of course, this is not really soft and fluffy like thistledown: it's a cactus, and full of lethal little spikes. But it looks pretty from a safe distance, and has some delicate pale pink flowers blooming on it.
I've never remotely thought of myself as a cactus person, probably because in Britain they only ever came in the lumpy dark green variety that sulked in the corner of offices where it didn't matter - indeed, was probably beneficial - if no one ever remembered to water them (sadly, indeed, we caused the demise of a peculiarly delicate specimen, bought at the Huntington's fall plant sale, by remembering to water it). In New Mexico, I'm very glad to have solid pink-flowering and yellow-flowering four-foot high plants as part of the landscape on our land. And I'm very happy to eat nopales if someone has caught them and fried them for me (not much chance of that here in LA - we have seen the ones that grow down on the street level be gathered and borne off by a little old lady with a plastic bag, who probably didn't mind too much about the substantial dose of lead that the tender fruit must have imbibed).
But I will miss growing - or watching Alice grow - the variety of cacti that sit on a bench outside here. They'd lose their Californian allure if they came east to New Jersey: even if they could be nourished and pampered indoors, they'd still look like the rather precious collection of spiky things that my green-fingered paternal grandmother used to cultivate. Cacti are a type of plant that absolutely lose their allure when removed from their native habitat. Not that they've had much chance of sun today - more June gloom, rendering everything photographically unappetizing.