Looking at a cactus, John Chmielewski doesn’t see prickly spines or thorns. He sees beauty.
"I like them for their unique characteristics and stunning flowers, as well as their variety,” the self-taught aficionado says. “I continue to be amazed by their ability to grow in such rugged, harsh conditions and yet reward you with huge, showy flowers."
Chmielewski will share his knowledge and enthusiasm for these underappreciated native plants at Thursday’s meeting of the Cross Timbers Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, held in Weatherford.
He says he’s been growing plants all his life but didn’t get serious about collecting cactus plants until he was 12 or 13. Since then, he’s learned from online sources and fellow cactus growers. He joined the Fort Worth Cactus and Succulent Society, Texas Association of Cactus and Succulent Societies and Cactus and Succulent Society of America, along with groups that work to preserve native prairies. He presents programs to plant societies in the Metroplex about cacti, succulents and palm trees. All this, and Chmielewski, a Keller resident, is just 19 years old.
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His program will include an overview of cacti and succulents, primarily native species, that are well-suited for local gardens, along with photographs, ideas for cactus gardens and samples of potted cacti.
The program will begin at 7 p.m. at Cherry Park community building, 313 Davis St., in Weatherford. A short business meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m., followed by refreshments and the educational program. The public is always welcome.
The Cross Timbers Chapter promotes conservation, research and use of native plants in the rich biological region west of Fort Worth. Chapter meetings are held the second Thursday of the month. For information, go to www.npsot.org/wp/cross