Intense but opposite: petunias and cinerarias

Two intensely colored flowers, opposite in several ways: summer sunny petunias (with tubular flowers), shady winter cinerarias (with composite flowers). In masses, petunias then cinerarias:



Petunias are everywhere in summer gardens in North America and Europe, pretty much taken for granted; they fill in spaces in my Palo Alto neighborhood.

So many varieties. Here are bush petunias, with little flowers:


and some doubles:


I used to think that they were named after some French botanist or explorer Petun, but no. From Wikipedia:

Petunia is genus of 35 species of  flowering plants of South American origin, closely related to tobacco, cape gooseberries, tomatoes, deadly nightshades, potatoes and chili peppers; in the family Solanaceae. The popular flower of the same name derived its epithet from the French, which took the word petun, meaning “tobacco,” from a Tupi–Guarani language. An annual, most of the varieties seen in gardens are hybrids (Petunia × hybrida).

Then there’s florist’s cineraria, with daisy-like rather than tubular flowers, but equally intense flowers in the color range from red through purple to blue:


Winter-blooming and shade-loving rather than summer-blooming and sun-loving. From Wikipedia:

Pericallis × hybrida (Florist’s Cineraria) is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae  [or Compositae]. It originated as a hybrid between Pericallis cruenta and P. lanata, both natives of the Canary Islands. The hybrid was first developed in the British royal gardens in 1777. It was originally known as Cineraria x hybrida, but the genus Cineraria is now restricted to a group of South African species, with the Canary Island species being transferred to the genus Pericallis; some botanists also treat it in a broad view of the large and widespread genus Senecio.

On the name Cineraria, from NOAD2:

ORIGIN modern Latin, feminine of Latin cinerarius ‘of ashes,’ from cinis, ciner- ‘ashes’ (because of the ash-colored down on the leaves).

Florist’s Cineraria doesn’t have ashy leaves, as you can see from #5, but other species of Senecio (‘old man’), the ragworts and groundsels, do. Here’s the foliage of Senecio cineraria:


Florist’s cineraria has special meaning for me. My daughter was born in mid-February in Boston, and when Ann and the baby came home from Boston Lying-In Hospital, I had a big pot of intense blue cinerarias to welcome them: bright color at a dark time of the year. Plants of great joy.

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