The Cactus That Will Live in Your Garden Forever
As gardens grow and die back season after season, a group of Dustin Gimbel’s cacti totems add exclamation points of permanence and individuality.
In 2015, the landscape designer and horticulturist Dustin Gimbel decided to take up sculpting. “I took a class,” he says, because he was thinking, Sure, why not? The next thing he knew he “jumped down the rabbit hole.”
The Alice in Wonderland reference is apt; Gimbel’s impressive ceramic cacti have an outsized and other-worldly quality—one that was wildly apparent in his 2021 exhibition, Sculptura Botanica, at the Sherman Library and Gardens, where Gimbel had over 250 sculptures on display.
Once Gimbel started posting images of his work on Instagram, demand started growing like a Sonoran saguaro. Now, his massive cactus sculptures can be found all over the West, including Portland, Palm Springs, Santa Fe, and Phoenix. But the honor really came when he was summoned to install three totems at Dan Hinkley’s famous Windcliff garden overlooking Washington’s Puget Sound, where one of the cacti reaches an impressive fifteen feet.
To make these segmented sculptures, Gimbel uses an extruder to create the pipe form—“it’s like a big pasta maker with clay,” he says—then he hand carves each tube into a biophilic shape. Different cacti including the “chaotic” Cereus peruvianus ‘Monstrosus’, the Pachycereus marginatus, AKA the Mexican fence post cactus, provide inspiration.
The cacti sculptures can be ordered by the foot and are available in four different glazes. The price is on the higher side at $140 for 12 inches, but Gimbel also hand-makes $60 pots for those with more Earthly ambitions.