Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Leaves like lemons, leaves like holly

June 21, 2022

Arrived in Palo Alto on 6/18, a Gillian Mary greeting card from Ann Burlingham, written on 6/14 to report family news from Pittsburgh — a joyously bright representation of a flowering bottlebrush (genus Callistemon), a wonderful Australian plant that I first encountered in California about 60 years ago. Even better: C. citrinus, with bright red flowers that attract birds, bees, and butterflies; and gray-green evergreen leaves that release a lemony scent when crushed (hence the species name citrinus):

(#1) GMC-076 Crimson Bottlebrush, a Gillian Mary card from Aero Images

That led to more cards from this source — Gillian Mary is a trade name, not a person — and ultimately to the actual artist, illustrator and painter Jill Brailsford (who’s the owner and designer of GMC). GMC offers other cards showing Australian plants and flowers — from which I’ve selected just one more (Banksia ilicifolia, with prickly, holly-like leaves) — also Australian scenes (mostly beach scenes) and Australian animals.

So, lemony Callie and prickly Banksy. And then Jill.


Dusky Rose, I’m home again, Rose

June 11, 2022

The plants, the music, the clothing! There are three parts to this posting. Part 1 is about plants, specifically a Hydrangea macrophylla now blooming on my patio for the first time since 2017. Part 2 (which ends up with Randy Rainbow doing a fabulous barbershop quartet performance — just the music, ma’m) and Part 3 (which ends up with the superhot Argentine fashion model Maximiliano Patane posing shirtless) are tied to Part 1 by the color dusty rose or dusky rose (a type of pink), some mental association, and some sheer accident. The color, from the Color Codes site:

(#1) In actual practice, the color label covers a range of hues, some lighter, some brighter, some pinker

From dusty rose by association to the song “Lida Rose” and to Randy Rainbow’s performance of it. Also from dusty rose in a search for men’s clothing in the color (after a search for clothing in this color got tons of women’s clothing, mostly lingerie and wedding dresses, and nothing for men; the color is clearly highly gendered), by happy accident to a photo of an extremely steamy and wildly hirsute Patane modeling a suit in that color. Which led me to the model more generally; my ignorance of the world of high fashion is both wide and deep, but for Patane a 2016 spread on him (“hotter than California weather”) in Out magazine provided shirtless delight.

And then I was able to tie all three parts together in a brief parody of “Lida Rose”, in which the singer speaks to his lover Max using the pet name Dusky Rose for him.


The desert three-way

June 2, 2022

The 6/1 Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, a Desert Crawl cartoon in which the crawling man hallucinates a sexual oasis, where two saguaro cactuses offer to, umm, entertain him (Wayno’s title: “Prickly Playmates”):

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)


The pansies and the birds will speak for us

May 29, 2022

About Paul Harfleet, who’s one tough pansy. Who I learned about from Richard Vytniorgu on Twitter (posted on 5/25):


Re-reading Paul Harfleet’s beautiful picture book on bullying at school due to a boy’s gender nonconformity, by @ThePansyProject. “His modest plan to raise awareness, increased the prospect of future fairness.”

Then about The Pansy Project. And about Harfleet’s ornithological apparel project Birds Can Fly. Earnest, passionate, humane, fiercely resolute, and delightful, all at once. But first, two p.r. photos for Birds Can Fly, showing Harfleet’s admirable presentation of himself as a proudly tough but whimsical pansy —  ‘(offensive) an effeminate or gay man’  (as NOAD has it).


Easter Morning redux

April 17, 2022

Some close analysis, and some reflections, on the Jacquie Lawson animated greeting card “Easter Morning”, that I posted about yesterday, in “Sheep grazing among the Paschal roses”. There I looked at purple hellebores (and some other other crucifixion-symbolic flowers) and at Bach’s aria “Sheep May Safely Graze” (a performance of which accompanies the animation).

Now about the details of the animation’s images (especially, but by no means only, the plants).


Sheep grazing among the Paschal roses

April 16, 2022

From my old friend (of 60+ years now) BBC — Benita Bendon Campbell, aka Bonnie Campbell — yesterday, a Jacquie Lawson electronic greeting card “Eastern Morning”, full of symbols of the holiday (including many plants, hellebores among them) and accompanied by a particularly bright orchestral setting of Bach’s gorgeous aria Schafe können sicher weiden (“Sheep May Safely Graze”). Solid delight.

First, some plants. Then the music.


The cups of winter

March 7, 2022

Those would be cymbidium orchids (Gk. kumbē ‘cup’), which have long-lasting blooms during the cool (but not cold), wet, and short days of winter here on the San Francisco Bay. John Rickford — author of the moving 2022 memoir Speaking my Soul: Race, Life and Language — has been Facebook-posting  fabulous pictures of the cymbidiums flourishing in Angela Rickford’s front garden, so I’ve been moved to post another of my reports on the orchids in my little front garden.

The somber summary is that of 14 pots of orchids, only three have so far managed to produce blooming plants, and only three other plants are in bud (and might or might not make it to blossomhood). Of the six, none are clones of our original cymbidium, the Jacques Transue birthday (1/22/42) plant:



When the palm trunks

March 5, 2022

Report on Facebook today from Sim Aberson (in South Florida) about his “daily constitutional” with his husband, where they encountered:

Copernicia macroglossa, petticoat palm, a very slow-growing species

Sim wrote:

When they eventually trunk, the old fronds produce a beautiful petticoat.

Yes, the noun trunk ‘stem of a tree’, verbed, to yield intransitive trunk ‘(of a tree) produce a trunk’.

