I have always found cacti to be rather fascinating plants. Maybe it's because they clearly aren't from our climes and represent a bit of a challenge to grow well and to prevent them succumbing to our winters.
Three people fostered my interest in these non native flora. The first was a foreman gardener by the name of Bill Porter. As a young boy between the ages of five and eleven I used to spend my holidays and free time following him around as he worked, asking questions, watching what he was doing and occasionally plucking up the courage to ask if I could have a go at the task in hand. He was always patient and always willing to answer my questions. The second was an elderly friend of my father called Ludwig Schenkell. Ludwig had managed to escape Austria shortly before the Anschluss. He was passionate and very knowledgeable about cacti and had three heated greenhouses devoted to them. I understand that when he died in the early 1980's that he left his collection to Belfast's Botanic Garden. The third person in the triumvirate was an elderly first cousin once removed who lived just outside Dublin and whom I visited on a regular basis during my university days. She donated her books on cacti growing to me along with her collection of mammillaria.