Cactus sale at Oracle Gorge Nursery today

Have the drought and summer’s heat got you down? Then check out the incredible collection of cacti and succulents at Oracle Gorge Nursery today, the final day of its mid-summer sale and open house.

These babies need no babying, except perhaps from the cold—and who among us, here in Austin, still believes in winter at this point? And who cares about the heat when you can grow something like this—a beautiful, full specimen of variegated ‘Queen Victoria’ agave (A. victoriae-reginae ‘Variegata’).

I got wind of a sale this weekend at Oracle Gorge (thanks, Kevin!), an appointment-only nursery at the home of proprietor and cacti collector Dr. Bob Barth, who’s been growing spiny and succulent plants for 35 years. His West Lake house, perched on a steep, wooded hillside, is home to four (yes, four) greenhouses, each neatly packed with a Dr. Seussian array of aloes, agaves, and succulents.

Bob tells me that a few times a year, he opens his nursery to the public and offers small pots of his collection for sale, like the cacti in the image above. Sunday is the final day of his mid-summer open house, and if you appreciate cacti and live in the Austin area, I recommend you visit to see the strange and beautiful plants that he is growing. If you want to buy, I found his prices very reasonable.

The nursery is located at 602 Terrace Mountain Dr., and the open house/sale runs from 10 am to 5 pm today. Park along the street and enter through the cattle gate enclosing his driveway. Bob can be found in the carport with a couple of assistants, also very knowledgeable about cacti. They’re a friendly, helpful group, and I even learned where to buy extra-long tweezers for handling and weeding cacti without getting stuck: Rainbow Gardens Bookshop.

If you can’t make it today but you want to be notified of future sales, he can put you on his mailing list. To tide you over, here are a few more images of the spiky, hairy, or succulent beauties in his greenhouses.

The far-left agave is a mature ‘Queen Victoria,’ one of the most beautiful agaves, in my opinion. But you must wait a long time for your baby cactus to get to this size. It’s an extremely slow grower.

After perusing the succulent table…

…and the cacti tables,

I decided on an Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ (the larger plant), which I’ve admired over at Rock Rose many a time, and a tiny Agave victoriae-reginae ‘Variegata’ (on the bottom right). The other two are freebies my kids picked out. Now I just need to find the perfect place for them, and the fun of it is that I can plant these summer lovers now.

All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

21 Responses

  1. [Envies silently]

    Being a gardener, you’re probably already pretty green, so at least envy won’t have that effect on you, Mr. Subjunctive. ;-) —Pam

  2. cindee says:

    What a great place!!! I would love to have some of those. I am looking for a
    Euphorbia Obesa – Baseball cactus. Maybe not as spikey as the others.

    That sounds intriguing. I hope you can find one, Cindee. —Pam

  3. Jenny says:

    Pam- I was thinking you were referring to the Zilker Cactus show. That is where my original Desmet. came from. I have also been to Bob’s place. He has an amazing collection. It’s hard not to go home with a new family.

    I’d like to go to the Zilker Cactus show too. Bob said that’s coming up Labor Day weekend, I believe? —Pam

  4. ELK says:

    I love “walking” thru that nursery by looking at your pics…it is 104 here today!

    It was 102 here today, ELK. What a hot summer it is! —Pam

  5. Pam says:

    What beautiful plants! (That variegated ‘Queen Victoria’, boy I’m not sure that I could have resisted that one!). I haven’t been by in a while, so it was nice to stop by – there are always interesting things to see here! I’m sorry to hear that you guys are having a dry summer (wasn’t last year really rainy for you Austinites?) – we are doing better than last year in SC, but are still a bit below normal. I’m not complaining (and won’t, until hurricane season has blown uneventfully past us!). Enjoy planting your new additions.

    I could not resist a baby variegated ‘Queen Victoria,’ Pam, as you saw. The big ones were not for sale, but I’m sure they would have been too dear anyway. Yes, we had an incredibly rainy summer last year, which I loved, but this year has been unseasonably hot and dry. It’s not unusual for late July and August, but this year it started in May. Ugh. —Pam

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What a wonderful sale. I could just go crazy in that succulent greenhouse. They are so beautiful. I would love to be able to plant cactus and succulents outside. I have to bring in the few I do have.

