Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

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.

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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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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

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

On Smell   Leave a comment

One of the unusual, if minor, aspects of Dorothy Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness is that she includes early on, scent memories.  It may seem like a small detail in light of the book’s main subject —  her coming to consciousness as a Catholic and social activist. Still the fact that she mentions  smells at all  signals to me an extraordinary individual, one acutely aware of her surroundings.  Perhaps it is through her heightened sense of perception that she came to conversion.  Dorothy Day remembers the odor of a friend’s house in Oakland that smelled of fresh shingles, an odd scent for a child to remember.  Later, after the great earthquake, the family moved into an apartment in Chicago. Young Dorothy was eager for some contact with nature. She remembers the scent of the sweet clover that fringed the cement-paved yard that was her playground. She gathered bunches of it to dry and stuff in pillows.  She remembers the smell of fresh popped popcorn watching from behind a window a sidewalk vendor pour butter and shake salt over the hot kernels. When her father’s job improved and the family could afford to move into  a house, Day describes it thus: “To draw the curtains at night on a street where people bent against the wind, and where a steady whirl of snowflakes blurred the outlines of trees and shrubs, and made the trees black against the heavy gray sky, and to turn to a room where a fire glowed in the basket grate and a smell of fresh bread filled the house–this was comfort, security, peace, community.”

For most, our sense of smell is the weakest way we perceive the world. Friends react differently to the power of the odor Blanca emits in her late night effort to attract whatever it is that will pollinate her. Some can’t smell it at all. Others choke on the heavy pollen dust they inhale. If I noted that the fragrance she issues into dark night  is comprised of  benzyl salicylate, would that bring you any closer to enjoying that musky sweetness? To say it smells like a combination of gardenia, jasmine and Casablanca lilies is only  a rough approximation.  It’s a heavy scent that lingers in the nose even after I’ve walked away from her. Sometimes I can almost taste it. Once I  thought I smelled it the next day, long after her blossoms had closed and she sat quietly, flowers hanging like curtain tassels, bedraggled. The memory of a party stirred up by the sight of your dress hung limp over a bedroom chair?
Carol saw some  cereus-scented products for sale on line. Bath salts. Perfumes.  Candles. Would we really want to be doused in such a fragrance? Perhaps  if your name were Cleopatra, or Aphrodite. But for the rest of us, it might be a bit much. Turned out these products were fashioned after another type of blooming cactus native to the hot deserts of Arizona. The fragrance creator had “memorized” the scent of the flower. Astounding! He could reproduce the scent without using the actual flower.

An unexpected bonus this season: the tropical rains that showered us, remnants of Hurricane Earl brought a late season drink to the many parched plants in the garden. One result, a hosta I’d wanted to do away with but didn’t, sprouted a long-stemmed lovely white blossom. When I bent near it to retrieve a pot that had blown off the deck railing, I was stunned by her elegant fragrance, one I’d never noticed before. Oh no!! How to describe this one? Lighter, younger than Blanca’s; a girl to her womanly ways. Something like lily-of-the-valley, fresh and watery. And I don’t even know her name. Fragrant hostas, anyone?

Posted September 14, 2010 by Canio's in environment, gardening, Uncategorized