Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yes, you can grow Cactus in Portland (and many other places)…


I’ve had many conversations with passersby about the fact that yes indeed you can grow Opuntia in Portland and have them live through the winter. In fact Cactus are native to every American state except Vermont and Maine (according to swcoloradowildflowers.com). Here is Opuntia humifusa continuing to bloom it's heart out in my garden...

To help support this notion of successfully growing Cactus (for anyone still hesitating) I set out on a little Opuntia recording expedition. It wasn’t my goal to revisit those gardens where we know Prickly Pear are growing, like this one, this one and this one. But rather to find new gardens where they were planted in amongst other plants, in more eclectic garden styles. Where they are being treated as a special feature, in a container, and left out in the elements over winter and surviving just fine…or where you can see a gardener that is “spiky-curious” but not quite ready to make the complete leap over to the spiky side. This is my not-at-all scientific record of Opuntia growing in Northeast, and a bit of North, Portland in July of 2012…

This is the first Prickly Pear I remember seeing upon moving to our house the summer of 2005, I used to drive buy it every day on my way to work. I don’t know if they are constantly trimming it back, or if it’s stunted because it’s growing in a small container.

Just a couple of houses away is this specimen.

In a jail of sorts on a front porch.

This next entry is one that has me wondering why they chose Opuntia…is it a threat? (note the security sign oh so close to the dangerous plants)

Are they just getting started on what will become a thicket of Prickly Pear?

I have photographed this planting before. I love its hedge-like style…

They’ve also got some planted in their hell-strip, along with another favorite of mine…Phormium.

Just down the street (neighbors do have a way of influencing each other don’t they?) are these…

I love the fleshy green pads snuggled up next to the hairy rough Trachycarpus trunk…

This one is growing up against what must be an apartment building…

They’ve got a couple in their hell strip too…(long with a healthy collection of weeds)

Just down the street…

Look at those bumps!

I wish I knew which Opuntia this is…

Here Opuntia act as a buffer between the river rock, boulders, and bark chunks.

And here they cozy up against the house, peeking out just enough to be seen.

These are the mother plants of my first Opuntia (shown in the photo at the very top of this post), these have come a long way since first pictured on my blog back in April of 2009. Because of this generous neighbor I’ve propagated pads to pass on to friends and family, as well as a healthy supply for my own garden.

I think every stucco house needs to have a few Prickly Pears out front…

Don’t you?

So colorful with yellow and orange flowers along with the purple fruit! (and of course the bright house color too)...

These floriferous pads are planted behind a border of boxwood (proving you can successfully mix your garden styles) in the garden of our friend Michelle...

These Opuntia humifusa are growing in the garden of my plant lust cohort Patricia…

And I believe these are the pads she discovered broken apart and left on the sidewalk last winter. That’s another great thing about these plants they’re tough! Even when stupid people mistreat them they keep on looking good!

As evidenced by this blooming remnant in my other plant lust partner, Megan’s garden. Some idiot pulled her Opuntia humifusa from the ground and tore it to bits. Didn’t seem to faze them one bit……

Finally I need to share the latest addition to my collection: Opuntia x rutila...look at those spines!

Isn't it a beauty? I picked it up at Cistus yesterday! Here's the full story from the tag: "This so far unnamed hybrid was an early Colorado Plateau collection by plantsman Claude Barr. Stout orange-red and black spines mark pads roughly 3" long, the elongation suggesting parentage by O. polycantha and O. fragilis. Mid spring, yellow flowers fade to apricot. Wonderful for small rock gardens with the usual cactus conditions -- sun, lean and well-drained soil, and little or no summer water. Frost hardy in USDA zone 4."

Are you growing Opuntia yet? If not...why not? Wanna try? Leave a comment and I'll send a pad or two (propagated from the "neighbor plant") to a random winner (in the Continental United States, sorry Louis), last day to comment to be included is Friday the 27th, I'll draw the winner over the weekend. Fun!

