Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Tale of Mr. Whiskers

"Mr Whiskers" came into my life during a trip to stay with some friends at a time share in Palm Desert, California.  It was the summer of 2005, which I remember well.  The temp was a cool 115 degrees F during the day. Quite comfy I would say, NOT. No worries it was a vacation just the same.

Upon arriving in California land of many cacti and desert type plants I stumbled across golden barrel cacti. Native to further south in the Sonoran Desert, these cacti were like a big barrel I had back home, but were huge!  They made for a pretty landscape.  So a trip to the local Walmart and $5.50 later I was the owner of  a barrel cacti.  Now these cacti ARE NOT cold hardy.  Nonetheless, I was going to take this specimen back home bring it out during the late spring to early fall and keep it in my basement during the winter.

A name came to me while taking it back to the condo. "Mr. Whiskers" also being a cat lover at that time. Well Mr. Whiskers was potted and the journey began.  He spent time with us in California and then travelled back to Lehi, Utah with my family where we were living at the time.  Mr. Whiskers grew slow and steady.

Golden Barrel Cacti

Over the years Mr. Whiskers battled root rot, some time being in my outdoor garden of very poor draining clay soil, fungus, and some other problems. But this was the bounce back cactus. Mr. Whiskers even survived some cold snaps supposed to kill this type of cacti.  When I moved north in Utah and eventually when my marriage went splat! see previous post, I was a lone man living at his parent's house with some of my cacti and palms.  It was late February 2012.  Miserable time for a non cold hardy cacti to live outside. My other barrel was there too along with some Washingtonias grown from seed and a date palm.

Late spring storms were relentless with cold and wet on Mr.Whiskers. He suffered cold burn that turned him white.  He did scar very well.  Well I finally got an apartment where I am now.  Some cacti were not going to make it.  My other golden barrel had fought the onslaught of late winter and early spring, but death was near. Finally, rot took my other unnamed barrel out.  Several other cold hardy cacti survived, others I couldn't take.

Finally it was my cycad that was burned, fried, toast, on life support and Mr. Whiskers burned almost every where, but not rotting.  White from cold burn, but still retained some green.  Spring did come and only Mr. Whiskers and my Cycad remained.  All my other cacti were dead or casualties of me hoarding the things.

Mr Whiskers slowly began to grow. The scarring gave way to green flesh and new needles formed on the crown.  Mr. Whiskers came back making a full recovery!  My cycad was dead, but still was green in the trunk. It was ugly! But I decided to see if that green meant anything. I gave it the best sun I could.  One day arriving home from work I discovered new fronds coming out of the trunk and the burned ones moving out of the way for the new ones. My other stick cholla from the Mojave is cold hardy, but it survived and is now also growing gangbusters.

Mr Whiskers should have died, but he lives! He still bares the scars of the cold winter months he spent outside. Other golden barrels I have owned have almost made it before succumbing to rot and disease.

Mr. Whiskers is a trooper and dispels the myth that one of the most beautiful cacti around cannot take harsh conditions and survive. Same with my cycad, an extremely tropical plant. Today Mr. Whiskers is fat and happy and golden as ever!

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