Archive | August 2014

A Good Place to Buy Cactus

I wrote about the Living Desert Ranch in my other blog, The Bright Lights of Muleshoe, but for those of you truly interested in cactus, I wanted to give you a little more information on this place where you can get lost in myriad varieties of our favorite plants.

Darrell Dunten, owner and locally-known cactus whisperer, knows his stuff, having been selling cactus since 1978. He does have probably more cactus than succulent varieties, but oh, what a variety! He does extensive grafting and propagates nearly everything from seeds he gathers and germinates on site. He is also quite artistic, and besides painting lovely pictures, which are also on display in his interesting home, Darrell creates hardscape items from slag glass and metal that can add unique touches to a garden.

As you can see here, Darrell has piles of glass to use in sculptures and in dish garden plantings. Plus, the glass just add a neat, colorful touch to the setting among the oak and mesquite trees.

I could talk at length about all the plants, but I think they do a better job of it on their own. So here they are. He has the main greenhouse where you park, but a large growing nursery in the back just full of plants.

The Living Desert Ranch is located west of Austin at 22701 Hwy 71, Spicewood, Texas. The phone number is 512-577-9106 and the website is The nursery is open Wednesday through Sunday. I would suggest going early in the morning-it can get pretty sweaty in the greenhouse! And besides, you want to give yourself plenty of time to see everything.

And tell him Alice sent you.


For more on the history of the Living Desert Ranch, go to my other blog at


The Stinky Flower


I told the story in my other blog, The Bright Lights of Muleshoe-(“Cactus and Kerrville,” October 5, 2011) of driving home from the Austin area with the distinct smell of rotting flesh lurking around me. Turned out the smell was coming from the orbea lutea, a succulent in the stapeliad family, which I had just bought, whose blooms decided to open during my trip home. Commonly known as the carrion flower, these flowers do smell like, well, dead animals.  On a later trip to Austin and Spicewood and Bee Cave, where I buy most of my cactus, I bought another one, a stapelia grandiflora, which I saw blooming at The Living Desert in Spicewood, which used to be in Bee Cave (more about The Living Desert coming up in the next blog). Mine finally bloomed this year and pretty much outdid itself. I think I counted at least six buds and four of them have bloomed so far. The original stinky flower, the orbea lutea, I am sad to say, has not done as well and has not bloomed again since I brought it home.


So why would anyone want a flower that smells bad? And draws flies! My husband asked the same question. Well, if I call myself a cactus collector, then I need one to complete my collection. The plant is nothing spectacular, but the flowers are large, pretty, and distinctive, to say the least! If you bother to get up close enough to them, you can see the fine filament-like hairs covering the petals. The buds-you can see a large one a small one resting against the flower on the left, are interesting in themselves. So, yes, they make a nice addition to the collection.


I have enjoyed this stapelia lepida for several years, and this year it, too, has outdone itself with buds and blooms. Here you can see three blooms and four other tight little five-sided buds waiting to open.

Huernias are also related to the stapeliad family, and this one, huernia thuretii, is blooming now also. These flowers are much smaller but still have interesting designs and the faint scent of carrion, if you stick your nose right up to it.

I also have this huernia macroparpa, with much smaller flowers that hang face-down on the plant. I had to prop this one up to take its picture.

If you will search the Internet for stapelia, huernia, or orbea and click on Images, you will be amazed at the flowers coming from these plants. The more exotic, colorful ones seem to be hard to find, but I will keep looking for yet another stinky flower to add to these.