golden barrel cactus

March 6th, 2008
Golden Barrel Cactus

My brother, MJN, introduced me to the gorgeously planted Springs Preserve in Las Vegas and there I fell in love with golden barrel cactus, Echinocactus grusonii. Although it is an endangered species in its native Mexico habitat, it is one of the most popular landscape cacti in the American Southwest. Apparently this cactus can reach a size four feet tall and three feet tall. However, in the many display gardens of the Springs Preserve, it was used as the desert equivalent of a small globe shaped boxwood.

golden barrel cactus
In another display bed, colorful recycled glass chips were used as a mulch. The resulting jewel like beds glittered in the desert sun, but like many rock/gravel/shell mulches, the glass chips ended up being strewn in the paths. Recycled glass is definitely not a mulch to use if you have lots of trees and leaf litter.

golden barrel cactus
Golden barrel cactus also filled planters lining the parking area at the entrance to the Springs Preserve. My mother fell in love with them, too, and so I bought her one for $20 at Lowe’s. Then I saw a little golden barrel cactus in a paper cup on the clearance table for $2. I had to have it even though everyone wondered how I’d get it home. (I put it in my carryon luggage. No problem.) The silly thing about my $2 cactus is that someone glued plastic eyes on it and the cup said, “My Peeps, Cactus Buddies”. Ugh! I’ll figure out how to cut off those cutesy plastic eyes and restore some dignity to my beautiful golden barrel cactus.

Zanthan Gardens California Poppy
2008-03-04. California poppy ‘Mikado’.

March 5th, 2008
California Poppy ‘Mikado’

One trouble with Spring in Austin is that when the trees start budding and the gardener feels that irresistible pull into the garden, it is already too late to start lots of plants from seed. I haven’t made a seed order yet, (I was too busy in the garden to look at seed catalogs in December and January) and already the spring plants are blooming. Arg!

Today (3/4), the first flower of the California poppies, Eschscholzia californica, opened. The flower is about twice as large as last year’s but then it’s blooming almost three months earlier. Given that this plant is one that oversummered, I consider this the “correct” time for California poppies to be blooming in Austin.

Last year (2007) I didn’t plant any California poppy seeds until the middle of January and those plants didn’t flower until late May. This year (2008) I was even later getting my seeds started. Those seedlings are up but I haven’t started transplanting them yet and here last year’s flowers are already blooming. So I better get busy.

Although the seed packet claims that California poppies “reseeds easily”, I’ve haven’t had much luck with them self-sowing. However they are very easy to sprout from seed which is much larger than other types of poppies. Now if I could remember to get them started earlier…

Garden History

Plant California poppy ‘Mikado’.

California poppies sprouting.

Begin transplanting California poppy seedlings. Because they have a long taproot, California poppies don’t like being transplanted. But they were only two inches tall when I moved them and watering them well at first helped almost all of them to survive.

Finally, two flowers on my California poppies opened today. The flower are quite small, not much bigger than a thimble. I planted them way too late for Austin (January 12th). They didn’t sprout until January 30th.

Zanthan Gardens California Poppy
2007-05-24. California poppy ‘Mikado’.

Here’s a factoid to demonstrate how late I was getting these in this year; in 1998, when I tried ‘Mission Bells’, they began blooming on February 28th.

Discovered that there were still plenty of seeds left in last year’s seed packet and sowed three rows. There are still seeds left! Several plants from last year survived the summer and just in the last month or so have been putting on a lot of growth.

First flower on a plant that over-summered. California poppies are perennials but they don’t usually survive Austin’s summers in my garden. The poppies I planted in February are just getting their true leaves and only two inches tall. Despite my springtime urges, spring is too late to plant California poppies in Austin.

Plant California poppies ‘Mikado’. I always start these too late (like Jan). The ones that flowered last spring overwintered. Start earlier.

Transplant a dozen California poppy ‘Mikado’ seedlings that I started on 2008-10-10. All that’s left from squirrels digging in the seedbed. Note: They always look to small and crowded to transplant. Wait until they have a few true leaves and are two to three inches across–later than for larkspur or bluebonnets. Don’t worry about crowding or thinning.

California poppy transplants have recovered and it has also self-sown, a first for me.