Working backwards, six years prior, the opuntia cluster shown in the photo below (to the right of the pink periwinkles), had dutifully grown from a single pad. That pad arrived one year prior, after spotting a pile of "Free - Help Yourself" spineless opuntia at the curbing in a neighbor's yard. I took a few paddles home and placed each one on the soil where I thought a mature clump of opuntia would eventually provide structure and interest.
In several spots, including alongside our driveway, I had to create growing space on the soil for the pads by clearing away pre-existing ground covers originally planted decades ago by the previous owners. I wondered, would the cactus take hold quickly enough to compete? I know now I need not have worried - the opuntia rooted and easily held its ground.
|Looking west, six years ago.|
|The same space in a photo taken in early October of 2014|
There was only one way to find out. Enticed by the prospects of a warm and sunny afternoon, I grabbed my trusty shovel, (dubbed "sprinkler killer" by my Hub after multiple wire cuttings) and headed out to do some experimental heave ho-ing. To my surprise and delight the opuntia popped right out of the shallow soil, leaving only the slightest of indentations.
The cacti cluster had one several foot long root growing horizontally back through the ground covers that required a little extra teasing out. As is frighteningly typical, after pulling out that root, the surface of the jasmine closed seamlessly back over the opening created, rendering it invisible. Asian jasmine is scary stuff, folks. But that's a story for another day. Overall the opuntia removal was painless. For the gardener, at least.
|The same area, January 2015. I took out the opuntia. Freezing weather took care of the rest.|
I work hard to support the plants growing here and even with species that are easily propagated I do not take the removal of an established native lightly. That said, at times the best addition made to a garden space can actually be a subtraction.