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BellaOnline's Southwest USA Editor

Christmas Lighting - Southwest Cactus Style

In the desert southwest the saguaro cactus often replaces the Christmas tree. The job of decorating a cactus is prickly, as the needles are much sharper than anything pine related. The ocotillo cactus also makes a beautiful Christmas display when strung with lights.

The threat of the cactus needles might dissuade you from decorating your own cactus, but you would be missing a fun holiday opportunity. There isn’t any way to avoid the nicks. But there are different techniques and approaches to decorating this popular cactus.

One suggestion is to wear long-sleeved shirts and gloves. The gloves can make it difficult to maneuver the lights, but you will have less pain

Some professional decorators like to string the lights up and down the saguaro ribs. Some wire or cables will have to be secured to the top and bottom of the saguaros to hold the lights in place. Others string the lights around the cactus, as it seems to hold better and look more striking.

Wrapping the lights snugly is important, but not to tight… If it rains the cactus will swell and the lights will cut into the flesh of the cactus.

Stringing lights on any cactus is a two person job. You can hand the strings back and forth which cuts down on the pricking.

Most of the decorators advocate for all white lights. It is elegant and always classic. A more traditional, festive look comes from colored lights.

The best way to avoid the pain in decorating cactus is to call a professional. They would be found in the Yellow Pages under – Christmas Light Decorators. Be aware that this can be a budget buster as the charge for one cactus can run $70 to $300 depending on the height, number of arms and accessibility.

A great place to view Christmas lights and decorations.. southwest style is the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, AZ.

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