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It doesn’t always work out…   Leave a comment

We’d been through the drill countless times now: the daily observation, noting time, temperature, bud length as well as diameter. We’d have a bloom tonight, for sure, we thought. We’d taken measurements, called a few friends,  planned the drinks and the snacks. We were excited. A twelve-inch blossom was ready to go. We looked forward to a quiet evening of quiet beauty. The previous two nights of open-house were fun and festive and full. Newcomers this year, neighbors and friends who’d never laid eyes on such a creature before, were amazed. It was gratifying, but maybe a bit tiring especially in the heat.

Mid-afternoon the call came: “Something’s wrong,” K. said. ” It looks odd; the bud drooped.” Collapsed in the heat? Who knows?It was hanging, wilted.  Had I not watered enough, I wondered. Earlier,  a friend had asked, did we ever have a flop? “No,” I said. “Even if no one shows up, we always have the flower.”  This night, no one showed up.  And we didn’t have the flower. Just the questions, and the sad fact of a failed bud.

Blanca sets the terms. We cannot out guess her. We cannot know for sure, most things. The observer must remain open and neutral. Luckily, we had  only called those nearby, and they happened to be away. We had not set in gear any long distance travel to see this non-blooming, non-event. Yet it was an event, in humility.

Posted August 7, 2012 by Canio's in bud watch, summer

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Impossible Abundance, 18 and counting…   Leave a comment

The seven-year-old plant, is that young or old for an epiphyte?, has spilled a record eighteen buds. They now measure at least three inches and have clearly differentiated bud-head from throat. I spell out the numbers so you know it’s no typo: eighteen buds. One already weakening, not all of these will bloom. But for now, they each hold that promise. Blanca bejeweled as she is in a necklace of fecundity, continues to entrance. The days and nights have been exceptionally warm and humid with only a brief respite this morning. Bud growth, and bud drop will continue as we begin the countdown, and try to predict which night she’ll send out her signal flares.

To what do we attribute this burst of buds: a sudden rain shower? nutrients from the compost filtering through her roots? some perfection of productivity after the first smaller bloom cycle in July? Blanca surprises. Her buds hang like a shower of tears one day, like alluring tassels another. She intrigues; she beckons. We follow blindly…

Posted August 7, 2012 by Canio's in bud watch, summer, Uncategorized

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Independence Day   1 comment

There may be something to the fact that this 4th of July my wayward attention is drawn back once again to the night bloomer. Temps are in the high 80s this noon, and soon I’ll be heading to the bay, but once again I’m on bud watch. Presently five strong buds are developing and two have reached between 8 and 8.5 inches this morning. The flower is calling me back to basics amid yet another time of uncertainty. There is beauty to be sought, to await even when there are difficulties, challenges ahead. For a few moments each day as I follow this blossoming, I’ll declare my independence from worry and anxiety, and dwell for a time in the spell of the flower. Stay tuned for news of botanical fireworks coming soon.

 

Posted July 4, 2012 by Canio's in Uncategorized

Caught under the Mistletoe …cactus   1 comment

Well, that’s the best I have to offer from the flowering plant department these days,but perhaps it will suffice.  Tiny simple buds are forming on what I’ve always referred to as a pencil cactus, which I thought was a type of  Rhipsalis. But since “looking it up,” I discover the plant is known by another name: mistletoe cactus. The pencil cactus is actually a type of Euphorbia, and my plant doesn’t exactly match those accompanying photos. The “pencil” cacti pictured show finer “leaf” growths than the tubular appendages mine develops that look like miniature sausage links. Somewhere along the way, I may have been misinformed and now I’m not actually sure  what’s what especially since I’ve never seen the translucent berries the “mistletoe” variety is said to produce after the pale yellow flowers. Hence its name.

Whew! I’ve always enjoyed these flighty little yellow petals flaring like tiny stars, a little pick-me-up in the dark days of winter.  The Rhipsalis is another native of the rain forest, and perhaps a distant cousin to Blanca. Why is it we’re always trying to grow rain forest plants in the arid suburbs of the North East? Will these small house plants be all that’s  left of the rain forests in ten or twenty years? Meanwhile, I look forward to mistletoe’s “insignificant” flowers blooming soon. And I’ll look hard for any sign of berries. How sweet this eve of Christmas Eve to see the plant in a whole new light. A rose is not just a rose after all.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Posted December 23, 2010 by Canio's in botany, bud watch, winter

Life of the party   Leave a comment

While Blanca winters in the greenhouse, gorgeous photographs of her summer blossoms are on view here in the bookshop. Last Saturday we had a holiday open house and reception for the photographer, Kathryn Szoka. What a knock out! The photos, that is! Huge spectacular images with titles like “Full Moon,” “White Nights” (an homage to Emily Dickinson), and my personal favorite, “Dishabille”, because, well, you know…The photographs so moved viewers that several sold, including the piece de resistance, “Full Moon” set in an exquisite silvery- gold molded frame, its thin rib pattern echoing the delicate legs of the stigma in the heart of the blossom. The many faces of Blanca seemed endless fascinating, especially on a dark winter’s night. Their beauty as portrayed by Kathryn Szoka seemed to lift many a heart.

