Friday, September 30, 2005

Copiapoa lauii

Copiapoa lauii blooming in Hamilton, Ontario, September 30th.

Copiapoa lauii appears to be an extremely uncommon species in collections worldwide. Plants of this species never seem to be available from nurseries anywhere, even seeds are not easily obtained. In Ontario, as far as I know, no one has ever had it in their collection. That is not until the OCSS distributed seedlings of the species to participating members of the group seed start project last year. I'm not sure why the species is so uncommon in collections because it seems quite easy to grow and propagate. The plant in the picture is my 17 month old seedling from the OCSS group seed start project last year. It was blooming today, September 30th, for the first time.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Obregonia denegrii

Obregonia denegrii blooming in Hamilton, September 29th

If I had to make a short list of exceptionally rare and unusual cactus species O. denegrii would probably be on it. Old and large specimens of this species are almost never seen in Ontario. It is a species which seems to have a habit of doing well for a while and then suddenly deciding that something is not quite to its liking and dying. The plant shown in the photo was blooming today, September 29th, in Hamilton. It was a surprise find at Sorensen's a couple of years ago. Like the Ariocarpus they were never seen at Sorensen's until the OCSS asked if they could get them.

Whenever I see this plant in my collection I reminisce about the ones I saw growing wild in Mexico. It remains one of the fondest memories I have to this day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ancistrocactus tobuschii

Ancistrocactus tobuschii blooming in Hamilton, September 28, 2005

Its not clear whether A. tobuschii is really a genuine species or if its just an unusual variant of A. brevihamatus but one thing that is clear, it was never very common. Until recently it had only been known to occur naturally at one small locality in Texas and the last I heard that population had been wiped out. If true that would mean this plant is now extinct in the wild and found only as cultivated plants in collections. The plant pictured was grown from Mesa Garden seed, Steven Brack's field number SB987 and bloomed for the first time ever today, September 28, 2005. Unfortunately none other were blooming at the same time to permit production of seeds. Most likely in all of Ontario, this plant is found only in two OCSS member collections.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ariocarpus

Ariocarpus fissuratus v. lloydii in bloom in Hamilton, Ontario late September.

Its amazing how different opinions can be about the appeal of an Ariocarpus. I've heard everything from ugly from the uninitiated to the greatest of all treasures from aficionados. Ariocarpus are perhaps the slowest growing genus of cacti which is saying something significant since there probably is no cactus that is really a fast grower. This is probably why old specimens of Ariocarpus are rarely seen in collections and the more knowledgeable collectors are impressed with big old plants of Ariocarpus. If there are plants anywhere in the cactus family that would qualify as living stones these are it. They are reliable fall bloomers.

Ariocarpus used to be one of those cacti that was never seen at Sorensen's nurseries. That is not until the Ontario Cactus and Succulent Society asked them if they could get some. Shortly thereafter dozens of small ones showed up at that nursery for the first time and a number of OCSS members were able to add them to their collections. I was very fortunate to acquire the old specimen of A. fissuratus v. lloydii in the photo from another long time collector. It could easily be 50 years old. This plant has been blooming for me in Hamilton for several days now in mid September.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mammillaria schumannii

Mammillaria schumannii blooming in Hamilton, Ontario, Sept. 26th.

Mammillaria schumannii is a relatively new species having been first published as recently as 1987. As such it has only recently been seen in Ontario collections, mostly it seems thanks to Sorensen's nurseries. The plant pictured was just recently acquired last summer and I would wager that with it's 10 heads and 15X11 cm dimensions, it's the largest of this species in any collection in Ontario. It produced the spectacular record display of 48 flowers in Hamilton today, September 26th!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Lobivia species

Lobivia species blooming in late September in Hamilton, Ontario.

The genus Lobivia probably has some of the nicest flowers in the cactus family and produces them very freely. The plant shown in the picture was blooming September 25th in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It is probably a form of L. arachnacantha with peculiar lemon yellow colored flowers (They are usually more orange) This particular species has the peculiar habit of opening many flowers all at one time followed by a period without flowers so that it blooms in dramatic waves throughout the growing season. The most spectacular display this year on this particular plant occurred in midsummer when approximately 75 flowers opened at once completely hiding the entire body of the plant. This is another of those treasured acquisitions from Sorensen's Greenhouses.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Was it the end, or was it just the beginning!?!?

Coryphantha radians in Hamilton, Ontario, September 24th with about 16 flowers!

