When my friend, Beth (of Beth Dana Design) asked me to go cactus shopping with her in Ojai, I couldn’t pass it up. My daughter was in town, and so the three of us and Beth’s dog, Finn, headed for the hills of Ojai, just a 45 minute drive southeast of Santa Barbara.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this town of 8,000 people, it is a Bohemian lover’s fantasy. There are yoga studios, quaint boutiques, vegan restaurants/markets, a Meditation Mount, and yes, even a cactus nursery! What it does not have are the crowds, traffic, or even a Starbucks (corporate chains have been banned)… and all set in a scenic landscape of rolling hills and mountains.
Beth was our tour guide, as I had been to Ojai just twice (and only for lunch), and it was my daughter’s first time. Our first destination was a cool shop called Summer Camp. It’s a custom framing and lifestyle store housed in what looks like a refurbished gas station. My eye went straight to a large white sculptural basket, handmade in Ojai. I also fell in love with the t-shirts. Well this was a frightening start…first stop and I had already bought two things. I was going to have to pace myself for the rest of the day!
Next stop was for lunch in a part of Ojai called Meiners Oaks. We had organic Mexican fare at a little market called The Farmer and the Cook. We sat outside on the patio with Finn and had a delicious meal of veggie and goat cheese tacos and swiss chard enchiladas. Everything was delicious and fresh!
After being well fed, it was time to take Finn and ourselves for a long walk. The Ojai Valley Trail is in the heart of Ojai and stretches 9 miles to Ventura. It’s paved and therefore perfect for bike riding. We walked a few miles, past the gorgeous Ojai Valley Inn, little red tile roofed homes, and even a lemonade stand…
After our walk we drove back into town, and visited a few more shops with Fig being one of our favorites. It’s a home and garden shop chock full of textiles, ceramics, candles, and beautiful handmade gifts. The quaint shop is hidden by a blue and green doorway.
After a stop for coffee at Full of Beans, we went in search of Desert Images to find a cactus for Beth’s bedroom. Mike, the owner of Summer Camp had given us directions. It was off the beaten path, towards Ventura. Mike’s directions were spot on and when we saw the school at the intersection of Prospect street, we knew were heading in the right direction. Desert Images is at the end of a dirt road and lo and behold there were cacti as far as the eye could see!
It has been in business for 25 years and owned by Richard and his wife. Matt, one of the employees, shed some light on where to find Beth’s perfect cactus. She found what she was looking for in a 5′ tall number. Now of course, I wanted one. I had had small ones when I was a kid, but now I wanted the real deal…one that looked like something out of a western movie. After walking up and down the rows of cacti, I spotted him. There was Spike, handsome and green and just perfect! He was awfully prickly compared to Beth’s but I couldn’t resist his charms.
After paying for our pointy purchases, it occurred to us that we might have an issue with exactly how to get 2 large cacti into a small station wagon with 3 adults, a dog, and a large basket. And this is when things started to go awry. When Beth opened the car door, Finn, excited to see Matt’s dog, jumped out and the two dogs began chasing each other all around the cacti and succulents. Beth almost lost her top heavy cactus while trying to pick it up…a near disaster. After wrapping a towel around it, we put down one of the back seats and laid it length wise in the car…hoping that Finn wouldn’t break it. We finally managed to get him back in the wagon next to the cactus and my daughter in the back seat with the basket. Now where was my cactus going to go? There was only one place left…on the floor between my legs in the front seat. The things we do for the love of a cactus!
You will be relieved to know, that we all survived the 45 minute ride home intact. I found the perfect white pot for Spike at P o r c h and managed to get him in with only a few minor injuries, which leaves me to wonder how the heck do you transplant a cactus? Can’t wait for another adventure day in Ojai…there’s still so much more to see and do!