my kitchen and dining room. The plant’s translucent spines glow when light shines through them, creating a fascinating display. I painted the pot to match the gold of the spines so the tabletop display would look good during the day as well as at night.

Cactus decorated with lights

Ferocactus glaucescens in a gold-painted, terra-cotta pot glows with mini lights.

Here’s how I did it, step-by-step.

If you’re decorating an in-ground cactus or one that’s already in a pot, skip to #7.

Cactus with holiday lights

My ferocactus is shaped like a pumpkin and is 7 inches in diameter (including spines).

Step #1: Select a spherical, long-spined cactus from the nursery. I chose Ferocactus glaucescens because its spines are quite long, and I like the plant’s blue-green color. In retrospect, I would have counted the number of ribs and gotten a barrel cactus with 10. This one has 12—two more than the number of lights in the package. But most arrangements are viewed mainly from one side, so the “dark” side is in the back, along with the battery pack.

Step #2: Choose a pot or container that’s in scale with the plant. I went with a new terra-cotta pot because I wanted something clean and simple that would elevate the plant, and that I could paint the same gold as the spines.

Decorate a cactus for Christmas

Tools and materials include long handled tweezers, a soft brush, a wood chopstick, mini lights, kitchen scissors, gold stones, floral pins, a disposable paintbrush, gold paint and water sealant.

Step #3: Head for the craft store. At my local Michael’s, I bought gold “patio paint,” a disposable brush, floral (“greening”) pins, and battery-operated lights. I already had a wood chopstick, a can of Thompson’s Water Seal, long-handled tweezers and the kitchen scissors I use for gardening.

Step #4: Paint the outside and inner rim of the pot with outdoor craft paint and spray the inside with the waterproofing sealer.

Step #5: Gauge the size of the plant’s rootball in relation to the shape and depth of the pot. Add soil (I simply used pumice—up to you) if you’ll need filler for the bottom. Otherwise you risk plopping the plant into the container and finding it sits too high or too low. Which means picking up the !@#$% porcupine again.

Step #6: Extract the plant from its nursery pot and plop it into the new pot. This is tricky. You can’t touch the plant, and I didn’t want to dump it out because that might get soil on it that would be difficult to remove or worse, break spines. I also didn’t want to pull on a heavy plant and risk detaching it from its roots. So I cut the plastic pot away from the rootball, using the kitchen scissors, resulting in a plant-plus-rootball I still needed to get into the pot. I knew garden gloves were useless with spines like those, so I improvised with a long-handled bathroom brush and tightly crumpled newspaper. Using them to push against it, lifted the plant. (Memo to self: Get a second bathroom brush.)

Step #7: Settle the plant in the pot. I adjusted it a bit using the bathroom brush and newspaper, then pushed down on the soil along the rim with the tips of my long-handled tweezers.

Step #8: Turn on the mini-lights to make sure they work. Start with the light on the end of the string and, using the long-handled tweezers, tuck it between two ribs, under the lowest spines. Use floral pins to secure the wires and conceal them. Remember they’re there when it comes time to remove the lights or repot the plant. The pins will rust in the soil and… Step #8.5: Get a tetanus shot.

Decorate a cactus for Christmas

Gold rocks are $14 for 1.65-lb jar. Small pebbles would work as well.

Step #9: Add topdressing. I used gold rocks that I found online. Wait a week to water it. Cactus roots really shouldn’t be watered immediately after planting because broken roots are more vulnerable to rot.

Step #10: Place it where you can see it at night. Take photos and post them on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @DebraLBaldwin. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Decorate a cactus with holiday lights

This is how the cactus looks after dark.

 

And at anytime, it looks like a snowflake.

Watch me make it on YouTube: Decorate a Cactus with Holiday Lights DIY

Decorate a cactus with holiday lights

Related Info on This Site:

Succulent Topiary Tree

Succulent wreath how-to

Books by Debra Lee Baldwin