By Sandy Hodson
Mona Gay has this magical plant, a Night Blooming Cereus. This is one flower I might actually stay awake for.
As the name implies, this beautiful flower opens only at night for a few hours and then it wilts and dies. But boy oh boy, while alive, Mrs. Gay said, it’s magic.
“It opens there right in front of you,” Mrs. Gay said. “And it smells better than any French perfume.”
Also known as Queen of the Night, it is a member of the cactus family and it hails from South America. Without blooms, it’s not terribly impressive. It resembles a Christmas cactus with long, flat segmented leaves, but it’s much larger. Mrs. Gay said the blooms form at the junction of the segments.
A friend gave Mrs. Gay a cutting about fives ago. She nearly lost it one year when her husband forgot to bring it in before it got cold. “I only had one leave left,” she said.
But it’s a huge monster of a plant now, which speaks to Mrs. Gay’s green thumb.
When she and her husband moved to Grovetown in 1996, their property was covered in pine trees and the ground consisted mainly of rocks, Mrs. Gay said.
After she retired, gardening became her full-time passion. They cut tress and amended soil and started planting the tropical plants Mrs. Gay grew up around in her Panama home. She’s lived in the United States more than four decades but still has an affinity for tropical plants.
In addition to the Augusta area favorites such as camellia, azalea and Confederate rose, Mrs. Gay has filled her “play areas” with elephant ears, trumpet flowers, lilies and ginger. And there’s a monster-size pitcher plant hanging from a tree branch just waiting for insects to come explore it’s upside down flowers. A grapefruit tree stands guard next to her home.
“Growing a flower to me is like raising a child,” Mrs. Gay said. Both need a good start, good nutrition and lots of care and love, she said.
“I baby my flowers,” she said.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 firstname.lastname@example.org
An Afternoon of Wine and Roses will be held at Savannah Rapids Pavilion Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Many roses will be on display. It is sponsored by the Augusta Rose Society. Members will be available to answer questions.
The Augusta Rose Society next meets at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20 at First Baptist Church of Augusta, 3500 Walton Way, in the Adult Building, Room 105. The public is welcome. Tom Seibert, the southeastern manager for Weeks Roses that sells roses to nurseries and garden centers across the nation, is the speaker. He will talk about the changes at the company and about the new varieties for 2010.