A Star Is Born

Tray of plants

I know gardeners can be an excitable bunch when it comes to flowers and vegetables, soil and pests. Seed catalogs on a snowy day, bulbs poking up with the first warm breath of spring, an enormous sunflower, and fifty shades of green — all these things and more can get a gardener’s pulse racing.

Still, I thought my neighbor’s excitement over a small bloom was a bit overdone.

It all began when said neighbor — an avid gardener and propagator — offered me some free plants, a full tray’s worth to be exact. In the mix were some cacti, one of which had a small blossom that the neighbor was excited to point out to me.

Very excited.


I’m the first one to admit that I’m very much an even kind of a person. I don’t work well with extreme emotions — but there are those moments when a particular color or a flower or a flower of that particular color can get me revved. It may not appear that way to the outside world, but inside I’m positively giddy.

Still, I thought my neighbor’s reaction to this small bud was a bit much. The bloom size to excitement ratio just didn’t add up.

Perhaps, I thought, it’s because I’m not a cactus fan. Yes, I love the flowers and various structures — I’m just not sure I want to garden with a cactus. It’s stressful enough to worry about bugs that sting, but a plant as well?

Besides, I take a daily dose of aspirin and blood thinning medication, so the idea of being pricked and jabbed and stuck is often a concern. I know gardening requires a lot of blood, sweat, and tears — I just don’t think it should risk me losing all of my blood.


Once home, I planted the cactus in a small terracotta pot and waited and waited and waited. With each passing day of waiting, though, the blossom grew larger — and within me, I felt the bubbling surge of excitement. Is this, I wondered, how it began for my neighbor?

I tried to keep myself in check, but the size of the blossom soon rivaled the size of the 7” cactus tower! Each day, I squatted in front of the potted cactus and marveled at the lantern-shaped blossom. I so badly wanted to pop the thing with a pin — as if it were an over-inflated balloon — so that I could somehow accelerate its opening.

Patience won out, until one morning, when I stepped outside . . .


And I thought a starfish had somehow crawled its way out of the ocean, across highways and parking lots, and wrapped itself around the terracotta pot holding the cactus.

I called Joe from the house immediately. I took photos of it from every conceivable angle. I even alerted the neighbors — who then, in turn, brought their friends over to look at my star.




We, each and every one of us, were enthralled by this big thing on a small package. None of us had ever seen anything like it — and we couldn’t get enough of it before it withered away.

Now there’s another small bud, and with each day, it’s growing and I can feel myself skipping inside. I know what’s coming and I now understand my neighbor’s overly enthusiastic reaction to the small bud’s appearance.

In fact, the ratio of his excitement to the size of the blossom was perfect because he knew what he was giving me: a cactus, a bloom, a thrill.

30 thoughts on “A Star Is Born

  1. Good morning, Kev! When I first began reading this, I couldn’t help but think of the hapless Seymour and the failing plant, Audrey II, needing blood to survive! LOL!!! However, when I saw the glorious star-shaped flower your cactus produced, I gasped aloud! What a beautiful bloom!!! No wonder your neighbor was so excited to share with you!! Enjoy your new venture into cactus gardening, wear a long shirt and gloves to protect yourself and have fun! Thanks for sharing these beautiful pix!

  2. I smiled a lot about your story (and your entaining style of writing!^^) Smiled about your lack of understanding as far as your neighbor’s reaction is concerned – and laughed so much about your own slowly upcoming excitement! Wonderful! 😀 What a blossom! That’s gorgeous! A completely unknown cactus to me. Amazing! Thanks for showing! – Michèle

  3. I do get a little excited when succulents or cactus bloom, but when some little nub in the ground shows in spring, not so much. I guess it is all about expectations. I know those spring bloomers will delight, but a cactus, they are so easily over-loved to death. I love your star, so very exciting.

  4. Pingback: A Star Is Born | trrssmightymite

    • Hi Chatsworth. If you say it’s a Stapelia, that’s what I’m going to go with. I actually just Googled Stapelia and learned that it’s a native of South Africa. Thanks for the ID!

  5. Wow! I’m not one for large emotions much myself, but that definitely revved my excitement level. My first instinct was to name it, for surely it is a creature deserving of a name and not a mere flower on a plant.

  6. I am not much of a cactus person either. Honestly, I was not expecting much from your bloom. But my reaction was exactly the same as yours and your neighbors. Wow! Your hairy starfish is amazing! Now I want one! This must be how people like me and you get sucked in. I am willing if I can find it!

    By the way, somehow I had lost contact with you. It was nice to find you again!

    • Hi Debs. So glad you found me again. The cactus, according to another commenter, is a Stapelia, a native of South Africa. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find one.

  7. I’m a lot like your neighbor, Kevin! I wish I could offer you pieces of the wide variety of cacti and succulents I grow. You’d be absolutely amazed at the variety of blooms. I can’t get enough, to be honest, and of course, in a drought-affected state, they’re all the rage these days. Be careful…they’re addicting. 🙂

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