Steve began growing cacti in his schooldays. A friend gave him a couple of small plants as a present and he was immediately hooked. “Getting hooked can be a real danger with some plants”, he warns, “as some of the spiny ones have prickles that curve at the tip rather like fish hooks.”
Steve soon learned to pick out a few with flower buds as well the ones that looked interesting in their own right. “Cactus flowers can be very beautiful” says Steve. “They come in a variety of colours. Some are quite small, some are enormous, and some are even scented. A dull-looking plant can sometimes surprise you with a spectacular flower. Some of the non-cactus succulents have flowers that can smell a bit peculiar, for instance of cheese or rotting meat. Those are quite fun for fooling the grandchildren.”
Steve reckons he has quite a small collection, although his wife Anne disagrees. “I only have two hundred plants or so, not including seedlings. Most of my pals at the Herne Bay cactus club have many more than that.”
Steve reflects on cactus growing in time of lockdown. “I miss the meetings of the cactus club. Dave, the membership secretary, has been keeping us on our toes with online quizzes. His Agave plant is sending up a huge flower spike – I guessed it would make 9 feet, but it’s way past that and still growing.
Meanwhile, the greenhouse is a refuge. I love to spend some time each day just looking at my plants. It’s important to do that, to keep an eye out for pests and other problems. I am raising a lot of plants from seed at the moment.
These are uncertain times and I feel it helps, somehow, to have an investment in the future. I look at the tiny plants and imagine them getting bigger over the next few years – and perhaps rewarding me with a flower or two.”