…they take on a puffed up appearance, almost bloated looking. Last entry we talked about our Saguaro that, because of our yard remodel, began to not only look ready to burst but began to lean to one side. If it were to fall it would take out our a/c unit, a beautifully mature Ocotillo, a section of our block fence wall and a corner of my neighbor’s roof. Hefty damage not the mention the anguish I’d feel for losing such an exquisite piece of desert history that has defied so many odds over its 100+ years of life.
Based on information from the Saguaro National Park in Tucson (a neat place to visit if you haven’t, here’s the link http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm), a specimen the size of ours is roughly 125 years old and weighs a good 6 tons. I feel responsible for making sure this plant makes it, especially since we’re the ones that recently put it in jeopardy.
Since the last post I’ve consulted with four specialists, three over the phone and one in person. I didn’t have all of them come out because the going rate just to make the trip was between $69 and $150, just to look at the cactus. All were very amenable to discussing the situation over the phone and I feel we got some good information to work with. They all pretty much had the same thing to say: cut the water source, pronto, which I’d already done. The solution to right the Saguaro was to straighten it with supports for 6 months or longer which would include roping it to something to pull it up and then brace it. Because of its proximity to the house and where it is in the backyard, that was going to be difficult.
After talking with each of the four companies on the phone I had one come out, David from Gardener’s World whom I’ve visited with on many occasions when deciding which plants to purchase for specific environmental conditions. He’s always struck me as not only very knowledgeable but as a practial guy who really loves the plants. You can tell by the way he talks about them and handles them.
So prices to do the proposed work on our Saguaro ranged from $600 to $800, depending on the severity of the issue as in how much it is leaning and potential root rot. David was relieved to see our situation wasn’t as bad as he thought based on our phone conversation and if we simply trim two of the arms it will take the weight off the one side and prevent further lean, which is his opinion was minimal at this juncture. As far as the water supply goes, the drips that were pumping water to the root base are gone and although we still have the grass within 4 feet, it’s not deep watered so should not pose a continued threat.
Thankfully the pleated design of the Saguaro allows it to expand and handle increased amounts of water when exposed to it, typically via mother nature. But, the skin (epidermis) can still split when it reaches capacity and David directed us to be watchful for new splits in the trunk. He gave us a soil acidifer called 1st Step to seal the new breaks if they occur. Our instructions are to mix the gravel like substance with water until a thick paste forms and cake it on to the new tear to protect the cortex (or pulp) from the elements.
He also pointed out another cactus in our yard getting too much water so I’ll be plugging a nearby drip and moving that Lantana to another location. You can see by the picture where the Lantana was planted there’s a funnel effect created where the water runs down the rock right to the base of the cactus. It too has become bloated and started splitting so we’ll be applying the paste to it, too.
Here are a few more things to consider before you embark on any landscape re-design, whether it be big or small:
- Evaluate the plants you want to keep.
- If they are desert plants, specifically succulents, gain an understanding of their water needs.
- Will those plants be OK in their existing space after you remodel or is it better to relocate them based on what you’ll be planting around them and any changes in water supply.
- When you interview your contractor, get a history of their work and understanding of desert landscape.
We’ll be watching the Saguaro closely. David said the pleats will begin to go back to their normal size but it will take quite a while so to be patient and watchful. He also told me what I thought was a canary island palm in our yard is a date palm and eventually it will get huge. It’s the palm we moved in the remodel and the good news is, he thinks it’s going to make it, too.