I just realized that I still “owe” you a few posts from my trip to Arizona back in December. The first is about my blitz visit to the Old West Cactus Farm, a cactus nursery I’d found in the yellow pages. It’s located in the northern Phoenix suburb of Anthem, right off Interstate 17. I don’t how Old West Cactus Farm stacks up against the other nurseries in the area, but I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cacti. Just a take a look at the photos in this post, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
The first thing I saw from the frontage road was this:
And finally this:
The hand-painted sign was a good omen. It suggests a lean, non-nonsense operation, which typically translates into lower plant prices.
I arrived at the nursery shortly after 4pm (it got dark at a little after 5pm) so I didn’t have that much time. What was funny, though: In the 30 minutes I spent walking around the nursery, I saw two customers buy—frost cloth! The nursery was selling it in whatever length people wanted, right off a giant roll. A cold weather front from western Canada that had been wreaking havoc in the Pacific Northwest and California was making itself felt in Phoenix as well. Daytime highs were only in the mid 50s that day, a drop of 20 degrees in the previous two days. And while the valley floor wasn’t expected to get any frost, the higher elevations certainly did. From the way everybody was talking about the weather, it became clear that people in Phoenix aren’t really used to the cold—even though a low in the mid 30s isn’t all that outrageous by my standards.
So let’s take a whirlwind tour of the Old West Cactus Farm, starting at the parking lot.
The giant golden barrel cactus in the bed you see in the photo below were certainly a bargain at $50
I wonder if they dig or if you dig?
If you don’t want to deal with re-rooting a golden barrel, you can buy them containerized in all sizes ranging from 1 gallon to a 36-inch box
Cactus bargains galore. Oh, the temptation…
How do you even begin to choose the perfect specimen?
Saguaros in the ground, ready for digging
And smaller potted saguaros
Palo verde, looking stunning even in the winter
Very sculptural: Yucca treculeana
Assorted cacti growing in the ground, ready to be dug up at a moment’s notice
Old West Cactus Farm carried a few species of agaves, yuccas and dasylirions…
…but the bulk of their inventory was made up of cacti
And more golden barrels
Some of the smaller golden barrels were covered by netting…
…presumably to protect them from sunburn
I wonder at what point they take the netting off?
How easy is it to remove the netting without tearing it—or ripping a few spines out of the cactus?
Not sure what this was. Some yucca?
Wherever I went, there were cacti, even in semi-abandoned hoop houses
Santa Rita prickly pear…
…some with that nice purple coloration I had been admiring all over Phoenix and Tucson
No cactus looks better backlit that a cholla. Except a whole row of them.
Arizona gardeners probably don’t even bother stopping at a place like Old West Cactus Farm, but for me it was a bit like walking through a chocolate shop in Switzerland. The only reason I didn’t buy anything was because I’d already filled the plant box I was going to mail home.