Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Household gifts

October 21, 2017

Assembled in a group photo, three pleasingly thoughtful household gifts:

(#1) A penguin tea towel and a purple plant mister flanked by two hand-blown flared glasses

The tea towel with penguin slogan (the penguin is one of my totem animals) brought back from the New England Aquarium (in Boston) for me by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky. The purple plant mister given to me by Kim Darnell (who found them on-line) to mist my mini-phal (which likes high humidity, but not wet roots). The flared glasses blown by Amanda Walker, who made them for me so I could grasp them firmly with my damaged right hand..

A little festival of household furnishings and English N + N compounds as well: tea towel, distantly related to tea (referring to the hot drink made from the leaves of the tea plant); the synthetic AGT compound plant mister; the synthetic PSP compound hand-blown; and the compound punty mark, the (totally opaque) name Amanda gave to the glassy scars at the bottom of the glasses.

And, oh yes, the idiom in the tea towel slogan. Let’s start with that.

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Mahonia, Berberis, Ilex

October 17, 2017

An adventure in plants, their appearance, and their taxonomic status.

It starts with a recent visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, where I encountered this pretty small shrub, in bloom, labeled Mahonia ‘Sweet Caress’ (photo from the net):

(#1)

At first glance, not at all like the mahonia shrub my father grew in our garden when I was a teenager: this plant has bamboo-like foliage, but the mahonia in our Wyomissing Hills PA garden had leaves that looked like holly leaves, and my dad referred to it as an Oregon grape holly: grape for the blue berries on the plant during the winter, holly for the prickly Ilex-like leaves, and Oregon for its origin in the shady forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Now it turns out that the holly-leaved mahonia of my youth and the bamboo-leaved mahonia in Gamble Garden are shade-loving evergreen plants with similar yellow flowers and blue berries, and are in fact both in the genus Mahonia, very closely related to barberries (in the genus Berberis). Both Mahonia and Berberis are in the barberry family (Berberidaceae) — with nothing much taxonomically to do with either hollies (in their own plant family, Aquifoliaceae) or bamboos (in the grass family, Poaceae).

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Revisiting 8: Rod Canyon

October 16, 2017

(At least at the beginning, about gay porn, focused on men’s bodies and mansex, so not for kids or the sexually modest. Eventually, there will be comics, movies, music, and plants.)

From the 12th, in my “Pizza Boy outtakes” posting, the idiom canyon yodeling, at first only ‘cunnilingus’, then ‘man on man anilingus’, with the sexual slang canyon extended from ‘vagina viewed as sexual organ’ to ‘male anus viewed as sexual organ’. And then today in viewing the gay porn movie Rear Deliveries (William Higgins, 1980), I came upon the wonderfully named pornstar Rod Canyon, whose porn name unites the two central but opposed objects of gay male desire, the penis (insertive) in Rod and the anus (receptive) in Canyon. As far as I can tell, Lance Box hasn’t been used yet as a (dual-purpose) porn name, but Rod Canyon labored in the P&A fields of pleasure around 1980.

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Lilyturf, bronze pin heads, and ungrammatical yucca

October 15, 2017

All on a recent trip to Stanford Shopping Center, where I hadn’t been for several years. After massive reconstruction, it’s even more upscale than before, with a huge range of very high-end stores with designer facades and interiors (the older buildings, like Macy’s, now look like commercial architecture from a previous age), plus, in the mall’s ad copy, “breathtaking gardens, sculptures and fountains” and places to sit everywhere — the last important to me as I cope with shortness of breath under exertion. The effect is of world-class shopping streets located in the middle of extraordinary public parks (though it’s all very much private property).

A quick general tour, then three specific items: masses of lirope, or lilyturf, an amiable and modest plant, in the midst of extravagantly showy plantings; whimsical “pin head” bronze sculptures by Albert Guibara; and the oddly named fusion-Cantonese restaurant Yucca de Lac (with plenty of yuccas and a lot of dim sum, but, here in Palo Alto, no lake; lakelessness is not, however, the real problem with the name).

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Ice Dance in the garden

September 26, 2017

(About plants and their names.)

A row of handsome grassy plants at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, like these:

Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’, a sedge (rather than a grass).

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A sapsucking planthopper

September 24, 2017

… and more; eventually there will be draft horses, covered bridges, and distelfinks. But first, a bulletin from my cousin Eleanor Severin Houck about the advance of the spotted lanternfly in southeastern Pennsylvania (Eleanor is in Berks County, county seat Reading, in the Pa. Dutch country, where we both grew up).

From the annals of noxious pests, double-team division, a pairing of the disgusting and destructive insect pest Lycorma deliculata with the rampant invasive plant pest Ailanthus altissima.

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Boys with Plants

September 23, 2017

The name of an Instagram site, which I learned about from Laura Staum Casasanto today. Stunning plants (heavy on houseplants, but by no means confined to them) accompanied by good-looking men, handsomely photographed. Laura supposed, correctly, that the combination would work well for me, and she was right.

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Blue Curls

September 19, 2017

Seen on the street in Palo Alto recently — in planters outside Pacific Art League Palo Alto, just up the street from my house, and in recent xeriscape plantings in front of City Hall — an otherworldly succulent, one that looks more like a sea creature (specifically, some sort of curly coral) than a plant. Searching on “succulent looks like coral” brought me many astonishing succulents, among them the one in my neighborhood, an Echeveria hybrid named ‘Blue Curls’:

(#1)

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Hot Lips

September 17, 2017

Noted in front of 325 Forest Ave. in Palo Alto, a small hedge of Salvia microphylla (small-leaved sage) ‘Hot Lips’ in bloom — covered in small labiate flowers, some bicolor, some all red, some all white, as in this photo from the net:

(#1)

Small-leaved (hence the species name microphylla), intensely scented, fashioned into a hedge. A pleasant plant, which it turns out was created by hybridization fairly recently.

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Wild Asia in Sonoma

September 14, 2017

Tuesday morning on KRCB (NPR station in Sonoma CA), a brief piece about the Quarryhill Botanical Garden there and a forthcoming Quarryhill lecture by Andrea Wulf, author of a recent book on Alexander von Humboldt. The garden was new to me, as was the book, and both are fascinating, but what mostly got my attention was the reporter’s pronunciation of quarry — with accented æ, to rhyme (in my variety of English) with Larry, Harry, carry, and marry.

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