¿Can You Dig It? specializes in succulents
Carolyn “Carrie” Berban-Cantu and her husband, Gerardo “Gerry” Cantu have built a botanical garden that spreads amongst their entire property. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, cacti and everything in between spring from the front and back yards.
The scent of flowers and greenery pour from the pots of every size, surrounding a greenhouse tucked in a corner by the side gate. Stray succulents grow from between the rocks around a trickling koi pond.
Carrie Cantu is a South Side native who has lived in San Antonio for more than 60 years. She now owns and operates a West Side home business named, “¿Can You Dig It?,” which sells succulents, herbs, miniature garden projects, macrame crafts and more.
“We started this garden business in 1996, and I have been making macrame and crafts since the 70’s,” Carrie said. “We will sell to anybody, usually friends and neighbors. Word spreads through the grapevine. I’ll have products the entire year, but the busiest time is between April and May.”
Gerry is a retired firefighter of 35 years and was an EMT for 27 years. Prior to that he was in the Navy for six years.
“I spent four years as a nuclear missile technician on submarines and went on eight 10-month patrols from Spain,” he said.
Their business has opened shop at multiple farmer’s markets, First Fridays, The People’s Nite Market, and art/dance festivals over the years. Recently, the small home-garden business took on their biggest task to date.
On May 4, ¿Can You Dig It? decorated an Austin wedding entirely with succulents.
“The tables, boutonnieres, bouquet… everything was alive with dozens of types of succulents,” Carrie said.
The centerpieces on the five family tables and the signing table were succulent terrariums. She also designed natural cone-shaped succulent pots made of moss, chicken-wire, and soil which were hung from the ends of the pews down the aisle.
Days before the wedding, Carrie said, “there’s so much stuff, it’s hard to keep track. Depending on how this goes, this may be our first and last wedding project.”
She added, “in the future, I wouldn’t mind assisting somebody who has floral design and event planning experience. This was a lot for us to handle alone.”
It was a rainy day in Austin on May 4, but the weather did not damper the ceremony.
“The wedding turned out to be so beautiful!” Carrie said. “Everybody loved the decorations. It was magical.”
When asked if she still stands by her initial apprehension to taking on another event of this magnitude, she replied, “Oh goodness, 100 percent. Not again, at least no time soon.”
Succulent planting and decorating is a blooming trend amongst millenials and gardeners of all skill levels.
“I don’t know exactly how the succulent trend exploded. They are so hearty and inexpensive to grow, it’s a great hobby for college students!” she added. “People knew about succulents in the 80’s…but nobody made beautiful shit out of them.”
Carrie creates a broad selection of wares from the plants, including (but not limited to) essential oils and alcohols for homeopathic medicine and topical skin care, spices and vinaigrettes for culinary use.
“I even have Gotu kola plants for tea, which is good for old people’s memory!” Carrie said.
“You can just tell me what you want, and I’ll find it for you,” she said, “I will care for your plants in my gardens or the greenhouse for you to pick up.”
Carrie and Gerry have helped care for and distribute the plants from Nature’s Herb Farm to multiple HEB’s in South Texas.
“I got into succulents two years ago when I was helping the farm with their arrangements for HEB. We must have made 160 in one day,” Carrie said. “It was a lot of fun but it got stressful quickly. They were such a hit, the next day they would want 180 and so on. I enjoy just being in my own backyard.”
“There are a few tricks that a gardener has to know when playing with succulents to be extremely successful,” Carrie added. “You have to be gentle when handling them, they are very delicate. Also, you need to acclimate them to the light they get. The plant can’t be in the shade it’s whole life then all of a sudden go to direct sun.”
She made a comparison to a person sitting in an air-conditioned room all morning who then goes outside to bask in the sun in the middle of the afternoon.
“You and the plant are gonna fry.”
Carrie explained that most people have two main problems, over and under watering, when it comes to succulent gardening.
“If the plant is inside getting little to no sun, you don’t even have to water the plant for sometimes two weeks, outdoor plants can go a few days without water depending on the sunlight, Carrie said. “That’s the best thing about these plants, they are pretty low maintenance. Now, it’s mints and herbs you need to watch for.”
¿Can You Dig It? prices range from $2 for four-inch herb cuttings to higher than 5-feet-tall macrame pieces starting around $60. Succulents start from $5. Even while Carrie insists she wants to slow down on new ventures she can’t help but hint on what is next to come.
“I made our family a macrame Christmas tree last year, I would love to sell some of those this year.”