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» Articles » Garden Stories » Mrs. Hamburger's Christmas Cactus

Mrs. Hamburger's Christmas Cactus

by Douglas L. Bishop on 10/16/2011 15:11


“Do you have a Christmas cactus?” She asked as she stepped onto the bus.

“No, I don’t,” I said. “We used to have one that was a start from my mother’s Christmas cactus from a long time ago, but I think we must have let it die out somewhere along through the years.”

“I’ll bring you one,” she said.

And she did.

Not only did Mrs. Hamburger bring a small pot containing a start of Christmas cactus, she also brought a little container that held a start of Wandering Jew. Now both plants are in great health and living happily on our back deck.

The Wandering Jew, although not part of the original deal, has taken off and done great justice to the implications of its name by expanding its territory well beyond the confines of its original pot, sending out exploratory new growth over the patio tabletop.

Its reddish purple stems and foliage have a coloring a little bit different from any other plant. And, if that’s not enough, many of the stems hold little pink blooms that are similar to the blooms of an African violet. More of a show than I had expected.

The Christmas cactus—though taking hold more slowly—has also put on some new growth as evidenced by the fact that each new leaf is so noticeably different in color from the leaf it just emerged from.

So what’s the big deal with these two plants? I could have bought a start of either or both of them very inexpensively at a garden center. But, that’s not the point.

The point is that they were gifts. Unsought and undeserved living gifts from a lady who is interested in plants and who chooses to share with others.

Consider also the fact that she is about 90 years of age and not in the best of health—the physical effort it must have taken to pot these plants and cart them about with her until they wound up in my hands on the bus!

There’s also something unique, I think, in the choice of these two varieties of plants—something I’m sure she never thought of, not that it would make any difference anyway. And I don’t think she was deliberately reaching for any sort of symbolism in the sharing of these two particular plants.

It’s just that this thoughtful Jewish lady chose to give this Christian man a Wandering Jew and a Christmas cactus—plants with names representing people of two different religions.

I don’t think it was about religion, nor even about plants, for that matter. I think it was about giving and sharing.

Thank you for the plants, Mrs. Hamburger.

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