Archive for June 2010

Thanks to Giacomo   Leave a comment

We decided to throw a little house party timed to see the camelias in bloom and the azaleas. Their deep hot colors made a splash of forceful red and purple against the pale siding of our house mid-May. Our Miss Floozy camelia had put out her stuff early, flouncy cups of deep salmon pink.  It threatened rain all Sunday afternoon, skies were overcast, and finally, a few sprinkles showered guests who’d  escaped to the deck. To celebrate our domestic partnership, our “dom-pat” party we called it, a couple dozen friends crammed in bearing an assortment of gifts.   Beth made a delicious fluffy coconut cake with origami peace doves as decoration. Jim, or Giacomo when we were feeling operatic, brought a six-inch slip of  plant wrapped in moist paper towel. “A night-blooming cereus,” he called it. I’d never heard of such a thing. “It only blooms at night,” he said. A big beautiful white flower with a fabulous fragrance. “Stick it in some dirt,” he advised. An unusual gift,  I thought. Little did I know what lavish mysteries lay secreted within this  flat unassuming leaf.  It was spring 2005. Jim and his partner Robert had enjoyed the plant for 20 years. It grew up around the sliders to their deck, a long rambling trail. Typical of an epiphyte, but maybe it was searching for more light.  Robert was gone now, and Giacomo wasn’t sure where they’d first gotten their plant. There’s usually a story behind every night bloomer. Ask around.

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Posted June 29, 2010 by Canio's in history

Story of a flower   Leave a comment

Epiphyllum oxypetalum. Night-blooming cereus, an orchid cactus. a.k.a. Queen of the Night, Bethlehem Lily, Dutchman’s Pipe. Take your pick. These are the names of an extraordinary flower native to Central America and Mexico. Friends from LA and Key West say they grow wild there. Intoxicating.  Exotic on the East End of Long Island. Once popular in the ’20s and ’30s when house parties were planned around the flower, the center of attention, they are less well know today, but have many fans and collectors. The story of this flower, its botanical mysteries and miracles is also my story of growth from a carelessness and neglectful caretaker to that of an intrigued then obsessed devotee, to one finally left speechless  in awe. I’m no expert, but an admirer, no professional, but an amateur, a lover then, of the plant and its passing beauty.

This is my sixth year with the night bloomer I’ve named Blanca. Last year we had abundant blooming, several in August and eight at once in October.  This spring  I gave away many cuttings, hoping they’d bring joy and pleasure to others someday.  Meanwhile, the mother plant now has five buds measuring nearly two inches long. Several cuttings taken too soon are also budding. If these bloom, it’ll be a small miracle. If they don’t, as is likely,  it’ll reinforce the lesson of waiting before you prune, of taking a very long deep breath before you wield that slicing knife. This is a story of attentiveness and patience, the preciousness of time, and the lavishness of fragrance. Of watching closely.

Posted June 29, 2010 by Canio's in history