wrinkles

As it gets closer to winter, the Opuntias are starting to prepare. Remember that this is my first year growing these prickly pear cactus, and like most things in my garden I don't start out small. Why try a single species of a new plant when you can grow a dozen, regardless of how little experience you have with them?


My several pots of these have spent the spring and summer on the deck where I could keep an eye on them (and occasionally bump into them -- good planning!) and I have been rewarded with blooms, the growth of new pads, and just seeing the differences in form, color, size, and texture of them all. Now I get to add one more attribute to the list of interest they've provided me with.


***


That attribute is "winterness". Okay, that's not really a word, but I needed something that means "what these plants do in preparation for the cold weather".


In the case of cold-hardy Opuntias that means wrinkles!

As part of the strategy to survive sub-freezing temperatures for months, these plants partially desiccate themselves, shriveling up, wrinkling, and in some cases flopping over:


With less water left in their fleshy pads to freeze, they won't suffer as much (or any) damage.

Some are wrinkling more than others:



At first I thought was an indication of hardiness -- more wrinkles means more cold-hardy. Then I read a bit more and I don't know if that is actually true. I guess I'll find out for myself in the next couple of months.


Another cold-weather feature of some of these species is color. Specifically, purple.


I remember now that some of these species were quite dark when I received them this summer, like Opuntia 'Dark Knight', so I'm eager to see how colorful these actually get.



I'll be moving these off the deck pretty soon so this may be the last good look you get of them all together for a while.


Let's look a little more:



Not an Opuntia. It's "Christmas Cholla".

They're really attractive plants, aren't they? Getting these into the ground is going to be one of my first projects next spring!

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Isham  – (November 18, 2012 at 5:48 AM)  

Nice pictures, Alan! I love the purple on the opuntias this time of year as well. The first couple of years I had them the wrinkles disappointed me during the fall and winter, but now I appreciate the difference they bring to the garden.

ricki  – (November 18, 2012 at 5:48 PM)  

I admire your go for broke approach. I am starting with just one. It hasn't wrinkled up, but then I bring it inside for the winter. The first one I tried in the ground was nibbled by something. The holes let in the rain and the whole thing turned to mush.

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening!  – (November 19, 2012 at 9:04 AM)  

ricki: to be fair I didn't really choose to start with so many different Opuntias -- it was a plant trade with a cactus collector. :-)

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