Wednesday April 23, 2014

Tis the season for blooming cacti


It’s almost impossible to imagine that Christmas day is one week away. I was looking up some information about plants that are traditionally associated with Christmas. I found a list of familiar names including the evergreen, poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, rosemary… but then a new name caught my eye: schlumbergera. Do you know that name?

Well, guess what, it’s the fancy two-dollar name for Christmas Cactus! I know many of you have this lovely plant; my Sweet Pea had one for many years, and it bloomed without fail during the holiday season. I wish she was here so I could ask her more about it! But I did some homework and this is what I learned.

This cactus family does not call the desert home. Originally from Brazil, if you and I were hiking along and came across them in their natural habitat, we would find them growing in higher elevations, and see them growing in trees, in a manner similar to orchids, or we might see them growing as a shrub several feet high. There are two main families of schlumbergera, the truncata and the buckleyi: both have the flat, saw-shaped leaves we are familiar with, but what sets them apart from each other is the growing habit of their blooms and when they bloom. Truncata blooms are more horizontal and come earlier; while the buckleyi blooms cascade and bloom later. The Christmas cactus we know and love is a member of the buckleyi part of the family.

Because of where they grow naturally, we can take our cue for their care and remember that they like slightly cooler temperatures, and moist soil. Do not use a heavy soil mix; make sure that it drains well. They don’t like to be parched or over-watered; somewhere in the middle is perfect. They do not like bright, full sun, preferring instead to have an indirect filtered light.  I read that they need twelve hours of darkness to help the buds to form; but be careful, too much darkness will have the opposite effect! I remember Mom always had new slips growing here and there; I read that slips should be broken off, and we should let them dry for a few days so that they form a scab before we plant them.  They are relatively carefree in terms of diseases or pests, so they would make a nice addition to our holiday plant selection!

I won’t give away any secrets right now, but I can tell you that the programming committee for the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society has already been hard at work and is planning an exciting year of guest speakers and activities.  We encourage interested gardeners to join us: you don’t have to have a big garden; in fact you don’t have to have a garden at all! If you are interested in plants, you are most welcome! And remember, you don’t have to be a member to come to the meetings. We look forward to seeing you in the new year!

The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society would like to extend their sympathy to the family of May Glass, who passed away recently. In her years as a gardener, May won many prizes for her gardening, and also became a horticultural society judge. She was a life-time member of the Yorkton and District Horticultural Society and of the Saskatchewan Horticulture Association.  She had great zeal and worked tirelessly for the society; thank you, May!

Keith, Toby and I would like to take a moment to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!  May your Christmas be blessed with health and special people around you! And let’s hope Santa hears all our gardening wishes! Merry Christmas, dear gardening friends!



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