The 35th Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and sale more than made up for a lost year this past weekend, with crowds of cactus-crazy people ogling exhibits of 1,300 strange and wonderful plants and buying up a storm from the vendors.
Organizers estimate more than 2,000 people visited the three-day sale and show, which was free to anyone who entered the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia. Total attendance this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday was about 7,900, about 2,700 more than the Arboretum‘s attendance the previous three-day weekend, said spokeswoman Nancy Yoshihara, proof that succulents were the draw.
One of the happiest takeaways for the organizers: More than half of the 118 entrants into the juried show — 67 — were in the novice category, a sign of fresh young interest in succulents and succulent shows, said Co-chairman Tom Glavich, a longtime member of the San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society, which hosts the annual event with the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society and the Long Beach Cactus Club.
Further evidence: One of the event co-chairs this year was Crystal Eckman, a 24-year-old occupational therapy graduate student. Her boyfriend, Gavin Hunn, also 24, is secretary of the Long Beach Cactus Club. They are both the youngest to hold their respective positions, and Eckman has a rising-star reputation for her skill in growing melocactus — plump cactus with colorful protrusions — from seed.
Part of the attraction to the show and sale is the sheer diversity of the plants: There are so many sizes and shapes and colors, there’s something for everyone, Hunn said, even people who have limited space.
You don’t need land to grow food. We talked to six L.A.-based experts who explain how you can easily grow veggies, fruits and herbs in pots on your balcony or any other small space.
And the best way to learn about succulents, such as the fact that all cactus are succulents but not all succulents are cactuses?
Join a club to learn from longtime growers, Hunn and Eckman said. Or attend a gardening event.
Distract yourself from August’s heat by visiting some of these real-time plant events in Southern California in the garden calendar for August 2021.
Apparently many are following that advice. James Lemos, president of the Long Beach Club — the county’s oldest succulent club, dating to 1933 — said almost all its new members are people in their 20s and 30s.
“People are into the plants, but they’re also attracted by the fellowship,” Lemos said. “A lot of them are introverts in their regular lives until they come to the meetings, where they can share their passion for the plants and their personalities. They’re nurturing types who come to meet other like-minded people.”
Sales this weekend were “the best in the history of the show,” said Artie Chavez, owner of Desert Creations Nursery & Gift Shop in Northridge.
“Yes, 2019 was a record sales year [at the convention] but 2021 exceeded those gross sales by 30%,” Chavez said.
The Cactus Ranch feels secret, special even, because as far as nurseries go it’s relatively unknown. During the week, the property is a wholesale nursery business, closed to the public. But on weekends it’s open to anyone.
In the past, interest was driven mostly by older people looking for water-wise landscaping, he said, but these days the interest is driven by young collectors, “a much younger demographic than ever before. The amount of younger people in the hobby is astounding.”
If you’re looking to join the wave, here’s a photo gallery of highlights from the show, including at least 20 of the most amazing succulents and/or cactus we saw (it was hard to choose). If you want to see more photos, check out the convention’s Instagram account @intercityshow.
And if you missed last weekend’s show or just need another fix, visit the Gates Cactus and Succulent Society’s 46th Plant Sale on Aug. 28 in Redlands. Admission is free at the Redlands Church of the Nazarene, 1307 E. Citrus Ave., from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Copiapoas and ariocarpus are the hottest selling cactus varieties today, according to vendors, largely because they are slow growing, and so harder to come by. This Copiapoa cinerea f. inermis grown by Artie Chavez, owner of Desert Creations in Northridge, seems to glow from within. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Hobbyist Tony Marino of Chino makes custom cabinets by day but his passion is succulents and cactus. His creeping devil cactus (Stenocereus eruca) was one of the convention’s top trophy winners, in a special pot he built years ago from recycled carpet padding. This Mexican cactus was about eight inches long when he bought it about 10 years ago. He uses a soil made up of half pumice and half store-bought cactus mix to ensure adequate drainage. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
A visitor frames one of the top-winning plants at the show, a Euphorbia abdelkuri grown by Mike Hackett of Hyde Park; a rare, toxic and slow-growing succulent that is only found in the wild on the rocky island of Abd al Kuri, between Yemen and Somalia, said convention co-chair Tom Glavich. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Convention organizers joked that they ran out of first-place ribbons because of Ramona-based grower Peter Walkowiak, who brought 70 cactus and succulents to the exhibit, many of which earned top marks with the judges. “Let’s face it, he’s the best grower here,” said convention co-chair Tom Glavich. Walkowiak claims membership in every succulent club in Southern California, and has been in love with succulents since he discovered them at school in the mid-1970s. This Adenium swazicum succulent shrub with bright pink blooms is a native of Swaziland in South Africa. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Melocactus push all their flowers and seeds to the colorful protrusions that come off their tops. This prize winner was grown by Kathryn Boorer from Woodland Hills, an intermediate-level grower with multiple wins who is so good, says co-chair Tom Glavich, that she could easily hold her own in the pro category. (ilvia Razgova / For The Times)
