Schlumbergera – Christmas or Thanksgiving Cactus?

Schlumbergera

I have to admit that I have never really thought about Thanksgiving very much.  Being British, not American, it doesn’t really enter into my calendar of events.  I do like the idea of celebrating the harvest and the previous year’s success,  with family or friends and a slap up dinner though.  Who doesn’t like a good family dinner?  

I can almost hear you thinking, ‘What has this got to do with cacti?’.

Well, one of my cacti is flowering prolifically at the moment.

This is my Schlumbergera. 

I have had it several years now.  It started life as a single leaf which was given to me by a dear old friend many moons ago, shortly before she passed away.  It had a great start, grew a few stems, settled into life nicely, then was eaten right down to the stump one night by my daughters escaped hamster!  (Hammy – was a very cheeky but loveable hamster).

Obviously I forgave him and luckily I rescued my cactus and started it growing again.  It had a couple more years of peaceful and uneventful growing time.  Hammy passed on sadly and was replaced by Snow White, hamster number two. 

One day, just as my cactus was about to flower I made the mistake of moving it to a different windowsill.   I thought we might be able to look at it better whilst it flowered.  To my dismay and disbelief, this coincided with another round of hamster escape episodes and my cactus was decimated yet again, this time by Snow White.    I have no idea what it about these cacti that hamsters like so much, but I can only assume that they must be very tasty to them.   This is Snow White – unlike Hammy, she was a bit of a lunatic.

Anyway, several years later my cactus has finally reached a big enough size to flower.  We no longer have any hamsters and there is no risk of being munched anymore.  The strange thing is I always thought it was a Christmas Cactus.    But, it’s flowering now and unless I’ve been asleep for a month, it’s not Christmas yet.     

I did a little bit of reading last night and realised that there are actually two main types of Schlumbergera.  Christmas ones, (Schlumbergera bridgesii),  and also Thanksgiving ones, (Schlumbergera truncata).   So, I guess mine is a Thanksgiving Cactus, not a Christmas Cactus.  Well I never!

They have very subtle differences but are both beautiful.   Here is one of my others, this one is definitely a Christmas cactus (it’s not flowering yet this year). 

These cacti come in a range of reds, pinks and white and originate from the coastal mountains of Brazil. They naturally grow on shady rocks or high up in trees, hence their habit of trailing ornately over the edge of their pots.

Just to confuse things even further, don’t forget about the Easter Cactus.  The modern name for this is Hatiora gaertneri, but has also been known as the Schlumbergera  gaertneri I believe (as well as other names).   They are incredibly similar, with just subtle differences between the leaves and flowers.  This is one of mine, see if you can spot the difference!

Just in case you have had enough of reading about cacti now, how about a little bit of knitting or crochet?   I haven’t had time to create a pattern of my own for you to make your own Schlumbergera cactus, but I have had a good rummage around on the internet for you to see what was already out there.

There aren’t many!

Here is a crochet pattern from Planet June, looks good but it isn’t free I’m afraid.  (You can click on it to go the pattern page).

Here is another crochet pattern, on Crazy Patterns.net,  this one is paid too, sorry.

This one is free, but unfortunately it’s in Italian, from Dony’s Creations Blog.  I don’t speak Italian so I have no idea how to translate it but maybe you do?   

That’s all I could find.   I could find no knitting patterns at all!  There is obviously a gap in the market, so I really should get creating..

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my Schlumbergera and it inspires you to get creative.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Opuntia Cactus

As you may have realised by now, not only do I love crochet and knitting, but I also love cacti and succulents.

So, I thought I would start to create some patterns to go with my cacti, as well as giving you a bit more information about the plants themselves. Whilst I was thinking about doing this recently an old customer got in touch with me completely out of the blue, to see if I had created any cactus patterns yet.  What a pleasant surprise and  coincidence. 

She asked if I would create a pattern for an Opuntia.  So, that was my plan, but then as I started to look around, I realised that there were so many knitted and crocheted cacti patterns already out there for free that it would perhaps be a better idea to just have a look at some of those instead and see if any were worthy.

First thing is first though.  

I have to tell you a little bit about Opuntia.  (Sorry it’s the cactus geek in me)

So, the cactus genus Opuntia contains many different species, with many different common names, such as the prickly pear, bunny tails, beaver tails and the barbary fig.  You must have heard of some of them at least.  It’s really widespread, originating throughout the Americas, but with man’s help has now been spread worldwide.  In some places it is even considered to be a weed.  They do grow exceptionally easily.

This is a cutting I planted in January this year. It was just a couple of paddle shaped leaves then, but started to sprout new segments straight away. (Sorry about the sideways picture). This is how much it has grown up to now (June).

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 It might not look like much to you, but it’s fast for a cactus.  

 

Opuntia are easily recognised by their usually flat, paddle, oval or round shaped stem segments.  The spines are often densely clustered on the areoles.  These are the areas on the cacti where you usually see the spines coming from  (the spotty bits on the pictures above) and trust me, you don’t want to touch them.  They often look like soft, fluffy little pads, but really, they’re not that soft, they are composed of hundreds of tiny spines which will almost definitely get into your skin and they are really, really, really irritating!   Some of them also have long, deadly looking spines in addition, as if they needed the extra protection!?

Like most cacti, they do have the redeeming feature of beautiful flowers and they come in an array of colours. Some of the species also have fleshy fruits, which can be harvested and turned into deserts,  jellies, drinks and delicacies.  (I think this is where the name prickly pear came from).  In many places, especially Mexico, the flesh of the cactus itself is also eaten like a vegetable.  I can’t say that I have ever tried it, but there’s a first time for everything…

    

(Images courtesy of Pinterest – please click links to original posts)

Here are a few of my old Opuntia cacti:

 

So, now you know what an Opuntia cactus looks like.  I have done some research for you so that you can make your very own. (Without the prickly bits)

Here are some of the best Opuntia crochet patterns I found. The first few are free too, which is always a plus!

 

www.paperandlandscapes.com/crochet-cactus-free-pattern/

 

 

 

 

I think this one is my favourite.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/opuntia-cactus  

 

 

 

 

 

www.coolcreativity.com/crochet/10-desert-cactus-amiguru

mi-crochet-patterns/3

 

This one is nice, but one you have to pay for.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cactus-03

 

 

 

 

This is a nice pattern, but I’m not sure what language it is in.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cactus-fico-dindia

 

 

 

This is really nice pattern too,  but it’s in Spanish or Portugese (I think). 

https://www.tejiendoperu.com/amigurumi/cactus-nopal/

 

 

This is quite a chunky opuntia.

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/cactus-18

 

 

 

 

These patterns are super cute, but you have to pay for these.

https://www.amigurumipatterns.net/shop/Super-Cute-Design/Cactus-Friends/

 

 

It turns out that there aren’t that many knitted cactus patterns that are particularly Opuntia shaped, most of them are crochet patterns. Here are a couple that I did find and at least they are free. 

 

http://sewingbarefoot.blogspot.com/2012/11/knit-cactus.html

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/woolly-cacti-one-pattern-three-looks

 

 

 

 

If any of you are desperate for a knitted opuntia pattern which is better than these then let me know and I will write one.  In the meantime I hope you enjoyed the opuntia!   

(now, which cactus to do next…)