31 August 2007

Aloe cooperi

Aloe cooperi
For whatever reason, this is the most exciting flower to me since, I don't know, the Beschorneria. I guess I have a problem with small and obscure succulents -- as long as they'll grow in the open garden.

Anyway, the grass Aloes (I think there are something like 6-10 species) are from eastern (i.e. summer-rainfall) South Africa. They both look like grass (kind of), and they grow among grasses. Here's an excellent blog post, and a predictably depressing discussion of their conservation status. At least some of them are winter deciduous, although mine hung onto its leaves last year. Are you paying attention yet? Summer rain + winter deciduous means you can grow them away from the west coast. Tony Avent says A. cooperi is hardy to Zone 7b. You can also order it from Annie's, sometimes.

Labels: ,

23 August 2007


H. coronarium
Finally, after eighteen months, I got my first "butterfly ginger" (Hedychium coronarium) flower. The smell is amazing, very like gardenia. But I suspect it will never be terribly free-flowering here, so we are talking about a lot of water for a paltry return, however beautiful.

[Furthermore, this flower turns out not to be the mysterious "mariposa" that I was looking for, although it is also fragrant and white and called a mariposa in Mexico.]

So the jury is still out... H. gardnerianum flowers better here, I think, but the color is a little dreary... Maybe 'Tara' has more going on.

first lily
Which brings us to a small dilemma. The ginger is currently in a large pot (fear the rhizome) next to a small bed of Casablanca lilies. The first one opened this morning, 1 day after the ginger. (If they all get going at the same time I will probably just keel over from aromatic overload). There is some room around the lilies for companion plants, but the question is what. I try to make sure they're (relatively) dry in winter and (more or less) well-watered in summer, i.e., the opposite of my climate. It would be nice to have something to look at when the lilies die back.

Intoxicated gardener (and lily freak) Elizabeth and Saskatchewanian (?) Kate have kindly offered some interesting suggestions, but the more the merrier! [Also -- I say this as gently as possible -- their ideas of winter interest are perhaps obscured by a bit more snow than the average Californian's].

Labels: , , , ,

22 August 2007


The latest Curtis's Botanical Magazine features an extraordinary illustration of the long-extinct Norfolk Island endemic Solanum bauerianum, reconstructed from Ferdinand Bauer's original drawings by Marion Westmacott:

Solanum bauerianum As with all his expedition field drawings, those of Solanum bauerianum are marked with numbers referring to a colour-code, each number referring to a different shade. Bauer used simple codes when working in Europe, that with 150 shades being preserved in the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid, though a more elaborate one with 250 shades used for drawings to become Sibthorp’s Flora Graeca, has never been found (Lack & Ibáñez 1997, Lack 1999). For his Pacific work, Bauer devised a system with a thousand shades [emphasis mine]. Although it is also lost (if it ever existed in full), it has been possible (Pignatti-Wikus et al. 2000), by comparing the real colours of living plants in Western Australia with the numbers (2–994) used in extant Bauer sketches of the same species there, to reconstruct it.

There were a hundred different shades each of red, purple to pink, pink to mauve, and lilac and violet to blue, two hundred shades of green, a hundred each of yellow, orange, brown and white through grey to black. He also used cryptic abbreviated German and English words to designate texture and shininess. Bauer prepared a field sketch from living material before it faded, adding the numbers to indicate the colour shades to be used later to work up the finished drawing in watercolour. Such an elaborate code seems never to have been used by any other artist. Unwieldy as it seems, it allows the most sensitive depiction of colours of the living plant.

David Mabberley, Erika Pignatti-Wikus, and Christa Riedl-Dorn, "An Extinct Tree 'Revived'," Curtis's Botanical Magazine 24 (3) (2007), 190–195. At Blackwell-Synergy.

Note that the article is copyrighted by everyone, including Kew and Blackwell, and the illustration presumably by Marion Westmacott as well. Certainly Curtis's deserves credit for their work, which is not cheap for obvious reasons, but the danger is that such a rare publication will remain unknown to its audience. Anyway, the above is meant as a fair use indication of the interest of the article, the skill of the illustrator, and the excellence of the magazine, and why one might want to subscribe.

Although it isn't Bauer's sexiest work, his illustrations for Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martius's Historia naturalis palmarum, scanned by MOBOT, give a sense at least of his incredible precision.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

15 August 2007


cali fuchsia

All of a sudden, the garden seems full. My strategy all along has just been to buy interesting plants, stick them in somewhere, and see how they did -- and how I liked them. "Design" was something that would work itself out eventually (much to my long-suffering wife's chagrin).

Well, the first of the fall bulbs arrived today, and they (mostly) have to go into the bulb bed -- which you may be able to discern under the California fucshia to the right -- and I'm pretty much out of room.

Sure, I can stick a few more things in a few more borders, particularly if I ever tackle that thuggish pelargonium, but the die is cast. Now I have to start moving things around.

The bulbs:

  • Calochortus simulans*
  • Calochortus umbellatus
  • Corydalis solida 'G. P. Baker'*
  • Colchicum cilicicum 'Glory of Heemstede'*
  • Crocus cartwrightianus
  • Crocus gargaricus
  • Crocus pulchellus 'Zephyr'
  • Crocus sativus 'Cashmerianus'
  • Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus
  • Fritillaria affinis 'Wayne Roderick'
  • Fritillaria purdyi striata*
  • Gladiolus debilis
  • Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor
  • Lachenalia liliflora
  • Nerine sarniensis var. corusca major
  • Tulipa clusiana

* D'oh! Just because you order 'em, doesn't mean you get 'em.

Labels: , , ,

03 August 2007

Status report

I guess I've dropped the ball on the point of this blog, which was to act as my garden journal. The demand for my pontifications on topics such as natural selection was just overwhelming. It's to the point where I've even considered using the oft-maligned (in my head) twitter to chronicle more prosaic events, like the year's first tomatoes, which I think happened two weeks ago.

Anyway, I've always resisted the siren call of tomatoes, because thousands of farmers in a 100 mile radius have vastly superior tomato conditions than I, but this year I tried the 'Maglia rossa', bred by Baia Nicchia specifically for our heat-starved microclimates. They are beautiful, prolific, and early, and the flavor so far is good, if not earth-shattering. Might be a keeper.

In other diaristic news, a rapidly-looming vacation forced some last-minute irrigation improvization with 150 feet of soaker hose, which, barring catastrophe will work better than last year's foreign housesitter.

Labels: , ,

© 2006