Spring rains are here, the ground is wet, and overcast skies dampened my expectations to find many blooming sedums this week at the Lost Madrone Ranch. So, as I planned to head to the ranch, I thought about what else I would look out for on this trip.
Last week was week six of watching the sedums and the first time this season I saw the yellow color of the sedum flower.
From feedback through comments and email (thank you very much to everyone who comments), the lace cactus blooms stole the show last Saturday!
I get it. Lace cactus flowers are stunning — oversized to the stem of the cactus, brilliant shades of pink, and layers of ragged lace-like petal edges.
The flowers only last a day or two, and I am lucky my visit to the ranch last week was perfect timing to catch many of them in bloom.
One comment on my post last week was from my friend Sarah who also has property in Comfort. She was wondering why her property did not have lace cactus or sedums? The habitat where lace cacti grow at the Lost Madrone is on the hilltops (the elevation is around 1350 ft) in the rocky, shallow, caliche soils along the edges and indentations of limestone outcroppings.
Sarah’s place is at a lower elevation along the Guadalupe river, so my guess is she has too much good river bottom soil for lace cacti!
I shared with Sarah that all my lace cacti are native to the Lost Madrone Ranch, but I have transplanted over 100 lace cacti around the property, moving cacti from one hilltop to another to populate different areas. They are easy to lift and move, similar to sedums, and if they like their new spot they will spread or cluster making for a beautiful show when they bloom.
I told Sarah I would transplant a few lace cacti after the sedums bloom and document how easy it is to move them. And, I would pot one up for her because I love to give them as gifts from the ranch!
So, why wait? Knowing the ranch would be soggy and the lack of sun would stall the sedum bloom, looking for the perfect lace cactus for Sarah would be a fun project.
I threw a spare pot in my car and headed to the ranch.
When I arrived at the ranch, the cloud cover was thick, and I immediately second guessed that I would find any lace cactus in bloom.
I drove along the hilltops scanning the rocky ridges for little pops of pink color.
I didn’t expect to see a speck of pink in the middle of the road, but a quarter mile past the gate, I slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car to investigate two pops of pink my tires were about to straddle.
It was not the pink of a lace cactus bloom. The pink was the puff of a Mimosa plant. I love this little plant, a native of Texas. The botanical name is Mimosa, roemeriana, and it grows in the rocky soils of the Edwards Plateau, the ecological region where Comfort is located.
Every time I see this little plant I think a candy company could save a lot of money on product design if they would just replicate this little puffball into a yummy sweet candy.
A fun characteristic of this plant is that when you touch the leaves, they close up. Watching a plant move upon the touch of your finger is captivating. You know how you can’t eat just one potato chip? The same addictive pull draws me to touch the leaves of this plant over and over again to cause the leaves to fold.
Finding a lace cactus in bloom on the one day the flower opens is lucky timing whereas a mimosa puts every stage of bloom on display at the same time along its stem. Within a few inches, you can observe the full life-cycle of a mimosa bloom — from a light green globular cluster, to brilliant pink and yellow puffballs, to faded pink puffs, to shriveled flowers.
Fooled by the pink color, I enjoyed the surprise of mimosas in the middle of the road (sounds like a drinking game, haha), but I returned my focus to find the perfect lace cactus for Sarah.
Shortly, I realized the search would be harder than I thought. I wanted to pot a perfect shaped cactus with a flower bud that Sarah could see bloom. But, what I mostly discovered were either very small cacti with no buds at all or flower buds that had already bloomed.
The picture below is an example of what I found. Zoom in on the picture to see an open bloom past its glory, buds beyond their blooming stage with a peek of shriveled petals at the top of the buds, a cactus with 4 flower buds, one of which is yet to bloom, and a number of small cacti that will not have blooms this year.
How many cacti can you find in the picture above? Look closer and find all 16!
The ridge in the picture below is the hilltop named “Dad’s Cactus Ridge” that I mentioned in my first sedum post. This is where I will spread sedums after they bloom as there are no sedums found along this rocky hilltop. Can you find the one lace cactus blooming in this picture?
The bloom was past its prime — faded in color and battered a bit from the rain the day before. But, even in its late stage there was a beauty to its washed out state.
I stopped at another pop of pink on the edge of the road and found this blooming cactus in a clump of grass. I smiled thinking it was a shy little cactus hiding out in the grass.
And yet, with its bright pink flower this was the cactus I could spot better than all the others nearby scattered among the rocks.
Look closer, at least 12 more lace cacti are in this picture camouflaged right out in the open.
Look closer again, my shy little cactus was not alone in the grass.
Just down the hill from the shy little cactus, another lace cactus bloom caught my eye.
And just across from this pretty bloom, I found a cactus for Sarah. It wasn’t perfect in shape and had one bud that had already bloomed, but it had another bud that was still forming. It was the best specimen I could find that had a flower still to come.
The cactus was growing on a slope where the water was seeping, so the soil around it was saturated and soggy which would make lifting it very easy. Note the little clumps of ferns growing just above it.
I grabbed my clay pot and gloves from the car, and that was all I needed to transplant Sarah’s lace cactus.
The collage below shows the simple process.
I put rocks in the bottom of the pot, then added soil, and then removed the rocks from around the cactus. The mat of roots and soil are spread horizontal over rock, not deep in the ground, so the cactus lifts right up. The wet soil from the rain makes this especially easy. I placed small limestone rocks (no shortage of finding those!) around the cactus, and the potting in the field was complete.
Finally, I headed to the house to see the sedums.
Yep, other than being saturated with rain, the site looked about the same.
I had to do a double take because there was a pink lace cactus blooming in about the same place as last week. A closer look confirmed a different cactus in bloom.
Fire ants are sensitive to temperature and stay deeper in the ground when it is dry, but after a rain fresh mounds appear. Several areas in my sedum patch where disturbed in this way.
Note the dark soil that looks like it swallowed up a section of the sedums.
One poke of the dirt and the colony responds with ants instantly teeming from the mound.
Don’t mess with Texas fire ants! Poor little sedums.
I found just a few more yellow sedum blooms here and there.
And, I can’t have a sedum watch without putting down a penny!
Following this rain, we need a good week of sun for the sedums to take off and bloom. Although, this coming week has a forecast for more rain.
Before leaving the ranch to return to San Antonio, I took Sarah’s potted lace cactus and dressed the top layer of soil with crushed granite from the courtyard. The neat dressing would look good in a horticulture show at my garden club, of which Sarah is the current President.
But the cactus itself wouldn’t win any ribbons. I selected this cactus purely for the flower still to come so Sarah can enjoy the bloom.
As I left the gate of the property, I couldn’t resist walking out on a rock ledge to look for another specimen with a balanced shape for Sarah to groom and enjoy. I found a perfect little lace cactus with sedums growing around it.
I carefully moved the rocks it was growing between and lifted it to a paper towel to transport home to pot.
Sarah, your pots are on your front porch! Thanks for the comments and the prompt that inspired me to have another fun day at the Lost Madrone Ranch!
Happy Saturday everyone!