Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cactus TLC

My two grandmothers were fond friends who played Scrabble and Dominos together and both loved flowers; Grandma J. was an irrepressible outdoor gardener and Grandma W. nurtured houseplants.

When my Grandma J. was in the hospital two years ago, just before she died at age 92, she told me she wanted me to take care of The Christmas Cactus. My Grandma W. had given it to her about fifteen years earlier when she moved away to live with my aunt in Oregon (She lived to age 90.) I remember every winter when I was a little girl Grandma W. would gleefully brag about how many blossoms The Christmas Cactus was sporting. She told me that The Christmas Cactus was very old--she had inherited it from Grandpa W.'s mother. I guesstimate that it must be at least 80 years old now! The center of its woody stem (trunk?) is about 3 inches in diameter.

I am not the most reliable houseplant caretaker, so I was a bit worried about this responsibility. However, the next Christmas the plant was totally smothered in spectacular blooms- I felt like it was a gift from my Grandmas.

When we moved to the farm in September, I set The Christmas Cactus on a stack of big boxes in my office, where it thrived for several weeks until one day, there was a tremendous crash. The top box had suddenly caved in and The Beloved Christmas Cactus was lying upside down in a heap on the floor. Half of its branches were broken off. Dirt was everywhere. I scooped it back together, and it has been sort of languishing ever since. It didn't bloom for me this past Christmas.

Today Cadence and I re-potted The Christmas Cactus into a bigger pot using official "cactus" potting soil. I moved it to the west window. It looks visibly happier already.


Wayne Stratz said...

I would check on that soil, Christmas cacti are a strange breed and I do believe need a less sandy soil.

This was a nice piece of writing... glad I stumbled here from blotanical

Kanak Hagjer said...

Loved reading the story behind your Christmas cactus ...I hope it lives on for many more years!

Susan Tomlinson said...

Susan, what a wonderful story of friendship. In a way, you're carrying the friendship forward through the generations.

I hope the cactus revives for you. Surely it will.

Why don't you think about potting up a few cuttings from the cactus, as well? I'm sure it wouldn't hurt the cactus if you took a couple--and then you might have a little "insurance."

Susan said...

Thanks for you expertise, Wayne. This "cactus" soli f do dnpt seem expecially sandy to me but maybe I'll mix ina little potting soil.

Good idea, Susan. I have actually been meaning to start some cuttings for my sisters for a long time--you have inspired me to get to it! Now I just have to learn the tricks.