Hot Gardens Newsletter – April and May 2006
Stick ‘Em Up. If you want to keep unwelcome guests–either animal or human–away from your home, plant a row of thorny cactus at the edge of your property in place of–or in addition to–a fence. During a recent visit to the Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California and the Botanical Garden in Phoenix we photographed some really wicked cactus that would bring intruders to a halt instantly.
We do not recommend that these cactus be planted in any location where children or pets might get into them. They can be very harmful! If these cactus are too scary for you, consider planting a dense row of roses–prettier, but not quite as much of an obstacle. Barbary (Berberis) is another choice for a thorny barrier at your property’s edge.
The Most Wicked Three:
The Octopus cactus (Stenocereus alamonsensis) takes the prize as the number one most likely stopper. In the Phoenix Botanic Garden it grows to six feet tall and almost as wide. Its mere appearance says: “Don’t mess with me.”
Our next candidate for crime stopper is the Devil’s Creeper (Stenocereus eruca) from Baja California. This grows horizontally and would best be used in a wide open location. It will certainly slow down any intruder and won’t interfere with your view.
Last, but not least, on our list is the Golden Barrel (Echinocactus) cactus, another native of Mexico. Its lovely color belies its formidable thorns. These specimens grow slowly to 4 feet tall and need to be watered every couple of weeks in summer. Planted close together they make an impenetrable living wall.
The Kinder Cousins of Cactus.
Succulents need almost no care and very little water. While they are not particularly effective at keeping away unwanted visitors, a succulent border can be very inspiring particularly in Spring when the plants burst into bloom! Colorful succulents make one think of ripping out the lawn and planting blue and orange sedum in its place.
You can also view more cactus and succulents on this site.
The Millennium Tree. Plant an olive tree (Olea europa) today and it may well be alive, well and producing olives 1,000 years from now! Unbelievable, you say? Well, there are clearly documented examples of olive trees that are at least hundreds of years old along the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Greeks, Italians, and now British expatriates harvest the olives from the trees around their homes and have the oil pressed from them for their own use.
There is a trend toward using the pollenless, fruitless ‘Swan Hill’ olive tree in Southwestern gardens these days which makes allergy sufferers happy. In some locales all but fruitless varieties are banned. Fruiting olive trees are available so ask at your local nursery for a fruiting variety specifically, if you want to plant one to harvest the olives. To learn more about harvesting and processing olives and olive oil on a small scale, visit the Mediterranean Garden Society website and search for “Olives”. You will find several fascinating (and sometimes funny) articles written by homeowners who decided to harvest the olives growing in their private gardens.
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