Sunday, June 3, 2012

Step-on-the brake surprise at community garden

I’ve lived in Davis since 1997 and have driven by the Davis Community Garden hundreds of times. I’ve been wanting to stop for as long as I can remember because I’ve spotted lots of interesting plants from the car. A few years ago there was a 10 ft. angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia sp.) covered with giant yellow flowers; last year I saw several towers of jewels (Echium wildpretii); and last fall I spotted a prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) laden with fruit. In spite of seeing these tantalizing glimpses from the car, I never stopped. Until today.

This morning I went to our local Ace Hardware store, and as I was approaching the community garden, I saw a small group of people standing around what looked to be a blooming cactus. It was hard to get a good look, but I decided to quickly finish my errand, dash home to get my camera, and then drive back.

I had been right. It was a blooming cactus. Even from 10 feet away I could tell that the flower was huge.


I didn’t have a measuring tape with me, but I’d say the flower was five inches across. It reminded me very much of the Queen of the Night cactus flowers we had in our backyard last summer, except Queen of the Night blooms at night, and this cactus clearly blooms during the daytime.


I don’t know exactly what cactus this is, but it is some sort of echinopsis. (Peter of Cactus Jungle Nursery and Garden in Berkeley thinks it’s most likely an Echinopsis spachiana. Thanks, Peter!) The cactus itself was about 4 ft. tall. Two others very close by have flower buds that will open in a day or two. I’ll swing by on Tuesday to check on their progress.


I don’t know who planted this cactus. Since it’s in the common area along the street, it’s not in an assigned garden plot. Whoever planted it and the other succulents in this strip, I like you :-).

Since I was at the community garden anyway, I decided to take a quick look around. Many plots had the usual Sacramento area staples—tomatoes and squash. In addition, there were a surprising number of globe artichokes, including this beautiful plant.


Another artichoke was intertwined with a prickly pear. Their foliage color is surprisingly similar.


Prickly pears (Opuntia ficus-indica) can be found in quite a few plots. Like all opuntias, it loves our heat and it thrives on the supplemental summer water it is getting in the community garden.


I spotted many new pads…


…and even some flowers. The flowers on this species aren’t as showy as on other opuntias, but they turn into large, juicy fruit commonly called “tunas.” In Mexico and the Southwest, tunas are made into juice, jelly or candy.


Now that I’ve finally stopped at the Davis Community Garden—after 15 years!—I’ll be back to check on the progress of what’s growing.


  1. Nice. I have two Cactus with buds that have never bloomed before. Hopefully they will be as beautiful as that.

    1. Keep a close eye on them. In my experience, a but that looks like it won't bloom for a few days can open up sooner than you thought.

  2. That flower was definitely something to step on the brake for. Even more serendipitous are the two flower buds. I think it is wonderful that you have community gardens (unheard of here where I live) and that there is so much variety in plants. I had wrongly assumed when reading about them on other blogs that they were for edibles.

    1. Most plots at the community garden do grow mostly vegetables, but others have flowers as well.

      I just checked the garden policy and it says: "Trees and large perennials (shrubs, cacti, etc) are not allowed." That's interesting because more than one plot has a prickly pear cactus :-).