At 24, Crystal Eckman of Escondido is the youngest person to co-chair the 35-year-old convention. She is so in love with melocactus — seen here — that she grows them from seed, and her novice-level entries won so many honors co-chair Tom Glavich says he expects she’ll be a top pro contender in the future. Eckman says she loves how the seeds of the cactus pop out of the top in bright-pink pepper-shaped cones. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
This Haageocereus longispinus monstrose crest grown by co-chairman Tom Glavich of Altadena looks cuddly enough to hug, but it’s really pretty prickly and fragile. He’s tended it for 15 years, and prunes it occasionally to keep a nice shape. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Visitors peruse and admire the small sea of succulents on the trophy table during the 35th Inter-city Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Andrew Toledo of North Hollywood’s Pachypodium eburneum succulent, also known as a Madagascar palm, was one of the convention’s trophy winners. It’s a compact plant with tall white blooms, and is believed to be extinct in its native habitat in central Madagascar. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Gavin Hunn, left, and Crystal Eckman of Escondido examine a Euphorbia obesa succulent entered by Louise Stack of Covina, while they record a live stream for the convention’s Instagram page, @intercityshow (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
A small selection of the 1,300 succulents on display during the 35th Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale at the Arboretum in Arcadia. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Shoppers peruse succulents for sale during the convention, which recorded its best sales ever in its 35 years, according to vendor and grower Artie Chavez. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Juniper Hills-based grower Karen Ostle’s Gymnocalycium asterium isn’t really collapsing on itself—that’s just how they grow, and hers was a first-prize winner. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
You’ll probably never see another Obregonia denegri crest like this first-prize winner grown by Kathryn Boorer of Woodland Hills. She bought this plant on Ebay five years ago, but she’s not sure of its age. It was grafted onto another rootstock to make it grow faster she said, but she’s guessing it’s about 20 years old. Like all the top growers, Boorer has her own soil mix recipe—70% pumice, and a 30% mix of compost and sand sifted from DG—decomposed granite. She uses the leftover pebbles from sifting her DG as a topper for her soil. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
This Coleocephalocereus aureus grown by Gary Duke of Long Beach was the only one in its division, but co-chair Tom Glavich said it’s such a beautiful specimen it would have taken top honors anyway. The woolly looking scarring is actually how the plant grows its flowers and seeds, only in that section, said Glavich. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
A Mammillaria spinosissima v. rubrissima entered by grower Sandy Chase of Sylmar was one of dozens of bulbous mammillaria on exhibit. This cactus from Mexico is prized for its red-tinged bristles. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Visitors stoop and peer at the small sea of succulents —just one aisle’s worth!—at the 35th Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Tom Glavich’s Haworthia maughanii was another prize winner. This succulent grows a new head every two to three years, he said. “They’re easy to keep alive; they’re just slow.” He grows his outside his Altadena home under a 50% shade cloth, because intense heat will kill them. His soil mix is 80% pumice and 20% regular potting mix; “any brown stuff, I don’t really care.” He waters gently and uses a water soluble fertilizer like Gro-Mor. Just make sure your fertilizer has a lower nitrogen count than the phosphorous and potassium numbers, he said. Too much nitrogen makes succulents unnaturally long and leggy, (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
This Myrtillocactus geometrizans cactus entered by Richard Salceno of South El Monte resembles an undersea plant. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Peter Walkowiak’s prickly bundle of Copiapoa krainziana was another top prize winner at the convention. Walkowiak’s soil recipe is comprised of 20% compost, 20% decomposed granite and 60% wet perlite, so he always plants in damp soil. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Succulents can grow like trees, as this table of bulbous, tortured-root Pachypodium and other plants attest. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Shoppers kept the convention’s vendors busy all three days, with the best sales they’ve ever recorded in their 35 years. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
“Dulces!” squealed one visitor when she saw Tori Wilson’s candy-like display of colorful Lithops, also known as living stones. Wilson, 35, of Arcadia, says the succulents are easy to kill by overwatering and they don’t like to touch ceramics, so while she crammed more than 20 of them into this lovely pot for the exhibition, she immediately took them out again once they got home. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
This Cyphostemma currorii from Atwater Village-based grower Nick Renteria of is tree-like succulent related to table grapes with a similar peeling bark effect, said co-chair Tom Glavich. Just don’t try to eat the tiny fruit—some are poisonous and all taste bitter. One advantage: They are very easy to grow. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
Three stately Trichocereus bridgesii, peruvianus, and rosei cactus entered by grower Jeremy Mercado of Pomona tower over the other plants on their table at the Inter-city Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
These gold-bristled Cereus estevesii cactus entered by Chino grower Tony Marino are natives of Brazil. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)
The elephant tree aka Operculicaye decaryi is a fast growing succulent that can grow to 30 feet in the wild, says co-chair Tom Glavich. This tall, prize-winning entry from grower Chris Zaferes of Topanga gets high points for its bumpy trunk—always look for a bumpy trunk on young plants Glavich says—and its magnificent base of gnarly roots which grow like that naturally, unlike other succulents that have been carefully tended to slowly expose their roots, much like bonsai trees. (Silvia Razgova / For The Times)