Christmas cactus, prep for winter

December 3rd, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized

Right along with stores playing Jingle Bells by Thanksgiving, my Christmas cactus serenaded early.

Christmas cactus

Really, I can’t believe I’ve kept this gift plant alive for two years. It’s in the front room window, where it gets afternoon sun. Usually it gets no light after 9 p.m. Along with its long hours of darkness this time of year, I attribute its success to neglect. I water once a week if it’s really dry. If my finger detects any moisture at all, I wait another week.

Thanksgiving was the most relaxing day in months. Greg’s an audio engineer, the man behind the curtain for UT football’s radio broadcasts.  So, he was in College Station. Since Daphne’s bi-alum (UT and A&M), we can’t kid her about the winning score.

I spent hours working in the garden, enjoying it, instead of feeling frenzied to cram it all in within a few hours. Between digging in bulbs, a few new plants, shaping, and cleaning up, I actually walked around and admired it. Well, okay, I also came up with a “few” revisions, and a long list of future chores, but I did actually stop  to smell the roses.

New Dawn

rose New Dawn

Buff Beauty

rose Buff Beauty

In the crape bed, I planted a few calendulas and these violas (Sorbet Babyface Ruby & Gold) violas to feed over-wintering butterflies or whoever shows up looking for food.  I like their little faces, sort of like grumpy bunnies.

Viola Sorbet Babyface Ruby & Gold

I unearthed one of the white Salvia coccineas to make room for some calendulas. Its roots looked so good that I stuck it in a pot to see what happens.

On Saturday, before our belated Thanksgiving mini-feast, we installed the patio plastic, just in time for what may come our way tomorrow night.

Winter patio plastic greenhouse

The “lifted” salvia will be safe, along with the ornamental/edible pepper that’s parented lots of passalongs. Every year, it’s like a little patio Christmas tree covered in ornaments.

Ornamental edible peppers

I unearthed the plumeria for safety in the shed, and installed row cover over the lettuce bed, fastened up with my Freight Harbor clamps on warm days.  Tonight, just to be safe, I’m throwing a rowcover over the Satsuma orange.

Garden rowcover

I sprinkled cayenne pepper over the bed to discourage Cedric-cat from napping in this new “cave.” I’ll let you know if it works.

If you don’t have a spot to encase in plastic, or a garage or shed, generally you can bring your tender plants near the house and make a tent with rowcover or one of the blanket “covers” available at nurseries & box stores.  Be cautious about over watering in winter.  Succulents, like aloe vera & others, should stay on the dry side or you’ll encourage rot.

I couldn’t resist this shot of a Tecoma stans finally blooming, while leaves around it turned yellow.

Tecoma stans with fall leaves

I’m sure most of you know about Zilker Botanical Garden, where any time of the year, you can get ideas for your garden.  But did you know that their newsletter, Down the Garden Path, is now online! This quarterly publication is always full of great plant info, along with club news and upcoming events, like Zilker Garden Festival.

At CTG, I’m editing gardens and the programs we’re taping to start your new gardening year. In December, catch repeats of programs (or watch on our new web site).

Until next week, Linda

  1. 14 Responses to “Christmas cactus, prep for winter”

  2. By Iris/Society Garlic, Austin on Dec 3, 2009

    While I very much enjoyed this entire post, my favorite part is the grumpy bunny face description of your violas. Love it!


  3. By Cindy, MCOK on Dec 3, 2009

    Linda, I hope your garden survives the early onslaught of cold weather relatively unscathed. I haven’t covered anything and I’m not sure I’ll get time to do it. I’m looking at it as a research project. Stay warm and safe!


  4. By mss @ Zanthan Gardens on Dec 3, 2009

    You were busy, busy, busy getting ready for the change in the season. I’ve been very lax and I’m sure to regret it.

    I got those plastic clamps from Freight Harbor, too, and they are indispensable for holding down floating row covers.

    Your ‘New Dawn’ rose looks so lovely against the brilliant blue sky. Mine bloomed better than it ever did before all last month. As for ‘Buff Beauty’ it’s one of my favorites. I had one for a few years. It was never happy in that spot and finally died. But I love the color of it.


