On the south wall of my house, where the southern California sun is its most intense, there is a long stretch of dirt where dead periwinkles reached for the sky as if still begging for the shade they never got.
A few days ago they were given the ultimate shade – the inside of a Hefty bag. I was glad to see them go, dead plants remind me I have many faults.
In their place, I have planted a mini-cactus garden. At first, I decided on cactii because it made sense. South wall. Blazing sun. Lots of it. No shade. Not a place for wimpy flowers that want a drink every ten minutes. And even if I did sprinkle them on the hour, the July and August heat alone would boil them in their own water.
But as I shopped for cactus at my local farmers’ market (such a poetic thing, farmers’ markets. There was a man playing a violin next to a stall of fresh tulips as I shopped for the pricklies), I discovered I have a fondness for cactii that surely must have been comatose. They are the most amazing plants. Beautiful and dangerous. Hearty, sure, bold, confident, wild.
They are extremely adaptable and know when to conserve. They know when times are tough and there’s no water, to hold onto what they have. They can live for decades without needing much attention.
Cacti have periods of growth and periods of resting. They actually snooze for part of the year. Their spines protect them from being wholly devoured by parched desert animals with only one thing on their minds – self-gratification.
I tell you, there’s a lot to like about cactus. They have a number of human-like qualities. I have no idea what these that I’ve pictured here are called in the plant guides. I can tell you what I call them. Arthur, Rosie, and Bruce.
I hope they like me and prove me right – that they are hearty and resilient.
It’s a tough world on the south side . . .