The Cactus Patch
Volume 11       February 2008      Number 2

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

December was a busy month. On the 6th we went to the annual Christmas pot-luck of the Fresno Cactus & Succulent Society. It was a bit chaotic as they gave out gifts (with stealing allowed) at the same time as the silent auction. It was hard to keep track of both! Then, of course, there was the Bakersfield pot-luck on the 11th. After that we strung chili lights on the Agave flower stalk. We tried shooting a line up with a bow and arrow, but eventually succeeded with a rock slung by a passing young man. On the 25th we had 23 people to celebrate with. Oddly it was not as chaotic as some years have been.

Going back to Cornwall, on the 19th of July Hazel had an appointment so we took a bus to the Eden Project. This is a botanic garden in Cornwall which emphasizes environmental awareness. It was built in one of the many quarries left from mining clay used in ceramics. They have built a number of geodesic domes as greenhouses. The largest (in the world) is 11 double-decker buses high and 24 buses in length. The huge hexagons (up to 11 yards across) are actually plastic bubbles with insulating air between the two layers. There are lengthy books on this project, but for briefness as well as relative completeness I recommend “Eden Project -the Guide”, 2001, Transworld Publications, London. There is also a website:

From the “Gateway to Eden” we had a magnificent view down into the garden. We started down through a flowerless garden (ferns and cycads) with dinosaur statues, eventually reaching a vegetable garden at the bottom with a giant bee as large as the dinosaurs. Among the many useful plants on display there were flowering cardoons, so we have at last seen what these artichoke relatives look like. Next we entered the largest dome with its display of tropical plants ranging from rubber trees to vanilla orchids. It was hot and humid and we were exhausted by the time we reached the highest level at the back. The climb was worth it, though. Next to a waterfall was a series of murals by Peruvian artists showing the “spirit” of plants such as Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis sp.), a vine used for inducing visions.

We had lunch in a better climate, dining on Cornish Pastries, of course. From there we proceeded into a dome featuring Mediterranean plants (including South Africa and California with their many succulents). This climate was much more agreeable. As the Guide says:

If man were to ask of God a climate,
He would ask just such a one as that of California.
-West Coast Pioneer

Our final visit was to an educational center which had a section from a “giant” redwood which I felt was on the small side. There was also an exhibit of a forthcoming dome which will be called “The Edge.” This will emphasize the changes which we are causing in the environment with an emphasis on climate change. They say “Deserts aren’t always desolate and empty… Living within limits does not mean living without richness and diversity.” When it came time to leave, we found an elevator. How thoughtful.

I’ll end with another quote from the Guide:

… how, if art could tell,
How from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks,
Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold,
With mazy error under pendant shades
Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
Flowers worthy of Paradise which not nice art
In beds and curious knots, but nature boon
Poured forth profuse…
      -John Milton, Paradise Lost

Next month I’ll write about a visit to nearby Heligan.

Festive Agave

Geodesic dome greenhouses



PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER