Gardening Magazine

Astrophytum Myriostigma

By David Marsden @anxiousgardener

My brain buzzes with thoughts of my new house: a new kitchen and bathroom to plan; a small (hurrah!) garden to design; installation of a woodburner and log store; shelves and storage solutions; furniture to buy; and tantalisingly, tucked up under the eaves like a monk’s cell, a study.  My first.  We haven’t moved yet and don’t even have a moving date but I’ve hardly touched my camera recently, let alone pressed its normally seductive button.  Obviously, with limited resources, there simply hasn’t been room in my head for blogging as well.

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But then on Friday, I was vacantly splashing water about in one of the Priory greenhouses (helps to keep the humidity up and the red spider mite down), humming the Flintstones theme, when a little something temporarily drove all thoughts of house-moving away.  Yabba dabba doo.

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One of my cacti has produced a small, single flower.  The cactus is bishop’s cap or bishop’s mitre or bishop’s hood or monk’s hood … or Astrophytum myriostigma.  And, for the first time in ages, I fetched my Nikon.

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In late summer, my eye roves about the grounds and I worry about what needs doing next (answer – a lot); tut at myriad disappointments; fret over the partially collapsed wisteria arbour (it’ll be repaired in the autumn but meanwhile sits drunkenly upon a cunningly positioned plank) and curse ceaseless rain which makes mowing impossible and lawns ankle-deep.  And I’m mulling over several imminent big-jobs: cutting the beech hedging, re-cutting the mixed hedging, cutting the long meadow grass and – easily the worst – strimming.  Endless bloody strimming.

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With all that going on, it is all too easy to overlook a little plant that sits year-long, unremarkable, boring even, imperceptibly growing but then suddenly, with no fanfare, produces something quite exquisite.  Not a bad life for a plant I suppose and one, that at the moment, makes me rather jealous.


(My Mexican cactus lives in the greenhouse all year round.  In summer, I net the glass against harsh sun and in winter, switch on the heaters against frost.  I water A. myriostigma sparingly in summer but not at all during the winter.  I use a home-made, sharply draining 40:60 mix of grit and potting compost.  I ought to feed it a little every two weeks in summer but that doesn’t happen.  Every couple of years, I might remember to re-home it into a slightly larger pot.  But then again, I might not.  In short, it is neglected).

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