My mom used to send underperforming houseplants to the cellar to die. Occasionally one came back from that purgatory, but rarely. Usually they were composted after they had breathed their last down in the dark. I always wondered why she did that, rather than just tossing the runts out into the snow, where their demise would at least be swift. Now I realize it was really about hope: every plant is a living thing, even the dreadfully ugly ones, and they deserve a shot at bootstrap redemption. And so they were sent to the basement to think about their sins and repent and reform, if they could.
Last December I bought a small Christmas cactus to lighten up the living room during the holidays. It bloomed, and then I forgot about it. After languishing in some corner during February and March, I stuck it outside on the front porch to fend for itself, the brutal Maryland summer my own personal version of cellar banishment.
When frost threatened a couple of weeks ago I went out to the porch to see what was salvageable. I picked up the cactus, thinking at least the nice pot should not be exposed to the freeze and crack. And lo and behold…the cactus was alive, and had flower buds. Redemption.