Archive for the ‘Language and plants’ Category

The kangaroo’s paw

July 21, 2016

(Mostly about plants rather than language.)

A visit with Juan Gomez to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden this morning. Mostly a riot of midsummer garden standards (dahlias, alstromerias, phlox, snapdragons, foxgloves, ageratum, zinnias, cornflowers, salvias, rose of sharon, yarrows, and much, much more), but with some surprises in there, including a stand of a wonderfully weird plant that turned out to be a celebrated Australian native that’s been bred in a number of varieties and exported to (at least) the U.K. and the U.S.: kangaroo paw.

A (not fantastic) photo of the variety we saw, “Tequila Sunrise”:



Garden moments

July 15, 2016

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes in my comics feed:


In the land of sentient plants.

Meanwhile, I’ve been laboring on getting my little container garden in hand, after a decade of devastation, neglect, and drought. Into the land of vegetative reproduction (cymbidiums,geraniums / pelargoniums, coleus / plecranthus) and nurturing some gift plants (two succulent gardens, kalanchoe, penstemon, and hydrangea).


Name that succulent

July 7, 2016

On the way home from getting my hair shorn professionally (by the excellent Gerardo, of the Cardinal Barbershop just up the street from me — in a shop with most of the original furnishings from 43 years ago, including Gerardo) — past some drought-conscious plantings alongside Palo Alto City Hall: a plantation of gray-green succulents that looked remarkably like artichokes. At home, searching on “succulents that look like artichokes”, I got a huge pile of references to various Agave species, especially Agave parryi (common name “artichoke agave”!), and two of its varieties, var. truncata:


and var. huachucensis (with somewhat tighter “heads” than truncata):



Notes on my father

June 29, 2016

I have a backlog of Fathers Day postings, which have been impeded by the labors of contracting my belongings into a small space. A process that unearthed reminders of my dad. In more or less reverse order: the original Arnold M. Zwicky on vacation; the nameplate from his desk at work (as a public health officer); and plates from a wonderful wildflower book he picked up in Switzerland in his youth.


It was 13 years ago today…

June 3, 2016

Well, Sunday, not actually today, and Sgt. Pepper’s Band has nothing to do with it. As I wrote here on the 1st:

Back in late January, I posted about a visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto for a breakfast outdoors … That day was just after my man Jacques’s birthday (his 74th). Today is just before Jacques’s 2003 death day (on Sunday), so there’s a certain symmetry to these two plant postings.

Jacques was a plant person, roses especially, but also tree peonies and daylilies and tomatoes and lots more. He valued plants for their beauty, their scent, and their culinary usefulness, but was wary of plants whose attraction lies mostly in their quirkiness (like Kniphofia, or red hot poker, #1 in my recent Gamble Garden posting; and he detested the showy bird-of-paradise plant).

But the roses, oh the roses.


From late winter

June 1, 2016

Back in late January, I posted about a visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto for a breakfast outdoors, among early spring flowers and

some winter-blooming ornamentals that I haven’t yet posted about: red hot poker [which brings us to a plant family not previously posted about here: Xanthorrhoeaceae, #57 on this blog], strawflowers, and Euryops virgineus (honey daisy) in particular [also Asphodelus, asphodels]. I’ll get to them in a later posting, a posting in which I’ll also get to [two] plants from the Gamble’s Australian desert garden, plants that are probably blooming here now because they’re still on a Southern Hemisphere internal clock [Chameleucium uncinatum and Boronia crenulata].

Not in bloom, but very noticeable, was an agave [much like Agave americana, with its great big, spiky, fleshy leaves]

That day was just after my man Jacques’s birthday (his 74th). Today is just before Jacques’s 2003 death day (on Sunday), so there’s a certain symmetry to these two plant postings.


Memorial pun

May 29, 2016

On (US) Memorial Day Eve, this Dan Thompson Brevity cartoon passed on by Betsy Herrington on Facebook:


A distant pun, with the original and the pun differing both segmentally and prosodically, but all that is surmounted if you know the original: Humphrey Bogart (caricatured in #1, in trenchcoat and fedora) to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca: “Here’s looking at you, kid”.


Three natives

May 24, 2016

A brief visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto on Monday (brief in part because my joints weren’t up to much walking), with Juan Gomez. Some things we could admire from afar, as lush spreads of gorgeous blooms, including annual sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), in an extraordinary range of colors, trained on wooden teepees. We tarried mostly in the California native plant section, which had lots of wonderful things, three of which I’ll report on here: two species in genera I’ve reported on, and one brand-new genus (in a recently created plant family).


Morning name: nemesia

May 12, 2016

It’s a flower, one that’s been gorgeously in bloom (in mounds in gardens) locally for a while; though I don’t consciously recall identifying the plant as I passed by it, its name seems to have filtered into my subsconscious, to make a morning name yesterday. Nemesia strumosa ‘Carnival’ in a mixed assortment (the local ones are mostly in the yellow and orange range):

Three things: about the plant, about its name, and about flowers of the current season.


The weed annals III

May 7, 2016

The last instalment of selections from the Farm Weeds of Canada volume from roughly a century ago; earlier postings here and here. The plates from these volumes (a gift from Steven Levine) appear here first of all, as objects of art: scientific illustrations, yes, from which much can be learned, but also gorgeous and often moving compositions. Two not in previous postings, both meriting inclusion in the Farm Weeds volume because they are familiar, of considerable economic importance, and serious nuisances (handle with care):



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