Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Suspended Christmas

January 31, 2019

(Thanks to a cascade of medical conditions that began at the beginning of this month and has consumed much of my time, I’m still working my way through Christmas-oriented postings. Better late, as they say. [And yes, the back-truncation better late is in my files.])

The classic vehicle for carrying Christmas ornaments is the Christmas tree, an up-standing object. But suspended vehicles are also possible: hanging baskets, for instance, or this festive arrangement in Virginia Transue’s dining room that takes advantage of a chandelier:

(#1) Virginia’s 2018 smilax chandelier, with ornaments


Winter gardens

January 28, 2019

Tom Gauld’s cover art “Winter Garden” in the February 4th New Yorker:


A lush indoor garden, in part representing a spring garden outside (narcissus, tulips), in part a garden fantasy (with huge trees, a parrot, a hummingbird).

Gauld — noted for his science-oriented cartoons and his goofily bookish ones — is an old friend on this blog (his Page is here). Meanwhile, here in northern California we’re going through our winter garden phases outside: a succession of spring flowers (narcissus of one variety after another, starting in December; flowering fruit trees starting now; tulips getting ready to bloom) plus specifically winter-blooming plants, like camellias and cymbidium orchids.


Blue roses

January 25, 2019

Today’s ad from Daily Jocks, with a sale on men’s high-end underwear from Australian firms, in recognition of Australia Day (tomorrow, the 26th):

(#1) The 2eros Midnight Rose pattern (blue roses on a deep purple background), in a swim slip (Speedo-style swimsuit, but Speedo is a trade name) on the left and swimshorts on the right

Ad copy:

Celebrate Australia Day with DailyJocks and get 15% off your favourite Australian brands including; 2eros, Teamm8, Marcuse, Supawear & many more!

My parody caption:

Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Blue roses are my place on earth


Nolde to de l’Écluse to Busbecq

January 25, 2019

Or: it’s tulips, all the way down.

Posted by Bernadette Lambotte and Joelle Stepien Bailard on Facebook this morning, two intense tulip paintings by Emil Nolde:




ivy duff

January 24, 2019

From a couple days ago, in my 1/22 posting “Squirrely”:

Left on their own, the ivy [Hedera helix] leaves just turn brown and leathery, repelling water rather than decomposing. But urine acts as an agent for decomposition, and a big pile of ivy leaves have now decayed satisfyingly into a layer of duff (posting on duff to come separately).

So I’ve been successfully creating ivy duff, little bit by little bit, building up a sunken border on my patio.

It appears that ivy duff is very much not a thing; searches on the expression net women named Ivy Duff on dating sites, but nothing from the forest floor.


Penguin bearing wild strawberries

January 23, 2019

It was a little Christmas present for me from Opal Armstrong Zwicky, reported on in my 12/26/18 posting “Four presents”:

a bit of nearly indescribable Japanese kawaii that involves a little self-watering ceramic penguin that grows wild strawberry plants (Fragaria vesca) on its back

The ceramic penguin has been perched on the edge of one of my man Jacques’s mugs — one with his name on it — in the window of my kitchen. And now:


Four presents

December 26, 2018

Small but entertaining little gifts for my Christmas, from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, Opal Armstrong Zwicky, Kim Darnell, and Maggie Ainsworth-Darnell — plus an excellent dim sum lunch at Tai Pan in Palo Alto for all of us, from Paul Armstrong.

Then: an out@in rainbow t-shirt from LinkedIn (where Kim works); a little plush wooly (spelling by the Douglas Cuddle Toy Co.) mammoth; a tote bag with an otter drawing by the artist rubyetc; and a bit of nearly indescribable Japanese kawaii that involves a little self-watering ceramic penguin that grows wild strawberry plants (Fragaria vesca) on its back, as here:

(#1) Chuppon self-watering animals and their plants: the Sea Friends dolphin/clover, penguin/wild strawberry, seal/basil, polar bear/mint


Needles and scales

December 20, 2018

It began with a plant at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, a plant that reminded me of a cedar shrub, with scale-like leaves. This turned out to be Fabiana imbricata violacea (or Chilean heather — it was in the central Chile section of the garden, in fact), in the Solanaceae, the nightshade family (also including tomatos, potatoes, tobacco, petunias, and much more). Then in the South Africa section, a rather similar shrub, with scale-like leaves; this turned out to be a variety of Coleonema pulchellum (or confetti bush), in the Rutaceae, the rue or citrus family (which generally have broad leaves).

The coleonema was growing together with some (broad-leaved) plants with interestingly contrasting foliage: some scented geraniums and some Martin’s spurges. Bringing in two more plant families — respectively, the Gerianaceae (or geranium family) and the Euphorbiaceae (or spurge family).

All this led me to Calluna vulgaris, or heather (given that I already had “Chilean heather”), in still another plant family (the Ericaceae, the heath or heather family), with needle-like or scale-like leaves. And of course to cedars, with their scale-like leaves. Well, the cedars I first thought of were “Japanese cedars” — Cryptomeria japonica, in the Cupressaceae (or cypress family). But wait! The well-known cedar trees, the cedars of Lebanon, are Cedrus libani — with needle-like leaves, in the Pinaceae (or pine family).

Ah, needle-like leaves — not just in (some) conifers, like the fir tree (in the Pinaceae), but also in other families: for example, in rosemary, in the Lamiaceae (the labiate or mint family, otherwise mostly broad-leaved).

Two themes here: leaf types (broad, needle-like, scale-like) and plant families (including a number not already in my inventory, even though the plants in them are very familiar). Plus, of course, the familiar agony about common names (think about those heathers, and those cedars). Details follow.


Three artists

December 12, 2018

(About art rather than linguistics. Well, Joelle Stepien Bailard is a lawyer specializing in international law and mediation, but she’s also a PhD in linguistics from UCLA (1982), though that doesn’t seem to be relevant to this posting.)

In recent weeks on Facebook, Joelle has been providing a pleasurable counterforce to a stream of news liable to provoke dread, despair, or rage: a counterstream of reproductions of art works in various media and genres, some of them familiar (Manet’s Olympia came past a little while ago), many by artist X before X became X (before X developed the recognizable style X is famous for), many that are simply little-known works by well-known artists, and many from artists you’ve probably never even heard of. Delightful.

Two of the artists — Franz Marc and Odilon Redon — are old favorites of mine. And a third, the currently very visible glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, appears here through a sliver of connection to Redon.


O rosemary, my rosemary

December 7, 2018

From Kim Darnell today, a Christmas tree, which she then decorated to suit my household:

(#1) O rosemary, my rosemary

I’d admired these little rosemary bushes at Whole Foods: pretty, wonderfully scented, useful in cooking, and an excellent evergreen container plant for my patio garden (rosemary shrubs are widely used as border and filler plants locally).