Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Pride of Madeira

March 28, 2017

On our last visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, we came across an impressive cluster of thick stems (clearly some years old)  standing about 3 feet tall, with conical clusters of buds at the top of the stems. The only label we could find was for an obviously irrelevant plant (a daisy-like composite).

But then this morning we went back, and it was in gorgeous purple-blue bloom. Back home, I thought to try a strategy that almost never works in Google searches: describing the plant (“tall spires of purple flowers”), but this time I hit paydirt right away, with a page devoted to plants with tall stalks of purple/blue flowers. Echium candicans aka fastuosum:



Spring bulbs

March 9, 2017

… and other flowers. The plants come into bloom on a schedule that’s some complex of day length and temperature. Locally we’ve been having stretches of late cold weather (“patchy morning frost in low-lying areas”, the weather forecasts will say), so some plants are on the late side. Out my front door: the calla lilies are just now opening up, and the Victorian box — Pittosporum — hasn’t yet come into fragrant bloom. (For enthusiasts of resembloid composites: calla lilies aren’t lilies (Lilium), and Victorial box isn’t any kind of box (Buxus); see my 3/17/12 St. Patrick’s Day posting.) But the first narcissus bloomed in January, and a visit with Juan Gomez to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden on Tuesday confronted us with great swaths of blooming narcissus, of many cultivars, as well as tulips, grape hyacinths, and snowdrops.


Five contorted cactuses

March 2, 2017

Continuing the recent theme of cacti and succulents on this blog (focused on plants that are either beautiful or phallic): five contorted or convoluted plants — all of them, apparently, originating in genetic sports of more everyday organisms).


A codgerie of shaggy men

March 1, 2017

Among the stand-out cactuses at the Stanford cactus and succulent garden these days: the wonderfully named Cephalocereus senilis (very roughly, ‘old man candle-head’). One of a large set of stand-up, erect cactuses that pretty much inevitably count as phallic symbols — in this case, with the added attraction of lots of wispy white hair. A codgerie of shaggy men:


Two notable plants

March 1, 2017

A further report on yesterday’s visit to the cactus and succulent garden at Stanford, where Juan Gomez and I were struck by two plants, one a cactus of remarkable shape, one a succulent of surprising beauty. I’ve nailed the first, but I’m still circling around the second.


Plant packages

February 28, 2017

This morning, another visit (with Juan Gomez) to the cactus and succulent garden at Stanford, which has been made very happy by all the rain we’ve been getting (it’s been wreaking havoc all over northern California, but it’s made the cacti and succulents thrive). I’ll post separately about two plants that especially attracted our attention, but this posting is about some plants I came across while I was scouring the net to find the ones we saw.

The problem here is that there are no labels on anything in the garden, nor does there seem to be a website listing the plants there, so I was reduced to searching on descriptions (in my own words) of the plants we saw. This led me to an assortment of extraordinary plants that were nothing like the ones we saw. Including two phallic blossoms, each in consort with testicular structures: two plant packages from the British Arbtalk discussion forum site (for arborists), supplied by member bob in 2007, a man who seems to have an eye for these things. One is an evergreen, one a cactus.


Pretty in pink

February 26, 2017

Another little bulletin from my house: the third of the cymbidium orchids to bloom this season (they’re winter-blooming flowers):


Blossoms from the south

February 20, 2017

Two visits to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, one a few weeks ago, one last week, netting wonderful plants from the Southern Hemisphere (South Africa to Australia and New Zealand): Westringia fruticosa ‘Smokey’ and Tulbaghia simmleri ‘Cheryl Renshaw’ on the first visit, a species of Bulbinella (possibly Bulbinella nutans) on the second. All winter-blooming here in Palo Alto (though their blooming times are variable, in both hemispheres).

Meanwhile, we’re having a continuation of winter, with all its plants (including various magnolias, camellias, citrus fruits, cymbidium orchids, leafy greens and brassicas of all kinds, cyclamens, hellebores, pansies and violets, and so on). Meanwhile, the onset of spring comes in January, with narcissus / daffodils (now in great spreads of bloom), the first leafing out of deciduous trees, and then the flowering fruit trees in the genus Prunus (now blooming gorgeously and dropping their petals everywhere). There are seasons, but they overlap. Very soon: the first roses.



February 19, 2017

… the plant, viewable locally in planters outside two office buildings, one a block north and one a block west of where I live. They thrive there; they are tough plants, aggressive even — they are invasive pest plants in South Africa and Australia — though they suffer some from vandals who manage to break their stems off. The local species, Equisetum hyemale, in a big stand:


Two red hot pokers

December 14, 2016

About plants and their names, on the occasion of another visit to the cactus and succulent garden at Stanford — to view the incredible profusion of plants now that it’s been raining fairly regularly. Especially remarkable carpets of ground-cover succulents, and lots of jade plants in bloom. And two similar-looking flowering plants — red hot pokers — that on closer inspection turn out to be quite distinct: the Kniphofia that I posted about a while back, and a different plant that was clearly a species of Aloe.