Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Blue Curls

September 19, 2017

Seen on the street in Palo Alto recently — in planters outside Pacific Art League Palo Alto, just up the street from my house, and in recent xeriscape plantings in front of City Hall — an otherworldly succulent, one that looks more like a sea creature (specifically, some sort of curly coral) than a plant. Searching on “succulent looks like coral” brought me many astonishing succulents, among them the one in my neighborhood, an Echeveria hybrid named ‘Blue Curls’:



Hot Lips

September 17, 2017

Noted in front of 325 Forest Ave. in Palo Alto, a small hedge of Salvia microphylla (small-leaved sage) ‘Hot Lips’ in bloom — covered in small labiate flowers, some bicolor, some all red, some all white, as in this photo from the net:


Small-leaved (hence the species name microphylla), intensely scented, fashioned into a hedge. A pleasant plant, which it turns out was created by hybridization fairly recently.


Wild Asia in Sonoma

September 14, 2017

Tuesday morning on KRCB (NPR station in Sonoma CA), a brief piece about the Quarryhill Botanical Garden there and a forthcoming Quarryhill lecture by Andrea Wulf, author of a recent book on Alexander von Humboldt. The garden was new to me, as was the book, and both are fascinating, but what mostly got my attention was the reporter’s pronunciation of quarry — with accented æ, to rhyme (in my variety of English) with Larry, Harry, carry, and marry.


The fan, the spathiphyllum, and the impressionist garden

September 10, 2017

Juan came by on Friday to replace the left fan in my laptop (it had reached airplane takeoff mode) and bring me small birthday presents: some mini-cheesecakes from Whole Foods (one berry, one espresso), an excellent but hard to pronounce houseplant, and a visit to the Gamble Garden to view ranks of gauzy late summer and autumn plants in bloom.

The computer repair took only a few minutes — I am now enjoying the silence of the fans — so I’ll focus here on the vegetative side of things: the birthday plant, a spathipyllum (say that three times fast!); and those seasonal flowers, which are gauzy only to a cataractive guy like me (but the Monet impressionist-garden effect is actually quite pleasing, one of the very few positive consequences of gradual vision loss).


Runner ducks, runner beans, rubber ducks

September 9, 2017

Back on the 6th, in “Birthday notes”:

From Benita Bendon Campbell (and Ed Campbell) a Jacquie Lawson animated card of Indian runner ducks in the rain, ending with a duck and a rainbow. In medias res: [image #1]
To come, in a separate posting, on Indian runner ducks and Indian (or scarlet) runner beans, which are not at all the same thing.

And then to add to those, India(n) rubber ducks, which aren’t ducks, though they are duck-simulacra (runner ducks are ducks, and runner beans are beans — that is, bean plants).


California fuchsia

August 29, 2017

A low-growing sturdy plant, now in bloom in many places around here. Observed yesterday in the Palo Alto Demonstration Garden, a small plot of city park land devoted to illustrating “Bay-friendly principles” of gardening.

(#1) Epilobium canum

The plant is commonly known as California fuchsia, a name that’s strictly speaking not subsective, since California fuschia is not in fact in the genus Fuchsia — but its genus, Epilobium, is closely related to Fuchsia, and you could argue that the common name fuchsia takes in a range of plants, not limited to the botanists’ Fuchsia., in which case California fuchsia would be a perfectly ordinary subsective compound, not a resembloid.


Sago palms

August 25, 2017

From Tim Wilson a few months back, a note about a sago palm (Cycas revoluta) of his. Fascinating plants, sago palms: extraordinarily long-lived, botanically much closer to pines than palms (despite their palm-like appearance), widely cultivated, and also regrettably toxic. An informational diagram (from the Orange County Register) in an article about the dangers to pets:



An urban jungle

August 19, 2017

Back on the 12th, I posted about the “War of the Weeds” in back of the Palo Alto downtown library, across the street from my house: a contest between common ivy, ailanthus, and golden bamboo for control of the territory. Now I have better photos, showing the whole length of the jungle, in three sections, without cars.

Meanwhile, at the Y where I go to my senior fitness class, there’s a whole rank of California peppertrees covered with red berries, and with leaves already turning for the fall.

All this caused me to delve into the notion of an urban jungle. Turns out different people have very different ideas about what that phrase refers to, and that exploration will take us to Hong Kong, Chongqing, urban gardening, and “wild” parks in various cities, including the Ramble in NYC’s Central Park — with Al Pacino in full gay cruise mode.


The War of the Weeds

August 12, 2017

On Facebook on the 4th, from Michael Siemon in Oakland CA, photos of rampant golden bamboo and common ivy in his backyard jungle. Amanda Walker wondered if they could be pitted against one another. The ensuing exchange:

Michael Siemon: They are fighting it out with salvia and ferns for total control of the back yard, down to Temescal Creek. We keep all of them (mostly!) cut back beyond the small path around the back of the house…

Arnold Zwicky: In back of the downtown Palo Alto Library (across the street from my house) this variety of bamboo, incredibly aggressive ivy, and trees of heaven (ailanthus) are warring on the fence line with the property to the south. More than a little scary.

Ailanthus and common ivy are known to be allelopathic (chemically inhibiting the growth of other plants) and golden bamboo is suspected of being so.

Now for some pictures.


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