The Cactus Patch
Volume 11       October 2008      Number 10

(Halifax to Montreal and Toronto)

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

August was another busy month. On the 16th three carloads from Bakersfield and a busload from Fresno converged on the LA Arboretum for the annual Intercity Cactus and Succulent sale and show. For those who haven’t been, make sure you go next year. It gets better & better. The sale plants are unusual and not over-priced. I bought (among others) a Moringa oleifolia, the horseradish tree. Its leaves have the most complete protein found in any plant. The display plants ranged from tiny jewels to huge monsters. Among the monstrose was a crested “Luckhoffia”. Despite the weird stem, it had typical Hoodia flowers. It is said to be a hybrid of Hoodia and Stapelia arenosa . The containers were more imaginative than ever. Rainbow Gardens had the usual huge selection of succulent books. I note that Gordon Rowley has produced one on crests and variegates - not my cup of tea. After a quick lunch we attempted the garden. Despite the heat we did tour the Madagascar succulents and found Aloe tomentosa in bloom. It has remarkable fuzzy green flowers! Next we sat for a talk on adding vinegar to water to reduce the effect of calcium and other minerals in the water. The tram wasn’t running and it was too hot for walking so we headed home.

When we reached Fort Tejon it was only 4:30 so we stopped for a visit. It turned out they were recreating a Civil War battle (though Ft. Tejon closed before the Civil War and no battle was fought there). None-the less it was interesting to see all the people and accoutrements from the period. Anne and Polly found a quilting display with an old hand crank sewing machine - like the ones still used in Botswana. We were exhausted and did not go back next day for the “battle”. We returned to the LA area on the 30th for the annual Huntington Symposium. The first speech was on the ethno-botanic garden at Oaxaca, Mexico. The is the heart of tequila country so it was quite interesting. Next was a talk on “Cacti, Agaves and Yuccas of California and Nevada”. The book was on sale (Cachuma Press , Los Olivos, Calif., $25.95) and the Author (Stephan Ingram) was happy to sign. He includes the Bakersfield Cactus as the only species of this group that is listed as endangered. (Incidentally, the Autumn issue of Nature Conservancy has an article on the Parker Ranch in the Caliente area which has been purchased as a conservation easement and will protect the Bakersfield Cactus.)

A third talk explained how stem succulence is generally derived from tuberous roots. The fourth talk took us on a world tour and the day closed with a talk on the future of the Huntington Succulent Garden.

There was also an auction of plants and books which got a bit pricy. Cheaper plants were available from the nursery. We spent the night with my nephew Leo (and family) in La Mirada. Next day we drove up to La Canada to see the Descanso Garden. The thousands of camelias and hundreds of roses were not blooming and thus a bit boring. Fortunately the tram ran so we avoided a lot of walking. They do have a few succulent, including a wreath made of live plants hanging by the cafeteria. Some of the original oak woodland remains and is enjoyable.

But back to last year:

On the 8th of Aug. we left Halifax, Nova Scotia at noon on L’Ocean, the train from there to Montreal. As we passed the upper ends of the Bay of Fundy, it began to rain, one of the few times on our long trip. We were still able to observe the mud flats left by the tide and the hanging marshes above them which had ducks, herons and egrets. At the second of these ends we entered the Province of New Brunswick. The countryside became rockier and thickly wooded, but eventually it became dark and we settled back to sleep in our seats (or at least try). Next morning we woke to find the Saint Lawrence Valley beside the train. Eventually we arrived in the city of Montreal.

We checked into the YWCA, had lunch at Café Imagination which is attached to it, walked around the area, ate dinner at Burger King and listened and watched “Jusqu’aux Oreilles” (Up to your Ears), an innovative production of modern music and visual projections at Cathedrale Christ Church produced by students from McGill University.

On the 10th we took the subway to the botanic garden. It was great to see they still had the silent rubber-tired trains that we had seen there in 1974 when we took the train up from New York. The garden was enormous compared to previously. Fortunately they had a convenient tram which we could get on and off of. We started at the glass houses and were a bit disappointed with the succulents. The insectivorous plants, orchids and bromeliads, however, were outstanding. Next stop was the Japanese Garden and the mind-boggling Insectarium. They have a building full of live and preserved insects which is the best I’ve ever seen. We admired the goliath beetles, giant dung beetles which are found in Botswana. At the far end of the garden they had an exhibit on trees, including fantastic bonsais. These included a grove of redwoods and a Virginia creeper (the only succulent). As if that wasn’t enough, we went back into the downtown and watched the latest Harry Potter at IMAX. The last part of the film was 3D! It is certainly not a kids movie.

Next day we strolled around town again and saw “Configurations” by the McCord Museum. This consisted of a block long series of enlarged paired photos of Montreal now and a hundred years ago. Even better than the forty-year pairs we did in Botswana. After lunch we took the train to Toronto. We arrived there at 8:50 and had a bit of trouble finding a place to stay. (The taxi would not help us, one hotel required a credit card etc.) We finally arrived at the Metro Bed and Breakfast at 10 p.m. This is a private house owned by an eccentric elderly music teacher, Odna Brain, and was decorated with artifacts from all over the world.

On the 12th we saw “Walking with Dinosaurs”, a fantastic show with life size animals brought to “life”. My only objection was the narrator who walked among them giving kids the impression that humans and dinosaurs co-existed. (But, what the heck - they’ve already seen the Flintstones.) We then went down to the riverfront and saw artists gardens including one with succulents in TVs called “Changing Channels”. We then watched a demonstration of Chilean sopapilla making by Maria Angelica Enriquez. They were made with pumpkin and were quite good (and quite unlike the ones Polly learned to make when she was a kid in New Mexico. We tried to see a recreation of “Queen”, but got there too late. (This is the same show we later saw in Bakersfield.)

On the 13th we were taken to the Royal Ontario Museum by Ms Brain, who is a member, and saw an exhibit of pre-Inca gold. (Ms Brain is quite upset with the new “Crystal” additions to the old stone structure of the museum. The next morning we left by train for Winnipeg. (If we had stayed another day we could have heard Jane Goodall van Lawick, but there was just too much to do.) We did meet the black squirrels of Montreal which Ms Brain had coming up to her porch for peanuts.

Polly & Goliath Beetles


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