A Gift of Five Small Cacti

My friend GiGi and I attended an event honoring Jose Antonio Navarro at the Texas State Cemetery last April. As social as it was informational, the small stone room hosting all of us enclosed the group in the colors and aromas of Old Mexico. Small colorful sarapes were draped across each round table. At the center of each, a small platter filled with coconut banderas, pralines, and chicklets surrounded a small glass vase holding a tiny cactus. After filling my plate at the buffet, I made sure to find the hostess and compliment her on the incredible décor. When I told her I just loved those tiny cactus, she gushed, “Well, take some!” I looked at her with confusion. “Seriously, take four or five when we’re through. That would be fewer that I have to lug home!” I tried to guage her offer and decided it was authentic, so I approached her toward the end as folks were leaving. She smiled and immediately boxed five small glass vases filled with beans at the base. Each glass vase held a terra cotta pot filled with a unique, lovely small cactus. “Thank you for taking these off my hands; they require virtually no care,” she laughed. I was thrilled and thanked her sincerely as I hustled off happily to my car.

Once home, I carefully placed the five cacti in a row on the kitchen windowsill. This would provide the best sunlight and be visual enough to remind us to occasionally water them. On Sundays I carefully dripped one drop of water into each tiny vase and rotated it to catch the sun from the other side for the upcoming week. They appeared to be thriving! Once, when we left for a wedding weekend, I instructed my daughter on the care and watering technique—but only one drop per plant! She agreed to “babysit” the quintet and we headed out.

Upon our return, I noticed that one of the cacti appeared to be yellowing. “Hey, I think you over watered this one!” So much for babysitters! My husband took over watering and turning the others on schedule, but denied the yellow one hydration for weeks. It didn’t seem to be reviving and we weren’t sure we could ever bring it around. A family debate ensued as to how best to care for the cacti to avoid any further potential fatalities.

A few weeks later, a light rain blew through Austin. When this happens, I have a habit of grabbing all my house plants and setting them outside to get a drink of those magical waters from the sky. I grabbed up cacti vases as fast as my fingers could fasten them and lined them up along the walkway. As soon as the showers passed, I went back out to retrieve them. Upon grabbing the last one, my finger brushed up against one of the needles. The needle didn’t poke. It didn’t cause pain. It bent! I looked closely at what I gathered was now a sick and soggy needled cactus. Shimmering in a nylon, synthetic sort of way, I put my hand over the entire side of the cactus, gently pushed down and watched as all the needles simply bent!

Upon closer inspection, the realization hit. We laughed and laughed seeing that these desert flora were indeed NO maintenance!


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