Blooming alert   Leave a comment

Blanca’s three remaining buds are swelling, whites showing and very likely to bloom all three tonight. Flower fever!

Posted July 9, 2010 by Canio's in bud watch

Anticipation, expectations and a caution   2 comments

By 9 this morning, it was nearly ninety degrees. The largest bud now measures eight inches. Seems they’re growing almost an inch a day in this intense heat. At this rate we could have blooming as early as the weekend. Ray is preparing some fresh smoked fish for us. Friends are eager to see Blanca bloom before they leave town on various trips. Could you make it bloomer sooner? they asked expectantly. We haven’t done a thing but keep watch, and with not a little trepidation.  Blanca has apparently heard their call. She’s pouring out whatever she’s got that makes her fertile. Is  she getting too much sun? I worry. Will the heat abate, or exhaust us all? What’s become more obvious is that one bud, at just 5 inches,  is slowing down, lagging behind the others. It’s color is off. Gone to that reddish-yellowish we saw in the smaller buds that dropped off earlier. Interestingly, this smaller bud shares a host leaf with the whopping 8-incher. Can that one leaf sustain the two? We’ll have to wait and see. Which is what we do: wait and watch carefully. And maybe think about what snacks we’ll put out to celebrate Blanca’s first bloom of the season. First bloom. Will there be more come fall? We always want more…a sign of an obsession.

Posted July 6, 2010 by Canio's in bud watch

The practice   Leave a comment

Last fall I took  measurements daily. Kept track of bud length, temperature, made careful  observations, noted the presence of pests, weather, etc. This summer, I’m not as disciplined. Days slip by. The buds now measure between 6 and 7 inches. I’m less precise. We’re in for a string of hot days which may increase rate of growth, may tax the mother plant. I’ll have to be more assiduous. Am I already taking the blossoming for granted? I’m assuming it will come in  a few weeks, but still the buds could falter, be knocked off. The repulsive mealy bugs might triumph after all. The truth is we don’t know. We have to wait and see, and that’s the practice: waiting, observing, being surprised and grateful for what comes. Sense what the plant may need, and try to assist without getting in the way. Last year I got too close with the tape measure, knocked off a bud. Perhaps it would have dropped on its own. Still we humans are clumsy making our way. Our way proves destructive. Witness the violence unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico and our ineptitude, callousness, our cavalier attitude. Day by day, measuring, observing, the effects of avarice there.  Here, Blanca, in the back yard of the East End of Long Island has adapted a long way from Central America. How have we endeavored to accommodate her?

Posted July 5, 2010 by Canio's in about time, bud watch

Bud drop   Leave a comment

We’re down to only one bud remaining on the cuttings. It measures 1.5 inches, but it doesn’t look good. It’s turning a sickly yellowish-reddish color. All the other buds, we had seven a week ago, have dropped off.  Was the soil too wet? Was it that strange “jumping cotton” pest I pinched off almost every morning? Was it the simple fact these buds were growing from leaf cuttings that had not yet rooted? We’ll never know. What I do know is that I pruned too soon. My eagerness to  share the wealth of the plant and to “improve” her shape got the better of me. In an attempt to reign in a straggly branch, I  lopped off a number of leaves that were just setting buds. They were too small to see. I’d left them to “dry” in the garage, and next thing I knew, buds were sprouting. Lots of them. What if I’d left the plant in tact? Would all these buds have survived to blossoming? Probably not. But a number of them would have, and it would have been quite a show. A beautiful shower of white and an infusion of fragrance that likely would have permeated the neighborhood.  We will not experience that particular inflorescence.  Still all is not lost. There are five healthy buds now measuring four  inches on the mother plant. It looks like these will hold, and we’ll have a late July blooming party one steamy summer night after all.

Posted July 2, 2010 by Canio's in bud watch

Only White   Leave a comment

One of the effects of living with Blanca these several years and of only lately seeing her bloom, is that my visual color preference has simplified.  I find  white flowers mesmerizing. I have developed a devotion to them and hope one day to create a small white garden. Who needs color when white contains them all? Color  seems excessive, over-much, as if the natural harmony of all-colors has tilted out of balance. There are varieties of white, of course.  The deep purity and creamy richness of the gardenia is incomparable. A priest friend recently explained these are “St. Anthony’s flowers” associated with the saint of lost causes, origin unknown. So be it. We lose things in the depths of white, we suffer snow-blindness, and squint in white summer sunshine at noon when it’s just too bright to see. The simplicity of the lily-of-the-valley, Emily Dickinson’s white cotton dress; the extravagance of the Casablanca, even the elegance of an egret in golden-green marsh grass show us white is Everything. I’m fond of an old jasmine vine, its fragrant white whirls the perfect complement to its shiny dark green leaves. A friend gave me seeds of  white campion.  It’s classic contrast of simple white with silvery leaves seems to harken back to antiquity.  The whiteness of our night bloomer is a sheer white, some petals translucent, silken, delicate. One gets lost looking deeply within. One thereby enters eternity. For just  one night.

Posted July 1, 2010 by Canio's in Uncategorized

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.

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