Sunday, October 10, 2010
the addiction of cactus

I really want to write about the Cactus Garden that Shawn and I visited a few weeks ago. But, to truly understand what that Garden means, you have to go back in time with me to 1986.
I had had the outside of my house painted in early '86 and because it is no easy job---hanging over the Hill as it does, the Painters kind of destroyed whatever haphazard Landscape had been all around it--- especially underneath and even out in the front, too. I knew I wanted to do something but I didn't know what. I began cutting back a lot of stuff in the front---Hacking it up more----and one morning I woke up and thought: "CACTUS"! That is what I want to do....I always had loved the look of the West with all of the Cacti...They looked so very sculptural to me, albeit "Living" Sculpture....Little did I know that this would begin a passionate love affair with Cactus and Succulents that would eventually take over my entire Garden---Upstairs and underneath my house, and take over my whole life in a wonderful fulfilling way, as well. I had no idea how many variety's of these wonderful plants there are! Thousands upon thousands upon thousands. And once I started on this Journey it became a very important and enriching part of my life. An "addiction" of sorts---one I shared with Woody and any number of other people. Choosing plants; placing them--each and every one; discovering new-to-me plants, and constantly being amazed by the Artistry of these very special creations.....Very powerful!And there were the WONDERFUL people that I met along the way. People who grew Cactus and sold them and not always in Traditional Nursery's---many right there on their property where they lived. One grower in particular was a fascinating and dear man. Woody Woods. Another grower told me about him and off I went to find him. Woody's home was on a kind of skinny Hilly street in Glendale. He was a a man that had worked at Lockheed most of his working life and he retired at 65. Discovering the beauty of Cactus and Succulents became his passion and his life. The entire Hill surrounding his simple but sweet home with his dear wife Abbie, was packed full of every kind of Cactus and Succulent you can imagine. He had grown most of them himself from 'seed'....And when I say packed, I mean packed.Unfortunately I have no pictures of Woody's place....I'm not sure it ever occurred to me to take pictures there, which in retrospect was really a shame. Many of the plants included in this post are from my garden and came from Woody's place. I spent a lot of time there discovering incredible plants and sitting and talking to him. And I bought a lot of plants from him. It was never about the money with Woody---his prices were 'dirt cheap' as they say....I think he was most taken with people who's passion and love of these plants matched his....And if he liked you he would give you lots of plants, too.....Such a generous spirit and such a generous heart, too. His sweet wife Abbie did not share his 'addiction' but she was all for him and his love and deep interest in these amazing plants. She knew that this passion had extended his life waaay beyond what might have been without this truly deeply involving interest. These afternoons with Woody were like a Meditation for me. I always looked forward to going over there and seeing what new goodies he had grown or discovered. I learned so much from Woody and in such an easy way. He was an incredibly unassuming man with such fantastic knowledge, and so very very kind.....About eight years after I met Woody, his health began to fail. He had Heart problems and refused to go to a doctor. Sometime towards the end of 1994, Woody died. I was stricken. I so enjoyed the time I spent with him and the 'teaching' he had passed on to me through these amazing plants. And I felt so badly for Abbie---she had lost her Life Partner and I know this was a very big and hard loss for her....Then, in early 1995, Abbie called me asking me was there any place she could donate a lot of Woody's plants because she was going to have to sell the house and move up north where their two sons lived and she was afraid all these fantastic plants that Woody had so lovingly tended from seed, might be destroyed. Unfortunately, that is what people do....They don't particularly like Succulents and Cactus and so they just chop these things down and throw them in the trash. I cannot tell you the fabulous plants my Gardener's have found this way. But, believe me, it is Heartbreaking when this happens---especially when you know the love and tender care that went into the cultivation of these amazing plants.......I asked Abbie to let me give this some thought, and because of my involvement at that time with the S.T.A.G.E. Benefit as a Co-Chair of this Event, it led me to thinking that maybe The Chris Brownlie AIDS Hospice run by AIDS Healthcare Foundation here in Los Angeles might make a great home for a lot of Woody's Cactus....If they were interested, I could---with the help of my Gardener's and my Mason---create a Cactus Garden right there at The Hospice. Abbie loved this idea and I must say, so did I. And as it turned out so did AHF. This is the Garden that I spoke of at the beginning of this post, which you will see, all in good time.Part 2 will be coming along very soon.......And, as always......

More To Come........

Links to this post:


had this to say:

I love your love affair with cacti -- mostly because you not only share them with us but that you educate us!

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 1:23:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Spectacular photos!
I can say no more Naomi.. they are Spectacular!
and you always have a story to go with the pictures..I love that you are such a wonderful story teller (and photographer!!!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 3:41:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a wonderful thing you did to save Woody's life work and passion from the chopper.
I always feel so sad when I go past an abandoned home and see the remnents of a garden trying to survive the weeds.
What a lovely way to pay such a sweet man back.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 5:07:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love those pictures, Naomi. I think cacti and succulents are fascinating, probably because they don't grow in the wild here in Canada, too cold. But I visited a huge cactus garden in Las Vegas once, and also I stayed in Israel on a kibbutz that was full of various huge cactus, some of them really tall, and covered with flowers. Incredible!
It must be quite a job to transplant a cactus... all those spines! I wouldn't like to try it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 6:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

That is amazing.. Just amazing.. I have seen cacti myself and never thought of it that way. It would never survive up north up here but where you are its perfect..

