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Cactus Kate & Desert Theatre

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It's hard to imagine how large Trichocereus Pachanoi will become when you only have specimens in a flower pot. Yet a single cutting will cluster more columns from its base as it grows up. Eventually a stand will reach 14 feet with the mass of an automobile.

At 24'' to 36" tall I plant them outdoors by digging a pit backfilled with sandy compost. As they root into an unlimited size container (the earth) they grow larger much faster. In a few years they become a cluster of columns as tall as a person. Then I transplant to a permanent location.

Kate Jackson lived in Watsonville, California where she had ran Desert Theatre selling cactus & succulents. She propagated cuttings brought back from Peru by a botanist in the 1960's.

When I met her in 1986 she already had a huge stand of plants from which she took cuttings. The photos above show an old plant that had been growing for decades. That is a single plant in the front of her nursery, I didn't photograph the larger group in the middle of the 1-acre property. Kate sold me my first San Pedro cuttings in 1986, teaching me how to propagate them.


The Loma Prieta Earthquake
In October, 1989 the Loma Prieta earthquake toppled the Oakland Freeway, a portion of the SF Bay Bridge, and destroyed apartments in the Marina district of San Francisco. That was 50 north. Kate's nursery was tens of miles closer; the ground shaking snapped off dozens of tall tips. She called me to drive down and load up my car. Today I have thousands of plants directly descended from this great "mother plant."

Kate died in 2003. I rescued many of her dying specimens in 2006. By then her plant nursery was a weed choked ghost town.

While alive, Kate was a bright & lively spirit. She gave me a gift of knowledge about how to root San Pedro. After her death I took the spiritual essence of both that knowledge and the living plants to create thousands of specimens.

Under a workbench, in the ghost town like nursery Desert Theatre had become, lay a string of brass bells from Tibet. These once chimed, when Kate lived. Today they hang from my deck with a prism crystal attached to the end of the bunch. Every time I go by them I swing the crystal so the bells make their music. And I thank Kate's spirit for the enduring gift she left to all of us.
My San Pedro patch on Granada Drive in Mountain View, California. Circa 1995.
This patch was planted with the car load of tips that were snapped off Kate's San Pedro during the Loma Prieta Earthquake.



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