Michelle Spomer

Video: GC Visits The Cactus Store in Echo Park

The Cactus Store in Echo Park, Los Angeles specializes in “rare and bizarre” varieties of cactus sourced from all over the world. On a recent trip to L.A., the Garden Collage team caught up with Christian Herman Cummings, owner and resident cactus expert, to get the scoop on sourcing and caring for cacti (in addition to learning more about rare traits like “corkiness” and “sand blasted” skin).

“The average consumer has not yet learned how to look at these plants for what they really are,” says Cummings of the callousing and gnarled forms that large cacti sometimes assume. “Over time these plants start to develop qualities that reveal how hard their life has been… so we’re interested in informing the [cactus] trend in a different way.”

“We turn people down all the time when they want to put a cactus near their fireplace,” says Cummings of how the California drought has effected the industry. “We’re sort of like an animal shelter in that way– we have to feel comfortable with it.”

“Cacti are a very delicate plant,” Cummings points out. “They actually don’t do very well in full sun. The spines are an adaptation to create shade for themselves; the fur is kind of a hyper-adaptation to that same end. The plant is shading its stem– but if you put that plant inside, it won’t get warm enough to stimulate its metabolic processes.”

“Sometimes we seek out cacti in very hard-to-find locations to sort of ‘rescue them’ and to re-imbue them with the poverty that they require to thrive. I sometimes use that term [poverty] in reference to a Basho poem,” says Cummings, referencing the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. “He’s got a famous poem where he says, ‘Come out to view / the truth of flowers blooming / in poverty.’ This is something that these plants understand; they see wealth in conditions where we see poverty.”

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The Cactus Store is located at 1505.5 Echo Park Ave in Los Angeles, California. For more information and for opening hours, visit the store’s website.

Explore more stories like these on GC’s YouTube Channel.

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