Beautiful photo's.. I never knew cacti i had flowers on them. I just thought they had thorns..

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:07:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a marvelous way to share your friend's work.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 11:44:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love this post. It is heart warming experience to have somebody so passionate about cacti sharing their knowledge and love for these plants. I think it is great that you could take some of his plants over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 6:01:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

How great that you came up with a way to save his (and honor) his plants!

Your garden is truly amazing!

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 7:23:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love this post (partially because the narcisist in me loves the reference to my birth year). But also because when I used to go for rides on the back of my dads bike through Davis when i was VERY little, we'd ride through putah creek and emerge at the other end of the city and how you knew you were getting back to civilization was cactus corner. Basically a knook between a left yield and the cross streets that was and is covered in cacti, albeit the varieties have sadly dwindled. And it was always then that we got to discuss how cacti could flower or be soft or could be so many different things and often a discussion of a fabulous great aunt oh so far away.

Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:41:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I concur re: Cacti. They really do make a great garden, though they can be a real pain when one is hiking through the desert. One or two cholla spines in your thigh are enough to ruin your day.


Monday, October 11, 2010 at 6:16:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I also love Cactus and Succulents!
They have a desert atmosphere and I love it. Your garden with cacti and succulents are really beautiful! And you took great photos too.
Love also the story of the love of your friend for his garden and the way you honored his work.

Here in my garden, the hungry ants fortunatelly don't eat my sycculents and Agaves.

Have a pleasant week ahead.
Many hugs to you and to lovely Sweet.

Monday, October 11, 2010 at 6:41:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Good Morn, Thank you once again, for the great pic's. and sharing of your friend. I noticed the Lockheed Martin, thing, and thought to myself, he needed something to sooth his soul putting that much time at a stressful place. I have been here a LM, for 31 years so know what happens to folks, grateful he shared his great plants, with others. Have a couple of cacti; they are the only plants I do not kill these days.
Pat from NY

Monday, October 11, 2010 at 7:20:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a wonderful living tribute to a kind man. I'm glad you were able to find a new home for his plants. I really like that one shot that looks like there's a yellow wreath in the middle of the cactus. How unusual! I'm not a fan of cactus either, but the pictures I've seen on your blog today and other days, have definitely given me a new appreciation for them. They really can be beautiful. Can't wait to see the next installment!

Monday, October 11, 2010 at 1:10:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Been away for a while but I'm glad to be cheered by beautiful cactus and a tour of LA too :)

Hope you & Seemah are fine & well...I hope to find some time for blogging soon :)

Monday, October 11, 2010 at 5:18:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love getting this history on your passion for cactus and am looking forward to part 2. I would pull over for a cactus garden and am sure I'd be amazed at all the types, so exotic and not a part of my life here in the mountains.

Monday, October 11, 2010 at 8:56:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I always wondered how you came to have such a cacti, succulent plant variety after I first found your blog only a few years ago. The blooms are so beautiful and the photos you've shared here are quite stunning. I enjoyed the few years I had in a couple different time periods in AZ. The "Man of the Mountain" has always impressed me as so majestic. I recall seeing in mid-twentieth century the most attractive dead Saguaro wood inlay table top. Currently, I'm exploring putting native plants appropriate for the desert area in my parkway to eliminate watering. Wanted to do this many years ago, but my husband was unwilling to give up grass.
I look forward to more of your photos in the future.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 1:34:00 AM PDT 

Blogger Pat
had this to say:

What a brain wave that was Naomi - to think of the Hospice. Lovely to think of the pleasure it will give patients - in memory of Woody.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 7:12:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I also love cactus for the reasons you mentioned. They don't work up here but in Tucson, I appreciate their beauty whenever I am there. What a great idea you had for his plants to be saved

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 5:57:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I have been fascinated by cacti since I was a child and had a small indoor cacti garden on my window sill. Unfortunatley our climate is too cold here to grown them out of doors. I love their geometric designs and the beauty of these plants when they flowers is breathtaking.

Woody sounds like he was a wonderful man. How wonderful that you knew him for those years and learnt so much from him. I am looking forward to seeing photos of the garden his plants made :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 5:09:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You know the thing I love most about our home in Arizona? The cactus. We don't have any in our garden but the whole area is full of these beautiful plants, and to me as a Brit, it's just amazing, because you just never see them here in the UK!

What a lovely story.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 5:46:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

As always I love the stories that go with your beautiful photos. And that is a neat way to look at cacti, as living sculptures! I will always remember that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 6:27:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I have learned, through you, Naomi, about the many varieties of cacti, and I never would have known it if not for you! Thanks for educating us.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 5:32:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Nobody caputes the inner beauty of plants like you do. You simply honor all your photographic subjects.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 7:29:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

How wonderful that such a nice man as Woody was there to help you along. He sounds like a wonderful guy that truly loved his plants!

I'm off to read the rest now!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 1:03:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a lovely and interesting post. I do not know much about cacti because I have never been in a place where they could grow well. Woodie sounds like a wonderful person. I found out that people who love plants are usually gentle souls. When I moved to Georgia I belong to the Rose Society and found many persons like Woodie – willing to teach and share. What a truly great idea you had about the hospice. I’m going to read the next installment.

Friday, October 22, 2010 at 7:10:00 PM PDT 

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Name: OldOldLady Of The Hills
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