7 March 2024

Callum Crinis cultivates cactus business from humble horticulture hobby

| Kellie O'Brien
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Callum Crinis Cactus Talk

Callum Crinis with one of his cactus plants. Photos: Supplied.

A hobby sourcing, propagating and growing cacti not only took over Callum Crinis’ home, but branched into a thriving business that continues to grow.

Ranging from the spiky to colourful flowers and some even with fruit, his passion for cacti stemmed from his brother’s interest and encouragement to get a plant 12 years ago.

“He was collecting plants at the time and was delving into the cactus world and drought-tolerant plant world,” Callum said.

“I wasn’t much of a green thumb at the time.

“I wanted to get some plants around the home and had tried indoor plants and just failed at every single one of those.”

His brother gifted him some cactus cuttings and scrappier looking plants to try.

“Through that – getting those cuttings going, then also repotting those scrappier plants and then seeing them come to life with a little bit of love – that was what really ignited something within me,” he said.

“The plants have a real ability to just draw you in and, once you’re in, it becomes a real obsession.”

With an extensive collection of cacti numbering in the thousands and spanning hundreds of varieties in his home alone, Callum’s passion for these plants has become the cornerstone of his business, Cactus Talk.

READ ALSO Picking plants that will survive (and how to help yours thrive)

He said it started five years ago when his fairly extensive collection attracted friends to his home wanting to purchase the plants, prompting him to start propagating them and selling them at The Farm Market in Shellharbour.

“I was actually blown away at how much I sold and the response from people,” he said.

Encouraged by this response, he did the market scene for a while before finding a home at the Timbermill Studios in Bulli to establish it as a go-to destination for those seeking rare and diverse species.

His collection includes cacti, euphorbias and succulents, along with agaves and aloes, sourced from throughout Australia and other collectors in the area, despite cactus and euphorbias not being native to Australia.

“I was basically just drawn to plants that were low-maintenance and easy and really did well on basically neglect in a way,” he said, laughing.

“I feel like our climate here in Australia is really suited for these plants.

“I don’t see the popularity of them dying down anytime soon.

“They seem to be really popular amongst the younger generation that are now buying homes and the couples are fairly time poor and want a garden that’s low-maintenance.”

cactus euphorbias succulents

Callum is looking at getting into landscaping.

He said people were often shocked by how extensive the range was.

“That’s what I really love about having the shop and having almost like a showroom with these really impressive plants in there and exposing the general public to the vast variety that is out there,” he said.

“I’ve also found people are really drawn to coming in and standing next to those mature plants.”

Speaking of which, Callum recently posted an Instagram photo of an established cactus that had grown through the roof of a house in Warilla.

“They planted it 40-plus years ago and it’s a really slow growing plant,” he said.

“They obviously planted it, not knowing that it would grow that tall.

“The commitment of the people to be able to actually cut a hole in the eave and to let that plant go through – I think that’s so cool.”

Callum has experimented himself with putting cactus in shoes, skates and even old Mexican bean jars for a wedding.

“She had a bit of a Mexican-themed wedding and she sourced those tins from Mexico,” he said of the bride wanting to create bonbonnieres for guests.

“I paired them up with some really cool cacti and she gave them away to her guests.”

READ ALSO Illawarra arborists spotlight region’s gardens and the personalities behind them in new video series

With the business continuing to grow, he’s now looking to delve into landscaping using the plants, having already done six gardens.

“I did one in Woonona late last year and it was a bigger garden that was planted out,” he said.

“That really sparked something within me that I really want to try and manoeuvre into that realm this year.

“There’s a lot of people that are wanting to have cactus gardens but just don’t know where to start.”

He will offer to either supply the plants and steps they should follow or design the garden and do the full layout.

Callum will also be looking to hire out his plants for everything from weddings to business campaign photoshoots.

“I’ve got some really beautiful specimens in my collection that I don’t really want to sell, but they are just really impressive plants that no-one is seeing because they’re in my personal collection,” he said.

“I’ve done a few weddings over the years for some friends where I’ve done the arbour out of a cactus arrangement.”

He encouraged people to have a go at growing a cactus and to persevere with it, admitting his knowledge had come from books and getting his hands dirty, rather than courses and qualifications.

Learn more about Cactus Talk on Instagram.

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