I moved to the desert and I bought a cactus. Four of them, actually: a squat golden barrel cactus for the front porch and three dainty pincushions for the kitchen window ledge. I remember standing over a sea of potted succulents at my local, I am embarrassed to say, Home Depot, wondering what kind of cactus would best adorn my adobe apartment. The one with a halo of faint fuzzy spines? The one with wavering purple pads waving hello from the safety of its plastic container?
If only I’d had Scott Calhoun’s The Gardener’s Guide to Cactus: The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globes. Calhoun, a garden designer based in Tucson, Arizona, knows his cactus. (And, yes, Calhoun informs us, “cactus” is an acceptable way to refer to a cactus in the plural. Both “cacti” and “cactuses” are also grammatically correct.)