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I haven’t done much gardening this season, mostly weeding but still much remains to do. It’s been too hot and I have a lot of work to do. Excuses, excuses, I know, but I did spend a week dog sitting my son’s family’s new Corgi pup in June. While there I got to revisit my cactus named ‘Killer,’ a barrel cactus.

I was given the baby cactus in 1981 when we moved from our condo in Lansing to our first family house. He was about 2″ in diameter. Last summer I finally couldn’t haul Killer in and out of the house for his summer sojourn. He weighed in at least forty pounds in his container. He was too heavy for me to carry and his spines are very sharp and long. So, as requested and promised, I let my son take Killer to his home in Traverse City. My granddaughter looks after him in the winter.

Killer in 2019

I thought Chris’s request amazing as Killer received his name for the injury my son suffered years ago. Killer was, as usual, summering on our front porch in Harvester, Missouri. One day Chris and a neighbor boy were exchanging quips and barbs when his opponent got too smart. Chris jumped over Killer to go after his friend, but he was barefoot. Killer, of course, did not take direct action, but Chris in his hurry didn’t jump high enough to miss the Killer’s needles. His actions stuck one or two barbs between his toes. They went deep in. I ended up taking Chris to the emergency room to have them removed. He nearly broke my hand squeezing it as the doctor inserted a pain-relief needle between his toes. I don’t know what lesson he learned from the accident, but it must have been a good one because he treasures Killer.


There are few sights more welcome in Northern Homes at this time of year than a plant blooming its ever-loving heart out.

Christmas Cactus are selling at this time of year, but these store denizens are puny plants compared to the specimens gardeners have lovingly kept for years. Those might have hundreds of blossoms. Schlumbergera hybrids are considered Christmas Cactus, or Thanksgiving Cactus. Usually they bloom in late November through December. Hybridizers aren’t crazy, they have been breeding these plants for decades now, and have achieved some remarkable results. Which is one reason to look over the store plants — they often have some of the newer hybrids.

It is important to remember that while called cactus, these are epiphytic plants (like orchid cactus) that grow in tropical rainforests. They need well-draining soil as the pockets of debris they grow in do not retain moisture. Their roots are adapted to grab moisture quickly. If the roots are kept wet, they develop rot. On the other hand, they need watering more frequently than true cactus.

Schlumbergera can be a problem to bring back into bloom. I take mine out in summer and keep them in a shady location. They are left outdoors until the temperature is steadily below 45 degrees. This almost guarantees bloom, for the two methods of bringing them into bloom are short day (more hours of darkness than light) treatment, or cold treatment. Here they get both naturally, and are often showing flower buds when I bring them in. In St. Charles, Missouri, it wasn’t always that easy. Isn’t it great to consider with all the snow and cold with which we have to put up, there is a rainforest plant perfect for our Northern windows?



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