Raiders of the Lost Greenhouse

For the past few months there had been talk of a private nursery collection which lay outside of LA which Desert Creations was set to acquire. While we were assured the collection was ready for pickup, the record Winter rains had essentially grounded our efforts to make the three hour drive to pock it up. With several false starts due to bad weather, the buildup became overwhelming until finally the partners felt the time was now to make the trip. As our caravan of trucks left the lot Sunday morning at 5:30am, it felt a do or die trip into the unknown, an expedition where spiky treasure awaited those brave enough to claim it.
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Alright, we’ll admit the “expedition” wasn’t as perilous as the opening paragraph might lead you to think. Maybe the bravest thing was waking up so early to leave for the distant property where the greenhouse collection was waiting for us. While the location will remain a secret, we’ll reveal it was a good three hour drive out of LA down Highway X. But when you spend a lot of your time in a dense urban core, it feels great to break away on a road trip like this. As the pre-dawn darkness gave way to sunrise, a rolling green landscape framed either side of the highway, a testimony to the previous months of back-to-back rain.

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The hours peeled away quickly and a little before mid-morning, there we were. Standing in front of the greenhouse we had all waited so long to see, it felt surreal actually being there in person. Clean air blew by in an invisible stream, fiberglass panels creaking in the wind a fanfare to our arrival. A flowering agave stood to the side of the building, a slowly dying sentinel nodding over a new generation bursting with growth.

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Stepping into the greenhouse, the racks and shelves sat full of cacti, an unbroken collection which had been waiting patiently for us. Cacti and agave were in abundance with a selection of rare succulents holding dominion over their little islands among the thorny rows. But it was Opuntias which reigned over all, each a little organic boobytrap ready to spear the unwary (or clumsy). This was a house of spikes which would not give up it’s treasure easily.

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The greenhouse panels creaked overhead while the partners surveyed the assembled collection. Seeing everything was to their satisfaction, it was time for the rest of us to begin filling flats, securing large specimens, topping off boxes, and loading cargo into our fleet of trucks. The time to claim what was ours had begun in earnest.

All morning the great haul poured through the greenhouse doors. True to their word, the Opuntias took a bloody toll on fingers, hands, legs, and even someones face. It speaks to our dedication as cacti and succulent enthusiasts to shrug off even the deepest of pokes and push on with the task at hand.

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Despite more than a few curses and momentary breaks to pull needles from skin and clothing, the greenhouse emptied at a brisk pace. As we drew closer to completion, nothing was left behind per agreement with the owner; pottery, offsets, broken appendages, all were gathered and bundled into the trucks.

Certainly deserving special mention was a shelf in the upper reaches of the greenhouse. It held an island of Lithops and other succulents which stood out in stark contrast to the more defensive-minded specimens. We hate to squash anyone’s hopes regarding the following specimens but they were red-flagged from the get-go, an indicator they had been SOLD weeks in advance. Regardless, they are sure to inspire the novice and experienced collectors alike:

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You looked, you wanted the Lithopd all for yourself, but the little red flags said “No…just forget these are here, keep working, there’s a next time.” It felt like Indiana Jones giving up the Holy Grail in The Last Crusade. “Let it go”…fine, okay.

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It took just under three hours to clear out the greenhouse but when you’re working on something you love, the time flies. Shelves were scoured for any items straggling behind the final collection; the odd piece of pottery under old newspaper or a rogue Agave in a distant corner. One of the last specimens to leave was (naturally) tall and bristling with spikes but nonetheless merited a photo op as our closing specimen:

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And after that, there wasn’t much left for us. The shelving stood bare, a empty contrast to what had been a veritable temple of cacti and succulents. But the emptying of this greenhouse signals a new beginning for these plants. It will make it’s way to Desert Creation and find individual paths into the hands of new owners, new collections, new beginnings.

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Desert Creations is proud to offer these newest acquisitions alongside recent arrivals and deliveries. With sunny weather and high temps forecast through the weekend, you really couldn’t ask for a better time to stop by the nursery and browse the fully stocked rows*. See you soon!

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* Due to the high volume of new stock, not all items will be immediately available. We are currently in the process of unloading, cataloging, and pricing all items. Due to the physical nature of these particular specimens, we strongly recommend in-store pickup. Shipping is optional but will be solely at the risk of the buyer. Thank you for your understanding!

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