Bulbs and cacti

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 01 Jan 2008 11:47:53 PST
Joe Shaw reminded me (I am the neglectful plant-promiser) about the 
Maihuenia in my rock garden. You wouldn't think a little bulb scape could 
come up through the dense, low mat formed by this cactus, but every year a 
Bloomeria crocea flowers there, having arrived, I think, when I 
incorporated old potting soil in the rock garden bed, as I often do.

In nature, many bulbous plants take advantage of cacti and spiny shrubs for 
protection from grazing animals -- especially useful since so many bulbs 
grow where humans have introduced goats and sheep. In California, some 
survive only by cohabiting with poison oak. A seriously spiny plant of even 
moderate size can be a little refuge for the last survivors of a population 
of palatable bulbous species. In the garden, this can offer protection from 
deer and rabbits. In addition, once a dog has stepped on a mat of 
Maihuenia, it'll never go that way again! However, the tolerance of 
gardeners for spiny plants varies; I resisted all cacti for a long time 
because my mother collected them and grew them in a raised bed around our 
patio, where they were sure to stab playing children.

And yes, there are cacti that can stand 45 inches of rain a winter, and 
freezing, if given extreme drainage.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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