This week we have been busy cactus hunting. We work closely with the British Cactus & Succulent Society who often have plants or entire collections available for sale through their members.
When a specialist cristata and variegata collection became available, we jumped at the chance so it was off to Loughborough in the cube for a road trip!
We arrived and were blown away. The collection needed a lot of sorting out, but some of the plants here were absolutely incredible. Here are some of the larger cristata specimens, some with an incredible amount of hair!
What is a cristata plant, I hear you ask?!
Cristata means crested, or when something has a 'crest'. In short, it is simply a mutation in the growth of the plant that stops it from growing normally. In cactus and succulent form, it turns a columnar or cylindrical or rose shaped plant into a beautiful, slightly crazy looking 'crested' version. The growth patterns are unpredictable, giving some really interesting results.
This collection has a huge variety and we could stare at them for hours! From usually ball shaped Mammillarias to flat growing rose shaped Echeverias that have grown up onto long flat stalks, resembling a beautiful pastel coloured tree.
This Trichocereus pachanoi aka 'San Pedro Cactus' is one of the stars of the show! Cristate plants are incredibly slow growing, and this one is around 40 years old.
Variegated plants too?
This particular collector was a fan of variegation too. Another mutation in the cells of the plant which results in little or zero chlorophyll, removing all green colour from the stems and leaves.
This variegated Mammillaria bombycina was one of our favourites, growing in a very unusual form out of the pot but producing multiple new pups off the main stem!
Caring for such a large collection
As mentioned, there is a lot of sorting out to do with collections such as these. They require constant maintenance, bug checking & clearing. Not to mention watering at the right time and frequency. We spied the owners repotting station, which is an essential part of cactus and succulent collecting. It was all very neat and tidy!
Bringing the plants home
The plants had to be carefully selected for sale in the shop. There was a lot of decay, and some quite bad mealy bug infestations which meant that unfortunately quite a lot had to be left behind.
We chose our favourites and loaded them into trays to be brought home, packed with newspaper between them to stop them rolling around or bashing into each other. This process always involves lots of painful spine in the hand type events, and Hayley even managed to get one under a fingernail. Ouch!
Preparing for display in the shop
As with any plants, no matter the source, they have to be rigorously checked before they can go into the shop. With thousands of houseplants, outdoor plants, cacti and succulents in such a small space we have to be super careful what we introduce.
First steps with these guys was to give a good drink and clean down with a hosepipe, feed and bug spray outside. They will be quarantined and treated preventatively to ensure no sneaky critters have made their way in before being catalogued and photographed for sale. It is a very long process from start to finish but totally worth it.