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Cacti, succulents and air plants are enjoying a massive revival says Elly West, as we spend more time at home than ever before and see the health and wellbeing benefits of greening up our indoor space
o, I may not have the official statistics to hand to back this up, but I reckon just about everybody has owned a cactus at some point in their lives. And again, I’m not sure of the actual, exact percentage, but a large number of these so-called indestructible plants have probably turned out to be destructible. The less green-fingered among us joke about not even being able to keep a cactus alive and it’s true they are tough, easy-care plants that thrive on neglect, but give them the wrong conditions and just like any living thing, they won’t survive. Cacti, succulents and air plants are enjoying a massive revival right now, along with other houseplants. We’re spending more time at home than ever before and many of us are seeing the health and wellbeing benefits of greening up our indoor space. Plants make us feel connected to nature and are an instant way to add mood-boosting impact to our homes, especially when arranged in groups. There’s something strangely addictive about cacti. Maybe it’s because they are so easy to personify – they somehow have character, with their unusual body-like shapes. This unique group of plants contains a huge number and variety of forms and colours, and it’s easy to see how collectors become hooked. There’s always something new to discover. A cactus is officially defined as a succulent plant, typically with spines, and fleshy leaves designed to store water. The family has nearly two thousand known species within it, without even starting to count all the many cultivated varieties created by enthusiasts through cross-breeding. Let it not be said they are dusty and boring! I chatted to Chris Rixton – of Coastal Succulents, Cacti and Alpines, based in Uphill near Weston-Super-Mare – who is a self-confessed nerd when it comes to his passion for these fascinating plants. What started as 70 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE
a hobby around six years ago quickly grew into a business, and he now sells at pop-up markets and shops around the Bristol and North Somerset area. He also has an at-home nursery, open by appointment, for those who want to find out more or buy from his vast collection.
It’s true they are tough, easy-care plants that thrive on neglect, but give them the wrong conditions and just like any living thing, they won’t survive “Around 35 per cent of our stock are homegrown from seed or propagated from cuttings,” he says. “We’re aiming to offer a broader range of more specialist products that you can't get elsewhere.” Chris sources plants and seeds from all over the world to add to his collection, which includes the rare and elegant ghost euphorbia – a variegated form of Euphorbia ingens – plus the enticingly named mermaid’s tail, string of turtles, and bear’s paw, alongside just about any other kind of cacti, air plant or succulent you can imagine. “They appealed at first because they’re so low-maintenance,” he laughs. ‘But I like to research and understand everything about a subject, and there’s always more to know. A collection can never be complete – there are literally thousands of plants with so many unique things about them. I love their architectural forms.”