Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Not As Nature intended

After several years our Christmas cactus has its first flower – just in time for Thanksgiving. 
It was a gift from Mars’ mother who lives in a nearby assisted living complex.  She started the plant from a cutting brought by an indoor garden lecturer who conducted a workshop at her residence.  The initial stem has expanded into a dozen stalks – one of which now has the beginnings of the familiar red “flower within a flower” look.  The remainder of the stems appear to be waiting for some other holiday to express themselves.
The shrub actually has several names: Christmas Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, Easter Cactus, Crab Cactus and Holiday Cactus – the first three dependent upon the holiday before which they become available for sale rather than the day on which the flowers are expected to blossom or (depending upon the source) “because these times coincide with the time of year when they will bloom naturally in the Northern hemisphere.”
This is our second Schlumbergera (as it is technically called).  The first one lived with us for many years and, as far as we can remember, never, ever bloomed around the 25th of December.  It did seem to enjoy the 4th of July however.  Then it became old and pot-bound and died of neglect as sometimes happen to things that hang out in the same place for so long that eventually you forget they are even there.
To be perfectly honest I’ve actually never felt “warm and fuzzy” about indoor flora.  For me the idea conjures up images of kudzu infested run-down buildings or, even worse, “Arsenic and Old Lace” stuffy, airtight, badly lit, Victorian homes overcrowded with knickknacks, and overgrown colorless “flowers”.
Ironically one of our two other indoor floral guests is an Aspidistra (aka cast-iron plant or bar room plant) – the threateningly jungle-like greenery shown (in black and white) in Edwin Gorey’s Masterpiece Theater opening credits, and described in George Orwell’s “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”.  “On the windowsill of Gordon's shabby rooming-house room is a sickly but unkillable aspidistra – a plant he abhors as the banner of the sort of ‘mingy, lower-middle-class decency’ he is fleeing in his downward flight.”
Like many of our favorite outdoor perennials which are thriving contentedly al fresco as nature intended, the Aspidistra was given to us by friends – in this case former golf partners who migrated to Arizona for the perpetual warmth and sunshine, conditions which are antithetical to the happiness of this glossy, green-leaved British export.  
Our other indoor flora is a Norfolk pine tree in a pot – the centerpiece from my Men’s Garden Club Winter Holiday Party.  Mars’ plan is to bring it with us to New Mexico when we relocate there.  How this delicate souvenir of Connecticut will make the trip is unclear.  It may – just may – move out of doors when it gets there.  Or at least that is what Mars assures me.
All this is not to say that I don’t take pleasure in seeing our single red cactus flower on a cold, gray November day.  Or that I won’t be excited if and when the gaggle of twelve stems burst forth in coordinated color on some upcoming major holiday – or actually any day.
It’s just that on all those days in between blossoms I do kind of worry that what we have let into the warmth of our humble abode is really nothing more than kudzu in disguise.

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