Steve Bowdoin is the Ethel M Cactus Garden’s garden curator — and self-proclaimed pincushion.
Since September, Bowdoin and his team and have been stringing holiday lights on the garden’s cactuses, succulents and thorny trees in preparation for the annual holiday garden.
When asked how he decorates the garden without sticking himself, he responds simply: “You don’t.”
In the two months it takes Bowdoin to set up the lights, he goes through 50-60 pairs of gloves. “The needles all get embedded under the leather and you can’t get them out,” he says. “Usually one pair should last about six weeks.”
The most challenging plant Bowdoin adorns is the catclaw acacia. “The thorns just dig in and get caught on your clothing.”
By the garden’s opening, every cactus and tree will be adorned with string lights, while the agave and other fragile plants will glow beneath colorful strobes.
More than 1 million lights will illuminate the cactus garden.
“During the day, it’s a lot of cords and cables, Bowdoin says. “Once the sun goes down, it’s something special.”
New to the garden’s holiday display will be an ice rink.
“I really wanted to introduce something new this year for families to do,” Ethel M’s marketing manager Stu Haack says.
The ice rink adjacent to the garden will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The cost ($10 during the day or $15 at night) includes skate rental and a cup of hot chocolate.
Additionally, Santa Claus is moving from the often-crowded gazebo in the garden to the pavilion in the back.
“It’s a lot of thorns and a lot of stickers,” Bowdoin says. “And a lot of labor of love.”
The 24th Holiday Cactus Garden opens with a lighting ceremony at 6:15 tonight at Ethel M Chocolates, 2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson. The garden will be open from 5-10 p.m. daily, and admission is free.