by David Salman

I’m not one for making lots of New Year’s resolutions. But I did promise myself that I’d get my collection of cacti and succulents re-potted this winter. Because High Country Gardens is such a large grower of cold hardy cacti and South African succulents, we like to grow seed of my favorite plants. Often commercial suppliers aren’t able to consistently supply a particular seed or make it available in the quantities we need. So you see here is a photo of a part of our “stock plants” collection that I grow for seed production. We hand pollinate the flowers with small paint brushes to insure the seeds are true-to-type. To keep the plants vigorous, they need re-potting and maintenance (i.e. cleaning off old flower buds, brushing off old spines) to keep them healthy and blooming robustly. This is important so we can harvest a lot of seed for our efforts. It’s been about 4 years since our last big re-potting effort so its time to do it again. Growing our own seed also allows me to select for plants with improved characteristics such as more brightly colored spines, larger flowers or unusually colored flowers. I also do hybridization, crossing different species to create vigorous, colorful garden plants. Aloinopsis 'Karoo Red Mix' is one such hybrid. My staff and I also grow plants of species found in multiple locations. We like to purchase seed from collectors who provide us with information about where the plants (that provided the seed) were found in habitat. We hand pollinate these plants to provide us with true-to-type seeds to grow and maintain these separate habitat collections of each species. These plants with collection data are of special interest to collectors. Harvesting the fruits from all these cacti and succulents begins in May and finishes in November. But along the way, the fruits must be processed to collect the seeds. This is a time intensive process but it provides us with high quality seeds with which to grow our wide assortment of these xeric gems.