THE LAST CACTUS FLOWER – Marilyn Armstrong

The Last Cactus Flower – FOTD – 01/08/2019

All of a sudden, in just two days, the last bud bloomed, the other flower closed up and I think by the end of the week, both plants will go into retirement for a few months.

On a more positive note, I have a new shoot coming in from my orchids. No buds yet. Just the tall, naked shoot.  It will be weeks before it turns into buds and more weeks until it flowers. It had two shoots, but one withered. The other looks healthy.

This one really is pink


FOWC with Fandango — Madness

Between sanity and madness, there has always lain writing. I have written my way out of deep depression, terrible grief, loneliness, and hopelessness. When I write, I find my way. Lately, photography has become part of the writing. Not instead of it, but in addition to it. The pictures are part of my story, the thing that I am doing besides pondering the evils of the world.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It’s not just because “birds are pretty” or for that matter, because “flowers are pretty.” It’s because both of these things are of the earth and remind me that the earth brings forth beauty. Sometimes, the beauty is also terrible in its potential and consequences. Gigantic storms flood coastlines and river valleys. Fires destroy woods and towns. Winds blow down ancient trees and make the oak trees in our woods groan with the strain of motion for which they are never ready.

Tufted Titmouse

The process of taking these pictures is calming and it brings up a kind of genetic memory of a past built into my bones but lost from active memory. It reminds me of a childhood lived under waving white oaks — and that was the good part of childhood memories. It reminds me of the summer I spent reading hundreds of books about paleontology, volcanoes, and earthquakes.

So much of the stuff I know now I learned before I was ten. The things you learn “way back then” stick in your memory forever. The things I learned yesterday may scatter before dinner, but memories of books I read in childhood are permanent and have become the basis of later learning.


Today is a gray day with patches of blue. I realized that the birds needed feeding. I should have done it yesterday, but there was a holiday this week and it knocked my (very shaky) calendar off-balance. And so, while Garry is out testing the limits of his cochlear implant on creaky old colleagues from his working days, I refilled the bird feeders.

The pink cactus flowering

I had to learn to do it myself because no matter who else I depend on, in the end, I need to be able to do it alone. Sometimes, that’s the way it works. Garry is out, Owen is recovering from surgery and the birds are hungry.

And I need the pictures.

Blessed be the birds the fly through my woods. They keep me sane, keep madness outside the door and let me live just like a regular person.


A Time to Bloom and a Time to Fade – FOTD – 12/12/2018

I thought, when I watered the cactus yesterday, the blooms would vanish quickly. And indeed, two flowers dropped — but two new ones opened up. So it lives on and maybe, if I am very lucky, it will make it through the holidays.

Still fully blooming!
Bigger and more beautiful.


As Good As It Gets – FOTD – 12/10/2018

I’ve been following the progress of this lovely Christmas Cactus since its first bud last month and now, it has come, I think, to the end of its peak.

I watered it yesterday. The water quickly made the flowers limp as I knew it would. But the segments of the cactus were beginning to curl inward, a sign that the plant was thinking about dying too. So, there comes a moment when you either water it, or it could up and die.

I picked watering rather than death. This has been an extremely healthy plant and I’d like to give it another year to bloom a few more times. One of these days, I’ll be forced to put it in a new pot, but I shudder at the thought. These guys — as Mrs. Angloswiss discovered — have a knack for self-destructing when you try to pot them. The segments just separate. It’s what they are supposed to do, but it is very unnerving when it happens.

IF you are going to put them in a new pot, let them dry out completely first and don’t do it when they have any buds on them.

Since I didn’t want to lose it, I realized I was going to lose the last of the buds, but I watered it.

It felt like dried sand, so I don’t think it was too early. If I’m lucky, it will bloom again in a few weeks. This is, after all, the season for blooming cactus.

So these are the full blooming cactus. They are not macros, but they are shot very close, but not using the macro lens. I wanted to show more of the entire plant this time. I hope you have enjoyed the journey.

