Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Chic peas and more

October 13, 2018

The fall special at Dan Gordon’s (on Emerson St. in Palo Alto), as it first appeared on the menu, about a month ago:

Summer Stew $16.95
smoked pork / cippolini onions / chic peas / prunes / red rice

(with the very notable spelling chic peas and with the misspelling cippolini for cipollini). But now the ingredients list reads:

smoked pork / cippolini onions / chickpeas / dehydrated plums / red rice

(with the notable dehydrated plums). Actually, all four ingredients have linguistic interest.


From vine to towering tree, in four steps

September 27, 2018

Morning visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, to stave off catatonic despair at the news of the day. One bed cleared out to make space for a pollinator garden. Lots of plants at the ends of their seasons, winter plants not yet going. But tons of cheery autumn-blooming anemones. Monarch butterflies. And four especially notable plants: hyacinth beans, ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, a mountain cabbage tree, and a cucumber tree (a species of magnolia).


Inch by inch

September 25, 2018

… every week or two, the succulents grow. A report on the turquoise planter on my patio, from a week ago (9/19). A synoptic view (thanks to Kim Darnell):


Four conspicuous plants: the central Echeveria ‘Blue Curls’, with its tall flower stalk (up to the height of the doorknob last week, now 2 inches above it, with a base wider by an inch as well); the little silver rosette Echeveria, with its 2-foot+ flower stalk; the two sturdy Senecio (blue chalksticks) stems, with thin flower stems at their tips; and (in the upper right corner) a crassula stem still working up to budding (but now with several offsets, not visible in this photo, at its base).


Sleep on, harvest moon

September 24, 2018

Sunday night, on the way to the PAMF (Palo Alto Medical Foundation) Sleep Disorders Clinic in Sunnyvale CA (for a night sleeping in a forest of electrodes and other monitoring devices), an absolutely gigantic moon, slightly short of full, hanging low in the sky. Sunday (the 23rd) was the Autumn Equinox and tonight (the 24th) the moon is full, so we are now experiencing a harvest moon — which means today is the Mid-Autumn Festival in China and other East Asian countries (and elsewhere), so it’s the prime day for mooncakes / moon-cakes / moon cakes, paper lanterns, and family reunions. It’s also the beginning of the holiday of Sukkot in the Jewish calendar (this year, sunset on the 23rd through sunset on the 30th), so it’s a harvest festival there too, also a solemn religious holiday and a family festival.

Meanwhile, my days have been physically / medically dreadful and emotionally disastrous, so I haven’t been able to assemble all the text for a proper posting. But here’s a photo gallery for a posting to come.


Neighborhood flora: phormiums

September 20, 2018

Continuing my project of reporting on plants that are very widely grown in my neighborhood — recently, from 8/16, “Lantana on the trail”, on trailing lantana; from 9/14, “Neighborhood flora: the cranesbills”; and from 9/15, “Neighborhood flora: Chinese elms” — I turn today to a striking foliage plant growing all over the place around me, especially widely on city ground, but also in private gardens. Big straplike leaves, striped in several colors (mostly green, yellow, and white), with tall flower stalks  (looking much like the giant alien-planet flower stems of agave plants), currently bearing long seed pods that are green when fresh but then turn to black as they ripen. Of the genus Phormium, highly recommended by the City of Palo Alto for filling space in xeriscapes.


Neighborhood flora: Chinese elms

September 15, 2018

Along Homer Avenue in Palo Alto, half a block south of my house, the street trees are mostly Chinese elms. In particular, the north side of the block from Ramona (my street) to Emerson (the Whole Foods street), it’s all Chinese elms, six of them. Here’s the one across Emerson from Whole Foods, in front of 201 Homer:


An excellent street tree, both pretty and tough, especially satisfying in hot and/or dry areas. Here you can see the interesting mottled bark.


News for penises: images, accidental and intentional

September 14, 2018

Just in: from a National Weather Service report on 9/11 tracking Hurricane Florence (unintentional phallicity); and gift bottles for the Italian liqueur Limoncello (pointedly intentional phallicity).


Neighborhood flora: the cranesbills

September 14, 2018

In a fancy planter outside a neighborhood business just up Ramona St. from my house: stunning blue cranesbills — the hybrid Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’, here in an image from the web:


And with this, sweet memories of my first time in Palo Alto, 37 years ago, arriving here just after my birthday (9/6), to start a year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences — on the foothills above Stanford, amidst untamed meadows in which a wild cranesbill, rosy-red Geranium dissectum, flourishes once the rainy season gets going.


Fruit cream tarts, one with pansy

September 14, 2018

(Not suitable for Facebook, because double entendres and incidental naked men, but not actually X-rated. Mostly about food.)

Fruit cream tarts, one with pansy. Plus a little Echeveria plant. These are more birthday presents from the 6th, from Juan Gomez and the aging care company he works for (a big tart — not merely una tarta, but un tartone — plus the little succulent) and from Kim Darnell (a cute fruit cream tartlet with a pansy).


Goldenrods and Boston cops

September 3, 2018

… with a note on the pronunciation of botanical names.

The crucial moment came in a re-run showing of the Rizzoli & Isles episode “Love the Way You Lie” (S3 E12, first aired 12/4/12), when the Boston detective (Rizzoli, played by Angie Harmon) and medical examiner (Isles, played by Sasha Alexander) pondered the significance of the fact that they had identified some pollen as coming from Solidago macrophylla, with the species name macrophylla pronounced /ˌmækroˈfɪlǝ/ (with primary accent on the third syllable). I was startled by the pronunciation: it’s Greek ‘big leaf’, so surely it should have the accent on the second syllable (as in thermometer, Hippocrates, etc.), something on the order of  /mǝˈkrafǝlǝ/, and the writers had just gotten it wrong.

But no. The writers did their homework, and I was the one who was wrong.