Saturday, August 15, 2009
Night-blooming Cereus - Queen of the Night
I have many fond memories of a favorite plant at my home while I was growing up. It was called a Night-blooming Cereus, and it had come to our family from my Father’s family. Our plant was a cutting off of Dad’s Mother’s plant (Grandma Jessie). It was certainly a strange, gangly looking plant and it had stickers that could really cause pain if you got too close to it. This plant was truly unique. Most of the time the plant was just plain ugly. But, once in a while (once or twice a summer), the plant would ‘bloom’. A bloom for this plant was a pretty spectacular sight – it would start opening about 4pm in the afternoon and continue to open during the evening. By morning the bloom was ‘done’ as it had started to wilt. The blooms were a single night affair, and there was no way to hold it off until it was convenient to see one bloom. If tonight was the night… then tonight was the night. My father told us stories of how his mother would really celebrate a bloom by cooking up special desserts and inviting the neighbors in to see a bloom unfold. She enjoyed sharing the special blooms with her neighbors and friends. My parents continued the tradition as my mom would bake cobblers, and they would invite our neighbors over to share in the rare occurrence of a bloom.
My Dad gave my husband and I a Night-blooming Cereus plant early in our marriage. Through the years, my husband has nurtured the plant, and he has even started new plants from cuttings off of the one from Dad. So, the tradition lives on with my family now. We get excited when the plant is ready to bloom. One year (I think it was 2000) we had 3 blooms in one night – this was very unusual. Somewhere I have a picture of my youngest son and the 3 blooms…. I’ll find it ‘someday’.
Our most recent Night-blooming Cereus bloom was on Sunday, June 28, 2009. As usual we took a few pictures throughout the unfurling. Sometime during the evening I stumbled on a small old mini-calendar that was dated 1943 in the box of my Father's treasures that I had picked things out of to sketch for Father's Day. Finding this 1943 calendar on that Sunday night was pure serendipity!! The first page that I randomly flipped the calendar open to included June 28, 1943. Oddly enough, there was some writing on June 28th noting that the Night-blooming Cereus had bloomed. What a coincidence …. a bloom on June 28, 1943 and now another bloom on June 28, 2009 – two special blooms 66 years apart.
You might be curious about who the 1943 calendar belonged to … I had found it in amongst my Dad’s treasured items in his nightstand. It didn’t take me long to realize that the calendar belonged to his mother, my Grandma Jessie. Unfortunately she passed away just a month before I was born so I never met her. But, here in 2009 I now have her calendar with some of her own handwriting. I flipped through a few more pages in this calendar and found notes when Grandmother Jessie had sent care packages to my father in the war. This touched me deeply and her notes and handwriting made me feel more connected to her. Knowing that Grandma Jessie enjoyed sending care packages to my father brought a smile to my face as I thought about my own pleasure in sending care packages to my sons at college and beyond. Jessie and I may have lived many years apart, but through this simple 1943 calendar I discovered special connections between us.
The black and white picture is of my Grandma Jessie’s Night-blooming Cereus, which I think must have been taken in the early 1900’s in Santa Cruz, California. The color print is of our bloom this year on June 28, 2009. I opted to paint the latest bloom before it was full open, as a full bloom was just too intimidating for me to paint with all the ‘white’. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll have the skills and confidence to paint an open bloom of a Night-blooming Cereus.
You just never know what surprises may come your way! What family treasures have you found?