MUSCATINE, Iowa - People who walk past Barb Phillips' Muscatine home at 319 E. Fifth St. are often surprised.
Her front yard features a large bed of effortlessly flourishing cacti, creating a sharp contrast to the colorful flowers and soft-leafed plants that are more typical of Iowa.
Phillips, 40, began the large garden with a small piece of cactus that she broke off from a plant on the Muscatine riverfront in 1994.
Phillips, who was living at the time with her mother, Delores Phillips -who has since passed away - took the piece of cactus home and planted it in a bucket.
It would come to represent a landmark moment in her life.
"I was pregnant with my son Damien at the time," said Phillips.
When Phillips moved into her own home at Seventh Street and Mulberry Avenue in 1995, she planted the cactus in her yard where it multiplied.
By the time she moved to her present home on Fifth Street in 2004, she had many cacti to transplant in her new front yard.
This summer, the cacti fill half of her front yard and Phillips has transplanted new starts to the other side where they are slowly taking over.
Damien, now 14, did some research and learned the cactus is called a prickly pear.
According to the Iowa Association of Naturalists, the prickly pear is a naturally occurring, edible plant that grows in the more arid Iowa prairies and deserts in the United States.
Flowers and plants decorate the rest of Phillips' front and side yards.
"I don't know what anything is called," said Phillips, who also has a 7-year-old son, Gabriel. "But if I like it, I buy it."
The cacti are low maintenance and hold up well over the winter, said Phillips.
They don't require much care in the summer either.
"You don't have to water them," said Phillips.