HOLLYWOOD DAZE is a place to discover (and re-discover) the great City of Hollywood. We like cocktails, creativity, shopping, and little events that pop up spontaneously, art and all things culture, intense fitness but also cheeseburgers — we assume you do too.
Join us on our mission to unearth all the wonderful secrets that Hollywood keeps, as well as the pop songs it sings aloud.
Carlos Morera, the man behind the Cactus Store, sat down for a Q & A about his verdant philosophy as well as his landscaping work at El Centro, the new collection of Hollywood apartments on iconic Hollywood Boulevard. With locations in New York City and Los Angeles, the Cactus Store contains hundreds of “old and rare desert plants from around the world”; beyond collecting, curating, and selling the plants, the Cactus Store hosts cactus-themed lectures, poetry readings, and film screenings. They even released a book about Cactaceae, Xerophile: Cactus Photographs from Expeditions of the Obsessed, in 2017.
When tasked with creating a landscaping plan for El Centro, the first step was to map out various climate zones around the property, which varied from desert to subtropical, before choosing cacti that would thrive in each location. As Carlos explains, “Traditional landscape design uses plants to adorn the periphery. We, however, do not see plants as peripheral, marginal, or decorative. Plants like humans are complex social organisms. Because the plants at El Centro, some of which are in excess of 100 years old, came from all over the world, we designed these gardens with their dignity in mind.” The hope is that the gardens will begin to break down the false barriers between people and plants.
While some of the specimens included at El Centro will be old and valuable, the Cactus Store doesn’t measure their plants by their monetary worth. The store’s oldest and most valuable cacti, a Haageocereus tenuis (of which there are fewer than 150 in the world), is more like an all-encompassing mission. “Instead of selling it, we are keeping it healthy—hoping that it will eventually make seeds. Once we have seeds, we will gift them to conservatories to grow and care for them,” Carlos says.
Why cacti, you might ask? Well, the folks behind the Cactus Store admire these hardy plants, and their enthusiasm is contagious. “A cactus sees wealth where others see poverty, thriving where most things cannot survive,” giving them an almost “monk-like stoic aura.” Of course, there are more quotidian reasons, like the fact that El Centro is located in Southern California, which, with its low precipitation and high temperatures, is the perfect environment for cacti.
With a host of outdoor amenities and public spaces designed for both cacti and humans, El Centro represents the future of eco-conscious Southern California living, where people thrive alongside these ancient and beautiful plants. “Aside from admiring their beauty, I think on a deeper level we aspire to empathize with them,” Carlos explains. “More than anything else, Cactus Store is a sort of earth citizenship project. Many of the plants that we cultivate originate in habitats that are now threatened by global warming as well as a myriad of other human threat drivers.” In this way, El Centro serves not just as a sanctuary of beauty but a sanctuary for the beauty we are striving to preserve.