**Sunday the 29th, update!!! Random winner chosen by assigning numbers 24-33 to the entrants and asking disinterested husband to pick one, he chose #25 which was Alison, congrats and thank you everyone!**

40 comments:

  1. What a wonderful opuntia post! It's like an opuntiarama. That's what they should have the nursery. A day celebrating them! Oh if I had my dream nursery maybe. Oh well. Lovely lovely post. I wish I could live in that stucco spanish looking house!!!

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    1. Darn, now I wish I would have called this post "Opuntiarama" (you have a way with the language)...and you're right it should be an official nursery industry holiday, or at least at Cistus. Uhm...maybe sometime in August?

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    1. Yes'm! (thanks for the tip about the colorful stucco house)

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  3. Oh please let it be me. I have one opunt, but another would be grand. :)

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    1. I like your attitude! You can never have too many...

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  4. It was so sharp it cut me when I looked at it! Great dangerous post! I can feel the glochids in my hands and forehead just looking at all those opuntias. A generous gardener friend of mine surprised me with one of these a year ago (thank you Loree, I love it!) so don't enter me in the contest.

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    1. I forgot to look...has yours sprouted any new pads?

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  5. I'm an Opuntia virgin, Loree. I flirt with them every time I see one, but I've never bought one yet. Love the photos with them in front of the pink stucco. They definitely look at home there. I don't actually know if they'll winter over in the Seattle/Tacoma area.

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    1. Of course they will (I say not really knowing but figuring your climate isn't much different from mine), especially in your new gravel garden!

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  6. Nice tour, I'd never have thought so many different opuntias were growing in Portland.

    Love the orange sherbet house and the landscaping there.

    Since they are native here and literally popping up like weeds, don't include me in the contest.

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    1. Oh but it would almost be too funny Shirley for a Texan to plant an Opuntia sent to her from an Oregonian!

      (orange sherbet...the perfect name for that color)

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  7. You may be interested to know that there are Opuntia native to this part of Southern Ontario. This gives it a fantastic range across all three N. American countries.

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    1. Really!? That's great...what an amazing plant!

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  8. I found out opuntia grows naturally in Connecticut, and decided I have to have one. What a visual contradiction, here in the land of white clapboard Colonial houses and picket fences. Then I saw the flowers, and I knew for sure it has to be in my garden.

    I have a very traditional yard and garden, and traditional black shuttered New England house, but I do have a pea gravel seating area and it wants an opuntia with bright flowers planted in the gravel. Imagine, here in CT -- I love it!

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    1. Oh that's a great visual! I bet you get a lot of interested looks, and hopefully inspire a few people.

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  9. Louis called it: Opuntiarama! I absolutely agree about stucco houses (especially those as wonderful as the terracotta ones you showed) needing opuntia in their landscape. But I wonder what happens when houses like the green one need paint...?

    I'd love a danger garden opuntia but I need to stick (no pun intended) to the less glochid-riddled cacti due to grandchildren, so I sadly can't enter your contest. But I want them on my hell strip!

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    1. But just think of the lessons you could teach your grandchildren about respecting the plants "personal space"...okay I know, I'm awful.

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  10. My first opuntia was orange flowered variety that grew in my front garden, in fact it grew too well and I removed it. My son and some of the other kids in the neighborhood were just learning to ride bikes, and falls were common. I removed the cactus because I was afraid some of them would get hurt. These days I would like to throw a few pads at some of them. Now I grow the thornless variety with yellow flowers, or did grow it until a Mercedes took it out. Opuntia is native here in coastal areas of Va. where it grows in dunes and other sandy areas. In places beach-goers are well-advised to stay on the path.

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    1. See nothing good happens when you put the kids first! (joking...only joking!). I would love to see a photo of the dune Opuntia, have you ever taken one?

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  11. Optuntia is one of my favorites - both of mine are happily putting out new pads. I think you need a pad of Optunia macrocentra - I can only imagine the beautiful purple colors it would make in your climate! Should you happen to pick me to send a pad, I will happily send you a pad of my O. macrocentra! Especially if you post pictures of what it does in your winters (as opposed to our wimpy desert winters). Gorgeous pictures as always!

