In the Garden: Tying Up Loose Ends

The author’s Christmas Cactus in bloom. Photo: Charles Kidder.

I occasionally look back at articles I’ve written and think, “I should have included that!” Perhaps additional information later became available on a topic, or maybe I just didn’t have enough space to cover everything I wanted to say. But now’s my chance to revisit a few columns from the past year or so and add these postscripts. 

Do As I Say…

Just this past month I wrote about columnar plants, a.k.a. exclamation points in the garden. I mentioned that tying them up could prevent splaying and bending under the weight of heavy snows.  But did I do so in my own garden? ’Fraid not. Then our December snow arrived, accurately forecast regarding the event itself, but not so much for total amounts. I ended up with some significant effects from the snow, but very little permanent damage. I headed out to do some trussing up and discovered one all-too-obvious truth: it’s a lot easier to do this before the storm has done its thing, rather than after. Trying to straighten up bent branches while you’re wrapping twine around the plant—not so easy. It would have gone more smoothly if I’d asked my wife to lend a hand, but I was too stubborn. Hey, I can handle this! Anyway, now my plants will be ready for the next snow.

It’s Blooming!

In December of 2017 I took a look at Christmas Cactus, all the while making disclaimers that I hadn’t yet grown this plant, but here’s what I’m reading about it, etc. I did indeed buy a plant at that time, and only now am I prepared to report from first-hand experience.

My Christmas Cactus spent the rest of last winter and early spring indoors near a south-facing window, receiving plenty of indirect light. I occasionally spritzed it with water when I thought about it, which wasn’t often. Once temperatures warmed up, I moved it to our north-facing front stoop, where it again got abundant indirect light, but almost no direct sun. In October it moved back to the same indoor location. I adopted the attitude that flowers would certainly be nice, but I wasn’t going to throw myself off a cliff if that didn’t happen.

In November I thought that I was seeing the hint of buds, and in December I indeed had the flowers you see in the picture. Now I have high hopes for next year and beyond.

A reminder: Christmas Cactus likes well-drained soil and a chance to dry out a bit between watering.  To increase the humidity around the plant, place it on a saucer filled with gravel and water, but make sure the pot isn’t sitting in the water.

Danish Graduations

Last summer I visited Scandinavia and reported on the trip for the September issue of the Gazette.  I didn’t bother to offer advice on when to visit the area, figuring that most people would avoid winter unless they had a great desire to see the Northern Lights. For the average traveler, summer is the obvious choice: warm, but not hot, with up to twenty hours of daylight to enjoy the sights. But if your schedule permits, there is one particular time of year to visit, even if it has nothing to do with horticulture.

The last weekend of June is the time of graduations from Danish high schools, or gymnasiums as they are called. This is a much more public affair than the proms we have here, and a hoot to observe.

Upon graduating, Danish students don white cloth caps (studenterhue), somewhat resembling nautical headgear worn by the sporty class early in the twentieth century.  A bit dorky-looking, until you grow accustomed to them.

Flaunting their hats and party attire, each class—only about 15-20 students—rents a small stake-sided flatbed truck and decorates it with balloons, streamers, banners, vegetation, whatever. They then crank up the music, and accompanied by horns, whistles and general yelling, proceed to drive around the city for a couple of days. (I’m assuming that the actual driving duties are being handled by a responsible and sober adult.) While cruising around they wave at people on the sidewalks and in cafes, and they cheerfully wave back. The grads periodically stop at parents’ homes to get a snack and swill champagne, fortifying themselves for the next foray.

When the truck reaches a plaza or public square the kids all pile out and engage in whooping and dancing for a few minutes. If there’s a fountain around, most wade in, with varying degrees of modesty. Fortunately for them in 2018, all this was taking place during exceptionally warm and sunny weather, although I’m not sure they cared too much. And luckily for the rest of us, all this carousing ends at a pretty early hour.

This general cheerfulness reminds of me of what an American told me in Stockholm. He had previously lived there for quite a while, and said that the demeanor was much more somber in the winter. With about six hours of daylight, small wonder. Still, the Scandinavian countries usually rank near the top on the U.N.’s World Happiness Report, while the U.S. can manage only 18th place.  I guess they’re doing something right.  

The U.N. report notwithstanding, I hope your personal Happiness Report for 2019 will raise our country’s average! 


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