Planning and Building Boot Hill

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I’ve wanted a cactus garden for a while; suddenly, inspiration hit.  I’ve got a roll of rustic wire fence, and a spot along the driveway that is begging for some unique and interesting ways of displaying cold hardy cacti.

Cactus Garden Design

Hardy cacti, unlike other warm climate cactus plants, relish the cold and dry places here in British Columbia. 

They can withstand a lot of cold, in some cases they survive cold temperatures that could kill a human in a few minutes, and they live in the most challenging of climates where the snow is swept away by harsh winds.

The soils they inhabit are usually clay to sand, very low in nutrients and sometimes steep terrain is where you’ll find these surprising plants.

In an interesting twist, some of them grow close to the waters edge on some major rivers – they make new colonies when they’re swept away in floods – you wouldn’t have thought they could survive that kind of treatment but they have a waxy coating that is thought to protect them not only from extreme drought, but from excess water as well.

With my collection of boots, old rusty wheelbarrows and a whole lot of shovel blades without their handles, I’ve got plenty of funky accessories.

I have the perfect place to make a safe place to plant many hardy cactus such as the Opuntia, or prickly pear, with their lovely tissue paper blooms, and other

Dreaming; wishing; planning

related cactus plants like Cylindropuntia whipplei, and the different Gymnocalicium that people give me. 

All of these combine well, because they all need good fast drainage, rocky and gravelly soil, and a place where people, dogs and cactus can be kept apart – that’s where the wire fence comes in.

Lemon colored tissue paper blooms of Opuntia fragilis
The plants that I have to choose from are all hardy to Zone 5a, or colder. In the case of the Opuntia fragilis, these are hardy to Zone 2a
this unusual orange flowered species of Opuntia will go in the wheelbarrow
An unusual orange flowered Opuntia species – this will take pride of place in the wheelbarrow, surrounded by the old shovel blades

Planning a cactus garden is not for the faint of heart;  it’s important to have a place where the plants can be ignored for the times that they’re out of bloom, with maybe the odd visit, and close enough that they will be noticed when flowering.

My Boot Hill area is definitely going to be eyecatching, and I can happily use some of the rustic salvage that is hanging around looking for a home to give it that rustic, western flavor.

Now to keep the eyes out for some skulls…

“A raven strains along the line of the road
Carrying a muddy, old skull.”

Skulls are interesting decorations for your xeric garden

June 2013 update: The cactus garden is really slow to take shape for several reasons; too many other projects have pushed it aside.  Here’s what it looked like when I first started the planning:

Doesn't look like much yet

I never dreamed that there would be so many huge rocks in there;

It is taking shape, shower than anticipated

Now would be a good time to get it completed, with hot weather forecast, this soil can compact and turn to concrete in no time…off to get started.

It's july and i've got to get this thing finished

I have to get things going and finish this project – the steps are in place, and all the different features are getting accumulated and ready to be installed. 

To see more about how this cactus garden is being developed with an old west theme, check out the Junk Cactus Garden on Blue Fox Farm.