Welty On Wednesday: Night-Blooming Cereus

I am a cereus weeder, a volunteer in the garden at the Eudora Welty House and Garden where I gather with a group each Wednesday to maintain the garden surrounding the Welty House.  If you are new here, read on to find out the significance of the night blooming cereus.  If you have been with me for a while you will be as excited as we were over the event of the day!

This day in the garden began like any other routine Wednesday – I got here first so I grabbed the notebook from the Visitors Center and headed back to the garden to drop my bag and get started.  The narrow leaf zinnias and french marigolds, passion vine, cedar vine, roses, daisies and hibiscus were all there, faces to the sun, to greet me.  One by one the cereus weeders appeared and soon the garden was buzzing with activity.  From the Camellia Room came the summons – “Quick, come and look, the night blooming cereus is blooming!

night blooming cereus

We were all awestruck!

This straggly looking fellow that we pay little attention to much of the time was putting on the show of the year for us…

Night blooming cereus

In an earlier post about a friend’s bloom, here I talked about Eudora’s group of friends who dubbed themselves the Night Blooming Cereus Club.

 When writing The Golden Apples

  “Eudora would use the ‘naked, luminous, complicated flower’ as an emblem of life’s beauty and its fragility, and she would have a character repeat what one Jackson lady had said about the cereus blossom, ‘Tomorrow it’ll look like a wrung chicken’s neck'”.

Suzanne Marrs, Eudora Welty: A Biography

The friends would probably be surprised today to learn how symbolic their club has become.

 We were privileged to be hosting dignitaries from Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana.  They related being in the front yard and hearing a scream ring out from their guide – all thought that there must be a dead body on the porch!  Pleasantly surprised, they were instead greeted by the once a year bloom of our Night Blooming Cereus…

Night Blooming Cereus

With us were Steven Yates from Mississippi University Press Serenity Gerbman from Humanities Tennessee where she is Coordinator of Southern Festival of the Book in Nashville, Brad Mooy from Central Arkansas Library System where he is Coordinator of the Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock, and Jim Davis of Louisiana Center for the Book where he is Coordinator of Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge.

The cereus weeders were excited to take a break from the heat get in on the action…

cereus weeders

cereus weeders

Headed out to dinner that night I asked Mr. Doctor to let me stop by the Welty House to check on the bloom…

wrung checken's neck

Wrung chicken’s neck!

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  1. Susan Haltom says:

    Love it, Marsha! Are we not blessed by it all? Remember that a few months ago a visitor dropped by the Welty House & Garden and told us they still had night-blooming cereus parties in South Carolina when these exotic spectacles occur. Eudora told me that whenever one was about to bloom, its owner in Jackson would put an advertisement in the afternoon newspaper alerting all to drop by and join the viewing party. Are there more blooms coming?

    • mnestorc@aol.com says:

      Yes remember! There are five more buds on another plant right now! Checked again this morning on the one about to open and I think it needs a few more hours – will fun by this afternoon for another check up!