November 7, 2009

Cool weather, continued

Long before I pick the green tomatoes, I bring in all the houseplants that have spent the summer on my front porch, enjoying the rain and humidity of a Larchmont summer. It’s a several-step process: check for bugs, prune and repot if necessary, and then try to find a place in the house for those that have outgrown their original places.
As sad as the process makes me – after all, it means the days are getting short and cold, and it will be months before I can dig in my garden again – I’m always cheered up by my Christmas cactus plants. Sure enough, a few days after being brought inside, the buds appear. Then, within a week, my house is filled with color.

The “Momma” of them all, at least 20 by now, has been repotted twice and pruned back numerous times—but that has never stopped her from putting forth an incredible show. She’s not my favorite – the apricot and white flowers of other varieties are much more to my taste – but who can resist the sight of this plant?

Some years, when it has stayed warm later in the fall, she holds her blooms for Thanksgiving, so more people can see her. But she’s never made it into December, and a quick check of the web explains why.

These plants need cool temperatures and totally dark nights for a few weeks before they bloom – pretty much the conditions of my front porch before I bring them inside. But once inside, where the heat has already kicked on, they believe it’s time to show their colors.

I’ve had some luck getting second and third blooms during the winter on my smaller plants that that have a Southern exposure. Will keep you posted.

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