Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

A blue period

July 16, 2017

It’s about plants — the chaste tree, balloon flowers, bellflowers — moving from Palo Alto through the Swiss Alps and on to the Eastern European Wilds, the Carpathians. Mostly a portrait in blue, with digressions into purple, pink, and white. I start with Pablo Picasso’s self-portrait Blue of 1901, which inaugurated his Blue Period:

(#1) Picasso, very blue, at the age of 20

And a bow here to William H. Gass’s On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry (1976), described by Brian Dillon in a 3/15/14 Guardian review of its reissue this way:

the entire book is a catalogue of sorts containing blue things, desires, concepts and usages


Neighborhood gardens, heavy on purple

July 12, 2017

Walking around the neighborhood these days, in between heat waves, alone and with friends, mostly enjoying gardens and street plantings and identifying what we see. Most delightfully, this elaborate container garden in front of a house on Bryant St., just a block from mine:



More news not for penises

July 5, 2017

Start with this little poem, “Spurring him on”, which seems to be heavily sexual:

Hotspur Cockspur:
Thorny, horny, over-
Heated prick.
Spiky, showy dandy,
Sharply tipped.

Actually, this is a continuation of my 2/4/16 posting “Some news not for penises”, which was about senses of cock that aren’t about penises, and it’s mostly about plants, a whole hell of a lot of plants, some of them with sharp thorns (like spurs) that will prick you, some of them with showy spikes (like a rooster’s comb), all of them with cock in one of their common names. So, what with the noun cock, the phallic spurs, and the phallic combs, the topic fairly drips with male sexuality — but this posting is not about men’s bodies or mansex. It’s mostly about birds and plants, plus some vintage dandies and Sir Henry Percy.


Fay Zwicky

July 4, 2017

From today’s issue of The Australian, “Acclaimed poet Fay Zwicky dies in Perth at 83” by Paige Taylor:



News for cacti and succulents 6/20/17

June 20, 2017

Two reports on the cactus and succulent front: two photos from a visit to the Stanford garden yesterday (a foxtail and an assortment of columnar cactuses), plus edible miniature cactus and succulent gardens (cakes and cupcakes!).


Sales talk

June 19, 2017

Yesterday’s Bizarro, another exercise in what you have to know to understand what’s going in a cartoon:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)


Father and grandfather

June 16, 2017

… plus two grandmothers.

A bit more for Fathers Day, with photos from back in the day, more Alpen-Flora, and some reflections on social class. Starting with these photos:


On the left (#1a): my dad, with his parents, Bertha and Melchior Zwicky, in April 1941 (on, I think, my grandparents’ farm in Sinking Spring PA, west of Reading). On the right, two photos from 1948, at my aunt Marian (Marian Rice Fries) and uncle Herb’s farm outside of New Smithville PA, west of Allentown. Top (#1b): Dad and his mother-in-law, Susannah Hershey Rice (called Sue). Bottom (#1c): Marian and Sue, her mother.


Three garden ornamentals and two trees

June 14, 2017

On a recent visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, four eye-catching plants, one of them a very big tree. Plus, out my back door, the tree in my next-door neighbor’s back garden, a tall and handsome thing that was pruned professionally yesterday.

So: the labiate Trichostema lanatum, or woolly bluecurls; the succulent Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’; a Sisyrinchium, or blue-eyed grass (in the iris family); and that great big tree, Erythrinia crista-galli, or cockspur coral tree, a showy legume. Then my neighbor’s ornamental pear tree (partridgeless, but often home to small birds), a Pyrus, in the rose family (like most fruit trees).



June 13, 2017

… in NOAD2’s third sense:

3 a thing that trails, especially a trailing plant.

The occasion was an errand-running walk in Palo Alto a little while ago with Kim Darnell, on which we came across a plant I identified as a fuchsia, remarking that they were often planted in hanging baskets, where their down-hanging flowers spilled attractively over the sides of the basket:



Three cactuses

June 9, 2017

Three entries from Rudolf Slaba, The Illustrated Guide to Cacti, Sterling Publishing Co., 1992. Just because the illustrations by Petr Liška are so pleasing. (And of course because these cacti, like so many, are phallic.)