The New York Times Book Review
The Gardener's Guide to Cactus: The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globesby Scott Calhoun
When it comes to garden plants, cacti are anything but standard issue. The bulk of home gardens contain exactly zero species of cactus, and the thought of growing them makes gardeners think, “Ouch!” In The Gardener’s Guide to Cactus: The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globes, Scott Calhoun is out to change that/i>
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When it comes to garden plants, cacti are anything but standard issue. The bulk of home gardens contain exactly zero species of cactus, and the thought of growing them makes gardeners think, “Ouch!” In The Gardener’s Guide to Cactus: The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globes, Scott Calhoun is out to change that perception, and bring the beauty and ease of cactus home. It’s high time that cacti took their place alongside the trendy succulent.
The New York Times Book Review
Gardeners worrying about water will also appreciate THE GARDENER’S GUIDE TO CACTUS...by Scott Calhoun, whose subtitle says it all: “The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns and Globes.” It offers a clear, helpful, well-presented text — trust me, this is an art form all too often neglected in garden books — along with reliable design suggestions.
“Scott’s firsthand knowledge and experience of working with these plants shines.”
"More than a primer, this useful guide provides cultivation tips for practiced gardeners."
"Has a little something for every garden—but it’s not overwhelming."
Gardeners worrying about water will also appreciate THE GARDENER’S GUIDE TO CACTUS (Timber Press, $24.95, available in early January), by Scott Calhoun, whose subtitle says it all: “The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns and Globes.” It offers a clear, helpful, well-presented text — trust me, this is an art form all too often neglected in garden books — along with reliable design suggestions.
"Gardeners new and old will close this book with an arsenal of ideas on how to take their cactus cultivation to a new level."
"Should be considered a definitive guide to using cacti in gardens and landscapes."
"...this is a totally amazing and really fun book."
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Read an Excerpt
If you think of cactus solely as plants confined to rock-strewn deserts, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that several species of cactus grow in the steppe climate of the short-grass prairie, happily sidling up to grama grasses. I have always admired cactus for their anthropomorphic qualities. They have spines, we have spines, and like us, many species have bodies, joints, and even ear- and arm-like appendages. More than twenty years ago, when I began designing my first garden, I considered the members of the cactus family solely as accent plants—to be used here and there as curiosities, but rarely more than that. Oh, how my perspective has shifted!
Over time, cactus and their succulent cousins have moved to the center of my garden design universe. In gardens, cactus stand as living sculptures that get more and more interesting as they mature over the decades. They form the prickly heart of some of the most interesting gardens in the world. Designs peppered with cactus have become my new design paradigm. To boot, these designs are of the very most water-thrifty and undemanding sort. Especially in terms of water, cactus ask little of their keepers. I started substituting cactus in place of thirsty and finicky perennials, seeking out the most garden-worthy specimens—plants with red spines, thatches of needles, and brightly colored flesh. The longer I kept cactus, the more I appreciated them; they are exceptionally venerable plants. Many species are so long-lived that prized plants can be passed down from one generation to the next.
As I explored the many excellent field guides and technical botanical tracts that treat the cactus family, it occurred to me that the literature remarked little about the garden-worthy attributes of the plants in the family. I became convinced that the aesthetic and sensory qualities of the family were due more exploration. That conviction is the genesis for this book.
In the pages that follow, I feature one hundred of the most interesting and versatile North American cactus species. As with all such lists, this one is to some degree arbitrary; the choice of species is based on my tastes as a garden designer and plantsman, and with an emphasis on fitting them into a garden setting. In that spirit, all of the cactus are sorted by shape first rather than a simple A to Z list by botanical name alone. They are grouped as follows: low and mounding, barrels and globes, paddles and rods, and columns. In addition to the horticultural information you’d expect to find in a book like this, I’m adding an entry for each species with design suggestions that in some cases include companion plants. It is possible that my enthusiasm for these endlessly fascinating plants will be contagious as you browse this book. I aim to get you hooked—hopefully not literally.
Meet the Author
Scott Calhoun is an award-winning author and garden designer based in Tucson, Arizona, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Self-reliant prickly plants, and particularly cactus, have long captured his imagination. In his design practice, he incorporates cactus into every residential space and sees them as the plant family of the future—especially in arid parts of the world.
Scott is the author of six gardening books. His first book, Yard Full of Sun, was awarded the 2006 American Horticultural Society Book Award; his second title, Chasing Wildflowers, won the Garden Writers Association 2008 Silver Book Award. Scott writes a monthly garden column for Sunset magazine and has written for most national gardening magazines. He runs Zona Gardens, a design studio, and gardens, writes, and lectures across the United States.
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