Yesterday was officially the end of summer. Most of my collection has been cruising through the summer at a pretty respectable pace. You might think that succulent plants so far north might sense that the seasons are changing and begin to slow down now. Most plants in my collection however are behaving as though it were spring. Instead of slowing down they seem to have switched gears to rocket propelled hyperdrive! Maybe it’s the longer nights, or maybe it’s because they aren’t drying out too fast in excessive heat. Whatever the reason the majority in my collection are not only making a mad final dash in green growth but the flowering isn’t over yet either! Even seed batches that seemed to have finished with germination a long time ago are suddenly showing additional germination!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Welcome to my backyard!

My piece of Arizona in Hamilton, Ontario!

One of the first things you would probably notice at my place if you were arriving for a visit would be a couple of large Agaves in my backyard beside the driveway. The variegated one is Agave americana, I haven't been able to identify the other one. They both measure about 4 feet across and 3 feet high. Last year I just barely managed to squeeze them through my basement door for the winter and this year they are even bigger!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pereskia!

What's this? Why a cactus of course!

I would wager that I am probably the only cactus collector in all of Ontario that keeps a plant of the genus Pereskia in their collection. (Not the same as Pereskiopsis of course) My plant of Pereskia aculeata looks more like a rose with it's big leaves than what most people would consider a cactus. The flower is even reminiscent of a wild rose flower. Other species in the genus become more like small trees when they mature. I started this one from seed a few years ago. Obviously it's fairly fast growing. I thought it would make a very interesting and educational entry for public society shows.

The genus Pereskia is often considered to be the most closely related to the first precursor cactus species on the evolutionary tree. The plant in the picture has the pale yellow green leaves. The felty grey brown leaves poking out in the upper left are something else.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mme's

A few of the many Mme's now in my collection.

Mme's (Myrtillocactus and magic elastic) is a term I've coined for small seedlings grafted on small cereoid stock using "Magic elastic". Actually many of my "Mme's " this year were on Trichocereus pachanoi stock which I raised myself from seed also. I just happened to have a lot of free T. pachanoi seed last year and decided to raise it for grafting stock. The Tricho seems to produce nearly identical results to Myrtillo. I've produced about 100 of these so far this summer and there will probably be even more before the growing season is over. They've been doing just great growing visibly on an almost daily basis. They are now one of the items in my collection that I watch most closely.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Pereskiopsis grafts

A month old grafting of Sclerocactus spinosior on Pereskiopsis.

I made my first succesful attempts at grafting many years ago but didn't really grasp the full potential of this technique in cold northern climates like mine until my friend Paul Davydov came along onto the scene. Now increasingly it seems to me like the use of grafting, especially in cold climates, is one of those things that sets apart the truly expert from the amateur.

This year I've made more graftings than ever before, many just purely experimental. Among these were a number of graftings on Pereskiopsis stock. I found that my success rate with this stock, without physical aids to pressure the joint, was not as high as touted by many advocates. I've concluded that Myrtillocactus stock with "magic elastic" (Mme) is much more satisfactory giving me excellent results with even the smallest of seedlings. With "Mme" even smaller than pinhead size seedlings of Aztekium and Blossfeldia were grafted successfully!

Of course there are many that will argue contra, as I used to, that grafting produces unnatural looking plants severely limiting the usefulness of this technique. To which the pro side can produce many arguments in rebuttal;
1/Plants on their own roots in cultivation are usually also unnatural in appearance because they are most often overwatered and over fertilized.
2/Many species are almost impossible to raise to a significant stature on their own roots (especially in cold climates) because they are slow growing or just difficult.
3/The grafting can be masked by using a short stock and/or burying the stock for show purposes.
4/A stock species which produces a more natural appearance in the scion can be chosen.
5/Graftings can be degrafted and rerooted to produce larger natural looking plants much faster.
6/Grafting allows faster and more reliable propagation of rare and difficult to grow material.
7/Many species are not available to the collector as mature plants on their own roots. However most species are available as seed which can be grown most rapidly and reliably as a graft.
8/Grafting can be used to save diseased material that is rare and precious.

Month old grafting of Mammillaria herrerae on Pereskiopsis.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Notocactus magnificus

Notocactus magnificus in bloom in mid September in Hamilton, Ontario.

Another species of cactus still blooming prolifically in my collection in mid September is Notocactus magnificus. The larger of 2 plants of this species that I have in my collection is probably the biggest cactus plant that I have at least in terms of volume. I was fortunate in being able to buy it from another collector just a couple of years ago. It has seven heads and measures 53cm across by 42cm high. It is so heavy, even when bare root, that it takes 2 people to lift it. Never the less, I move it twice a year in and out of my raised bed and occasionally back and forth to OCSS shows. It is a lot of fun! Really!

