Planning a party around an Epi   Leave a comment

What should the host or hostess wear when receiving guests to see the blooming of a beloved night blooming cereus? White, of course, something simple so as not to compete with the bride, as they say of mothers-in-law.  Alternately, you might wear black so as to slip into the nighttime landscape. Pastels are suitable; plaids should be avoided (sorry Kat). Never wear perfume or cologne when throwing an epi party. You want guests to sense the full effect of her rich and heady odor. Bug spray is optional; citronella a judgment call.

All eyes should be on the flower, so try to place her in the center of your gathering, perhaps on a small but sturdy accent table. Take care to protect her from party-goers who might peer too close after having too much bubbly. Gently request that guests not fondle the flower too aggressively.  They will likely be tempted to touch her silky petals. Again it’s a judgment call. Guests will be astounded by the sheer delicacy of these petals.  Some, if they are particularly thick-skinned,  may not feel anything at all.  Such is the ethereal nature of this exotic creature.
What to serve? Since open bloom time is later evening, decide whether to prepare a proper supper, or provide snacks, cheese and crackers, and dessert. Consider how many guests to invite, and how long you think they can tolerate watching a plant bloom. The snacks and dessert option allows guests to come and go with ease. Otherwise, the leisurely supper works best when you’ve taken care to invite those who  show some interest in events botanical.

In any case, lighter fare would be in keeping with the spirit of the night. Blanca is a feast for the eyes and nose, so keep the food a pleasant but not over-powering second. Champagne is a natural choice. Proseco is nice, too. Adventurous chefs might go in for regional specialties that recall Epi’s native home: serve Sri Lankan dishes or Mexican, or Central American. Fruit is always a good choice, grapes, berries, pineapple, melon.

Don’t forget to provide music for the grand opening. Maybe you have a sound track from a tropical rain forest? Perfect!  Otherwise consider something quiet and melodic.  Susan Graham’s La Belle Epoque: The Songs of Reynaldo Hahn is a favorite of mine when Blanca is blooming.

And it’s always fun to include a bit of flower lore to further intrigue your guests. More on that in another post.

We’ve had many gatherings over the past two years, and we’re always refining what we do. I’d love to hear your party suggestions, successes and missteps, too.

Posted September 9, 2010 by Canio's in Uncategorized

Tropical   1 comment

You can take the girl out of the tropics, but can you really take the tropics out of the girl? Today, the tropics, via Hurricane Earl have arrived in Sag Harbor and have showered Blanca, her lovely tassels swaying in the still gentle winds, with soaking rains. Perhaps she feels right at home. After blooming magnificently earlier this week (eight eye-popping flowers on Monday night; one more, the post-script on Tuesday, singularly gorgeous), Blanca is at rest. What perfect timing for this long soaking rain to bathe her, slake what must be a long deep thirst after three blooming cycles this hot, dry summer.

Posted September 3, 2010 by Canio's in environment, Uncategorized

Dress Rehersal   Leave a comment

Blanca looked ready to bloom, the first and largest bud had indeed reached the 12-inch benchmark…but as we later realized, she needs not only length but mass. Hey, ain’t it the truth? All buds remained closed this evening, skirts twirled tightly around legs, so to speak. Maybe tomorrow. Likely tomorrow, she will fling her skirts open and dance. Some tepals have begun to unfurl. Still the buds must engorge, swell like a tiny balloon  filling with air, hope, expectation. Preparing a place. “Who will come to my party?” she asks.

Posted August 28, 2010 by Canio's in bud watch

First candle   Leave a comment

One of the derivations of “cereus,” from the Latin  is said to be “candle (from its shape), from cera, wax,” according to my beloved American Heritage Dictionary. So then, we may have the first candle lighting up tonight, a cool night when the sweet fragrance of Blanca may be most enjoyable. It appears the point-guard bud, the largest of the nine is nearing twelve inches, that magic length at which point, after dark, that bud will open for all.

Posted August 27, 2010 by Canio's in Uncategorized

Jean Follain’s Birthday   Leave a comment

In another nod to coincidence, simultaneity, anniversaries, Sunday, August 29 is the birthday of French prose poet Jean Follian. He would have been107. Follain was born in Canisy, in Normandy in 1903; he died in Paris on March 10, 1971. A powerful influence in my early days of poetry study, Follain’s work was brought back to me while musing about Blanca, one of those quirks of association. What a beautiful birthday present her blooming would make for Monsieur Follain, her flowers  full of the promise of poetry.

Here is a prose poem I opened to at random from his collection, A World Rich in Anniversaries with translations by Mary Feeney and William Matthews

“This plant, so exceptional since its flower never lasts more than a few hours, broke into blossom on a morning the garden’s owners weren’t at home.  With its speckled petals, it bends in the breeze like so many other more common flowers.  There’s a terrible sweetness to everything.  A colony of armored insects, old gold, has moved into a shaded corner.  Nearby, people hurry up and down steps.  A hand stops on the rail of an oaken stairway; every minute falls.  At six in the evening, the flower will be withered, the horizon will begin to grow pale, a group of girls will start to sing with no weakness or shame. “

Posted August 23, 2010 by Canio's in on writing

Stop Time   Leave a comment

Robert’s watch has always run a bit fast, about five minutes. Lately it’s been expediting, running twelve hours, 24 ahead of where we are in this time zone, Eastern, daylight saving. I pull the stem out and stop its relentless race forward. I set the watch, a Perry Ellis with Roman numerals, black leather strap in a ceramic dish and wait a day until the time and date catch up, meridians matched. We recalibrate. That’s how Robert lived, worried there wasn’t enough time, running too fast, moving too far ahead of himself. So he died too soon, five minutes before midnight.

Blanca is another kind of time clock. The white face of her blooms mark a kind of midnight or noon of her day when meridians line up and the elaborate flowers punctuate a kind of urgency. Procreate. Pollinate. Propagate.

“The creative process is overcoming the doubt,” one young novelist recently said. Robert worked against the clock, rising early before his day job to write chapters of DeKooning’s Bicycle. A year after it was published, he died.  Yet it’s one way he’s still around. His words on the page. His voice still audible.

I’ve not yet seen the fruits of the night-bloomer. Apparently they are edible but take almost a year to ripen! Such a rare fruit must taste very sweet, yet I read they can sometimes taste bitter. All that waiting.  They are said to be reddish or yellow, or even green. Elusive flesh.

Still Blanca keeps trying. Perhaps one day a seed will set,  an “egg” will take within her ovary. And once that fruit begins to swell, she will begin to die. Her work completed.

Posted August 23, 2010 by Canio's in about time, on writing, Uncategorized

Prioritizing   Leave a comment

The weaklings have been let go. Their color changed suddenly, losing  that vital deep green seemingly overnight. Then they stopped growing. What’s happening within the plant at the vascular level? Why is sustenance no longer being drawn up that particular vein?

Ten buds remain, but further prioritizing is taking place as we move toward “birthday.” One of a pair of twin buds hanging from the same side of a single leaf has lost its green. It’s slipping.  We know this happens often in the womb. Fertilized eggs don’t always take, are sloughed off. Nature’s own design.

Meanwhile, those  showing promise continue toward the future. The healthy twin sharing a leaf continues on verdant, elongating.  Some buds now measure over five inches. One even reached six. We’re looking ahead, always looking ahead.

First summer’s rains this afternoon have cooled temperatures and may slow bud growth.  Our birthday count may be off. So many variables. Nights are shorter now. We sense September around the corner.

Posted August 23, 2010 by Canio's in bud watch