06 August, 2010

Caring for Cacti

Cacti make excellent additions to anyone’s garden, veranda, table top, shelf, desk – Indoors or outdoors, the options are endless! And with their amazing ability to adapt to their environment, they are super easy to look after and care for.
Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:

Cacti like a decent amount of light. If they are indoors, the best place to keep them is next to a window. If they are outdoors, under a patio or veranda in a spot where they can receive indirect sunlight is the perfect position. They can withstand being out in the full sun for most of the year, but some can burn if they are kept out in the sun during the summer months. Ideally, try to aim for a position that has ample light, but only a small amount of direct sunlight. South facing positions are always an excellent choice.
Spring, Summer and Autumn
Most Cacti have their main growing period in spring, summer and autumn. During this time they can be watered quite frequently. In the middle of summer you may find that they need watering every couple of days. The frequency of watering really depends on the container and the position they are in, as well as the time of the year. The most general rule of thumb is – If the soil is dry, water them!
During winter, most cacti go into a dormant state and will need to be kept dry for long periods of time. Watering 3 or 4 times during the whole winter period will most likely be sufficient. Remember, the main culprit of sickly or dying cacti is rot caused by over-watering in winter - so do try to minimize watering during this season. It is also a good idea to keep them under cover during winter and away from the rain. Try to avoid using saucers under your pots unless you are happy to empty them after each watering. Cacti don’t like to sit in water for any period of time.
Potting mix
If it comes time for you to re-pot your cactus, remember that all cacti need to be potted into a well draining cactus mix. There are several commercial cactus and succulent mixes on the market that offer adequate drainage, however you can always improve the quality of the mix by adding 1 part of perlite or coarse grain sand to every 3 parts of potting media. Re-pot your cactus every few years to encourage new growth.
One Last Thing…
Mealybug and Scale can cause problems for our prickly friends, but luckily they are problems you can easily rectify. If you see cottony looking bugs or raised spots on the body of your cactus, simply spray them with a systemic insecticide. This will help to keep these pesky little devils at bay.
See, it really is easy to look after your prickly friends, and by following these basic tips, your cactus will continue to look magnificent for years and years to come!
Collect, admire and enjoy!

A Garden to Truly Admire

Last Sunday, The Cactus and Succulent Society of WA spent the day at a really remarkable garden on the outskirts of Perth.
The owners have been working hard on the property for over 20 years and have based the gardens around their enthusiastic love of succulents and cacti. There was an amazing range of Aloes and Agaves and hundreds of other succulents that have been collected over the years. Several trips to Africa have no doubt influenced some of the collection. There was also an amazing variety of palms and cycads. Rock retaining walls ramble throughout, and the sandy ground only help the succulents thrive in their desert like environment.
The recent harsh frosts that have hit the Perth area recently have affected almost everyone in the metropolitan area, and this garden was no exception. It was reported that the areas ground temperature reached a minimum of -8 C, and some species had unfortunately suffered. One Crassula ovata (pictured) was very savagely burnt from the frost. An advanced specimen of Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta’ (pictured) also took a rather severe beating. The good news though is that there is no reason why these plants shouldn’t make a full recovery, in time. The terminal shoot of the Furcraea was still in tact, and the frost damage on the Crassula, although severe, won’t stop it from reshooting when the weather improves. It just goes to show the amazing resilience of these species and their ability to adapt to their environmental conditions.
Frost damage on a Crassula ovata and a Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta’.
There were newly established areas in their garden, signifying that the owner’s enthusiasm is still thriving and bound to continue for many years to come. In these new areas, combinations of Golden Barrel Cacti, Pachypodium and other species, as well as large limestone boulders offered an amazing architectural display, even if relatively new. Once this area has had time to establish, it will truly become a wonderful masterpiece to be admired and respected.
This property supplied charm and interest, and is a real collector’s paradise.
The owner’s should be very proud and no doubt, in the future will keep with the theme and enhance it with further gardens to make it a real botanical splendour.
If you would like to become a part of The Cactus and Succulent Society of WA and visit glorious gardens such as this one, you can contact the society on (08) 9277 3924.

