Cacti prefer the South East to the Sahara says the woman with 200 species in her garden

Julia Mykhailova with her cactus collection
Julia Mykhailova with her cactus collection

A woman with a passion for plants has spent thousands of pounds collecting 200 different species of cactus.

Julia Mykhailova, 28, originally from Ukraine but now living in Winslow, keeps them all in a greenhouse in her garden.

She spends more than £100 a month caring for the cacti and adding to her collection, which she has gradually brought over from Odessa since moving 18 months ago.

But there remains a balcony-full of 100 more cacti in Ukraine, where she received her first plant as a gift from a friend 10 years ago.

Julia said: “Somebody gave me one and I thought lots of people have hobbies but I don’t. I thought it was easy.”

Her collection needs just one watering session each week, never during winter and some even need grapefruit juice.

And although cacti are associated with the desert, Julia said the Bucks climate is perfect.

She said: “You need to keep them dry and cool – the optimum temperature is 5degC.

“Some grow very easily and some are almost impossible but I would advise lots of patience and buy a good book of how to care for them.”

Julia, who lives with husband Tim, 48, and her nine-year-old daughter Jane in The Walk, is out of a job so spends most of her time cultivating the plants.

She is a member of the British Cactus and Succulent Society and in Ukraine Julia was part of a 15-strong club in which they would swap among themselves.

Tim, who works for an American software company, said Julia often tells him off for not looking after the cacti.

He said: “I had one inside and she said to me ‘you’re torturing it’ because it wasn’t in daylight.

“People usually keep them in the wrong conditions and some open up at night like one called ‘sleeping beauty’.

“So the alarm was set for 2am and she tried to get me to get up with her!”

Julia said she is hoping to build her collection although she is running out of space.

She said: “There are more than 3,000 species so I have an enormous possibility.”