Don Newcomer’s Favorite Cactus

– Posted in: Succulents

Recently at his nursery in Fallbrook, CA, succulent expert Don Newcomer showed me a rare columnar, spineless cactus from Mexico.

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It can be chubby and lumpy, tall and skinny, or columnar and spiral-forming. Here’s the spiral form:

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Don told me that these monstrose forms of Lophocereus schottii date to The Cactus Ranchito in Tarzana, a suburb of Los Angeles. Owners Ed and Betty Gay, who introduced Don to succulents at age 14, were instrumental in salvaging unusual cacti that otherwise might have been destroyed by livestock in the plants’ native habitat. This photo of the couple is from the archives of the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society.

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Thirty years ago, after Ed passed away, Don bought the nursery’s inventory from Betty. He opened Serra Gardens in Malibu, where clients included Barbra Streisand, who bought cactus to surround her property to keep paparazzi at bay. Seven years ago, Don and wife Beth moved their home and nursery to Fallbrook, a rural community north of San Diego, where it occupies three acres.

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Listen to Don tell about the monstrose forms of Lophocereus schottii in this 4-minute video I made for YouTube. His sense of humor is delightful.

Don Newcomer’s Favorite CactusPachycereus) schotii has spines. The monstrose form has club-shaped trunks with spineless protruberences. There are three monstrose varieties: fat (obesa), spiral (spiralis) and skinny or totem pole (mieckleyanus). 

Do visit Serra Gardens if you get a chance—it’s a great destination nursery, with many more rare and unusual cacti and succulents than this. They also sell mail-order at www.cacti.com.

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications. www.debraleebaldwin.com.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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Jill July 21, 2014, 9:04 am

THANK YOU FOR SHARING THESE BEAUTIFUL CACTUS. i ONCE HAD A WONDERFUL succulent POTTED GARDEN IN MY HOME IN lAS VEGAS AND i MISS IT. A BIT AFRAID TO TRY IT AGAIN IN OUR NEW HOME IN kANSAS CITY, mo WITH THE WINTER TEMPS- NOT SURE THEY WOULD SURVIVE INDOORS THROUGH THE WINTER MONTHS?

Joan carroll, mg retired July 22, 2014, 8:21 pm

Have you seen Morten’s gardens in Palm Springs?
Huge cactus, some self collected in Mexico by the mortens.
Their grandson gave me a tour one day before he became a radio personality on our local station.

Caitlin July 23, 2014, 8:26 am

hello! I’m a new reader to your blog, love all the inspiration! I run a simple living / green living blog + love finding similar interest blogs. excited to follow along!
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Chandru July 29, 2014, 1:21 am

Great Article Use full for all kind of garden designers & Landscape Architects

Fran Sorin August 2, 2014, 4:59 am

Caitlin- Welcome to Gardening Gone Wild. Am getting onto your blog right now to check it out :) Fran
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