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Do you like cactus?


I find that even people who aren’t huge fans of cacti, tend to like make an exception for golden barrels (Echinocactus grusonii).  


I think one of the reasons for its popularity is because of its globular shape and yellow spines.


Another reason may be that golden barrel cacti are extremely versatile in the landscape.  Whether you prefer a contemporary landscape with golden barrels planted in neat, orderly rows or in a more natural grouping – they can be used both ways.

I like to place golden barrel cacti next to boulders, where their round shapes and sunny color provide great contrast.


These popular cacti are native to the desert Southwest and can be grown outdoors in zones 9 and above.  However, larger specimens have been known to handle temperatures in the teens.

In colder regions, they can be planted in containers and brought inside in winter.


If you look closely at a golden barrel’s spines, you’ll notice how they criss-cross each other, forming an interesting geometric pattern.  

You can probably guess one of the spines purposes – to provide protection from predators who may want to eat them.

However, there is another, somewhat surprising way that the spines help the cactus, which you read here:

The care for golden barrels is quite simple.  They do best in well-drained, native desert soil in full sun to filtered shade.

Although they start out small, mature specimens can reach 3 feet tall and wide.  However, they can take years to reach that size, so they are often planted in much smaller areas and later replaced.

Now for the big question – how much water do they need?  Established golden barrels can get by with existing rainfall, but will grow faster and look their best with they recieve a deep watering once a month May through August.  The rest of the year, they should be fine with existing rainfall.

Earlier today, I mentioned on my azplantlady facebook page that I had seen golden barrel cacti growing in a very unusual place.


Well as promised, here is the answer:

I came across this cluster of golden barrel cacti growing in Michigan!

To be precise, they were located in a greenhouse at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, which I visited back in June.  I was looking forward to visiting these beautiful gardens and seeing examples of plants that grow in more temperate climates, so I was quite surprised to come across a plant from home.

So, even if you live in a climate that experiences frigid winter temperatures – you can grow golden barrels….inside.

How about you?  Do you have golden barrel cacti growing in your landscape?  Do you like seeing them in a more formal setting or a natural one such as when planted next to a boulder?


We have had a busy start to our upper midwest road trip.  


Our journey started with a 4 hour delay in our layover in Denver.  Thankfully, it is a nice airport.


We arrive in Grand Rapids and got straight to our hotel and collapsed.


This morning started out with blue skies, dotted with puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.


The hotel shuttle took us to the airport to get our rental car and the driver asked us where we were from.  We said Arizona and he got very excited.  It turns out that he and his wife are planning on retiring in a few years and want to live in Chandler.  So, he was happy to find people who actually knew about the area.  He asked us if we would send him a copy of the local paper and told us to use his tip for the postage.


As we do on every road trip, as soon as we get the rental car, we head to the store to get some snacks and supplies.


Our first ‘official’ photo of our trip.
Our plan for the day was to head up to Traverse City by way of Manistee, Michigan.  But, our road trips have always been full of unexpected detours. 



As we were driving down the highway, we saw signs for Frederik Meijer Gardens.  Well, needless to say, we took a U-turn and drove into the parking lot.  


Walking up the gardens, you see the large greenhouse dominating the entry.

Gardens in cold climates often have impressive collections of plants that would not survive the cold winters and as a result, a large amount of their collections are grown in greenhouses.

We were able to enter the garden without having to pay an entry fee because this garden had reciprocal membership privileges with the Desert Botanical Garden, of which we are members.

Near the main entry were entrances to different parts of the greenhouse including there arid garden.

I stepped inside to see what types of arid-adapted plants they had.


These are the largest golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) I have ever seen.

Many of the plants I was quite familiar with and a few are growing in my Arizona garden.  You can see a fan in the photo, above, which I am sure they use to keep the humidity levels down.

I did not spend more then a couple of minutes in the arid garden because I wanted to see some plants that were different from home, so I decided to explore more of the garden.

Bachelor’s Button

During my previous travels to the midwest, I have become more familiar with the plants that are grown here.  However, many can be grown in my desert garden including bachelor’s button which I’ve grown as a companion plant in my vegetable garden.


There was so much to see in the garden.  I headed to the Children’s Garden, the Michigan Farm Garden and passed by the Horse Garden.


No matter where you live, vegetable gardening is much the same with the planting calendar being the main difference.  


Lilacs were in full bloom and perfumed the air with their fragrance.


As I was walking from the Children’s Garden to the Michigan Farm Garden, I was startled to see the trees part where a HUGE horse stood, which is part of the Horse Garden.  

*To get an idea of how big it really is, to the left of the horse is a navy blue stroller that you can barely see.


I loved the farm garden which depicted a typical Michigan farm of the 1920’s.

While the day was beautiful, it was windy.  As I was walking, I heard a young boy say to his dad, “It’s windy today?  Do you see a funnel cloud?”
Definitely not something you hear in Arizona.


There was so much to see in the gardens and I took over 200 photos, which I will include in a separate post.

After we left the gardens, we stopped by Robinette’s Apple Haus, which is a family-owned orchard that grows 21 different varieties of apples along with other types of fruit.


They are really into apples 😉

After leaving Grand Rapids, we headed north up the west coast of Michigan toward Manistee.

Before exploring the historic downtown of Manistee, it was time for lunch.

I decided to try a traditional Michigan salad with dried cherries, blue cheese, red onions and bacon with cherry vinaigrette.  It was good!



I love the character of old buildings, don’t you?

A small garden was located in the downtown area with various garden sayings.  This one was my favorite.


Paralleling the main street was the Riverwalk, which was beautiful.  It was nice seeing the drawbridge opening for a large sailboat.

I am always on the lookout for interesting container plantings.  But, I was really excited to see this zebrine plant for a different reason.  Back in college as a horticulture student, we had to dissect zebrine plants all the time because they showed up so well under a microscope.  I know that sounds weird, but I’m a plant lady 😉


While I am not a big shopper normally, I do enjoy shopping when on our road trips.  I also love mittens – a lot.  These were so cute, but I have no need for them.  Fingerless mittens are warm enough for Arizona winters.


After we left Manistee, we drove north toward Traverse City and stopped by the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

We parked right by the beach and heard the waves and wind.


As a Southern California native, I found myself frequently referring to Lake Michigan as the ocean.  It is hard to imagine that this is a lake and not an ocean.


The lighthouse is only open on the weekends, so this was as close as we could get, but it was worth it.

Our day ended with dinner in Traverse City where we had some local options for soda flavors…


Have you ever tried ‘Local Northwoods Soda’ or ‘Wild Bill’s Root Beer’?

Tomorrow we are off to explore Traverse City, Petosky and more adventures…