… in NOAD2’s third sense:

3 a thing that trails, especially a trailing plant.

The occasion was an errand-running walk in Palo Alto a little while ago with Kim Darnell, on which we came across a plant I identified as a fuchsia, remarking that they were often planted in hanging baskets, where their down-hanging flowers spilled attractively over the sides of the basket:


On the way home, we went past two tall black planter boxes outside the Pacific Art League Palo Alto, with tall spiky plants standing up in them and stems of bacopa trailing down the sides. Here, Silk n’ Satin Petunias and Snowtopia Bacopa, in a tall planter box:


Trailers, trailers.

NOAD2 on the relevant verb:

trail: [with adverbial] draw or be drawn along the ground or other surface behind someone or something: [with object]: Alex trailed a hand through the clear water | [no object]: her robe trailed along the ground. — [no object] (typically of a plant) grow or hang over the edge of something or along the ground: the roses grew wild, their stems trailing over the banks.

and the relevant senses of the related noun (with the agentive derivational suffix -er):

trailer: 1 an unpowered vehicle towed by another… 2 an excerpt or series of excerpts from a movie or program used to advertise it in advance; a preview. 3 a thing that trails, especially a trailing plant.

Sense 1 refers to a vehicle that trails behind another. Sense 2 looks puzzling, until you recognize that the trailer is a short film that is made after the film it will advertise; it trails after it. And then sense 3 is the one I’m interested in here.

Plants with downward-hanging flowers (like fuchsia) or creeping or climbing stems (like bacopa) serve well as trailers. Some of the creeping/climbing trailers have showy flowers (lantanas, trailing geraniums, nasturtiums, creeping jenny), while others are primarily foliage plants (ivy, vinca minor, euonymus).

Now, to fuchsia and bacopa and some flowering trailers that have already been covered in this blog. Then on to phlox, its plant family (a new one on this blog), and its cousin polemonium. Which will take me to the Alpen-Flora of the 19th century, and (as Fathers Day approaches) my dad in his 20s.

Note on container gardening. Searching the net on the plants yields nice photos of them, usually not in containers or else with the containers backgrounded. Searching on containers, in particular on “tall planter box”, yields an astounding variety of types of containers (materials, colors, shapes), mostly without any plants in them. Eventually, you’ll find displays like #2, which are gorgeous, but often troubling — because the plants assembled in them can look like that for only a short time.

The petunias in #2 will at least last one season, but some photo spreads have plants with short bloom times, like tulips, hyacinths, and narcissus.

There are books on container gardening, with information about both containers and plants. Like the Ortho Books All About Container Gardening (2001), with 100 container plants (including a considerable number of trailers) illustrated and described. Three samples:


(On Helichrysum petiolare, see this 12/1/16 posting.)


(On Ipomoea batatas, see this 9/7/15 posting.)


Fuchsia. The flower, and then the color. On the flower, see #3 above, and from Wikipedia:


Flowers of a fuchsia hybrid

Fuchsia is a genus of flowering plants that consists mostly of shrubs or small trees. The first, Fuchsia triphylla, was discovered on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) about 1696–1697 by the French Minim monk and botanist, Charles Plumier, during his third expedition to the Greater Antilles. He named the new genus after the renowned German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566).

… Almost 110 species of Fuchsia are recognized; the vast majority are native to South America, but a few occur north through Central America to Mexico, and also several from New Zealand to Tahiti.

And the color, also from Wikipedia:

Fuchsia is a vivid purplish red color, named after the color of the flower of the fuchsia plant, which took its name from the 16th century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs.

The color fuchsia was first introduced as the color of a new aniline dye called fuchsine, patented in 1859 by the French chemist François-Emmanuel Verguin. The dye was renamed magenta later in the same year, to celebrate a victory of the French army at the Battle of Magenta on June 4, 1859, near the Italian city of that name.

And now the unfortunate news on the lexical semantics front:

In the RGB color model, used to create colors on computers and television screens, and in web colors, [the colors denoted by the terms fuchsia and magenta] are exactly the same…”, made by mixing blue and red light at full and equal intensity.

In color printing and design, there are more variations between [the colors denoted by the names magenta and fuchsia]. Fuchsia is usually a more purplish color, whereas magenta is more reddish. Fuchsia flowers themselves contain a wide variety of purples.

(Considering its German origins, the name of the fuchsia plant ought to be pronounced /fúksìǝ/, but it’s been taken into English as if it were spelled fuschia: /fyúšǝ/. My OSU colleague Ilse Lehiste, for whom German was her second native language, refused to accept this pronunciation anomaly. She liked the plant and grew it in her garden, but she stuck to a German-based pronunciation of its English name, /fúksìǝ/. On the other hand, she called the color /fyúšǝ/.)

Bacopa. This pretty, useful trailer was covered pretty well in my 6/17/13 posting “bacopa”. With this plant we have a geranium/pelargonium nomenclatural issue: the plant whose common name is geranium belongs to the genus Pelargonium, while the genus Geranium takes in a number of species known by common names including cranesbill; and the (terrestrial) plant whose common name is bacopa is, technically, Sutera cordata, while the genus Bacopa takes in a number of mostly aquatic species known by the common name water hyssop.

