Monday, 4 February 2008

Gardening and God Department: Coaxing Cactus into Bloom

The days are getting longer: sunset is after 5 p.m., and it’s light before 7 a.m. Even though the groundhog didn’t see his shadow here on Saturday—it was cloudy with the tail end of a snow storm—and without a doubt we’d have six more weeks of winter anyway, the year is progressing.

But my one of my Christmas cactuses is in bloom again! Of course that’s related to winter sunshine, but still I find it a small miracle. Since the plants are sensitive to the length of day, I’ve found that they'll bloom a second time if I put them back in a place where they get sun but not for too many hours a day. So this weekend I brought downstairs the one that had bloomed in early November and which now is in bloom again. The other one, whose last flowers fell a couple of weeks ago, is back in the sunny window, in hopes that it can be coaxed into flower again.

Louise Brossard, the major female character in my new novel The Violets of Usambara, grows African violets, not Christmas cactuses, but she loves playing God with her plants. A writer often doesn't know just here his or her characters' attributes come from--and I certainly am not Louise--I understand Louise's delight in manipulating circumstances in hopes of creating something marvelous.

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