For a moment, I thought that Sim had salted the verbing in there just for me to find — he knows my tastes — but then I realized that this is the way palm people talk (Sim and Mike are serious plant guys) — because the verb is a genuinely useful one for growers of palms.

An old story: people go around promiscuously nouning and verbing, occasionally for cleverness (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but usually because in one of their worlds — often a very specialized world — the innovative form is a good thing to have to hand.


The groundhog and the scallion

February 5, 2022

Another greeting card from Ann Burlingham, this one for the American 2/2 holiday, Groundhog Day (see my 2/2/15 posting “Back-to-back American holidays”, with a section on the groundhog; the American holiday; and the movie Groundhog Day):

(#1) The Hester & Cook greeting card “Phil’s Great Adventure” by Vicki Sawyer, celebrating Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog seer of Punxsutawney PA — here  represented as wearing a bunch of scallions on his head (the headdress thing is a Sawyer feature; more below)

Wearing scallions of course evoked wearing leeks and took me to yet another holiday, 3/1 instead of 2/2: St. David’s Day, celebrating the patron saint of Wales.

And that bounced me back to the Christian feast day for 2/2: Candlemas Day (one of those Christian holidays I don’t venture to try to explain to people).


Squirrel vs. Cymbidium

January 28, 2022

(Not about language or about gender and sexuality.)

And it appears to be a knockout victory for Squirrel every time. A report on two recent bouts — from mid-December (involving the yellow cymbidium that is the first to bloom in my little garden, in the late fall) and from yesterday (involving a cymbidium that’s the palest of pinks, so that in most lights it looks plain white).

Cymbidium background. Cymbidium orchids — there are lots of species, and a host of hybrids and cultivars — are genuine winter plants. In my garden, the first flower shoots typically appear in early October, the first blossoms around Halloween. New plants come into bloom throughout the winter and spring, and the last flower shoots die back by early in June, in the dry heat of summer.

For me, the cymbidiums are Jacques plants. I gave my husband-equivalent the first one — a plant he had openly admired at a local florist’s — as a birthday present in 1987. He would have been 80 on his birthday this year, back on 1/22. More cymbidiums came every year, and then I got new ones just because they were beautiful and they reminded me of J, who died in 2003.

Not only is this a cold dark midwinter while I’m isolated with a respiratory infection during the pandemic, it’s also a time of deep sadness, with Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s death day (in 1985) on 1/17 and then Jacques’s birthday. In the circumstances, I find it almost impossible to write about cymbidiums, but I press on regardless.

What remains of the squirrels’ second victim sits in a vase in front of me, on my desk:

(#1) From the left of three pots of cymbidiums right outside my window, just behind the bird-feeder pole; yesterday, two days after the blossoms had opened up, I left my work table to use the bathroom, and when I got back the top foot of the flower stalk was lying on the patio, cruelly sliced off by rodent incisors

From 12/14/21, a gauzy view of the scene through the blinds on my window:

(#2) A squirrel feeding in the tray on the bird-feeder pole; the three pots of cymbidiums behind it; an ivy-covered wall behind that

I was concerned that the squirrels would snip the flower stalk on the right, because it was so thin; it seemed so vulnerable. The stalk on the left was impressively thick and so was, I imagined, unassailable. But then it turned out that big guys fall hard.

Meanwhile, on the patio south of that scene back in December, the squirrels had just finished decapitating the very first cymbidium to send up a stalk of buds. They lopped off the top half one day, and then the rest of it two days later. And either ate or carried off the remains, because I never saw any.

That stalk would have produced yellow blooms, like these from 2017 (in my 11/13/17 posting “Orchids on the march”:

(#3) Actually, greenish-yellow

Squirrel background. First came the bird feeders, to bring birds to my window, to provide life and activity during endless days alone. But then: you got bird feeders, you got squirrels.

For quite some time, exactly four squirrels. The same four squirrels. Two gray in color, two black in color. I could observe them closely enough to see them as individuals. The two males worked especially aggressively to get at the bird feeders mounted on my windows, even though the nuts and seeds that they adored were piled up all over the place.

When they failed to master climbing up a glass wall, or leaping six feet from a fence, they did excellent enactments of little kids having tantrums: they chittered at me through the glass, rushed around knocking things over, attacked other squirrels, and chewed on stuff — things like the wooden garden furniture and, alas, the plants.

They bit pelargoniums (“geraniums”) off close to the ground (these are tough plants; they send new shoots up from their base of those stems). They devastated my succulent gardens, bit leaves off the hydrangea bush (and dug up all the sprouting callas).

And snipped off flower stalks of the cymbidiums.

Squirrels have frequent litters (they also die off and get killed, but, locally anyway, they seem to be a steadily shifting but expanding population, eight or ten of them now, engaged in confrontations both aggressive and sexual, on top of their antics in getting at the bird feeders.

Two days ago, one the very young black squirrels made a stunning, applause-worthy, absolutely perfect 7-foot leap from a fence onto the pole of the bird feeder, apparently intending to use the momentum from that leap to pivot from the pole onto one of the feeders. The little squirrel failed utterly in the second part of this maneuver, dropping to the ground like a stone — but then recovered by leaping back onto the fence and sitting there quietly cleaning its paws, in effect pretending that absolutely nothing had happened, nothing to see here. I was expecting it to wreak some kind of havoc, but no. Like I said, they’re all different.

I did think, through my laughter at the whole performance, that Jacques would have loved it. He was, in fact, fond of squirrels, as you can see from this photo:

(#4) A boy and his squirrel