Saturday, September 24, 2011


I used to hate cacti - monotonous, miserable, malignant things, I thought, best abandoned to vultures and gun-gripping cowboys. I hoped a savage, whistling wind would  blow them off the planet - to Mars, if necessary.
How very fickle I am. For some time now, seeing cacti as survivors, in a landscape where we're often enough stricken by drought, my way of seeing has altered.
I find them not only strikingly sculptural, but also, with their slow-evolving persistence and quirky formations, a genus to admire. I feel protective towards them, having a better sense of their vulnerability and courage.
And I can turn my back on them, completely forgetting all about them, and they'll make whoopee in my absence. How very congenial. 
Most of mine are in pots, as seen here, but a number - usually rescued from a one-way trip to the graveyard or a callous neighbour - are scattered about in the garden, giving an air of permanence and stark dignity.

On days when I'd sooner draw a curtain on the bigger picture, having a miniature garden of quietly-achieving plants that so much look after themselves is a bit like sitting quietly myself, letting the lusher world sweep vulgarly where it will, without me, into its own oblivion.
P.S. Not all specimens above are cacti, in the strict sense of the word.
P.P.S. Not all strictness is sensible.


  1. Hello Faisal:
    "Not all strictness is sensible". How we love that, and, dear Faisal, how we loathe the cacti, reminders of nasty little things one was allowed to have as one's own indoor plant when a child. Forgive us, please!

  2. Hello Jane and Lance:
    I fully comprehend where you're coming from...those unlovely plants you were supposed to love, as if by some process of transubstantiation, the love would somehow flower out of all impossibility, which it only would if you were good...I would have thought, of course, that you were not especially interested in strictness, much as it seems, you have a degree of self-discipline admirable to me, and evident in all your posts...

  3. I have a bonsai pot with six lithops in gravel. I love them. Certainly not cacti, but a similar strategy for survival.

  4. and i who did not like cactus, i suddenly began to appreciate them...

  5. I think its fab that this group of plants is at long last having their day in the sun!

  6. Cactus - I think of prickles, thorns, vicious, invasive aliens like the prickly pear. My agaves were escorted off the premises after they stabbed me!

    Take a deep breath. Most of yours, appear to be our succulents. I'll ignore that barrel cactus.

  7. That is a beautiful display, Faisal. I like all the succulents because they can tolerate some neglect both on the terrace and in the house.

  8. James, I've never had lithops, but Dave Marsden ( the anxious gardener ) has recently written an entertaining post on them.

    Demie, maybe they are 'hard to love'.

    William, they're certainly of a different order to traditional gardens.

    Hello to you, Beatriz. i'm glad you like them.

    Diana, I'm sure you have close contact with any number of weird and wonderful plants in your part of the world, many the rest of us know nothing about...

    Thankyou, Michael. We've been in a position here where we've simply had to look for alternatives.

  9. Dear Faisal, I must say I prefer succulents that I suppose are cacti but without the nasty spiky threatening things... and I also appreciate the anarchism underlying 'not all strictness is sensible' - I don't know why but i find it very funny. (have you ever been told that you have a 'way' with PSs and PPSs?) cheers, catmint

  10. Dear Catmint, it was only after I'd flustered about - in my dressing-gown - arranging this 'prickly' cactus tableau and artily taking my shots, that several of the specimens weren't cacti at all...I give up! However well I try to put things together, a little bit of awkward reality gets in the way. Let it, if that's what has to makes life more interesting to be imperfect.

  11. Thankyou, JJ, it's rewarding working with nature.