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Southern Inspirations Garden Design

A family-run business since 1997

Southern Inspirations
Desert Cacti Gardens and Garden Design
Have you ever considered a desert cacti garden? It is very exciting to know that you can have a beautiful garden, even in times of drought.

Desert plants (cacti) store water in their tissues during rainy seasons and then draw on these reservoirs during periods of drought.

There are two main types of succulents: those that store water in their leaves, and those that store water in their stems.

Desert Cacti Garden Design Cacti and other succulents often come from regions where the whole year's rainfall is a short rainy season. They grow and flower then, but rest during winter. The soil in which cacti grow is often very poor, but rich in minerals, produced by the weathering of rocks.

Their stems are covered in either wax or hairs which reduce water loss from transpiration. Some succulents have a substance that looks like white powder on them. This also serves as a prevention against water loss.

Their bodies are green from chlorophyll and carry out photosynthesis, a process normally performed by the leaves. Their root systems vary. Most cacti have spines to prevent animals from eating them. The spines also shade the plant's surface. Cacti may also occur in the lush rain forests of Central and South America.

The very large cacti will not flower unless it has reached its mature height. Most cacti bloom annually, given the right conditions. Typical flowers are bell-shaped and vary in size from 1cm (4/10”) to 30cm (1ft).

Desert or semi-desert plants need bright light. The larger species generally need full sun. The young plants and dwarf varieties prefer semi-shade. Most can tolerate a few degrees of frost, provided they are dry. If they need protection from the rain, a small overhead shelter is adequate, with open sides.

Desert gardens do well if they are created on a slight bank or slope. Flat sites could also work if they have adequate drainage. Succulents are easily grown because of their tolerance of drying winds and thin stony soil.

There are varying types of succulents, some do require more water than others. The cascading kinds for example, used to soften paving stones and cascade over rocks, could be planted in a bed with rocks to add interest and charm to the garden. Certain rock plants require a more nourishing, compost rich soil.

If you do use rocks in your desert cacti garden design, remember that most rocks have strata lines. Lay the stones so that these lines run according to the predetermined angle. Rocks need to look natural. Don't balance them on your garden bed, rather bury them at least one third into the ground, so that the rock looks as though it is growing out of the ground.

With rocky outcrop cacti gardens, in order for them to look balanced they need to be 3 or 4 times wider than their height.

If you desire a rocky outcrop garden, arrange your rocks in an “L” shape with the largest rock at the corner of the L. Extend the wings of the L and and step up the L's using illusion. For example, a small L then a medium-sized L and then a large one. Fill the L's in with small stones approx. 2ft deep, for good drainage. Finally top up the trenches with sandy soil: 2 parts coarse sand, 1 part loam, 1 part peat moss. The peat moss is neutral to acid and low in nitrates but rich in the other minerals.

After planting your desert plants, apply a layer of rock chippings, precious stones, gravel or marbles. The broken squares from a windscreen of a car can also look quite interesting as a top dressing, especially if colored lights are placed in the garden at night. The reflective properties of the glass look very attractive and different.

Top dressing the soil prevents the loss of moisture from the soil.

Large aloes make good background plants. Smaller succulents can be planted between the larger plants to create beauty, interest and contrast. Make full use of contrasting shapes, textures and colors to create your desert cacti garden design.

Personal taste is of the essence, but remember to create a natural look by grouping your varieties, plant en-massed and referring back to nature. Learn more about desiging your own garden or get a few more landscaping ideas.

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