The Cactus Patch
Volume 13       February 2010      Number 02

A Crazy Cactus Christmas
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 19th of December Polly left the TV on after watching sewing on PBS and the garden show “Victory Garden” came on. That morning it showed Brian Kemble and the Rose Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek. If you haven't seen it, it is the best succulent collection north of Santa Barbara.

Most of the family showed up at Anne's house on Christmas Day. I took them next door that morning and we attempted to pull the tilted cactus upright. It was too heavy, so nephew Shannon (Anne's son) rigged ropes over the swing set. It just moved the swings, even with kids in them. Finally I sacrificed three branches and cut the weight down to movability. Unfortunately just as we got it upright, it tipped sideways. It hit Pedro the Aztec angel, knocking off a wing, and Charlie the baboon, knocking off an ear. (Both are repaired with gorilla glue. We then got the cactus back up and tied it to the fence.

After that exercise we went back to Anne's for dinner and gifts. Anne then left for India to teach biology. Shannon and his wife Heather and Polly and I then went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie- the first time in a long time I've seen an opening day movie. I am a connoisseur of Arthur Conan Doyle, including his work on the Boer War, and a bit hypercritical, so take my comments with a grain of salt. The movie was certainly not traditional. Instead of bowing his violin, Sherlock plucked it! A love interest was introduced which is certainly not in the original(but it had a twist which fits). This is not the first time this has been done, for example in the film on the “Young Sherlock”. The new one had excellent photography and a great plot. It compares well with the more traditional stage production which we saw performed in New York by the Royal Shakespeare Company. (The play had bowed violin playing while the stage revolved in puffs of fog- quite good staging for the 70s.)

Next day, after others had parted, a bunch from Sacramento arrived for a second Christmas. Unfortunately this did not include our sons and grandson who could not make it this year. That day we had six green parrots in our pecan trees. They had appeared at the church across the road some years ago, but they had not been there lately, and this was the first time on our side of Olive Drive.

On New Year's we had a small celebration at Anne's house (without Anne). Next morning we watched the Rose Parade. The animation gets better every year.

On Thursday the 7th we went to the Fresno succulent meeting and hear about last year's open house at the Huntington. The best part was the Chinese Garden, mainly because it did not include every plant there (as did the part on the succulents). That evening we exchange gifts with Polly's sisters.

On the 12th, of course we were at the Bakersfield succulent meet and heard Jack's talk on the Ridge Route. It was a fascinating bit of history. (Of course, by the time I came along the road to LA was the old 99.)

On the 16th a few of us went to the open house at the Huntington. As usual, it was an excellent display with lots of Aloes in bloom. The plant sale offered many rarities, including Euphorbia richardsiae, a species found only in Malawi. This is my first time to see it in cultivation, although I did see it in the wild (including its' first record in the Central Region, all others being in the Northern one.) We also saw green parrots and a red-throated hummingbird in a hybrid coral tree near the bookstore.

That evening Polly and I went to the Bonsai show at the LA Arboretum. Jack Reynolds had a tree on exhibit and was also part of a team which trimmed a tree to Bonsai standard in an hour. I thought it was unfair as one of the three teams used power tools. The show actually had succulents – one Trichodiadema (a mesemb) and several Ledebourias (succulent lily bulbs). There was a raffle and we won a trolley for hauling our plants around. Finally, the buffet supper was excellent.

We arrived at my nephew Leo's house a bit late. His son Elijah was asleep after a long third birthday party. The new niece was still sleeping the next morning. (In fact we have rarely seen her awake.)

Next morning we went to Vroman's in Pasadena (best bookstore around) and hit some antique stores at Gorman. We just made it home in time for the rain.

I have started a scrapbook on Ceres after accumulating a bit at Great Aunt Dora's 100th birthday. Mother brought out a number of items including a fascinating volume titled Family of Philander Ellis Whittier and his wife Mary Parker Tufts by Doris Whittier Pierce, 1983. Philander and Mary were great, great grandparents on my mother's side. The book traces the family for twelve generation- from the Mayflower to me.

I'll just comment on one relative in this book for now. This is Great Aunt Faye who lived next door to Great Aunt Dora. I knew her as a fascinating person with her insect attic and exotic flowers outside. She was actually Mary Faye Caulkins, born in Nebraska. She married Nelson Caryl Davis in Ceres. They spent most of their married life in Brazil and Argentina where Nelson did doctoring and medical research on a Rockefeller grant. Unfortunately he died of the diseases he was studying and Aunt Faye returned to Ceres with the children.

The book says, “She cared for fruit trees and nuts, and had a cow, and other small projects. However, as the boys grew, there were plenty of neighborhood jobs for them, picking and packing fruit, and such. Faye had a large garden area, and could now indulge her green thumb, the envy of many of her friends. She said she had furnished, since she had been home, a bridal bouquet for every Caulkins' bride since. She grew especially the lovely camellias, in every shade and color, but many other things too.”

The Cactus Goes Up

Teaching Greenhouse, Huntington

Jack Reynolds & Team

If you have any comments or questions or would like to
submit a photograph or article, contact

Material in The Cactus Patch may be reprinted by non-profit organizations (unless such permission is expressly denied in a note accompanying the material) provided that the proper credit is given to the BCSS & the author and that one copy of the publication containing the reprinted material is sent to the editor. Reproduction in whole or part by any other organization without the permission of the BCSS editor is prohibited.

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER

The Cactus Patch HOME      HOME