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Think of It As the Coolest Shade Tree Ever—From the Desert

Photo: courtesy of Dan Johnson

Name: Giant Mexican candelabra cactus (Pachycereus weberi)

Zones: 9–11

Size: Up to 30 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; dry, well-drained soil

Native range: Mexico

I have always lived in a seasonally cold location, from western New York to Colorado. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if your experience is like mine, around January 5 or 6 you yearn for a palm tree or something—anything that reminds you that the world still has warm places. I’ve always had a special love for the desert, so when the opportunity came to start a small garden in Tucson, Arizona, I leapt for it. Cacti, palms, aloes, bougainvillea—what’s not to love?

Still, with some of these slow-growing plants I can only expect so much. I splurged on a 4-foot saguaro cactus a decade ago, and it now stands at about 10 feet tall. But fickle gardeners are never satisfied,…

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