Caring for cyclamen and Christmas cactus

Beckie Fox

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Christmas cactus flower and buds. Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling

Our local florist is displaying pots of luscious cyclamen in all kinds of rosy shades, along with a few specimens of  Christmas cactus. I’ve tried growing cyclamen over the years, but without much long-term success. Fortunately, I was always able to enjoy at least a few weeks of their perky blooms and mottled foliage before they tired of my less-than-ideal care and melted away. If I’m tempted to try one again, I’ll read “Caring for cyclamen indoors” to pick up some pointers.

I’ve never grown Christmas cactus, but if one also ends up in my shopping cart, I’ll consult “Christmas cactus are easy to grow.” We’ll see about that — I have better luck with foliage houseplants than flowering specimens.

Christmas cactus flower and buds. Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling
Christmas cactus flower and buds. Photo by Brendan Adam-Zwelling

Seed-saving descendants speak out

Modern Farmer recently interviewed four Indigenous farmers, one of whom lives in British Columbia, about how saving seed has been such a crucial part of their cultural heritage for centuries, and how this relates to the seed saving done today.

One of the questions posed to the farmers was about the dominance in the seed industry by just a few large companies, and how this complicates with the work that they and other seed keepers are doing.

“Their monocropping of food is definitely putting a huge barrier at our feet and in food diversity, which in turn is going to put a huge barrier to our health,” was the response from Tiffany Traverse, a Secwépemc seed steward at Fourth Sister Farm in Peace Country Region of northern British Columbia. “I like to keep seeds as free access and in the public commons. They are living beings, they are our ancestors. They’re not meant to be commodified, but that’s what’s happened.”

Something to cheer us: dancing leaves

A recent post on The Paintbox Garden, a garden and travel blog by Toronto writer and photographer Janet Davis, is clever and delightful. She calls it “Pigments of My Imagination” and writes: “This autumn, I felt the need to be more playful; it’s been so grim, all the news. So I acted as impresario and asked my autumn leaves to dream up their own dance acts. They were all so creative — I was terrbily proud of them.”

What follows is a whimsical treatment of her leaf photography transformed into chorus lines of foliage with a few lines sketched in and a great imagination.

Survey responses about what’s the highlight of your gardening

Last week, I shared some of your responses to our survey question asking about your gardening successes — and disappointments — this season. This week, I’m including a few of your responses to the second question on the survey: “In the years you’ve been gardening, what has been the highlight?”

• “Whenever I am able to share my gardening passion with another and have at least a little of that enthusiasm rub off.”

• “Gardening with my mother was always a delight. She was the one who introduced me to flower gardening when I suffered a debilitating illness in my 20s. At 55, gardening is still one of my favourite activies and makes me remember the fun times we had in the garden, the garden centres an on garden tours.”

• “For my 13th birthday I asked for rose bushes to start a garden, and more than 50 years later, I still get so much pleasure from gardening.”

• “Having the garden reach the point where when I look out, I see what has been accomplished rather than only what I want to do yet.”

• “My beds have never been as neat and beautiful as this year, even though I still have a lot of empty space under a (blech) Norway maple. I also would never consider planting anything needing lifting in fall — until I saw the calla lilies.”

• “Watching as spring unfolds and brings us life in the form of flowers. Watching the relationship with bees and butterflies and birds. Seeing how all of us are intertwined. Learning what works and what doesn’t. Creating a garden for all to enjoy. Pure joy!”

• “The smell of the rose, the green of the parsley, the taste of black currant, busy bees around the catmint and finches hanging upside down on the salvia that has gone to seed. Walking out the door grabbing the shovel and getting lost in my own thoughts for a couple of hours. So many sensual experiences, any time of the year. My highlight has been just having a garden.”

• “I’ve gardened about 30 years, and the highlight remains the same – walking around in the spring and seeing perennials breaking through the earth. I always think, ‘Yay, you made it through the winter!’ ” 

• “The Canadian Shield shrub rose was scrawny and looking very unpromising when I bought it, but in its name, I recalled my love of my new homeland as an immigrant to Canada and Northern Ontario. In two years it grew to 2.5 x 2.5 metres and covered itself with brilliant red flowers that lasted from mid-June to early November in my southwestern Ontario garden. Such a joy!”

Finally, this reader’s succinct highlight: “Every year gets better.”

Once again, thank you to everyone for taking the time to send in your thoughts — more than 300 responses, so far. I’ve read them all, and they re-confirm my believe that gardeners form a strong community, regardless of where they live or what they grow.

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