Initially thought to be a Sonoran saguaro (found in northern Mexico and southern United States regions), the cactus you see in front of you is a completely different plant. Trichocereus terscheckii, is a southernmost growing columnar cactus originally from South America. Cold-hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, it prefers an arid and cooler climate. It will thrive in our cool greenhouse.
A University of Washington alumni horticulture student Dave Nicol had raised “Yoko” since it was less than a foot tall. He wintered it inside his greenhouse and summered it outside every year until donating it to the UW Botany Greenhouse in 2010 when it became too large for the original greenhouse. U.W. housed it until 2016 when they, too, ran out of room for the growing specimen and donated to the Amazon greenhouses for storage.
Enter ‘Evan Saguaro’… During a private tour of the Amazon Spheres’ grow site, Edmonds Community College student and Christianson’s staff member, Evan Smith, found himself spontaneously accepting a unique offer to take the Amazon saguaro off their hands. With the blessing of John Christianson and a considerable amount of planning and labor, the cactus now resides at Christianson’s Nursery.
The day came to adopt the cactus. John and Evan drove to Seattle in the box truck. Armed with equipment to move the prickly coriaceous shrub, the pair’s first run was thwarted when the truck overheated. The second run proved to be successful. Greeting by Amazon horticulturalist, Brian Collins, the three-person transport team extracted the balled and burlap super-sized succulent from the greenhouse with nothing more than a tree dolly, blankets, straps, and sheer determination. Wooden braces were anchored against the rootball to leverage the move and to prevent the saguaro from tipping as it was rolled up a greenhouse ramp, an angled ascent to the liftgate and the final hurdle to the bed of the truck. Despite being perforated by the cactus’spines, it was secured with a woven net of individual straps and was ready for its new Skagit Valley home.
At the Nursery, the specimen was carefully rolled into the Propagation house with a tree dolly, and an eight-person staff team lifted it safely into a 100-gallon pond-sized container. Bingo! The 20-foot tall columnar cactus was erected. Topdressed in pumice, the rootball contains a mix of desert medium and vermiculite (the same that you would find in any houseplant-sized succulent) and it could grow at a rate of 1-2 inches per year, eventually reaching its full height of 50-feet and weight of two tons. Watering occurs once a month in the summer and every other month in winter.