I have a very wide range of interests when it comes to plants. Perennials, trees, shrubs, succulents, rock garden plants, native plants, South African plants; I’m fascinated by all these plant groups and many more. Having lived and gardened in New Mexico for the 30 years, one group of plants I have been growing since I was a teen, the cacti, have a special place in my garden.
As the climate and growing conditions in New Mexico have gotten drier and hotter, these native plants (found only in western hemisphere) have thrived and become the stars of my various xeric gardens. Here are some photos of my home xeriscape taken over the past few weeks. And the cacti have been especially stunning this spring. The colors of the flowers, the geometry of the spines and the musculature of the stems are as fascinating to me now as they were 40 years ago.
This is a spineless form of Claret Cup (Echinocereus triglochidiatus v. inermis) grown from seed originally collected in the mountains that straddle the Utah and Colorado state borders. Very rare in nature, this spineless form is highly sought after by collectors and cacti aficionados. But even gardeners with little experience growing cacti outdoors will be delighted to experience how easily it is grown in western xeriscapes. And the intensity of the red flowers is nothing short of breathtaking to any lover of flowers.
Behold, one of the gems in the Hedgehogs from Texas and Oklahoma, the very small clumping, white spined form of Reichenbach’s Hedge Hog (Echinocereus reichenbachii v. albispinus). Found In only in two limited areas in the world (near Troy and Tishoming, OK) this exquisitely rare cactus is also one of the most stunning plants you’ll ever grow. Like the spineless Claret Cup, this beauty is also easily grown in western xeriscapes.
Both these species are cold hardy to USDA zone 5 and require “lean” (infertile), well-drained soil. For best success, cacti should be planted bare-root, even in the heat of summer.* Like all our cacti, I grow these two from seed in our Santa Fe greenhouse facility. Hopefully, even those gardeners who thought they have no interest in cacti will try these native wildflowers a try in their dry gardens. Mix them together with other smaller growing xeric perennials and enjoy the show!
Delosperma cooperi (Coopers Hardy Ice Plant) is covered with large magenta-pink flowers for much of the summer. A perfect groundcover where easy-care, high color is on the wish-list. It grows vigorously, creating a succulent carpet of color.
Granita Raspberry Ice Plant (Delosperma Granita Raspberry) is a hybrid Ice Plant that blooms in late spring with stunning raspberry-red flowers. The plant is very cold hardy with evergreen stems and foliage.
Autumn Fire is an improved form of Sedum 'Autumn Joy' that is larger growing, has larger flower heads and is longer blooming. The flat heads of rose-pink flowers appear in late summer. Leave the faded flowers on the plant for added winter interest.
'Blut' is one of the very best cold hardy Ice Plants. With its vigorous growth habit, durable evergreen foliage and summer-long display of deep magenta-red flowers, it is an invaluable groundcover. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
Delosperma Fire Spinner® has vibrant tri-colored flowers of orange, red and lavender that are unique in the world of perennial flowers. Outstandingly colorful. An evergreen groundcover, this ice plant blooms in late spring. A 2011 Plant Select winner. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).