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Hacking Back Cactus.

AwayWeGo

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[triennial - points]
Some years ago we noticed an exotic plant in somebody's front yard, near a driveway entrance right along a semi-main suburban road (leading to the West Falls Church VA subway station).

Right here in temperate & humid Northern Virginia, living outdoors with no special protection, was a wild brittle prickly pear cactus. We had no idea how that exotic specimen took root -- & thrived -- so far away from the southwestern desert country of the USA.

Every winter, the cactus shrank down into a purplish puddle, all hunkered down till spring. Each spring, the approach of warm weather coaxed the cactus into greening up gradually, then filling out its customary shape, & lifting itself into its customary prickly pear shape.

With permission of the people who had the cactus in their front yard, The Chief Of Staff brought home a cutting (about the size of a dinner plate) off that prickly pear. We planted it next to the entrance of our driveway down by the street. The cactus not only survived being transplanted, it took root & thrived.

By mid-June of each year, the plant puts out lots of attractive yellow cactus blossoms. We started referring to it as the Anniversary Cactus, because the appearance of the yellow flowers usually coincides with our June wedding anniversary.

This year, we realized the Anniversary Cactus had grown out of control. From its plate-size start here, it had expanded to the size of a ping-pong table -- way too much cactus for a sedate suburban front yard like ours.

So I got out the hoe & the rake & the pitchfork & the garden shovel & attacked the overgrown cactus. What's left of it is once again approximately the size of a dinner plate. No doubt it'll be double that size by this time next year.

We learned (via Internet) that brittle prickly pear isn't nearly so exotic as we had assumed for this part of the country. Varieties of brittle prickly pear are found in something like 48 of the 50 states, also in some of the Canadian provinces.

Who knew ?

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

Passepartout

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Around here folks eat the fruit and I see the leaves in the produce section at tne supermarket. I guess they are edible too. Who Knew? You could be the Mid-Atlantic distributor.

Jim Ricks
 

Fern Modena

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I hope you gave the parts you cut off to friends and neighbors to make new plants. Cactus is very resilient. You don't need roots to plant a shoot. When I was a child we had two very large jade bushes. My mother decided she wanted a jade cactus border. So she just broke off a few handfuls of the jade and planted it at about one foot intervals. In due time she had a wonderful jade border.

Fern
 

AwayWeGo

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[triennial - points]
Couldn't Get Anybody Interested, Sorry To Say.

I hope you gave the parts you cut off to friends and neighbors to make new plants.
No takers, unfortunately.

I hate to waste useful stuff -- specially something special & exotic like our Anniversary Cactus.

Instead, all the excess spiky vegetation that I hacked back got picked up with the rest of the yard debris & hauled out to Mt. Trashmore.

So it goes.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

shagnut

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I saw some cactus like yours at the edge of the road to be thrown away so grabbed some. Oh my, it explodes. I've begged my neighbors to take some, NO ONE wants it!!! I threw some in a box at the side of my house and it came to life with no soil or anything!! You can't kill it altho the thorns feel like they can kill you!! shaggy
 

jschmidt

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We have a ranch and one of my spring chores is to fill the 2-1/2 gallon sprayer. Then the dogs and I go out looking for the yellow prickly pear cactus flowers. A little squirt of Tordon 22K mixed with water and blue dye and in about six months they’re dead.

You can never find them all but the walking keeps me in good shape. My motto is "They can hide but they can't run!" :D
 
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AwayWeGo

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[triennial - points]
Getting Jabbed With Cactus Needles.

You can't kill it altho the thorns feel like they can kill you!
It's not the big, spiky thorns that get me.

It's those little, semi-invisible clusters of tiny hairlike cactus needles that really stick -- & when I'm stuck I can't see'm to try to pull'm out.

They cause just as much pain as the big cactus needles -- maybe more.

Those cactus needles make it a tricky chore to do weeding around the cactus patch.

Leather gardening gloves give scant protection. I have to wear latex surgical-style gloves & then put on the leather gloves over those.

For pulling weeds rooted way down & in between shoots of prickly pear, I have to reach down using long-nose pliers in my gloved hands -- not the most efficient way to pull garden weeds.

Hacking back the overgrown cactus patch was a form of revenge, I suppose, for all the times I got stuck.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​

 

Don

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I've got one in the lot next door. I don't know where it came from, it wasn't there last year. A bird must have "dropped" a seed.
 

donnaval

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I was given a small piece a few years ago when I admired the landscaping at a yard sale I had visited. We are in Western PA and I couldn't believe that a cactus could be a perennial in our area. I was so surprised that the lady so eagerly offered me a big chunk for free...

I actually love the cactus. When it's blooming, there's nothing prettier. That first piece has virtually overtaken a barren hillside where I couldn't get anything to grow. As Alan mentioned, weeding is killer due to those little invisible jaggers. I wear rubber gloves with regular gloves on top and still end up with invisible ouchies. My husband hates the cactus and refuses to go near it.

The past couple of years I've given out chunks to friends, and stuck leaves that break off in various areas around our property--in every single case, they caught and are thriving.

One place I haven't tried is the very mushy wet ground around a pond. I think I'll stick a piece in there to see if a cactus will grow in such wet ground.

The deer don't bother it lol.
 

AwayWeGo

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[triennial - points]
Attack Of The Hacked-Back Cactus.

I hate to waste useful stuff -- specially something special & exotic like our Anniversary Cactus.
Our hacked-back cactus has snapped back.

It has regained most of the volume it lost when we chopped it down to size. After another couple of seasons it will be closing in on the size it was when we attacked it using shovels & axes & rakes & hoes.

Meanwhile, with the onset of fall, the plant has darkened & gone soft & lain down flat against the ground. (But don't worry -- it will snap back next spring.)

I noticed recently that some critter -- crows possibly, I guessed, or maybe some of the deer that roam the neighborhood at night -- had been munching the red cactus fruits that stud the cactus pads even now that the plant has hunkered down for winter. Debris & reddish pulp residue were all over a flattish rock right near the semi-dormant plant.

More recently, I caught a fat squirrel in the act when I went outside in the morning. He left when I approached -- did not run away, but moseyed across the circle to the neighbor's front yard. Judging by the build-up of more pulp & cactus fruit debris, I'd say he's been coming back -- & maybe bringing his friends.

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 

AwayWeGo

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[triennial - points]
Self-Hacking Cactus.

Our hacked-back cactus has snapped back.

It has regained most of the volume it lost when we chopped it down to size. After another couple of seasons it will be closing in on the size it was when we attacked it using shovels & axes & rakes & hoes.
It regained all the volume it had before we hacked it back that time, & then some -- so much so that The Chief Of Staff decreed it had to go.

This time, instead of getting out the shovels & axes & rakes & hoes, we photographed it & put pictures of it (in bloom) on the Craig's List free section, offering clumps as starters for people who would like an interesting & exotic (for this part of the country) garden plant.

We got so many takers that as of yesterday our blooming patch of brittle prickly pear cactus is all gone. Nothing left that we can see. And this time, we didn't have to do any of the work.

The Chief Of Staff guesses that we have not seen the last of the cactus plant -- that pieces of roots or miscellaneous nodules we can't see are still there & will emerge once again before long.

We'll see.

Meanwhile, even though our cactus patch is gone (for now), the plant is far from defeated. Now it has the opportunity to start taking over 6 or 7 other people's yards & gardens -- those who came over & hacked off chumps to take away & plant at home.

Is this a great country or what ?

-- Alan Cole, McLean (Fairfax County), Virginia, USA.​
 
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