14 June, 2010

Winter Growing Succulents

Here in Perth, a majority of cacti and succulents go into a dormant state during winter. These plants will only need very little water during this period, and in fact, some will require no water at all!
If you have your cacti outside at this time of the year, you will want to make sure they are kept under cover, otherwise they are very likely to rot. Some succulents, such as Echeveria, are also sensitive to over watering during this period.
On the reverse side of the coin, there are succulents that thrive in winter conditions and go into a dormant state during summer. Weird, I know, but yes, some succulents like to be dry in the summer time!
Not sure which category your succulent fits in?
You can easily find this out by simply researching what habitat they originally come from. If they originate from a subtropical or tropical area, then they are more than likely to be summer growers. In this case they will need an ample supply of water in summer and very little in winter. However, if they originate from a temperate region, then they will tend to be winter growers and the opposite rules apply.
Examples of succulents that are winter growers include:
  • Aeonium sp
  • Senecio serpens
  • Haemanthus
  • Sedum spathulatum, and
  • Gibbaeum sp
This knowledge is a very handy tool, and it can help you to figure out what locations in your garden to plant particular species. If there are areas of your garden that are currently uninhabitable because you cannot get enough water to it in summer, then try planting winter growing succulents and sit back and watch them thrive!
How easy is that?!
Happy Planting!

The plant pictured is Aeonium arboreum var. 'Schwartzkopf'.

24 May, 2010

What are Grafted Cacti?

When people see these unusually coloured cacti, quite often they are mistaken as flowers. But in actual fact they are two different species of cacti grafted together.

The brightly coloured cactus that sits on top is actually a mutant variation of a standard cactus. In the wild, if a mutant pup is created, eventually it would detach from the parent plant and sadly die as it cannot photosynthesise. The reason it can’t photosynthesise is because it has no chlorophyll (green pigments), which is essential in the photosynthesis process. So in order for a mutant pup to survive, we have to find some other means to give it nutrients. This is where the grafting comes in.

Rootstock plants, which are able to photosynthesise normally, are what the mutant pups are grafted on to. They can provide enough nutrients for both itself and its grafted partner, allowing both to survive. Common rootstocks used in grafting cacti include species of Hylocereus (what we use here at Fickle Prickles), Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Trichocereus pasacana, Harrisia jusbertii, Cereus peruvianus and many more.

Most of the colourful mutants you will see around are derived from the species Gymnocalycium mihanovichii and Lobivia silvestrii variegate. However, the possibilities of grafting are endless, and not just limited to mutants. The white cacti in the photo above aren't actually mutants at all, but are still visually stunning and offer wonderful colour contrasts to mini cactus gardens.

How to care for Grafted Cacti…

Place these guys indoors or sheltered under verandas or patios as the rootstock is sensitive to the cold and frosts. They do need partial sun, so next to a window is the perfect location if they are indoors.

Very little maintenance is required for these guys to thrive; in fact one of the main reasons grafted cacti suffer is through over watering.
Water them sparingly, only when the soil is dry (this can take anywhere from a week to a month depending on location, time of year and environmental factors). The best thing to do is water them thoroughly and then let it drain. If you are using saucers, make sure to empty them out after each watering.

or more information, visit www.fickleprickles.com.au

What is the difference between a Cactus and a Succulent?

Well, to completely confuse you in the first sentence –
Cacti are actually succulents!!!

“How is that?” you ask? Let me explain…

Succulents are a group of plants that are identified as having cells in parts of their body that retain water:
  • Some plants have these cells in their roots, like some Euphorbias.
  • Others have them in their stems, like Stapliads and Pachypodiums.
Cacti also have this ability and this is why a cactus is a succulent. It is similar to the saying, “All German shepherds are dogs, but not all dogs are German Shepherds.” All Cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti.

So what defines a cactus?
All cacti belong to the plant family Cactaceae, and there are many characteristics that identify a plant as belonging to this family. SPINES are not one of them!

Don’t get fooled into thinking that a cactus is a cactus just because is has spines. There are many species of succulents with spines that aren't in the Cactaceae family, such as some Euphorbias and Agaves. On top of that, some cacti don’t have spines at all, like most Lophophoras.

What defines true cacti are areoles. Areoles are what spines, glochids, branches and flowers may sprout from, and all cacti have them, while succulents do not. Areoles are not hard to find – they usually look like small, fluffy, cotton like lumps on the body of the cactus:

Photo 1:
The cactus Trichocereus sp. with white, cotton like areoles.
Photo 2: Another cactus, Trichocereus sp. also with white, fluffy areoles.
Photo 3: The succulent Euphorbia trigona, which has spines but no areoles.

So, the next time you look at a succulent, look to see if they have areoles. Then you will know for certain that it is a cactus, or not. Remember though, there are exceptions to every rule, and cacti are the hardest of all plants to identify. Be prepared for a lot of research and patience if you wish to identify what species of cactus your plant is.

