My dear friend Peter Lassig likes to say–I often quote him–“There’s no such thing as a weed–just a plant in the wrong place.”
The right place being, if I understand, where a plant can be appreciated by even the uninitiated.
I became aware that Christmas cactus may be one of those misunderstood gems for which observers need the added help of careful placement: It was at a holiday party back in design school. The department secretary had brought her prized genus Schlumbergera–blooming spectacularly–from her home as a centerpiece for the olive and artichoke delicacies us architect types were learning to savor. I remember admiring the specimen but overheard a classmate’s bewilderment about a dead plant in the middle of the table.
Yes, the blooms weigh down the ends of long flexible stems–they flop–er, shall we say, cascade.
It’s finally my turn to steward one–a cutting from the six or seven decades-old plant my grandmother owned (she died in ’64) which now my cousin tends and loves. (He grew up in the moisture and vegetation-deprived region of eastern Utah our ancestors somehow made home. To his young soul, Grandma’s “Christmas Rose” was an aesthetic miracle–where even snow rarely made December pretty–blooming inside her kitchen door.)
Important to remember, if you are growing one, you don’t want to water it like its cousins from arid regions and it doesn’t like hot, direct sun. In the wild, Schlumbergera grows in the shade of other vegetation along humid coastlines, the weather mild. So use a saucer to make sure the roots soak up waterings every few days. Allow to drain and dry out in between. I keep mine on the lower shelf of a plant stand well below the window sill. Its crown doesn’t seem to mind the sun; it’s probably the roots that like to stay cool. The plant lives with me in an old building where, in winter, there’s plenty of cold air pouring down the inside of the glass. I believe the signal to bloom must be triggered by temperature more than light since it bloomed a second time last year after a cold snap in the spring.
Learning from my experience at architecture school, I move the plant–in its plastic inner pot–into a tall galvanized flower bucket to improve viewing angles during bloom cycle. I place the slender bucket holding my personal legacy Christmas “rose” in a high see-through niche usually occupied by a sculpture. Then–this is the second running year–invite my son, his wife, and her parents, Todd and Rose Hadden, here for a post-holiday dinner to celebrate there is no such thing . . .
Celebrating nature’s celebration.
. . . AS A WEED Part II:
I’d wager “no such thing” applies only to God’s creations (unless I underestimate the deprivation of someone who might enjoy even the dregs of our planet’s artificial flora). But my stated purpose here is to search out and reveal good stuff that others have thrown out. So take my rule, a tool for determining which of all the many cast-aside, people-made renderings of plants or flowers aren’t ALREADY in the right place:
View them as art. After all, flowers are inspiration for painters, print makers, clothing designers, chefs, sculptors. Do the creations you’re looking at speak to your passion, your heart? Keep in mind the authentic beauty of folk arts and crafts which is how I viewed this three-toned bunch of felt roses at the DI last night:
Yes, I saw them as being PLANTED in the wrong place–not that the tartan isn’t quite pretty (my phone camera seemed to find its focus there). But the maker approached greatness with these simple, funky roses, their chunkiness, the two shades of red that make obvious nature’s whimsy, the varied sizes. Then faltered some. Is it that the vase looks like an upholstered tin can–as if a carefully-designed package needs improving?
I bought it for $1 and didn’t start pulling it apart immediately on the slim chance that it might already be right somewhere. Still, I perused my collection of vases (those not lent out for a nephew’s wedding right now). The old-fashioned porcelain and brass at right, the extravagant purchase of a great-grandmother, is now in its third incarnation, the first two being lamp–kerosene, then someone had it electrified. Actually, the coarse texture of the felt flowers looks fun juxtaposed against the excruciatingly refined Victorian former fuel reservoir. But, looking at it outside its hiding place in the cupboard above the refrigerator, I really don’t like the old thing! Someone in the family might; duty to preserve kicks in; I think I’ll give it to my aunt.
I move the desired vase to my dining table for assembly, put it atop a large jar so I can find the composition amid the clutter of other stuff. Stuff a small chunk of floral foam into the offbeat off-center opening. Angles for the rigid stems will be limited. Luckily felt is very flexible.
I left out one of the 4 white felt roses which means the arrangement contains an even dozen.
Looks to me these former cast-offs were, indeed, no such thing . . .
AS A WEED Part III:
Now here’s a plant I might have mistaken for a weed most of last year–while I fed, watered then cut down to help the bulb regenerate and go dormant. But I dare you to call my blooming amaryllis out of place now! True, I was late bringing it out of cool, dark storage (the second week of November) and repotting since my bloom target date was Christmas and the tag said allow 10 weeks for reemergence. But hey, I’m still here and it was an additional hit at last night’s party!
From soil to top of blossoms, my amaryllis measures 30″–some serious altitude!
Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52
copyright 2013 Dan Christensen all rights reserved