Aunt Rose’s Green Thumb

My Christmas cactus was so pretty this  year. It had been outdoors most of the summer where some bugs had tried to take big bites only to leave brown spots on the fleshy leaves. I brought it in when the weather started getting cold. I placed the plant in a north facing window once I brought it in, and eventually, the plant bloomed. This was the most blooms I had had since I purchased this Christmas cactus several years ago. I had never had any luck with these before.

Christmas cactus 2020

My blooming plant reminded me of a similar plant that my Aunt Rose had had for some years, though Aunt Rose’s Christmas cactus was fuller and much larger than mine is now.

Aunt Rose had a funny – almost unlikely –  way of taking care of her house plants. She watered the plants once a week whether they needed watering or not. That was Aunt Rose’s schedule, and the plant would just have to adjust to the rules.

The same was true for a large vining philodendron that had been in Aunt Rose’s bedroom for nearly 30 years. But I am getting ahead of myself. I will talk more about the philodendron later.

In the wintertime when the Christmas cactus began to bloom, Aunt Rose would set the plant on the television set which was just in front of a large picture window. As long as the plant was blooming, it remained on the TV for all to admire. Once the blooms started to fade and drop off, the plant was moved to the basement, where it would continue to grow and thrive.

Aunt Rose’s home – Valley View

Aunt Rose’s home was built on a hill, which meant that part of the basement was exposed. There was even a door leading from the basement to a small back porch which then led down some stairs to the sloping backyard. Everything in Pittsburgh is built on a hill, so Aunt Rose’s home was no exception.

In Aunt Rose’s basement there were the usual accoutrements for an older home in the area. If you know Pittsburgh it will make perfect sense to you that there were windows in the basement. In Aunt Rose’s basement was a washer, dryer, 2 cement wash tubs for soaking clothes, a pantry closet built under the front stoop to keep things cold, the old kitchen table from Sandusky street (probably 70 years old and still in perfect shape) and even an adjacent small paneled living area mostly separate from the laundry area which could be closed off from the living area. There were even clothes lines strung from the ceiling rafters for hanging laundry. In addition there was a commode under one of the basement windows in the laundry area.  Yes I know, the commode had no privacy unless you were using the basement area alone or had closed the door to the living area. A perfect Pittsburgh basement to be sure.

Aunt Rose’s Christmas cactus spent most of the year sitting on the top of the commode, where it received adequate light from the small window above. It seemed a strange place to keep a treasured plant, but it worked for Aunt Rose and the Christmas cactus. Being close to the cement laundry tubs meant that there was the necessary water for the once weekly drink. Being a basement  in Pittsburgh meant the area was cool all year, just the right temperature for a growing Christmas cactus. When the light was just right, the cactus came to life again with magnificent blooms. Just in time for the holidays the cactus began its once yearly trek to the TV top and picture window upstairs.

Aunt Rose

Now back to the philodendron in the bedroom as I had promised – My mom had made Aunt Rose a pretty ceramic painted pot and a long macrame hanger. Mom was very talented in those areas. Mom used the colors that Aunt Rose preferred to decorate the pot and the hanger. Aunt Rose planted a small vining philodendron plant in the pot. Then my dad hung the macrame hanger and pot with the little plant from the bedroom ceiling next to a south facing window. And there the plant stayed for all the years, more than 30, that Aunt Rose lived in the Valley View home.

While visiting Aunt Rose one summer in 2004 or 2005, I asked for a cutting from her philodendron. I surmised that if the plant, which looked “leggy” to me, had survived Aunt Rose’s weekly habits, it must be easy to grow. Aunt Rose gave me some cuttings which I wrapped in wet paper towels and put in a plastic sandwich bag, hoping the cuttings would survive the 3 day drive back to Texas.

Aunt Rose philodendrons

As soon as my husband and I arrived at our Texas home, I put the cuttings in a glass of water and waited for the roots to begin to grow. It wasn’t long before the cuttings put out roots, so I prepared a pot with soil for my “Aunt Rose philodendron”. The plant I had received from Aunt Rose was not only sturdy, but was so eager to grow that I am now inundated with numerous “Aunt Rose philodendrons”! I have given away several plants from the original cuttings and have four of them in my living area. All four need a “haircut” as my friend Karen calls trimming off the excess.

How is it that these four little cuttings have grown and multiplied over the years? The answer, I believe, is love. Aunt Rose had love in abundance – enough for everyone. Throughout the years Aunt Rose blessed everyone she met with her joy, her friendship, her wit and her wisdom. Aunt Rose’s watering schedule and the sweetness of her personality made her plants grow – I am certain of it! Someday I will tell you about Aunt Rose’s mum which had flowers of differing colors on the same plant! Only at Aunt Rose’s home could such a thing happen.

Aunt Rose on her first motorcycle ride age 80

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