IMG_5992 I traveled to the Hill Country this past weekend to visit friends and attend the Texas Association of Cactus & Succulent Societies 2011 Fall Seminar. And to buy more cactus that I don’t need but want. That’s what a collection is all about, right, adding to it? Before driving to Kerrville, I took a little side trip down Highway 71 toward Austin to see what I could find that I don’t have at Spicewood Spines Succulent Nursery  in Spicewood, and yes, I found several plants! Then I went on to Living Desert in Bee Cave and was delighted find even more plants to add to my collection. I guess it has been about two years ago that I designed and landscaped the yard of friends Jimmy and Carol Hooks in Kerrville with cactus I had grown, and I was anxious to see how things were doing. Well, things were doing fine! Great, in fact. Jimmy had lost all the golden barrels to last year’s horrible winter weather, but had replanted and everything just looked wonderful. I stumbled out of the car and wandered around the yard in awe of how full and pretty everything looked.  The saguaro I had babied and loved that was about four feet tall when we planted it  did survive the winter, thanks to Jimmy’s dedication to covering and protecting it from the cold, and it had grown at least another foot, if not  more. IMG_6012 IMG_6009 IMG_6000 IMG_6016Notice the wire around the trees to keep the deer from stripping the bark and eating the leaves. Everything in Kerrville has to be planted with deer in mind. IMG_6017The dry creek bed was Jimmy’s idea, and it adds interest to the yard. You can see it better in the picture below. IMG_6008 The seminar was all day Saturday with guest speakers, vendors, who-guess what?-had yet more plants I needed to add to my collection, and ended with an auction of donated plants to raise money to help with expenses of putting on next year’s seminar. Well, I had to support the cause, right? But I did limit myself to two specimens. I enjoyed the speakers’ presentations and learned many new things. I am still a novice, really, so I always learn something worthwhile when I get to rub shoulders with the experts. Woody Minnich from Cedar Grove, New Mexico, shared his travels in the U.S. Western states, Mexico, and Peru. The trouble is, I won’t have any trouble locating his cactus nursery there in New Mexico, and I assure you I will have no trouble adding to my collection when I find it! Lonnie Childs who is active in the Hill Country area, talked about yuccas. Steven Lovecky from the Waco area showed us how to identify and differentiate between similar species. Jim Mauseth, who is a professor of integrative biology UT Austin, gave the most technical of the talks, complete with microscopic slides of cactus cell tissue and taught us how cacti and succulents collect and store water. While it was pretty scientific, it was also easy and interesting to  follow, and even though I understand cactus, I found it very informative and helpful. Richard Stamper from Houston is a fan of aloes and showed us some really neat hybrids and made me want them all. And I’m sure by now most of you have dozed off, unless, of course, you appreciate cactus and succulents, so I will attempt to regain your attention by sharing with you a few more  pictures from one of the gardens that we toured on Sunday, pictures for which I made a special trip back to Kerrville on Monday with my camera, which I had left at the lake-a wonderful senior moment. The owner of this garden asked that his privacy be protected, so all you need to know is that it is located somewhere in Kerrville and made me jealous that he can grow these things outside in the ground, with a little protection from time to time, and I can’t. IMG_5993 IMG_5972 IMG_5978 IMG_5987 IMG_5965The round ball in the left of the picture is an agave victoria-reginae.  I now have three small ones to add to my garden. And the yucca in the picture below, yucca australis, is very different to what I have now, so of course I had to have one. But it has a long way to go to look like this one. IMG_5961 And I will end with  the story of a plant I bought at Spicewood Spines. I picked it because it was ready to bloom, and I thought it was of the huernia variety, which have really stunning five-pointed star-shaped flowers with intricate designs in pretty colors. When I loaded up to come home, I put it in the back seat rather than the trunk with the rest of my treasures so it would have some light to encourage the flowers. Well, everything was just fine until I stopped at Sweetwater for a potty break. When I came back to the car, I opened the door to get in and this horrible, awful, dreadful smell hit me in the face. I couldn’t imagine what it was and decided I must have run over a pile of road kill and parts of it flipped up and were stuck on the underside of the car. Then I remembered I had a big yucca in the back that was too tall to put in the trunk and thought maybe something was in the dirt that smelled, so I opened the back door and the smell was even stronger. But it wasn’t the yucca; it was that plant with the buds on it. They had all opened, a lovely mass of maroon star-shaped flowers that smelled like a dead animal! I realized I had smelled something earlier in the trip, and I guess my nose had grown accustomed to it and I  forgot about it, until I re-entered the closed-up car.  So now I knew it was of the stapelia family, a relative of the huernia that I thought I was buying. And the common name for stapelias is carrion flower… IMG_6025 Now I am all inspired to redo my cactus garden, which needs a little updating and spiffing up  anyway. And  now I have a new yucca and  those round agave victorias for a new look. Of course, this will also call for a load of more rocks, which I import from a friend in Coleman. Hmmm. I feel another road trip coming on.