25 June 2007


I celebrated the solstice by ignoring a variety of garden chores and buying more plants. The object of the trip was a rare species Impatiens: I ended with 3 Impatiens and 10 or so other plants, including a 12' shrub that I seriously have no room for. The Impatiens were a reasonable purchase, however, as the little space I do have is in the shade. If you doubt my "taste" (or at least my taste for the exotic), I urge you to check out the species on Mr. Impatiens's website: there's a lot more going on in this genus than you'll find at Home Depot.

I. niamniamensis by van swearigen
The plant that "spurred" me to get off my ass is called I. niamniamensis, the species name derived from a derogatory term for the Azande people of central Africa that (onomatopoeically) refers to their alleged (and totally undocumented) cannibalism.

Some people undoubtedly deplore the survival of epithets like this, but I think their retention is a fitting memorial to colonialism and the taxonomy that accompanied it. Seriously, check out the 1911 Brittanica.

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20 June 2007

On failure

My last discussion of seeds was prematurely triumphalist. The seeds I care most about -- the Calochortus and Fritillaria -- worked out fine (or seemed to: if I wanted to I could torture myself wondering whether they gone dormant or just died). But my assumption that the Allium and Erythronium would work out fine was of course unwarranted. Though I'm not giving up hope yet: assuming I failed to germinate seed that remains viable, nature, in the form of fall rains and diurnal temperature variation, will probably succeed where I failed.

But no sooner had I retired that batch for the season than my panicky order from Silverhill arrived: something like 20 more species from South Africa. Most of these can be sown in the fall, but a few demanded immediate attention, particularly the Haemanthus sanguineus, one of which had germinated en route. I have no idea why I stupidly ordered only 3 seeds, but you can imagine my reaction today when I discovered that the only one that sprouted had been mown down at soil level. Even if I knew the perp, the rage would remain self-directed for ordering so few.

On the other hand, I'm finally getting some action from Cyrtanthus obliquus, so I need to concentrate on not fucking that up, instead of wallowing in self-pity and/or -hatred. Onward and upward!

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12 June 2007

Amateur hour

The mystery Penstemon is blooming again. I went out and abused it with the macro lens in another attempt to ID it. I also enlisted the magnifying glass (OED), metric ruler (Keroppi), and even the fancy pencils my mom gave me (Faber Castell 4B) in an -- ultimately vain -- attempt to understand what was going on with the thyrse , among other things.

It's amazing how hard it is to look at a plant and really see it: I was surprised that my previous flailings in this area were relatively accurate.

Now, in addition to the apparatus just enumerated, I own both the best book about Penstemons and the definitive articles on the Mexican species published by Richard Straw in the Boletin de la Sociedad Botanica De Mexico in the '60s, and I still can't figure it out. After many travails I managed to key it out (sort of) to P. skutchii, a species Straw named but never saw, and which is now apparently regarded as an invalid synonym of P. gentianoides. Fine, you say, leave it at that. Believe me, I'd love to. But P. gentianoides has blue flowers.

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08 June 2007

Losing my mind

When a perhaps unhealthy obsession with plants collides with an incontrovertibly unhealthy* obsession with lolcats, the results are not pretty. Avert your gaze.

Anyway.... The point is that this poppy thinks it can avoid its rendezvous with destiny, i.e. the compost, by continuing to flower like a maniac. What it fails to understand is that its flowers mean nothing to me unless I can see them. Which I can't because we don't have enough winter chill hours to induce sufficient internode elongation.

u has mah bukkit?*Seriously, I almost crashed the car when I saw the UHAUL lolrus this morning:

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