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Cactuses, succulents perfect additions to water-efficient yard

On the third day, God created plants. After creating all other plants, He created cactuses and succulents and placed them in the deserts as a way to protect their beauty. He knew us desert-lovers soon would come to our senses and get rid of water-guzzling plants without losing gorgeous blooms. We found them and now people crave them.

“Cacti and succulents are the crown jewels of the desert,” said Dave Turner of Turner Greenhouse and the Cactus and Succulent Society of Southern Nevada. “They have survived some of the toughest conditions known to man and still make a significant contribution to our landscapes.”

Southern Nevada gardeners need to use more cactuses and succulents in their landscapes.

Unprecedented growth fed by a vibrant economy and high quality of life has contributed to a building boom, making water conservation of paramount concern.

Water usage in Southern Nevada is directly related to landscaping because we cannot recycle water used outdoors, unlike indoor water.

This is where cactuses and succulents play such a major role. Using native and climate-adapted species in our landscapes makes every drop count and creates sustainable landscapes that add beauty and comfort to our environment.

Wander into a desert and notice how these plants live in harmony with each other. You’ll find them in clusters with older plants sheltering smaller ones. A case in point is a mesquite nursing a saguaro, only to have the giant plant tower over the tree years later.

Critics of desert plants are quick to point out the yawning effect these plants bring to landscapes. But let these “crown jewels” come into living color and they surprise even the harshest critics. The saguaro has become the desert’s exclamation point. It doesn’t say much until masses of white flowers crown the top, only to have scarlet starlike fruits follow.

Critics also growl at the ugliness of ocotillos until brilliant red flowers crown the top of the whips.

An agave remains almost motionless in a landscape, until one spring a flower stalk will grow 30 feet or more in less than a month. This triggers dozens of phone calls wanting to report this unusual event. The sad part comes when people realize the flowering stalk signals the demise of the plant. But look carefully under the plant; you’ll find little agaves ready to take its place.

Prickly pear, cholla and barrel cactuses differ from the agave; they produce a rainbow of gorgeous blooms that absolutely surprise most people. Here’s a chance to get many of these diverse plants for your yard.

In the spirit of creating wonderfully exotic, creative and sustainable landscapes, the Cactus and Succulent Society of Southern Nevada, in conjunction with Turner Greenhouse, is sponsoring “Celebrate Cactus.” The two-day event will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Turner Greenhouse, 4455 Quadrel St., north of Craig Road and one block west of Buffalo Drive. You’ll find the shady location to be a relaxed environment and a pleasant place to enjoy the activities.

For more information, call 645-2032.

This spring gardening extravaganza will feature more than two acres of thousands of cactuses and succulents, along with some native and exotic species that are adapted to the valley. Of course, many will be in bloom. Arguably, these are the most water-efficient and dramatic plants in the landscape.

In addition, you will see and can purchase original creative works by local artists, potters, photographers and crafters and be part of a drawing.

We are not talking about grandmother’s cactus garden! The myriad cactuses and succulents available now create an impressive palette, weaving a beautiful tapestry and creating dramatic landscapes that help stretch our limited water supply.

Hands-on demonstrations and talks by experts will provide information on how to grow and care for plants and address conservation issues that are part of the society’s mission. It is sure to be one of the best plant events of the season.

“It is a great chance to get out in the country and enjoy friendly people, see unique plants, arts, crafts and have fun,” Turner said.

PLANT SHOWS

• “A Day in the Park” is this year’s theme of the Sunset Garden Club’s annual flower show from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Paseo Verde Library, 280 S. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson.

Enter your flowers in the show. You might win a beautiful blue, red or yellow ribbon, because you don’t have to be a club member to enter. If you choose to enter, submit an entry in the show from noon to 4 p.m. Friday or from 8:30 to 9 a.m. Saturday.

All entries must be either live or dried flowers and portray the theme of the design selected — Merry-Go-Round, Play in the Park, Fireworks or Fun in the Park.

Horticulture sections are Under the Old Oak Tree, Let It All Hang Out, Don’t Pick the Flowers, Peek in the Pot, Pause and Smell the Roses, Warning! Leave the Scissors Home, Pretty Prickly and Swimming Pool.

To submit an entry, call 897-2271 or 454-7874, or just come enjoy the beautiful creations.

Admission and entering a plant in the show are free.

• Come to the Rainbow of Color show at the Galleria at Sunset mall, 1300 W. Sunset Road, Henderson, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Southern Nevada Iris Society is sponsoring this show. See hundreds of varieties of these “orchids of the desert” that come in every color imaginable, except true red.

Several of the club’s members are experts at hybridizing new varieties and having them introduced nationwide.

Irises are among the easiest flowers to grow in Las Vegas. They adapt well to poor soils, full sun and hot, dry conditions.

For more information, call 568-7000.

• “The Iris Computer” is this year’s theme for the annual Las Vegas Iris Society flower show. The two-day event is from 1 to 5 p.m. April 21 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 22. The show is at the garden club building at 3333 W. Washington Ave. in Lorenzi Park.

Admission is free and you can exhibit your favorite iris varieties. If you do, call 228-0827 for more information. The show is open for all types of irises, bearded and beardless.

Both societies are committed to expanding public knowledge of these wonderful flowers, including how to grow, exhibit and propagate them. You’ll want to bring along a pencil and paper to write down your favorite irises, then when the sales come in July, you will know the irises you want. There will be more on the iris sales in July.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Thursday. You can reach him at linn.mills@lvspringspreserve.org or at the Gardens at the Springs Preserve at 822-8325.

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