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The Coastal Gardener: Cactus and succulent show this weekend

December 03, 2010|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • The Head Table at a cactus and succulent show is where the best of the best are displayed.
The Head Table at a cactus and succulent show is where the… (Daily Pilot )

During one weekend every December, some of the most beautiful, bizarre and unusual plants take over the Fullerton Arboretum.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Orange County Cactus and Succulent Society will hold its annual winter show and sale, and the public is invited. If you're an aloe addict, have an echeveria itch or are addicted to agaves, you've probably had these dates marked on your calendar for months. If your conversation is peppered with words like caudex, glochids, monstrose, fasciated, cresting and variegation, nothing is wrong with you — you're just a cactus and succulent addict.

In the past 10 years cacti and succulent plants have evolved from two dozen varieties, mostly grown in small pots near the windowsill to their current status as a garden mainstay. Today, cactuses and succulents are available in an incredible array of choices and are readily available at reasonable prices. Cactuses and succulents have moved from the realm of novelty or curiosity plants to becoming common members of almost any local landscape.

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Their ease of care, tolerance to neglect, reduced water needs and especially their huge diversity of colors, shapes, form and sizes have endeared cactuses and succulents to legions of modern gardeners.

Cactus and succulent shows have two main attractions. First and foremost to the participants is the competition and subsequent display of a huge variety of amazing and quite rare plants; plants that you would never see otherwise. The show area, with the plants carefully grouped into displays of related species, is where the judging takes place. Blue ribbons, red ribbons and white ribbons sit proudly next to the best exhibits of each group. The best of the best are then brought to another series of tables, called the head table, where curious onlookers cluster in greater numbers.

Like viewing a rare Monet or seeing a Picasso at a trip to the Getty, the crowds at this show will oooohh and aaaahh just the same, pointing and critiquing the collection of "living art" on display.

These "show" plants, from collectors and enthusiasts throughout Southern California, are on display for the public to enjoy, although transiently. These incredible plants, most meticulously primped and pampered for years, and fussed over as much as most pets — or even some children — will only be here until Sunday.

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