Celebrating the Christmas Cactus & Its Friends

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The Christmas cactus is now in full glory, red and white blossoms popping out all over, blooming about a month earlier than its name indicates. It sits on an antique wooden chair in front of my desk, alongside a plant called a painter’s palette, or anthurium. That plant’s bloom is also exquisite, very shiny, almost as if it were shellacked. Both plants were presents from one of my Beautiful Mystery Companion’s brothers. They have lasted, indeed flourished, for years thanks to my BMC’s talent with plants. If it grows, she knows how to care for it. I simply follow orders, lugging plants here and there in the spring when the threat of frost has passed.

Now, on the cusp of winter, most of the plants are back inside, placed on and around a folding table covered with a cloth tablecloth, in front of the large picture windows. Someday, we will get a greenhouse but not this year. But the plants love that spot, enjoying the sun without fear of freeze. The succulents have had a banner year, spending spring and summer under a shady pin oak tree down by the well house. They thrived in that spot, sprouting exotic blooms. The aloe vera plant, which was a godsend when I foolishly sunburned myself wearing shorts while mowing last year, has a spindly bloom shooting up about two feet. Another cactus, whose name I do not know, has sent out tendrils along the floor.

Olive, our rescue kitty, so named because daughter Abbie retrieved her from under the dumpster behind Olive Garden, loves sleeping among the plants now that they are inside. She is a loving but cautious creature who enjoys being largely invisible when she curls up between the pots. Olive is still wary of Gatsby, our latest rescue dog, a cava poo puppy.

We learned they both cannot be outside at the same time. Gatsby, being a puppy, started chasing her, just wanting to play. Olive promptly climbed 16 feet up a backyard tree, once again. And again, she showed no indication of coming down, which is considerably more difficult. The tree has no limbs for those first 16 feet. I dragged the ladder up from the shop, wrestled it to its maximum length, and held it steady while my BMC again climbed up to retrieve Olive. She would never come to me if I climbed the ladder, likely just go farther up the tree. When they were both safely on the ground, I looked at my BMC and said, “You know we’re both getting too old for this (expletive deleted.) She agreed, so Olive and Gatsby must take turns going outside henceforth.

Most of these plants have been around for years, thanks to my BMC’s expertise and her having banned me from any watering not officially sanctioned by her. A jade plant was given to my late mother, who died in 2011. It is huge now. An avocado tree started from a pit is about 4 feet tall. No fruits are hanging from its limbs, so any guacamole in the future will have to come from store-bought avocados.

A dozen or so large rose bushes are outside the picture windows, facing off, or so it seems, with the indoor plants. They are mature and hardy, surviving the drought with minimal watering. They are at that stage where the tops turn fuzzy, the blooms gone. In the early spring I will go around and deadhead them, which takes a few hours since they border three sides of our house.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the fall foliage, which was predicted to be a dud because of the summer heat and drought. The rains and cold weather came in time to turn many trees into the brilliant yellows, burnt oranges and crimson that makes autumn a joy in East Texas. Driving to work down our country road onto U.S. 259 into town presents a pleasant palette of foliage, at least for another few weeks.

Then winter will set in, another turn of the seasons.

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