GARDENING: The prickly subject of cacti

Busy lives means one of nature's toughest plants is now back in vogue.

The cacti and succulent family can live and survive the most hostile environments on earth so are perfect for wannabe gardeners with little time on their hands.

And the love of the cactus has spurred one Mexborough man to spend his life nurturing the beautiful plants and encouraging others to grow them.

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Peter Cowdell is the publicity secrtary for the British Cactus and Succulent Society (BCSS) - Sheffield branch, he said: “Cacti and succulents are in fashion at present and we are asking people to join the trend. The last cactus boom was in the 1960s and 70s.

“They are suited to hot conservatories, window sills, in city glass buildings. With our modern busy lives these are the ideal plant because they can stand neglect, heat, sun. If we forget to water them they will survive, other plants may wilt, suffer or die but cacti hang in there.”

Cacti is a fleshy desert plant with spines but no leaves. They all flower and some are scented.

Peter continued: “As a society we are trying to ensure this popularity continues, get more growers and raise awareness within our community.”

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The objectives of the British Cactus and Succulent Society is to promote the study, conservation, propagation and cultivation of cacti and other succulent plants. Membership of the BCSS is currently about 3,000 and includes the whole range from novice window-sill growers to experts. Membership of the Society is open to all.

The society was formed in 1983 by the amalgamation of the two major cactus and succulent societies in the UK, The National Cactus and Succulent Society (NCSS), and The Cactus and Succulent Society of Great Britain (CSSGB), both of which had long histories.

The Sheffield branch of the BCSS has been in existence since 1946 and is one of over 90 branches located throughout the United Kingdom.

The society, which is in its 71st year, is hosting its annual, and 62nd, show on Saturday and Sunday June 3-4 at The Sheffield Botanical Gardens, 10am-4pm.

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Judge for the event is Mr Alasdair Glen, the BCSS chairman, Peter said: “He’s much sought after, we’re lucky to get him, he’s a legend in our hobby.”

Admission is free and there will be plant sales and a tombola.

For more information contact the show secretary on 01246 231109, or visit