Belgian Nursery Blog

January 19, 2023
Cactus Collage

History of Belgian’s Cactus & Succulent House

It seems like our beloved Cactus & Succulent House has always been an attraction of Belgian Nursery; most people can’t remember a time when it didn’t exist! And the story of this its creation is truly heartwarming, pun intended:

The Cactus & Succulent House was once simply Greenhouse #5, where Belgian used to grow rotating crops of geraniums, cyclamen, and poinsettias. It was just like the other greenhouses: about 5,400 sq. ft. of low benches filled with whichever crop was coming into season. But then Luc and Rosie decided to go on a well deserved vacation to Aruba, where they fell in love with the island’s unique tranquility and dreamt of bringing paradise back to southwestern Ontario. Plans to add cacti displays to the Tropical House were already in the works, but the entire structure would have to be extended or widened or both. So, they looked at greenhouse #5 and said “Yes!” Rosie immediately started to sketch a rough floor plan of her dream desert oasis, and together with Luc they made a solid plan. Then, the renovations began…

When a greenhouse is intended for desert plants, the top concerns are sunlight and heat. The greenhouse roof was already untreated glass panes so that took care of sunlight, as for the “heat” they took that part seriously as they started the Cactus House project in summer…during a heat wave…where the average daily temperature was +30°C! And the work had to start, literally, from the ground up, which meant the entire greenhouse floor had to be lowered by 2 feet – did we mention that none of the digging equipment could fit through the doors? Over 10,000 cubic feet of soil was removed, by hand and wheelbarrow, through a 6-foot hole in the wall. Not to mention hauling in all the gravel, interlocking stone, display beds, pyramid, heat pipes, red brick chips – it was a labour of love, with a healthy consumption of water and juice!

Once the ‘hardscaping’ was done (and everyone was rehydrated) the display beds could be planted and varieties brought in for retail. Cacti and succulents were brought in from all over Ontario, Florida, and even California where Luc and Rosie personally selected the large varieties now enjoyed in our Cactus beds. Fun facts: At the time of this publication, most of the display plants are over 50 years old; the giant Euphorbia ‘Wakefieldii’ (affectionately named Killer) arrived in the late 1990s and is already well past her 100th birthday!

Belgian’s Cactus & Succulent House was created as an oasis where customers could find a bright spot year round, even in the darkest days of winter; that’s why we hold our Desert Days (formerly known as the Cactus Festival) during the month of February. Escape the winter chill and get warm and toasty in our Cactus & Succulent House!

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