    Yes, I have to protect some of mine too, although we don’t freeze as often as you do. Still, they make wonderful potted plants. —Pam

  7. Jim Parlett says:

    Pam — You have a wonderful site — I enjoy every post you offer. What is the best way to get on the Oracle Gorge mailing list for future sales? Thanks!

    Thank you for the very kind words, Jim. I’ll send you Bob’s email address via email, and you can ask him to put you on his mailing list. I decided not to put his email address in my post in order to keep him from getting spammed. —Pam

  8. *drool*

    I don’t know what’s cooler, an appointment-only “nursery” run by a smart, fun-looking enthusiast like Bob… or the fact that you got to visit and buy things!

    I so want one of everything there. *sigh*

    Oh, it was definitely cool to get to visit and buy a few of Bob’s plants. You sometimes seem like a born Texas gardener, Kim, since you love the cacti family so much. Wish you could have come for the Spring Fling to see some of those agaves and succulents in person. —Pam

  9. Bob Pool says:

    Pam, I’m not sure if the Living Desert nursery is still in Bee Caves, but it was a wonderful place as well and was open all the time. The man that ran it really liked to talk succulents and he looked a lot like Dr. Barth. I was just wondering if they were one and the same.

    I remember that place, Bob. They made the most wonderful potted succulent arrangements. I never bought any plants there, but I did get a painted table for my porch and some ornamental glass. I know that development was threatening the nursery, which had been there for, I think, 20 years, but was only renting the property.

    By the way, I fixed your URL in this comment so that people can find your terrific central Texas blog.

  10. Wizzie says:

    Pam- Could you please email how I can get on the list for future sales? thanks!

    I’ve sent you the info in an email, Wizzie. —Pam

  11. Bob Pool says:

    Thank you for the fix. I am a computer illiterate or nearly so.
    I was in the Living Desert once and he showed me a picture of Sam Elliot and wife loading up a massive amount of plants they had bought from him. I think it was his shining moment.

    Aw, you’re making me nostalgic for the place. I hope it’s still in business. I need to drive out there sometime to see. —Pam

  12. Ryan says:

    Pam – Could you also please email me on how I can get on the list for future sales? Thanks!

    Will do. —Pam

  13. […] a place to plant my little ‘Bloodspot’ mangave, which I picked up at Bob Barth’s Oracle Gorge Nursery […]

  14. marilyn goodman says:

    please place me on your list of those looking for your next sale of agaves. My son wants a variagated medium size plant to replace one he has grown in his garden. It is the best and most wanted plant I could get for him and have found none around local nurseries. He is a very special son to me and needs a very special and beautiful agave. Thank you for allowing me to rant on.

    Marilyn, I don’t offer a plant sale, but to get on Bob Barth’s list, email him at b dot barth at mail dot utexas dot edu. Or just pop over to Barton Springs Nursery on Bee Caves Rd. They usually carry variegated American agave. —Pam

  15. […] xeric garden is a symphony of form, texture, and subtle color echoes. I met Jeff a year ago at an Oracle Gorge Nursery sale and have asked his advice about agaves and aloes from time to time. President of the Austin Cactus […]

  16. […] Aloe striata, purchased on a whim at Oracle Gorge’s sale last summer, suffered mightily during the cold snap, covered only by a hastily tossed […]

  17. […] try to make it to at least one Oracle Gorge open house (click for a previous tour) every year because you can find unusual plants not available in local […]

  18. […] cool new succulents today when I went to Bob Barth’s semi-annual cactus and succulent sale at Oracle Gorge Nursery, which he operates out of his West Lake Hills […]

  19. […] But if you’re a collector or you just want more, you must treat yourself to a visit to Oracle Gorge Cactus Nursery next […]

  20. Carl Rodrigue says:


    I know this is an old post but hopefully still monitored. Can you send me Bob’s information so I can get on his mailing list?



  21. […] of aloes, I also planted this big Aloe striata, which I picked up at Oracle Gorge’s recent plant sale. This is a new plant to me, and I have no idea whether it pups or […]