HJ-ED-DHJ

August 27, 2007

Fleeting Beauty

LP resident’s plants bloom by night and fade with dawn’s early light

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Some things seem more precious because they last for such a short time.

Lester Prairie resident Reada Lukes has a plant that illustrates this type of fleeting beauty.

Lukes also has a lot of patience when it comes to her plants.

Her patience was rewarded recently when her barrel cactus displayed 12 beautiful blooms. This was the most she has ever seen at once, and she has had the plant for almost two decades.

The cactus didn’t bloom at all for the first six years she had it, but now it blooms a few times each year.

Lukes attributes the recent bonanza to the hot, dry weather Minnesota experienced this summer.

Despite the long wait, the blooms are short-lived. The plant starts to bloom at dusk, and reaches its full splendor under the stars in the cool night air, but the blossoms soon begin to die in the heat and light of the new day.

The cactus provides a special treat for Lukes and her daughter, Ashle, 12.

The transformation happens so quickly, they can actually sit and watch the plant bloom.

“You can look at the plant and then come back five minutes later, and it looks different. We have even sat and watched the changes take place,” Reada said.

In addition to the blooms’ beauty, they emit a very special fragrance.

“The aroma is so sweet, you could almost eat it. It is hard to explain,” Reada commented.

She added that the sweet smell also attracts birds and bees to her garden.

Reada got the cactus from a co-worker more than 15 years ago. She liked the way the plants look, and the fact that they are easy to care for.

She keeps the cactus outdoors in the summer, and moves it into her porch when the temperature begins to drop in the fall.

She had two large pots of cacti this spring, and she broke them down and replanted some of them. When she did so, she received another surprise.

“Generally, when I transplant them, they don’t bloom the first year, but this year they all had two or three blooms,” Reada said.

Hot, dry weather may not be good for plants that are native to Minnesota, but it is clearly ideal for cacti.

Over the years, Reada has added other cactus varieties to her collection.

Ashle enjoys helping her mother with the cacti, and has been lobbying to get some plants of her own.

“You have to have the right gloves to transplant them,” Ashle advised knowingly.

Ashle is a member of the Bergen Busy Bees 4H Club, and put together a photo display depicting the life cycle of the cactus for the McLeod County Fair this year.

Reada has had her barrel cactus for many years but, while 20 years may seem like a long life for a plant, there is another variety of plant that she has had even longer.

She got a jade bush just after moving to Lester Prairie, and 33 years later, it is still thriving.

“It is like a rubber plant. It is very hearty and not easy to kill,” Reada commented.

The key, she explained, is not to over-water the plant. To prevent root-rot from too much moisture, she once took the plant out of the pot and kept it on her table for two weeks to let the roots dry out.

She keeps the jade plant outdoors during the summer months as well.

Cactus plants may not be native to Minnesota, but Reada and Ashle have proved that with proper care, these unusual plants can thrive and provide enjoyment no matter where one lives.


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