I'm still looking for a very large Ferocactus to replace the one I used to have. It was even bigger and heavier than this Notocactus!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Matucana intertexta

Matucana intertexta in bloom.

Among several other species still blooming in my collection is Matucana intertexta. Matucana's in general seem to be rather uncommon in collections around Ontario and the species intertexta seems to be one of the least common of the genus. It's usually seen in collections as a globular plant but in fact mature plants in habitat are short columnar types. My plant is a mere 8cm tall and 9 cm diameter but according to the literature mature plants are 7 to 18 cm in diameter and up to 36cm tall! They appear to be rather slow growing. The habit is somewhat reminiscent of Uebelmannia's which also become columnar in habitat but are never seen that large in collections.

I just love the unusual curved flower tubes (zygomorphic) of Matucana's. Matucana's in general seem to bloom in waves in my collection. Just when it seems the flowering is over a new crop of buds seems to appear and this process repeats itself through the entire growing season until I finally force them into dormancy by drying them out for the long winter hibernation.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Discocactus

Discocactus zehntneri. The buds will open at night.

My prized Discocactus zehntneri bloomed again last night. It was obtained from Sorensen's just a few months ago. Sorensen's was distributing a good number of these but most were madly offsetting in all directions in response to overfertilizing and overwatering. Such grotesquely unnatural plants are far less valuable to a knowledgeable hobbyist. Buining in his book about the genus Discocactus described this species as solitary (with a single head) and not bigger than 10cm diameter in habitat. My plant measures 11cm in diameter not including spines making it an exceptional specimen plant.

Plants of the genus Discocactus are natives of Brazil and will not tolerate cold temperatures. They are therefore difficult to keep in Ontario. The flower buds do not begin to show until the day before they open, developing rapidly thereafter. They have beautifully scented flowers that open at dusk and fold the following morning.

Still in bloom!

Gymnocalycium mihanovichii in bloom Sept. 2005
Although the peak of the cactus flowers is long over here in Hamilton, Ontario, many cacti still continue to produce flowers. My large Gymnocalycium mihanovichii in particular continues to put out successive blooms for several months now. The plant pictured is about 7 inches high by 4 inches wide, not counting spines, and is the largest plant of this species I have ever seen in cultivation. Found locally at Sorensen Greenhouses last year it was a welcome addition to my collection. It seems to be one of those Gymnocalycium species that prefers half shade rather than full sun.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Seedlings

Notocactus seedlings started in March 2005
Most of my seedlings started earlier this spring are now looking pretty good. I never did get around to planting them in the bed with the bigger plants as I had intended but they've done pretty well never the less. The larger ones are now about 1 cm in diameter after about 6 months. The seeds were especially prized because they originate from habitat plants in South America and therefore true to type. The origins of seed from most better known seed sources around the world today is often dubious and seeds can be unnatural hybrids.

The seedlings shown are mostly in the genus Notocactus. Sample seedlings from many of these batches have already been grafted on an experimental basis. Many knowledgeable hobbyists will tell you Notocactus are easy to grow on their own roots and don't need to be grafted. This is very true for young Noto plants but many species in this genus have the unfortunate habit of losing roots as they get older. The older they get the less they seem able to tolerate the long winter drought we usually keep them in here in Ontario. The object in my collection is to get old and large plants.

Sown!


The older I get the less patient I seem to be! I decided I didn't want to wait for 8 months before sowing the seeds. Obviously once that decision was made it was important to get them sown as quickly as possible with the best part of the growing season quickly fading away. So I had a seed sowing blitz and sowed them all within one day!

I figure I have 2 good months of reasonably good conditions left but would like to keep them growing for 4 months at least. The last 2 months will require some real fancy efforts to increase temps and maintain high light levels. A gamble to be sure. Now the question is, how will they do until next spring?

The whole batch of seeds from Mesa Gardens sown and baggied!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Box!!!



August has just ended and a box of treasures has just arrived! Over 100 packets of various cactus seeds from Mesa Garden! The stuff of great new beginnings! One of the nicer birthday gifts I've ever received.

But it's almost the worst time of year to sow cactus seeds! Summer is just ending. If I sow them now there is a very real danger that they will just germinate before colder weather pushes them into dormancy. At that fragile stage they could just die before winter is over. On the other hand if I choose to wait I will have to wait about 8 months before the weather is ideal again. A long time to wait! So the great dilema, to sow or not to sow, that is the question!