Never having lived in the desert or similar dry places, I didn't understand so much all the fuss about cacti. I mean, I've seen cacti. In pots. Or even growing in a couple of throw- away gardens in these parts. Those cacti looked thumblike, elbowlike, prickly, cartoonish. I've even tried to dig up a cactus, so I know how murderous are their protuberances. THAT won't happen again. It wasn't until I saw a cactus garden at Lotusland, near Santa Barbara, that I understood the vast range and exotic beauty of this species. They are marvelous. At a distance, I mean.