I certainly have had fun showing the process of budding, and blooming.


Even MORE Christmas Cactus -FOTD – 12/6/18

Nothing else is blooming at the moment and we don’t live in a warm place where flowers seem to grow all year round. So other than naked trees, there aren’t a lot of flowers to show. So we are all stuck with the Christmas Cactus.

One of the new flowers
New blossom – an impression


More About The Christmas Cactus – Nov. 27, 2018

In the course of growing my Christmas Cactus, I get a lot of questions. Mostly, people whose cacti aren’t budding or blooming want to know why mine are budding and blooming.

Almost ready to bloom

There are a couple of things you need to know about Christmas Cacti.

First, they don’t do well in artificially lit rooms. They need to be near a window in a room that is not frequently used. In this case, it’s our dining room. We don’t do a lot of dinners anymore and it feels a little weird, just Garry and I at the big table. So we eat while we watch TV. It doesn’t limit the amount of cooking I do, but it’s a little more cozy, a little less formal.

Thinking about flowering

This means that the dining room is mostly used for … tada … growing plants. I’ve got a set of French doors where most of the plants grow, and the aloe is doing very well on top of the organ which no one plays — probably because it’s old, wheezy, and many of the keys don’t work.

I also have a big Philodendron in the kitchen. It’s the only plant that gets watered regularly. It virtually never flowers, though it is rather interesting when it does.

That’s the second part of forcing your Christmas Cacti to bloom.

Lots of buds!

Flowers are what plants create when they think they are going to die. It’s how they create new seeds for the next season. A plant that is well cared for and frequently watered doesn’t produce flowers. This is not only true of a Christmas cactus. It’s true of all flowering plants. Think about it. When a plant flowers, unless it’s a shrub, it dies back. Our daylilies bloom like mad and then, they die. They come back the following year, but blooming is the finale of their season.

But the cactus blooms and then continues to grow and will bloom again, rather more like a shrub than a flower.

This is going to be a pretty heavy bloom this year!

So to make your Christmas Cactus bloom, you need to keep it in a bright window. Not sunny, but bright. Water it ONLY when it is dry as a bone. Really dry. No dampness in the soil. If you water it when it’s got buds on it, they may very well fall off, so you have to control your normal human gardener’s instinct to nurture them.

A little impressionistic

Christmas Cactus are cactus. They need dry, sandy earth and very little water. This is true for all cactus and other succulent plants, as well as many plants that have succulent roots, like the dracaena, for example.

As for when they will bloom? Mine usually bloom together, but this year, one is full of buds and the other has none at all. It will bloom, but probably a few weeks after the larger one blooms. Why?

In bloom!

I don’t know. Despite all the discussion, they can bloom pretty much any time of the year and sometimes, several times a year. One of the really important things to know is that they don’t like being moved from a window where they bloomed to a different window. If they are happy where they are, try to leave them there.

Mostly, leave them alone. Very few houseplants die of underwatering, but many plants die of over-watering, too much re-potting, too much fertilizer, too much handling.

The truth about growing plants is so much simpler than people think. Find a window they like — bright but not full sun.  Water them when they get dry. Don’t water them when they are not dry. Mud does not provide oxygen to roots. Mud will make the roots of your plants rot.

Then, enjoy them. It isn’t hard to grow plants — even the recalcitrant cactus — but it can be really hard to leave them alone!

And if we ever get a sunny day, I may get some better pictures. We haven’t had a bright day in more than a week.

COMPARING SEASONS – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge: Comparison

Two weeks ago, we were still hoping to get a bit more autumn, but before we were finished hoping, it was snowing. Snowing? Before Thanksgiving? It produced the coldest Thanksgiving holiday ever.

Even though it has warmed up a bit today, by tomorrow, it will be bitterly cold again.

House in summer

October at home in Uxbridge
Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter at home

No pictures of spring because that’s a season we don’t really get. It’s winter, then suddenly, summer.