For more information, visit www.fickleprickles.com.au

The Benefits of Indoor Plants

When you think that we spend more than 80 percent of our lifetime indoors, whether it be at home or in the office, it is very important to consider the quality of our indoor environments.

We all want our homes and offices to reflect a neat, clean, beautiful setting to work or relax in, and indoor plants are great way to help achieve that goal. Their colours, shapes and textures all contribute to the look of your home or office.

What you may not know is that not only do indoor plants improve the aesthetics of your indoor spaces, they also have numerous amounts of health benefits, both psychological and physical!

Plants make you happy!
Your mood is very much reflective of your surroundings. Plants can liven up a dull space by adding much needed colour and vibrancy. They can make you feel more 'at home' by creating a cosy environment in which you can more happily live in.

Indoor plants can help you to feel more optimistic, and reduce feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety. It is said that hospital patients who have a garden view to look at out a window recover far more quickly that those who face a wall.

Plants in the office are a great way to improve morale among your colleagues. They help motivate employees by stimulating the brain. Some businesses who have placed several potted plants around their office have reported definite increases in productivity and creativity, and a significant reduction of stress among their staff.

Plants help you fight away colds and allergies!
It is understood that indoor plants can help you to fight sore throats, coughs, congestion, minor headaches, itchy skin, asthma and other symptoms related to colds, flu's and common allergies. They do this by maintaining appropriate humidity levels in your home and decreasing levels of dust.

Plants are your own personal bio-filtration system!
You may have heard of the term 'sick building syndrome' before, it relates to a combination of ailments associated with an occupants place of work or residence. These ailments are due to poor interior environments. Buildings with inadequate ventilation systems, air conditioners and heaters can actually make their occupants very ill. Poorly ventilated indoor spaces are susceptible to many forms of biological pollutants such as:
  • Mold
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Mites
On top of that, new paints, carpets and furnishings are known to radiate volatile organic compounds (VOC's) that are toxic and can cause you harm. It is believed that sick building syndrome can make you feel nauseous, light headed and can be the cause of allergy symptoms and many neurotoxic health problems.

Another contributor of poor air quality can be gas stoves or ovens. Regular use of household gas appliances can create a build up of unwanted nitrogen oxides in your home.

The good news? Plants are a natural filtration system and have oxygen replenishing qualities! They actually absorb pollutants in the air and emit fresh oxygen - It is said that they absorb nasty toxins and pollutants in the air through their leaves and then transmit these toxins to the roots, where they are converted into nutrients for the plant.
By having plants in your home you can reduce the levels of these toxins and contaminants dramatically, leaving the air cleaner and fresher.

Cacti and your computer...
Some electronic devices, such as computers, televisions, video recorders and DVD/CD players emit small amounts of EMF radiation. Cacti are believed to be excellent absorbers of these emissions and can help ease minor headaches and reduce electromagnetic stress associated with EMF radiation. How it works is that the spines on a cactus apparently attract charged ions in the air and change ionisation levels of a room.
So it is a great idea to keep a cactus or two on your desk and definitely next to your computer!

For more information, visit www.fickleprickles.com.au

31 March, 2010

Easter Gifts

Don't forget the Kalamunda Farmer's Twilight Easter Market is on tonight, Wed 31st March and we have a stall there with lots of Easter Gifts!!! It runs from 5 - 8pm.

If you miss that one, we also have our usual stall at the Rotary Kalamunda Markets this Saturday, 3rd April - 9am - 4pm. Both are located on Barber St in Kalamunda.

23 March, 2010

Market Stall

The Roleystone Autumn Festival was a great success and we would like to thank all those involved in making our stall possible.

This makes our third installment of market/fair fun-ness, with the last two being at the Kalamunda Markets which was also heaps of fun and very successful.

Next up is the Southlands Willetton Rotary Community Fair which will be on this Sunday, the 28th March, 10am to 4pm. It is at the Burrendah Reserve, Corner of Pinetree Gully Rd & Burrendah Blvd, Willetton. Hope to see you all there!

We will also still continue to be at the Kalamunda markets every month, on the first Saturday of each month. We're located on Barber Rd, just outside the post office.

Website Construction

There has been some major progress in completing our website/online store. We hope to be up and running very, very soon!

we are working hard at getting an online store integrated as soon as possible... stay tuned folks!