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A Cactus Story

“H

By Jamie Lynn Miller • Photographs by Mark Steelman

ere it is, the famous picture,” says Ron Fogle, who has been leafing through a stack of photographs for the last several minutes. Most of them are of his cherished succulents, which seem to fill him with infinite wonder — and surprise him every season with unexpected blossoms and growth. But this photo was taken in Tucson, Arizona, home of the nation’s largest cacti. He wheels into a story about the time he decided to straddle the trunk of a saguaro cactus and couldn’t get up. This particular saguaro must have been over five feet tall, he recalls, with long, sharp needles that generally keep most sightseers at arm’s length. Lucky for Ron, his wife, Fay, was able to help him with the delicate procedure of unwrapping his legs, and he walked away unscathed. “The

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Salt • December 2013

saguaro next to it was too big,” says Ron, ever the prankster. “I couldn’t get my legs around that one.” Over two decades ago, not long before he would meet Fay, Ron was living near Maysville, Kentucky (home of Rosemary Clooney and, at one time, George), where he worked as a registered nurse. There, on a backwoods jaunt with a friend to cut down a cedar tree for Christmas, he happened upon a lone, renegade cactus holding its own in the Appalachian soil among the more traditional Southern flora. “I took my knife and cut a couple buds, put ’em in the truck, and the rest was history,” says Ron, matter-of-factly, as though there was never a doubt he’d spend the rest of his life studying, collecting and stocking a coastal greenhouse full of desert-friendly plants as crazy-looking as their official titles: abromeitiella brevifolia, euphorbia, myrtillocactus geometrizans . . . The Art & Soul of Wilmington

December 2013 Salt  

The Art and Soul of Wilmington

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