Coming To An Understanding With The Christmas Cactus

THE EDGE OF PAYSON

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It's called the Christmas Cactus or "Schlumbergera Bridgesii."

Knowing the botanical names for flora is somewhat like knowing what makes good sausage, I think. It only matters to a limited number of people.

I brought a large Christmas Cactus all the way from Atlanta to Payson when I retired. It was nurtured by my mother for many years, and I inherited it upon her demise. It is well-contained in a beautiful clay pot where it has been happy for as long as I can remember. It has a glorious spread, over three feet in diameter. I couldn't bear to leave it behind and, besides, I figured it would be happy in the land of cactus where I was moving -- maybe enjoy meeting some cousins or something.

Every year, right on schedule, this plant produced hundreds of blooms, tiny blossoms looking very much like miniature orchids -- ivory petals with red stamens -- an exciting and beautiful reminder of the season.

The year my mother died, it failed to bloom. I attributed that to my neglect. I hadn't fed or watered it as regularly as my mother, nor had I paid nearly as much homage to its beauty. Plants have feelings, too, I was to learn. This plant apparently went into mourning.

In addition, it apparently didn't like travel all that much, and had no intention of lowering its station to meet cowboy cacti like saguaro or agave.

For two years, it did not produce a bloom. An effete eastern cactus you might reasonably assume, except for the fact that last Christmas it seemed to want to come forth again in regal beauty, but was unsure of its surroundings. I think it attempted to get my attention, though. I could have sworn I heard a little casual humming of some seasonal tunes now and then. Oh, I noticed, all right. Several years of pampering and urging had gone unrequited. Now it wanted to bloom again? Fine.

But, I figured I needed to install some discipline. You know, let it know who is boss. "I give you all you need to bloom. You bloom," is what I said, but not with as much assurance as I would have liked. I could tell that this mandate went underappreciated. A few small buds appeared, then fell limply to the floor. "Here's your blooms," it seemed to say.

Well, I'm happy to report that all that is in the past. At present, we have mended our fences and come to an agreement. I have studied up on how to treat a Christmas Cactus with respect and how to encourage it to bloom. The plant, in turn, has never looked healthier. I am certain that this Christmas, it will become the talk of Payson. Perhaps it will be placed in the center of the town, or it may crown the roundabout.

It will bloom and bloom in such splendor and profusion the angels will weep. My sainted mother will look upon the scene with approval and appreciation. "Well done my good son," she will beam.

If not, look for it on "Trades and Sales," or in the desert among the saguaro and agave.

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