Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

Orchids in the rain

January 9, 2018

The first of the blooms on the Jacques orchids (as I think of them), in yesterday’s rain:



Spathy in maturity

January 4, 2018

I call my spathiphyllum Spathy /spǽθi/ for short. Its most recent bloom, which started out all white and calla-like, has now matured to a handsome green:

The mature bloom on the left, a younger bloom (seen from behind) on the right. The plant in its native habitat, on my worktable. (Warwick Rowers engaged in naked horseplay in the background, among other things.)


Yet more green leaves and red berries

December 20, 2017

On the way back from a tea quest to Whole Foods this morning, we came across a handsome low evergreen shrub with stunning yellow-green plumes of leaves, hiding green berries and displaying ripened red berries. The larger scene:

(#1) SkinSpirit, the neighbor in back of my condo complex; crucial plant in bottom right corner


The saguaro in bloom

December 7, 2017

Here in northern California, we’ve had some early rain — not very often and not a lot, but enough to turn the golden hillsides to bright new green. And enough to convince the cacti and succulents in Stanford’s Arizona Garden that Their Time Has Come, so they’re bursting with new growth and breaking out in flowers. Notably, a big ol’ saguaro cactus has thrown out huge creamy blossoms, much like these in this photo from the net:

(#1) The state flower of AZ; NM claims the yucca

Meanwhile, the saguaro serves as an anthromorphic symbol — a man with both arms in the air — and a phallic symbol (an interpretation encouraged by the fact that the cactus is, oh dear, prickly).


100 years of independence

December 6, 2017

Though today is one of the dark days of early December alluded to in my recent posting — it’s Mozart’s death day, a sad occasion indeed — it’s also St. Nicholas’s day (gifts!), and Chris Waigl’s birthday (eggcorns, remote sensing of wildfires in the Arctic, Python, knitting, and more, in three languages!), and Independence Day in Finland. As Riitta Välimaa-Blum reminds me, this year’s Independence Day is something spectacular: the centenary of Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia.

(#1) The Finnish flag

So raise a glass of Lakka (Finnish cloudberry liqueur) or Finlandia vodka, neat, to honor that difficult moment in 1917 — the year should call to your mind both World War I (still underway then) and the Russian revolution, and these enormous upheavals were in fact crucial to Finland’s wresting its independence from Russia.


A golden moment

December 1, 2017

On Wednesday, a visit to the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park, just a bit north of where I live, to appreciate its gardens in early winter but not in the rain. An Allied Arts trip always includes a walk through an elaborate formal garden in a courtyard and then on to an allée of classic hybrid tea roses, among them my man Jacques’s special favorite, ‘Mister Lincoln’ (bright red, sturdy, and highly scented; a Mister Lincoln stands over the spot where J’s ashes are buried in Maine).

Since my last visit, the courtyard had been re-worked into a golden garden, a riot of plants with yellow and orange flowers, mostly yellow. Sometimes subtle, often bold, but overall an astonishing sunny effect for the end of November, when a weak sun hangs low in the sky and deciduous trees are almost entirely bare. A garden featuring lots of yellow composites (plants in the aster, or daisy, family, formerly the Compositae, now the Asteraceae); trying to look them up brought me to the wonderful notion of DYCs: Damned Yellow Composites, pretty yellow flowers that are maddeningly difficult to distinguish. So hard to tell one DYC from another.


Xmas bell flowering maple

November 21, 2017


A plant masquerading as a gaudy glass Christmas ornament, or vice versa. Abutilon ‘Tiger Eye’, now blooming showily at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, along with some other less spectacular flowering maples. It’s their season.


Orchids on the march

November 13, 2017

Starting in May, we had a series of extraordinary heat waves, with record-breaking high temperatures again and again (sometimes 10 degrees F. above the record for the day). Then the heat waves broke and temperatures dropped by about 40 degrees, to something like normal. This seems to have convinced winter-blooming plants, like my cymbidium orchids, that winter had come, so they started sending up flower shoots. By Halloween, about six weeks early, we had this:

(#1) Yellow cymbidium in bloom


The succulent report

November 4, 2017

Garden news from Ramona St.: two succulents (a variegated agave and an aloe vera) advance, yellow cymbidium (orchid) comes into bloom. Pictures of the first two below, of the third to come (when the flowers open up fully).


The X-Bulbs, plus Greek Sword

October 27, 2017

It started a while back with a pair of morning names: Ixia and Sparaxis. Two showy bulbs, united by the letter X. They led to (in alphabetical order) ChionodoxaCyanixia, Hesperoxiphon, Ixiolirion, Oxalis, Xenoscapa. And from Hesperoxiphon, through its sword-bearing component (Gk. xiphos ‘sword’), to Xiphion, which we know now in its Latin version Gladiolus.

Along the way, some reflections on categorization and labeling in the plant world.