Although the poinsettia is the plant most
closely associated with the holiday season, the
Christmas cactus is a great plant that is becoming
more widely given and enjoyed. The Christmas
cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) is not a true
cactus and does not have the prickles that the
name implies. A native of the humid, shaded rain
forests in Central and South America, the Christmas
cactus is an “epiphytic,” a plant that grows
on other plants but is not parasitic. The Christmas
cactus is leafless with flattened, scalloped,
smooth green stems on spineless joints. The tubular,
rose-like flowers have many petals and extend
from the end of the stem segments.
Christmas cactus is unique and versatile
and is sold in a range of sizes from 3-inch pots to
hanging baskets. And Christmas cactus plants
have the virtue of continuing to grow and bloom
in the home for many years after the holidays
are over. “We had one that finally died after 23
years,” said Mark Cobia, a grower in Winter Garden,
Florida. “It is not uncommon for them to
live 10-14 years, though the average life is probably
five years.” Christmas cactus plants come in
more than 65 varieties with a range of colors from
whites and yellows to reds and purples.
Most problems in maintaining the Christmas
cactus seem to come from over- or underwatering.
Because of the name, many assume
that Christmas cactus can survive without any
water. That assumption is not true. To keep your
plant growing well, water thoroughly when the
top half of the soil in the pot feels dry to the touch.
Stick your finger down in the dirt to get a good
reading on the moisture level. After the soil has
absorbed as much water as it can, discard any
remaining water in the saucer. Standing water
will cause problems. Do not water again until the
top half becomes dry again.
The soil in your plant should be well-draining.
Don’t repot your plant until it is obviously
crowded and repot only while it is young and actively
growing. Very old plants resent being disturbed.
If you need to transplant your Christmas
cactus, select a potting mix for succulent plants
(with a little compost thrown in).
To maintain the lovely blooms that arrive
with your plant, keep it in a well-lighted location
away from drafts from heat vents, fireplaces or
other sources of hot air. The blooms will last longer
if they are kept in a cooler spot.
While Christmas cactus can adapt to low
light situations, they will perform better in bright
light. More abundant blooms are produced on
plants that have been exposed to high light intensity.
If you keep your plants in a sunny location
indoors, they will reward you with more blossoms.
Light, however, should be indirect. Direct
sunlight can burn the leaves. If you move your
plant outdoors in the summer, keep it in a spot
that receives filtered light or bright shade. When
it’s time to bring the plants back inside in the fall,
slowly adjust the plant to life indoors by gradually
increasing the number of hours they spend
indoors each day.
Once your Christmas cactus has finished
its initial bloom, you should encourage branching
by carefully pruning the plant. Remove a few
sections of each stem by pinching them off with
your fingers or cutting with a sharp knife. These
sections can be rooted in moist vermiculite to
propagate new plants.
Like poinsettias, Christmas cactus need
some nudging to bloom at Christmas time. Sensitive
to the length of day, you should induce
blooming by controlling the amount of light the
plant gets. Begin the dark treatments in about
early to mid-October to have plants in full bloom
by the holidays. They need to be placed in uninterrupted
darkness for at least 14 hours a day
at a temperature of around 60°-65° F. Christmas
cactus will also bloom if they are subjected to
cool temperatures of about 50° to 55° F. at night.
Plants will be ready for the holidays if the cool
treatments are started by early November. Once
buds begin to form at the end of the leaves,
move your plant into brighter light and feed with
a weak fertilizer high in potash every two weeks
or so. Keep feeding until early summer, then stop.