For me, it was also the stories: one woman has been caring for a plant some 40 years old. It belonged to her father. She described the earthen foyer of a friend’s house replete with a blooming bougainvillea and orchids planted into a flower bed around an in-ground pond! Another woman showed me a photo on her Iphone of a young woman’s calf tattooed with a blossom somewhere between the lotus and the cereus. A friend suggested a novel, Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo, a strange story set in the Caribbean about a mad woman and a male nurse. I’ll be sampling it this winter.

Word had spread about the night-bloomer photographs. Folks arrived from far and wide out to take a look, to tell their stories, and to be in company with other admirers of the Queen of the Night.  And perhaps, to bask in her gaze. The Star of Bethlehem does shine!

Posted December 21, 2010 by Canio's in Uncategorized, winter

November Effort   Leave a comment

With some unexpected free time one afternoon last month, I went to the garage to pot up some cuttings I’d taken from Blanca just before she was brought to the greenhouse. We were loading up the tropicals, and  I was gripped with a greedy possessiveness. I wanted some of Blanca with me over winter.  So “just in case” something happens and perhaps to improve her shape, I made one bold slice.  Three small pots with three leaf cuttings each seem content enough just now on an end table in the living room near a west-facing window. I’ll keep my eye on them in the coming months. Something to look forward to. Their sprouting, a small Advent.
Meanwhile some other more mature cuttings have been adopted out. I chose good homes for them. Out into the world they went in a sudden gesture of letting go. One day, I hope they’ll spread their magnificence on others.  Light a candle against the darkness.

Posted December 5, 2010 by Canio's in about time, autumn, botany, gardening, Uncategorized

Don’t miss the party!   1 comment

What else to do on a cold winter’s night than meet with friends, share some cheer, and gaze fondly at beautiful photographs of our lovely Bethlehem Lily taken by Kathryn Szoka? You’re invited to the “Unveiling of the Night Bloomer” our winter solstice holiday open house. Join us at a reception for the photographer whose botanical pictures will be on view in Canio’s Gallery. Wouldn’t one make a perfect holiday gift? See you Saturday, December 18 between 5 and 7 p.m. at Canio’s , 290 Main Street, Sag Harbor. Wouldn’t it be nice to wear some winter white?

Posted November 27, 2010 by Canio's in Uncategorized

Separation Anxiety   1 comment

Yesterday we transported the “tropicals” to our friend’s greenhouse in East Hampton. It was a bright sunny day,warmish, so that helped. But still,  it’s not a day I relish, sending the plants away to their winter home. They live at the greenhouse seven months of the year, longer than they do with me! Once last winter, late in the season, I went to visit them in their fancy glass home where they are all very well cared for.  I’m lucky for the friendship of a master gardener who lets me “board” my plants,but, well, I tend to miss them !

We fit Blanca into the cab of Kat’s red truck, along with one of the nutmeg geraniums (actually a pelargonium if anyone’s checking). I wedged the rest in the flat bed, some laying horizontal, and tied a huge blue tarp over the haul. The two gardenias, the jasmine vine and the passion vine, ten pots all tolled, set for their season of dormancy. Away we drove, tarp flapping like a giant blue flag to where? The Underworld , where Persephone lives half the year.

Our friend sent us home with a bouquet of huge autumn- colored dahlias, deep reds, orange , yellow and paler shades in between. They sit like an ecstatic Van Gogh still life on the coffee table, the solace of flowers! The sun set with extra drama last night, firing up the sky with fuchsia clouds after the golden orb dropped below the horizon.  Autumn, the season of flaring out, signaling change. Back in the garage, propped a cutting to dry a bit before potting it up to  propagate yet more plants. Already she putting out various new shoots, small tips, yes, but strong ones, heading into the future.