  5. By ESP on Dec 6, 2009

    Hi Linda.

    Wow! What a fantastic first shot that was…an amazing image. Did you put a black board behind it to take the shot? A true winter dragon of sorts, the subtle pink/white hues of the image are incredible, right down to the bright pink/purple flower end and obligatory hair!

    I never cover anything in the patch and I think my ornamental pepper may be frost-nipped, at least the foliage, I will know more in a few more days…they ARE like little Christmas trees with their multi-colored ornaments. The bright orange ones are my favorite.



    Linda reply on December 8th, 2009 4:10 pm:

    Hi, ESP! Thanks! It was in the front window with a strong west sun coming in. I moved it to catch it just right and the background went black on its own.

    I only care for this pepper since I’ve had it for a few years and it’s become my little friend.


  6. By Tom on Dec 7, 2009

    I enjoyed a few minutes of snow in Zilker Garden Friday — a very nice place to be. While I bounce around from post to post I continue to be amazed by the uniqueness of our CTG location in the transition zone of hot and cold, wet and dry, and rock and soil types too. The good news is we can have almost any type of garden we want, the downside being whichever one(s) we choose we’ll have to work at it a bit more than than its native folks do. No wonder we Austinites love diversity!


  7. By Bob Beyer on Dec 7, 2009

    Thanks for your mention of the Zilker Botanical Garden’s new on-line “Down the Garden Path” E-newsletter. We appreciate everyone getting the word out about this new gardening resource available to everyone on the internet. Next one should be on-line December 15th.


  8. By Daphne Richards on Dec 7, 2009

    Yeah team! Yes, I CAN say that no matter who wins. Hook em’ and Gig em’!


  9. By Jenny on Dec 8, 2009

    I have a true affection for the Christmas Cactus, although the one I have been keeping in England since my mother died is red. It has kept going for 3 years but this time when we were there I gave it to someone, whom I hope will keep it alive for ever and pass it on. Seems that way with this plant. As you say it thrives on neglect. Annie gave me a cutting from hers, which is also white. With only a few leaves I saw a flower beginning before I left. Hope your plants survived the freeze. I haven’t had chance to get out there yet and take a look but I fear it will be bad news, especially for the A. desmettiana. Your garden still looked like summer on the 3rd and I was hoping that is what we were coming back to! Thanks for the info on the clamps. I could use some of those to.


    Linda reply on December 8th, 2009 4:11 pm:

    Jenny, so glad you’re back! I didn’t realize you could take from cuttings. I’ll check with Annie.


  10. By Annie in Austin on Dec 8, 2009

    Hi Linda – what a cool glamour shot of the flowering cactus- love those plants and hope Jenny’s made it.

    Mine are Thanksgiving Cactus/Schlumbergera and they stayed outside until the temps headed down to the 40’s. We haven’t figured out a way to make a shelter like your clever temporary patio greenhouse…everything tender is crammed into the kitchen or garage.

    I never actually took cuttings from the Schlums, but the ends of the ‘arms’ often let loose & fall off when they get bumped. I’ve let the pieces sit for a couple of days then poked them into potting soil and many times they root.

    Love your Buff Beauty – what a color!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose


    Linda reply on December 9th, 2009 5:23 pm:

    Hi, Annie! I’ll check out its botanical name; it was a gift plant called Christmas cactus. Shows how thorough I am, huh? Yes, the Buff Beauty looked much better this fall than in spring. Maybe I’ll still have flowers at Christmas. Thanks for the tips on dividing the “arms” of the C. cactus. I’ll try it!


  11. By Linda/patchwork on Dec 9, 2009

    I agree. That is a beautiful shot of the cactus. Mine has buds this year, much earlier than ever. I haven’t done anything different, that I know. But, I’m hoping for an acutal Christmas bloom.
    I guess there’s a Pasadena trip in store for Greg.


    Linda reply on December 9th, 2009 5:21 pm:

    Yea for Christmas cactus all over the place! I’m still astounded with it. Indeed, Greg is heading to Pasadena in January! I’ll be taping CTG that day so I’ll be here.


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