Holiday Cactus (Christmas | Thanksgiving | Easter)

When ‘Christmas cactus’ was suggested as the plant for this newsletter, I thought, “I‘ve got this!” I already grow and am familiar with both the Christmas cactus and the Thanksgiving cactus so I felt comfortable with the topic. I am aware of the third type, the Easter cactus, but have never grown one. Even with the logic of the different blooming seasons coinciding with the name of the holiday cacti it was interesting to find that there are other ways to tell them apart too! All of the holiday cacti originate from the tropics of South America, where they can be found naturally growing on trees. Given this, they all share another common name – ‘jungle cacti.’

Most of them are epiphytic, growing high in trees, and have no spines. They have flat, jointed leaves that grow in chains one to two feet long. The flowers range in color from white through rose, red, lavender, and purple.

When purchasing a new cactus, go by the botanical name instead of the common one. Christmas cactus is Schlumbergera xbuckleyi. A Thanksgiving cactus is Schlumbergera truncate and an Easter cactus, also known as a spring cactus, is Rhipsalidopsis gaetneri or Hatiora gaetneri.

Of course the easiest way to determine the species is the blooming season. Easter cacti bloom in spring, starting to reveal flower buds in February and flowering from March through May. Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti bloom in late fall or winter, with Thanksgiving varieties typically blooming a month earlier than the Christmas ones.

Besides varying bloom seasons, another way to separate the holiday cacti is by studying the edges of their leaf segments. The Christmas cacti have smooth, round edges and Thanksgiving cacti have pointy, jagged ones; Easter cacti are known for the bristles that can be found on the edges of their leaf segments. The flowers of the spring variety also seem to be more star-shaped in their form, but have the radiant shades of colors typically found in all three species: reds, pinks and purples, with some cultivars showcasing a pure white flower.

Each holiday species typically has the same growing conditions: shorter days (eight hours) and cold nights (55°F) for flowering . One thing to consider, especially with the Easter cacti, is how much water they need. Easter species seem to be especially sensitive to over-watering. They all need filtered to bright light and organic soil with good drainage. Keep the plants evenly moist while they are actively growing, and drench and let dry during their resting period. If the soil gets too dry, the end joints drop off; if it gets too wet, the plant will rot.

Enjoy trying all three – I know I plan to add Easter cactus to my household!

Submitted by Tracy L. Livingston

 

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Rules from ‘In Defense of Food’ by Michael Pollan

Don‘t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn‘t recog-nize as food.

Don‘t eat anything incapable of rotting.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamil-iar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.

Avoid food products that make health claims.

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

You are what you eat eats too.

If you have space, buy a freezer.

Eat like an omnivore.

Eat well-grown foods from healthy soils.

Eat wild foods when you can.

Be the kind of person who takes supplements (but don‘t).

Eat more like the French or the Italians or the Japanese or the Indians or the Greeks.

Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.

Don‘t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.

Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Pay more, eat less.

Eat meals.

Do all your eating at a table.

Don‘t get your fuel from the same place your car does.

Try not to eat alone.

Consult your gut.

Eat slowly.

Cook, and, if you can, plant a garden.

Rules from In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

 

Moss Mansion Christmas Party

On December 4th, the Yellowstone County Master Gardeners had the best Christmas Party ever, with 70 in attendance. The Moss Mansion was beautiful with the “Montana Christmas” themed Christmas trees decorated in each room.

Special thanks to Sharon W. for putting together the upstairs hors d’oeuvre(and Chris S. for hosting), scrumptious dinner of prime rib, ham, turkey, baked potatoes, green beans, salad, veggies, wine and a delicious selection of cheesecakes for dessert.

The present exchange turned out to be a bit of a challenge as our usual large, upstairs room was occupied, but adjustments were made. We made our circle of about 30, around downstairs tables, and with a new ‘left and right game’ the presents found their recipients.

A huge shout out to Teresa and Russ B., Duane and Tyler W., Levi R., Swann M., Heather V. and Shane F. for all your helping hands. Thanks to you the evening’s coordination, set up and clean up went much faster. You all rock!!!

What’s Blooming at My House – ‘Blue Bahama’ Passion Flower

Exotic passion flowers look as though they would be tropical plants, but they can actually be grown almost anywhere, including much milder areas. You may even find these delicate vines growing along the side of the road. In fact, some passion flowers species are becoming invasive in warmer climates.

The genus Passiflora contains over 400 species, so the common name Passion Flower can be a bit confusing.

To muddle matters further, most are vines, but some are shrubs, annuals, perennials and even trees and some also produce edible fruits. What they all share are exotic flowers that only remain open for about one day.Passion 2

Submitted by Tracy L. Livingston

 

Just What is Plant Select and What is Happening at Zoo Montana?

Plant Select is the country’s leading brand of plants designed to thrive in high plains and inter-mountain regions, offering plants that provide more beauty with less work so gardeners of all levels can achieve smart, stunning, and successful gardens using fewer resources and with a more positive environmental impact.

Driven by the belief that the right plants in the right place matter and that cultivating plants in tougher growing environments requires smarter approaches, Plant Select leverages a uniquely collaborative model and highly selective cultivation process to find, test, and distribute plants that thrive on less water.

Plant Select’s goal is to create smart plant choices for a new American landscape inspired by the Rocky Mountain region. Plant Select is a nonprofit combining forces of Colorado State University and Denver Botanical Gardens. I (Teresa Miller Bessette) applied to Plant Select for the gardens at Zoo MT to become a test site. Sharon Wetsch and I drove to Fort Collins in August and received plant material. A new site was cut and the plants were planted. There will be meetings and more plant material in the spring!

Submitted by Teresa Miller Bessette

On Thursday March 15th from 4- 5:00 PM in the Community Room at the Billings Library, Master Gardener Teresa Bessette will be giving a presentation on the gardening activities that are going on at ZooMontana’s Botanical Garden. Make plans to attend to hear more about how the Zoo qualified as a test site for Plant Select and what it involves.

 

Winter Poems

Winter Trees

All the complicated details

of the attiring and

the disattiring are completed!

A liquid moon

moves gently among

the long branches.

Thus having prepared their buds

against a sure winter

the wise trees

stand sleeping in the cold.

Poem by William Carlos Williams

One kind word can warm three winter months. » Japanese Proverb

I prefer Winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of Winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. » Andrew Wyeth

Winter is not a season, it’s a celebration. » Anamika Mishra

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.

A snowdrift is a beautiful thing – if it doesn’t lie across the path you have to shovel or block the road that leads to your destination. ~ Hal Borland