For the last few weeks, our home has been blessed with a continually flowering hibiscus tree, brought in from our deck once the cooler weather arrived. This tree has been through the proverbial ringer as it rolled around on our deck during the summer of 2017 before I got the chance to repot it properly. I did that this year when I first took it outside for the summer season last June. I used fresh soil with a fertilizer and tried to keep it watered. But, nothing prepared me for what would happen upon bringing it inside. We’ve probably had 30+ blooms over the course of the last month, with eight new flowers greeting me this morning! My husband made my day by telling me this tree was the “best Christmas” decoration we had this year! The red bloom’s vibrancy remind me of a rich red velvet robe, the kind St. Nicholas, himself, might wear. The blooms only last for a day, so we’ve been sure to appreciate each one. The texture is apparent with soft folds in the petals beckoning one to reach out and stroke them, just like you would be tempted to touch the velvet robe of royalty.
Last week, my husband bought me another tropical houseplant as a graduation gift. It is an Anthurium. Both the foliage and the flowers are heart-shaped on this beautiful plant. Again, the flowers are a deep red, even deeper that the hibiscus, but not quite as deep as the bracts on my poinsettia. The Anthurium is a long blooming houseplant in the north, but can survive as a landscaping plant in horticultural zones 10 or higher. Anthuriums need bright indirect light, and well-drained soil. Too much or too little light and too much water will lessen the beauty of the plant by providing fewer blooms, and might even lessen the survival if root rot develops from soil that remains too moist. Again, like the hibiscus, the Anthurium invites a light touch to explore the foliage and flower that looks almost plastic-like. Instead of a velvet robe, I envision a piece of living leather that has been buffed to a high shine. Still, it is soft to the touch.
The flower of the Anthurium is in the center of the spathe (which is a modified leaf, like bracts – the modified leaves of the Poinsettia). The flower, which is commonly referred to as the “tail” sticks up in the middle of the spathe, and contains both the male and female parts of the flower. The “tail” or spadix is the actual flower, not the colorful spathe we all think of as the anthurium flower. This website from a flower farm in Hawaii is a great source of information on Anthurium plants.
I find it fascinating that my new “red” plant addition to our house this holiday season is providing color with modified leaves, just like the beloved poinsettias that we have each year. If you want to know more about my experience with poinsettias, you can check this post from last month and this post from last year at this time. Poinsettias are fascinating and have a great deal of history that can be shared with students, family, or friends if they are interested! They always lend that regal red richness to our home at Christmas time. I honestly do not think it would feel like Christmas to me without a poinsettia plant gracing one or more of our tables at home.
Well, now you know why I did not include flowers in the title of this post! A Christmas post on the color red would not be complete without mention of that red bird, the cardinal. Each year, cardinals frequent our yard. You can see both sexes of the species, travelling together, although the bright red male is much more noticeable! Cardinals mate for life. They work together to provide a nest for their young, and also sing together when creating that nest. The Cornell Ornithology Lab and the Audubon Society are great sources of information on this colorful bird. These vibrant birds frequent our yard often in the winter. My family now knows the legend about a sighted cardinal in one’s yard being a visitor from heaven. As with most legends, this is probably not true. But, it does no harm to keep those loved ones close in thought when we notice a cardinal.
Several days ago, a male cardinal smacked into our sliding glass window. He lost a few feathers in the process and then flew up to the nearest support, one of our Adirondack chairs on the deck. We heard the collision; we knew he was stunned, if not hurt. So, we watched…and watched….and watched. I crept up on him to get his photo, much as I did to photograph a hummingbird this fall. He let us get closer and closer. We could see he was watching us through the window, just as we were watching him. His red plumage was beautiful, at times blowing in the breeze and ruffling him, just a little. Still, he clung to the chair. Finally, after about an hour, he flew off – back to the Norway spruce we have lining the north side of our yard. I hope he finds his mate waiting for him when he arrives. We surely enjoyed his visit and the little addition of more red to our holiday home.