Connections: Joy in the Bay Window

The shelf at the bay window in the dining room was filled with great, big flowering Christmas cactuses on a painted, dark-green copper tray

The first time I visited the house I live in now, the shelf at the bay window in the dining room was filled with great, big flowering Christmas cactuses on a painted, dark-green copper tray. They brought color into an otherwise dark wintertime room and, taken as an entirely natural holiday decoration, they were perfectly suited to my taste. Their brilliant red flowers and deep green foliage were enough to perk up any cold afternoon.

When, years later, I turned out to be in charge of the cactus garden in the bay window, I was lady bountiful. I gave the largest plant to my upstate niece and a smaller one to a son who had a place of his own. And then, without careful thought, I gave all the rest to the deer. They were delighted that I had put them outdoors for the summer; our yard had neither a fence nor a gate. So long, Christmas cactus.

A year or two ago, I started again from scratch, because I wanted Christmas cactuses again at the bay window. And now, just as the holidays have arrived, I am rewarded. 

Truth is, it’s a good thing the Christmas cactuses are doing so well this season, because they balance out other botanical news in our household, which is not so jolly. I am sorry to report that I left a huge, ancient jade plant — perhaps 30 or even 40 years old — that I had taken great pride in, outdoors during an unexpected cold snap this fall, and it didn’t survive. We belatedly dragged it back inside after two hard frosts, and it sits now in the corner of our sun room with its thick branches drooping and dying sadly, the Charlie Brown of jades. 

Except for the fact that one of the larger Christmas cactuses now in the dining room was a present from my granddaughter Evvy two birthdays back, I hardly remember when or how my new array arrived on the scene. I had acquainted myself with the Christmas cactus species, Schlumbergera, but I’d never been systematic about accumulating or caring for them. I randomly gathered four three-inch and two six-inch pots without ascertaining which variety, or color, they were. I’ve just watered them once a week, and  been smart enough to keep them inside in summer.

Despite this benign neglect, about two weeks ago I realized they were all budding like crazy. By this morning, one had started to flower. These Christmas cactuses may no longer be quite the floral showcase I remember from the 1960s. There’s no longer a copper tray to add to their glamour, and I still don’t know if the flowers will be a hodgepodge of magenta, pale pink, and deep red. But they still make me very happy.