If you head out to the second annual Cactus Show and Art Fair at Moon-Sun Cactus & Koi Gardens this weekend, bring your maps, a GPS device and maybe a Sherpa guide. The business is a little off the beaten track, one of two businesses surrounded by suburban sprawl east of Boulder Highway.
"We get no accidental foot traffic out here," said owner Patrick Helfrich with a laugh. "We're going to have to work on our advertising."
The company began as the contracting business Moon-Sun Landscapes 14 years ago. At that time, location wasn't as vital as having a large chunk of property at the right price. Back then, McGill Avenue was an out-of-the-way, mostly empty street in the middle of an underpopulated industrial area.
"When the housing boom came, they rezoned the area and built all these homes," Helfrich said. "We're an island out here now."
A year and a half ago the company bought a retail cactus and koi business and greenhouses from a retiring couple and moved the greenhouses from the northwest valley to the current location. Helfrich took over running the retail operation while partner Mark Brightwell operates the contracting business.
Helfrich said a couple dozen customers come out to the gardens every day, drawn by word of mouth and quality plants.
Greg Struhl, president of Chip-N-Dales Custom Landscaping, was there on a warm March day taking photographs of the variety of cactuses, succulents and water plants at Moon-Sun.
"I like to see the different stuff and take pictures of it to show my clients," Struhl said. "I've been here before, and it's worth the trip."
Struhl said he goes to every nursery in town and several out of state, and he likes the quality and variety of Moon-Sun's stock.
In addition to native plants, Moon-Sun carries a wide range of exotics, rarities and oddities. Many are displayed in the greenhouses where most of the stock are houseplants from arid regions around the world. The greenhouses are also where the koi and turtles live, especially during the cooler months.
"We've got them in a lot of different sizes, varieties and price ranges," Moon-Sun staff member Sam Johnson said. "They do well out here as long as you keep the water flowing and have equipment to keep it clean and oxygenated."
Johnson is an unusual sight standing in the Mojave Desert in hip waders, but they are a necessity since his job includes working in the pools caring for the aquatic plant and animal life. He said he was surprised by the individuality and personality of the animals at the garden.
"Since I've been here, I've kind of fallen in love with the fish and turtles," Johnson said. "I really enjoy it out here. I love the plants. That's how I got the job."
The koi and other animals range in price from $9.95 to $350, so there's a pond pet available for most budgets.
The Cactus Show and Art Fair planned for this weekend is timed to coincide with the likely blooming period for much of the cactuses, so with a little luck, visitors should be greeted with an explosion of rich colors.
"People bring out their own plants to show, and they're judged," Helfrich said. "We have artists and artisans come out to sell their work. There's a kind of synergy."
The artists display and sell cactus-themed artwork, including photos and paintings of cactuses and pottery planters.
"There are some great artisans that come out here," Helfrich said. "We have a gentleman who calls his work Cowboy Creations who makes outdoor sculptures out of horseshoes."
The Cactus Show and Art Fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 6430 McGill Ave. Admission is free. Moon-Sun's is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit moon-sunlandscapes.com or call 645-2032.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 380-4532.