Fifteen glorious years…
Since its foundation in 2003, Cactus Club has enabled cacti at KES to flourish and to establish themselves as prickly customers whose “ouch” can be heard. 2019 has been another exciting year, and has included a sustained series of lively lectures and demonstrations during the Monday lunchtime meetings. We have also had our annual field trip to Kew Gardens and we have deployed of cacti on the moons of Jupiter - an initiative eagerly embraced by the membership. The enthusiasm, determination and leadership of Tom Mitchell yet again ensured that the club continued to move forward in a purposeful and entertaining way.
The winners of this year’s competition in March were:
Winner: Quintus (Max Bouras)
Winner: Power of Three (Jamie McManus)
Winner: Spikey (Lucy Giles)
Category: Space Ready
Winner: Jacob (Thomas Mitchell)
Winner: El Matcho (Tobias Hill)
Our visit to Kew Gardens in late April was notable for our discovery of the specially commissioned glass cacti installations. The Log Trail too was again very popular. However, our main focus for the day was the Princess Diana Conservatory and the wonderful cactus collection there. Our next destination, within the 300 acre site was Kew Palace, which provided not only shelter from the gale which howled around us all day, but also a building full of interesting historical documents relating to the development of the site. A number of cacti souvenirs were purchased from the shop before our departure for home.
Following on from the issue of handbooks and prickly pear seeds previously, this year each club member was given a small cactus to nurture. Some students did so well that a number of these appeared in the annual competition, with El Matcho securing success in the ‘refugee’ category. Owner Tobias Hill proved an equal to Monty Don with his diligence and husbandry.
The club was showcased during the October Open Evening with information boards, competitions, an inflatable cactus and, for the first time, Mexican bunting. The latter drew the expected attention to our stand and we had a record number of visitors tackling questions on a wide range of cacti and succulents.
Members prepared and presented a range of talks and demonstrations this year for the education and entertainment of our keen cactus hunters. Lucy Giles showed us slides of pictures by the great Victorian adventurer and cactus artist Marianne North, whose gallery at Kew holds 883 of her pictures. A memorablepresentation by Colin McCann, won the President’s Prize for inspiring ideas and other topics included “Conkers, Nuts in Cactus Jackets” (a club favourite), the Los Angeles Cactus Society, the Cactus Kahoot Quiz and Cactus Police, Cactus Doctors and Cactus ABC. New for this year was the Festival of Cacti which provided members with the opportunity to bring in their cacti with the emphasis solely on celebration.
Members of the club undertook three challenges this year to keep them sharp. The first, The Goblet of Prickles, provided members with a set of challenges.
The First Task - The Golden Cactus
In the first task, designed to test courage and daring, the champions each must try to steal a golden cactus from the former President known today as King James. The location of King James is known only to our current President. The bestowal of suitable gifts will result in the granting of knowledge. Beware! When the golden cactus is tickled it will emit a screeching, wailing sound. To understand the sound it is necessary to “take a bath” with the cactus. When listening to the sound underwater, it is possible to understand the sound as words. A clue will be given for the second task.
The Second Task - The Lake/Cactus Rescue
The second task, which lasts for one hour, requires the champions to rescue cacti who were dear to them from the lake at Kew Gardens. Further details will be given out at the appropriate time beforehand.
The Third Task - The Cactus on the Tube
In the third task, the champions have to enter the maze of the London Underground which is filled with dangerous obstacles. The President’s Prize Cactus (Plato) is located in the centre of the tube system, protected by a sphinx which poses a riddle. The first champion to bring Plato safely to Kesh at the Paddington Station coffee bar using five different tube lines and calling “Make way” every 30 seconds will receive full marks for the task.
Amazingly, this competition was wonderfully successful, with all candidates completing all three tasks in the three weeks allocated. Afjal’s video of his time in London when tackling task three was a masterpiece of guile and bravery.
Project Seagull followed on. Students researched the great adaptability of cacti to survive in the most inhospitable of climates and their teams provided us with some astonishing and brilliantly investigated presentations on these five moons of Jupiter. Science, cactus care and space blended perfectly.
We finished the year with our third initiative: “Return of the Champions - training day” allowed the winners in the annual competition to bring in their champions again for the benefit of members so that successful cactus rearing ideas could be shared.
We look confidently towards the next school year with our handbooks and compost at the ready. We thank Mr Giles for his continued support and Mrs Wood and Dr Gamblin for so willingly banging the cactus drum in the right quarters, and for all their time and patience in making the Club such a success. Tom Mitchell has been a fantastic President and we wish him well as he sets off to Scotland (to study at the University of St Andrew’s) to bring the message of the wonders of cacti and succulents to those north of the border.
The Cactus Club Team