Check out the link below to read more information about butterflies provided by:

Tim Brys, Manager, Insect House, Dallas Zoo and
Member, Greater Dallas Organic Garden Club

Butterfly PDF

Travelogue Spain 2012


The Liddell family was off again in June, this time to glorious northern Spain. We flew to Madrid and spent a few days there seeing the Palace and the Prado, and everything in between. It was so true that the Spanish go walking every evening-called "the Paseo". The people watching was incredible. We took a day trip to Toledo-so quick and easy, just a half hour train ride-and enjoyed the ancient capital of Spain with it's narrow streets and beautiful views. From Madrid we flew to Santiago de Compostela, another beautiful old city and the final destination for pilgrims walking the "Way of St. James" or "Camino de Santiago". I wish I could take off work to do the walk! We arrived in Santiago just in time for noon mass at the cathedral with all the pilgrims who had arrived that day. Amazing! After a brief visit to the tantalizing farmer's market there and all it's varied shellfish and pork products, we headed to our B&B for the night, a pretty little farm and vineyard on a reservoir in Portomarin in Galicia. The countryside was so green! It was a bit rainy and chilly, and the farmstead dinner we ate of a hearty kale and white bean soup, pot roast, salad and the local almond cake (see recipe) was just what the doctor ordered. Food tastes much better when you can see the garden it came from growing right outside the window. The next day we headed off on a drive across the northern coast of the country over to the Pyrenees. Scenery, scenery, scenery. Takes away the stresses of city life! Our next B&B was in the tiny town of Oderitz, high in the hills of the lower Pyrenees. This Basque family house was beautifully restored by a young family. Their 4yo son could not wait to practice his English on us. They speak Euskara, the Basque language. We did a lot of communicating by hand gestures! Euskara is a very ancient language, full of double consonants with "tz" and "tx" in seemingly every word. All of the towns in this area were similar-very quaint stone and stucco buildings with porches and windowsills FULL of geraniums. So pretty! It was if they were trying to cram a geranium plant in every possible corner they could. We saw the town of Pamplona, where the running of the bulls was about to take place in July, and a beautiful Spanish winery. We also hit Bilbao, and the magnificent Guggenheim with it's dramatic architecture. The city of San Sebastian near the French coast has a beautiful beach and the best tapas in Spain (really called "pintxos" in this area). After several rejuvenating days in the mountains visiting multiple towns, monasteries, and seeing one gorgeous view after another, we headed on to Barcelona. This gem of the trip from a gardening standpoint was here: the Park Guell. This is a city park designed by the famous architect Gaudi, whose Modernist work is visible all over Barcelona and really the signature of the city. The plants in the gardens were lovely, but the real sight is all the hardscape. EVERYTHING is covered in gorgeous mosaic, and the fun fanciful shapes are quite a site. Even more intriguing was the Sagrada Familia, the huge cathedral still being built, originally designed by Gaudi. Panoramic views of the city from the top of the spire are not to be missed. After two days of exploring Barcelona, we took the very nice and efficient high speed train back to Madrid. On the final morning we had a ceremonial breakfast of churros con chocolate, and wearily flew back home. What a trip!


A little travelogue from the Loire Valley, Franc


  Check-out this site: or, even better, head to France, to the Loire Valley and visit the wonderful palaces and gardens there. With, you can find a lot better deals than advertised at this site, but well then, some of you may actually want to stay in a real chateaux. I have just toured the Loire Valley and seen the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire where garden-artists exhibit their flowery creations. It is a real art exhibit where plants provide the medium for creating art. Some art works are on the bizarre side – such as a plot with planted brooms (supposedly later in the year something will grow on them) – and some are charming (my favorite is a French bed with linens and all in the middle of a rose bed), but no matter what the theme is, all the plots are original and delightful, and all of them are full of plants. A French chateaux in the background is not bad either. However, for those of us who think that these buildings are may be just a bit too big and old-fashioned to be energy efficient (perhaps also too large to fit our budget), we still may be able to incorporate some features of the garden exhibits in our own little garden art-plots by our own houses that we may still call a castle no matter how big or small that greater Dallas home may be. I hope you enjoy these picture I took during my trip to France. On Facebook I have some pictures from Austria and Slovakia too.                                                                                                               Györgyi Szebenyi