Growing passions – cacti

In the unlikely surroundings of deepest Lincolnshire, thousands of cacti make show-stopping displays that have won Southfield Nurseries dozens of RHS Gold medals

Cacti at Southfield
It all began with a spiky little plant called Fred. At some point in the late 1960s, Bryan Goodey’s father took him to a local County Show, and a small, spiny plant caught the attention of a small, curious boy.

Fred (centre)Fifty years later, Fred (or Ferocactus histrix to the botanically-minded among us) is still going strong*. And he’s hardly lonely - having seeded a passion in Bryan that eventually led him to set up the biggest cactus nursery in the country and create more than 200 new hybrids.

These new hybrids – mainly × Chamaelobivia and Rebutia – with their previously-unseen colours, won the nursery wide acclaim in the cactus world, and dozens of medals at RHS shows – including Best in Show at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival in 2016 - see photo below. That show also saw the launch of their 200th cultivar, yellow-flowered × Chamaelobivia ‘Lincoln Legend'

Southfield Nurseries: Best Floral Marquee Exhibit, Malvern Show 2016

Desert island cacti

Bryan and his wife Linda grow around 800 species and cultivars of cacti and succulents - so choosing a favourite isn’t easy. When pushed, Bryan is quick to mention Astrophytum – a strange genus with incredible sculpted forms that look stunning year-round. And, of course, Southfield’s own range of hybrids, a dazzling collection of more than 200 Echinopsis, Rebutia and × Chamaelobivia in shades of yellows, oranges, reds and searing pinks has to be seen to be believed.

Astrophytum myriosigma 'Onzuka'Trade secrets

After such a long and successful cactus-growing career, Bryan has plenty of tips for new growers. The main thing to remember, he says, is that if you want your cacti to grow and thrive, you’ve got to water them! Start watering when the weather warms up in March, and stop in late September.

The best technique is to water them weekly from the top – put them briefly under the tap and then onto the draining board, allowing any excess to drain away. Feed fortnightly with a high potash feed from mid-spring until mid-August. Cacti need a free-draining, soil-based compost: John Innes no. 2 with 25 per cent extra grit is perfect.

Echinocactus grussonii

Bryan’s top 5

  1. For flowers: Rebutia and × Chamaelobivia
  2. For hanging: Cleistocactus
  3. For amazing structure: Ferocactus - barrel cacti with amazing markings on spines when viewed close-up
  4. For curiosity value: Pelecyphora aselliformis – looks like it’s covered in tiny insects
  5. For low light levels: no cacti like these, but succulent Howarthia does well

Bryan Goodey and TiggyCleistocactus

With thanks to Southfield Nurseries -

British Cactus & Succulent Society

RHS advice: How to grow cacti and succulents

*Fred is the green cactus in the centre of the picture

Gardening with the RHS

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