If the title of Scott Calhoun’s new book from Timber Press doesn’t grab you then maybe the subtitle The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globes will. One hundred, the perfect number. You are virtually assured to find something, but not be overwhelmed at the choices. I would like to start this review by saying I’ve enjoyed two other books by Mr. Calhoun, most recently Yard Full of Sun, the tale his creating a personal garden in Tucson, Arizona. It's a good read.
Since I was already familiar with his personable writing style I was curious how it would translate to this type of book where you aren’t following a narrative but rather a very information rich list of plants, their features and needs. As it turns out Scott’s firsthand knowledge and experience of working with these plants shines in this format.
The profile for each plant is a full page or more and features a photograph as well as information on native habitat, mature size, hardiness and flowering season. The lengthy description often includes design suggestions, cultivation, culinary value as well as notable varieties, forms, and subspecies.
While this book is primarily written for those who live in the desert (and can grow these amazing plants in the ground) there is also ample useful information for those of us who are limited to growing container specimens and the occasional in-garden cactus. While I would give anything to be able to grow a dozen Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus, above) or Golden Barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii, below) in my garden…
|Echinocactus grusonii, photo Scott Calhoun|
…I’ve found cactus happiness with Chollas and Prickly Pears (in the Paddles and Rods section of the book), a surprising amount of which are hardy to temperatures below those found my zone 8 garden. Of course the catch is drainage…always, the drainage.
|Opuntia egelmannii, photo Scott Calhoun|
In the chapter titled ‘Prickly Pear Passion’ Scott shares information on 20 different plants, many of which I’d never heard of before but of course now must have, including the Dinner Plate Prickly Pear (Opunita robusta)
|Dinner Plate Prickly Pear (Opunita robusta), photo Scott Calhoun|
Finally, included in the book is information on…Tools of the Prickly Trade, Showing Cactus, Cactus Pests, Cactus for Special Purposes, and Select Retail Cactus Nurseries. How lucky am I that I’ve got one of these select nurseries, Cistus, just 20 miles away from my front door? Perhaps it isn’t so bizarre after all that an Oregon gardener is reviewing a book on Cactus? Or so I tell myself.
And yes you guessed it; Timber Press sent me a review copy of this book, which was free. I’ve also freely shared my thoughts on the book. However I doubt the plants I will need to purchase as a result of reading this book will be free…proving once again that nothing in life is ever really free.