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    1. Bribery! I like your style! I do actually have an Optunia macrocentra pad sent to me by David of http://desertedge.blogspot.com/ in Albuquerque, not that I would say no to another! I just got it this spring so I have not had the chance to see how it performs over the winter.

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  12. All I have to say is Portland kicks Seattle's butt. Not because the climate is significantly different but because of what people are doing with it. Thanks for the pics!

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    1. Interesting. I know of two gardeners in Seattle that are growing Opuntia and doing it well (friends). Too bad it hasn't caught on with the masses...maybe I'll have to start doing a little Guerrilla Gardening on my next trip up that way.

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  13. You keep showing opuntias growing happily in these parts, but I am still not convinced...the pad you gave me is thriving in a pot, where it will remain (oh, what a wuss I am).

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    1. What will it take to convince you?

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  14. Impressive photo documentation of opuntias in your area and beyond Loree! We have an Opuntia growing in a pot at the front of our house which is south facing and has been there for more than six years, and has sailed through the harsh winter we had two years ago.

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    1. Yay! I don't think I remember seeing a picture of yours...perhaps a future 365 post?

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  15. So many plants, so little zone. Time to try Opuntia though. I have a few nasty dry garden spots where it should be happy. Someone up the street has a large patch so I know it grows here you just don't see it for sale much.

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    1. I am happy to hear you're open to expanding your spiky plant collection! (and oh so glad to have met you!)

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  16. AnonymousJuly 26, 2012

    I live and garden here in Michigan. Even with our winters I've grown optuntia (prickly pear) with great success. Though it usually never gets more than a foot tall it is a attention getting ground cover.

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  17. There are lots of gardens here in my neighborhood that have Opuntias, I'm always impressed.
    The Opuntia you just bought is great, the spines are so colorful. Guess I'm going to have to drive out and pick one up. I was planning on being good.
    I too get lots of chatting with people about growing Opuntia here. People think it is to much of a desert plant and it will not grow here. I say it gets cold in the desert also.

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    1. Darn! I forgot all about that Beech Street corner lot stucco house that sets way back (about 45th?)...I think they've got some too. Must do more exploring!

      Be careful when you visit Cistus...they've got a great assortment! Be sure to check out the hoop house at the south (?) end of the parking lot...there are a ton in there!

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  18. That stucco house with the desert-y planting is adorable. I've got a beautiful patch of Opuntia (and a few other general) that grow beautifully in Minneapolis (well... I had them, they're my mom's now since I moved to Chicago). One day I'm going to find a charming little stucco house, plant the front yard in cacti and succulents, and watch the neighbors be completely confused. I just wish we could grow some of the upright forms, that'd really throw people for a loop.

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  19. I have spiny and smooth opuntia. I love them but somehow the spiny one seems susceptible to disease and rot

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  20. Your latest addition looks fab with those orange-red spines. I can't wait to see how my 'Baby Rita' from Cistus looks when it gets growing!

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  21. I have had huge success growing cholla cactus (don't know botanical name) but it is a taller bush style at least 6 feet with a large amount of very sharp spines from base to top. It blooms early to mid summer beautiful yellow and orange colors. I have had to prune it every year as it has taken over my walk way path. The UPS and fed ex guys don't like me ! The cats also do not dig in this area. After pruning a cutting can be dried for a day or so and just stuck in the ground. My soil is not particularly suited for cactus, but I am amazed at the cholla and other opuntia I have thriving in my east Gresham yard. Any feedback, no spam please, is welcome.

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  22. I live along the southeast Connecticut coast. Years ago on a trip to coastal South Carolina, I saw opuntia cactus growing in the sand dunes wild. Locals said it was native and grows everywhere. Once I heard this, I did more research and found they are native to the East Coast from Cape Cod south to Florida.

    Now I have a whole bed growing in front of my beach house down in East Lyme, they go well with the Yuccas's and Southern Magnolia I have growing and adds to the sun drenched look of my brightly colored beach shack!

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  23. I have several varieties of native and non native cactus growing quite well in my 'Gresham yard. All have been pruned and re rooted sucessfully. Can anyone give me a lead on some Oct. how do you get the Agave to gtow so big and blue tinted.illa a Arizona resident

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