10 ways to use barrel cactus in water-wise gardens
The golden barrel cactus is back, an increasing popular choice in drought-tolerant gardens, and not just because they need so little water. Designers often use golden barrels to provide intriguing texture, dramatic shapes and bright color all year long. Tag along as cactus and succulents specialist Debra Lee Baldwin provides a quick introduction to how barrels can be deployed in water-wise gardens. Idea No. 1: The round yellow cactuses can play off the blue senecio and red flowers of spiky aloe.
No. 5: The orange-tinged leaves of aloe unfurl around the golden spikes of a barrel cactus. Golden barrels are more popular than ever, says Molly Thongthiraj, co-owner of California Cactus Center in Pasadena.Theyre the perfect finishing touch for a succulent garden.
No. 10: Do what Chris and Margaret Sullivan of San Diego did. They planted barrel cactuses and other sculptural, architectural plants that suited the contemporary lines of their remodeled home. Against a backdrop of greenish tan walls, columnar cactuses mix with Yucca rostrata trees with strappy leaves.
Chris planted one yucca so its trunk was parallel to the ground. The tree has since curved upward, lending an sculptural element that contrasts effectively with the angular hardscape and the settings strong vertical lines. Through it all, clusters of golden barrel cactuses pop up like spiny beach balls. The Sullivans made a point not to place plants equidistant from each other.
We gave some thought to how they might look in nature, says Margaret Sullivan, pictured here with husband, Chris. Randomly spaced, odd-numbered groupings seemed to work best. Because the soil was compacted like concrete, Chris says they hired a crew to haul a significant amount to the dump. We brought in 10 yards of decomposed granite for the substrate, he says. On top of that went a blend of decomposed granite and cactus mix. Our main goal was good drainage. These plants need loose soil that drains well. The installation probably cost more than a typical frontyard landscape, Chris says, but its 100 times less work than a lawn.
Check out our weekly column on drought-tolerant gardening. You’ll find it on our blog: www.latimes.com/home (click on “Dry Garden” in the category cloud). (Debra Lee Baldwin)