I have resisted the urge to write about cactus collections for ten years. I don't do cacti. I was dragged out to be a cactus advisor once, when Web-Master son bought his little London cuties. But I didn't have a clue.
What Matters in a Cactus?
What makes a cactus memorable? Does the flower colour matter? Or should it just be the spikes which impress? Or the shape?
Cactus in the Stones
That day in the big home-and-garden supermarket I discovered a second important rule of life. I already knew that mothers should not have to buy underpants for their adult sons. Ha! Nor should they have to choose cacti for them.
Big is Better?
Some years ago when the Web-Master left the New Zealand Moosey house to seek his fortune in London he left behind a little cactus, one which had discrete phallic potential. Every year a photograph was lovingly taken by non-gardening partner. Web-Master's lone New Zealand cactus is now extremely indiscrete - big is really better?
I've been a bit rude about people who collect cacti. Several naughty cactus questions in my What-Plant-Am-I? quiz have had to be censored - nothing to do with their phallic nature, I promise! My cactus experiences have been coloured by Web-master son, shifting his hundred or so cacti around - these three should go here? No - perhaps over there? Do they look better this way around? What about up here? Better if these two swap over? How about this other one? Aargh!
What Plant Am I?
Mother and Son
But sometimes a New Zealand gardening mother just feels the need to reach out to her London elder son. Such a mood came over me the other day when I was traipsing around the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. They were scruffier than my worst borders, so I wandered into the Cactus House for a bit of emotional son-communing.
Ah - what beauties I found! Fat ones, thin ones, ones like cushions - ouch! Not for sitting on! There were big fingers, little rounds, vertical ones, horizontal ones, and one with spiky tentacles, a cactus-octopus. And such a helpful, polite sign - though why anyone would feel the need to walk amongst the spikes I can't imagine.
Naturally I didn't record a single proper name. And I'm not even going to try to try any classifications.
Cactus Warning Sign
But I left the Cactus House feeling even more puzzled than ever. Cacti still seem like secret men's business to me. Why can't Web-Master son have a collection of Streptocarpus hybrids? Much more girlie!