Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Another zombie plant

My father spotted another zombie plant yesterday. For the first zombie plant refer to this post (by the way, that dogwood still has green leaves!). This time the zombie is a cactus that had rotted at the base and I had casually tossed it into the flower bed along the front of the house. It was the end of the day and I didn't want to walk all the way down to the compost. Laziness gets the best of us sometimes, and it gets me all too often.

The cactus is a hybrid Gymnocalycium given to me by a friend who made the cross himself. At least one healthy clump has survived at Juniper Level Botanic Gardens for a year or two, perfectly happy in the alpine berms with sandy, gravelly soil. Not having sand or gravel on hand and having many, many other plants that needed homes fast, this poor cactus was stuck rather unceremoniously into the steeply sloped bed between the front steps and the ramp. The soil there is compacted clay, which the heathers do remarkably well in, but it is certainly not suitable for a cactus. I did loosen the soil and mix a few rocks in for good measure. I also mulched around the cactus with a handful of gravel. Unfortunately, the stresses it experienced in a container in North Carolina combined with the horrors of moving across the country, meant it was already in decline. My poor planting didn't help.

I noticed it was getting more and more shriveled and inspected it more closely. It was completely rotted at the base. Though I don't remember what I did that day, I remember I was very tired, so instead of taking it down to the compost bin, which is a bit of a walk from the house at the end of the day, I simply tossed it into the bed along the front of the house on my way inside. This bed is full of displaced plants and weeds and I haven't cared to touch it until the remodeling on the front of the house is completed. What's one more sad little cactus among all those other plants? Funnily enough, more than a week later my father spotted this pink cactus flower at the edge of an azalea. It was the cactus! I couldn't believe it had managed to bloom! How fortunate that I didn't take it to the compost. Even if it does eventually die, I at least got to see the bloom.


Look at that flower! It's as big as the plant. I can't believe it managed to bloom.

In an attempt to salvage this tenacious succulent, I picked it up and started scraping away the rotted portion of the base to the healthy tissue within. If it manages to form roots from the exposed tissue, it has a chance at success.

Scraping away the rotted base to reveal the healthy white tissue, which has the potential to produce new roots.

I placed it in a pot with a recently repotted variegated Ceropegia woodii. I'll keep an eye on it and if it starts to swell up I'll know it's taken root.

A slight "duh" moment, in writing this I just realized that I should really remove the remaining flower buds so that the plant can divert more energy to rooting. Better late than never!

Plants never cease to amaze. Have you come across any surprises in your garden lately?

6 comments:

  1. That's one tenacious plant! I can't think of any zombie plants in my own garden but then maybe that's because I'm too fastidious about cleaning up...

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    1. Usually I'm more fastidious, but I've been so tired from preparing new beds and planting, and I've just had kind of a blah attitude about certain things. My OCD will re-assert itself soon enough.

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  2. Removing the flower was the correct thing to do. Not sure I could do it though: such a pretty flower!
    As for a garden surprise: few years back a foxglove in my garden produced a LARGE rose-like flower at the top of the stock, with the standard trumpet flowers dangling down the stem. That same year Cisco Morris talked about the phenomenon, saying its a regression to an older evolutionary form... or something like that.

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    1. That's cool about the foxglove! How odd that must have been.

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  3. That's a tough plant! It's unpredictable how microbes on plants will progress, or how plants will react or resist to it.

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    1. It is tough, though I don't have much hope for it. We shall see.

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