Posted October 21, 2010 by Canio's in autumn, gardening, Uncategorized

Degree Days   Leave a comment

We learned about degree days this summer. We didn’t have enough of them, even though it was so hot for most of the season.  A sudden dip in temperatures late August from the mid to high 80s down to the 70s  likely delayed Blanca’s blooming.  But it was a shift I wasn’t entirely aware of. I thought I’d been pretty clever predicting almost infallibly which night Blanca would bloom.  I’d put out the word to friends to come for a party, but by 7 :30 p.m. when bud opening  should have begun, nothing had happened. The buds remained sealed shut.  I tried again the next night. And the next. Then I had to admit those buds really weren’t large enough to open.

Bill, our tree expert friend reminded us how important degree days are to a  plant’s growth. Those accumulated days of heat, a certain minimum that must be maintained for plant development are essential. Farmers watch these measurements carefully as degree days  also signal when certain insect pests may become mature enough to damage  crops. Then out come the pesticides. No such action here. Just the waiting and watching,  and the lesson, once again: stay alert; don’t get too far ahead of yourself.  Don’t assume ahead of where the plant actually is.

We’d had a furiously busy events schedule the weekend I thought Blanca would bloom. Anticipating her blooming each night was what got me through each day. Then each night she remained closed actually became something of a reprise.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday passed with more inquiring phone calls, and more postponements. “Is she blooming, yet?” friends would ask. “Not yet, ” I’d reply sheepishly. “Maybe tomorrow; tomorrow, for sure,” I’d say attempting to regain my footing.  But I didn’t really know what was going on. So we waded through the weekend like this wondering when they’d open. Meanwhile,  my credibility and certainty seemed to fade.

Once Monday rolled around, the shop events over, we were rested and ready. And so was Blanca, apparently.  She rewarded us and a group of new comers with eight glorious blossoms in one night. We lost track counting in the dazzling display. It was a perfect evening to sit out around the beloved Queen of the Night and enjoy each other’s company. On Tuesday one more bud  opened, a quiet coda,  just in time for cousin Frank’s visit. Another opportunity to  sit at the foot of beauty and realize no matter how frenzied I get, there are moments of calm in the storm. Slow down; be observant; don’t assume, she reminds us. The temperatures had cooled, and Blanca’s blooming held off until I could really appreciate it, in a new way, with new friends. All over again, but still learning something new.

Posted September 19, 2010 by Canio's in about time, bud watch, Uncategorized

But what does she look like?   1 comment

Our guests had ever seen a night-bloomer before.  A priest, a musician, a landscape architect, an arborist, a young writer and more all crowded around and were amazed. “I’d never be able to draw this,” said David. I’ve had difficulty trying to describe this  flower. Think of the Hindu goddess Shakti with multiple arms curving from her supple torso.  Think of a long slender arm, a foot long, but curved like a saxophone, wearing a skin-tight white glove. The hand opens to many tapered fingers of white silk. Where the palm would be, a smooth white tunnel recedes to infinity. It’s fringed with 16 silken threads , harp strings strung fiber to fiber and curved in semi-circle. Within the arc of stamens a most unusual stigma, the snout of a sea creature? A spider-like figure with legs at odd angles. This is the world her pollinator might enter, crawl around in, becoming enmeshed.  A hummingbird, if it flew at night, could get entirely lost within.  We bystanders were certainly ensnared. Sally brought a lovely bottle of wine, the palest of roses that matched the shade of that indefinable area where Blanca’s bud transforms into blossom. Where does the bud leave off and the flower begin? Which part is neck , and which is face?

But none of this works. To bring Blanca’s beauty before your eyes I would have to take it further,  and avoid anthropomorphism altogether. In Mark Doty’s recent prose work The Art of Description, he reads closely four poems about sunflowers by William Blake, Alan Shapiro, Allen Ginsberg, and Tracy Jo Barnwell. Each takes the commonly recognizable image and transforms it into something entirely new.  Doty writes, “They’re self-portraits, at least in the sense of portraying some aspect of the speaker’s psyche, and they manage to be true to sunflowers, too…” Here at this latitude, I’m not so sure my description is true to the night bloomer, if I would even dare link my meager efforts here with those of a finish poem.  Sure most of us could easily call to mind an image of a sunflower, but not so with the night-bloomer.  What’s more, my mid-Atlantic vantage point may see her differently from those who grew up with Epiphylum oxypetalum  right in their own backyard.

Finally, think of a lotus blossom floating not on a pad in pool of water, but through darkest night.  Better yet, what do you think she looks like?

Posted September 18, 2010 by Canio's in botany, environment, on writing