On geraniums as container plants, see #5 above.

Lantana. My 9/12/15 posting “Chaste trees and jumping spiders” has a section on this popular trailer (and see #4 above).

Nasturtiums. My 6/24/13 posting “Springing into summer” has a section on these popular trailers. Another geranium/pelargonium case: the plant whose common name is nasturtium belongs to the genus Tropaeolum, while the species Nasturtium officinale  has the common name watercress.

Lysimachia. An excellent tall planter:


Blue pansies and creeping jenny (not in bloom)

My 9/6/15 posting “Birthday flowers” has a section on the genus Lysimachia, with (among many other species) the groundcover L. nummularia (common names: yellow loosestrife, creeping Jenny, moneywort), with a photo of the plant in bloom.

Phlox. I’ve mentioned creeping phlox several times in postings, but haven’t given it an extended treatment. It’s a first-class trailer, as here:


From Wikipedia:

Phlox (Greek φλόξ “flame”; plural “phlox” or “phloxes”, Greek φλόγες phlóges) is a genus of 67 species of perennial and annual plants in the family Polemoniaceae. They are found mostly in North America (one in Siberia) in diverse habitats from alpine tundra to open woodland and prairie. Some flower in spring, others in summer and fall. Flowers may be pale blue, violet, pink, bright red, or white. Many are fragrant.

… Some species such as P. paniculata (garden phlox) grow upright, while others such as P. subulata (moss phlox, moss pink, mountain phlox [or creeping phlox]) grow short and matlike.

Tall garden phlox, in an assortment of colors:


And creeping phlox, doing its thing in the garden:


The family Polemoniaceae. Phlox’s plant family is a new one on this blog, #67 in my running tally. From Wikipedia:

The Polemoniaceae are a family (Jacob’s-ladder or phlox family) of about 25 genera with 270-400 species of annual and perennial plants, native to the Northern Hemisphere and South America, with the center of diversity in western North America, especially in California.

Only one genus (Polemonium) is found in Europe, and two (Phlox and Polemonium) in Asia, where they are confined to cool temperate to arctic regions; both genera also occur more widely in North America, suggesting relatively recent colonization of the Old World from North America.

Bringin’ it back home to California!

The type genus of the family is Polemonium:

Polemonium caeruleum. A very pretty ornamental plant:


On the genus, from Wikipedia:

Polemonium, commonly called Jacob’s ladder, is a genus of between 25 and 40 species of flowering plants in the family Polemoniaceae, native to cool temperate to arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. One species also occurs in the southern Andes in South America. Many of the species grow at high altitudes in mountains. Most of the uncertainty in the number of species relates to those in Eurasia, many of which have been synonymized with P. caeruleum in the past.

They are perennial plants (rarely annual plants) growing 10–120 cm tall with bright green leaves divided into lance-shaped leaflets, and produce blue (rarely white or pink) flowers in the spring and summer.

First I took note of the specific name, which took me back to the Cerulean Blue Crayola crayon of my childhood. From NOAD2:

adjective ceruleanliterary deep blue in color like a clear sky: cerulean waters and golden sands. ORIGIN mid 17th century: from Latin caeruleus  ‘sky blue,’ from caelum  ‘sky.’

And then I remembered P. caeruleum from Ludwig Schröter’s 19th-century handbook Alpen-Flora. The relevant plate (“Tall Alpine Herbs”, with P. coeruleum (so spelled) as #5:


On the book, from my 7/6/11 posting “Flora”:

Taschenflora des Alpen-Wanderers : 207 colorirte und 10 schwarze Abbildungen von verbreiteten Alpenpflanzen (by Ludwig Schröter, 1899)

… The Schröter, held in my hands as I write this, was brought back from my dad’s Swiss visit, during which he not only climbed (modest) mountains and clowned around with his Swiss cousins, but also collected wildflowers, preserving them in a flower press that he brought back to the States and eventually passed on to me.

Dad was in his 20s when he made that trip, and there once were photos of him in Switzerland, but in his 20 or so moves after he made the trip, they’ve disappeared (though they survived long enough for me to have appreciated them as a child). In their place, I offer two photos of  Dad somewhat later in his 20s, on another trip:


No alps or flowers or Swiss cousins, but a recognizable location, and my dad looks appropriately Swiss-American, plus he’s smiling. The young AMZ (Sr.) was notable for his energy (which earned him the nickname Zip in college, and Zip became his everyday name for life) and his amiability (in almost every photo I have of him he’s smiling, even when no one else is).

For Fathers Day six years ago, I posted about “Sweet daddies”. As I child I had one. I think I was one myself. I took one as my husband-equivalent. And I admire the ones I see around town and in the media. So I’m missing both my dad and Jacques: two sweet daddies, amiable men, with a strong moral sense — and a love of plants.

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