Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Eid ul-Fitr!

Wishing a very happy and blessed Eid ul-Fitr to all those who celebrate, especially in light of all the horrors that are engulfing so many parts of the world right now.

Masjid Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin in Putrajaya, Malaysia

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Bayramınız mübarek olsun

عيد مبارك

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flecked with Gold

I have tried growing four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) a number of times over the years and never had any success with them. Consequently I would always jealously admire them when I encountered them growing elsewhere with wild abandon, often in less-than-hospitable locations like tree pits on busy urban side walks - and I have seen them growing in such locations in places as different as the Boston North End, southern Portugal, and Singapore! Well, this year I tried again and finally had more luck:

A beautifully multicolored four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa)

One plant has been producing beautiful golden yellow flowers wildly flecked with rich raspberry pink, a color combination and pattern that makes me think of a sumptuous brocade or or very fancy Japanese paper. A second plant appears to be gearing up to produce deep pink flowers. The only draw-back is that, contrary to their common name, the flowers currently do not open until 7:30 pm or so when dusk is near and close by 8:00 am. Still, they are definitely worth it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Very Old Rose

In June I got two antique China roses from Rose Petals Nursery, 'Old Blush' and 'Slater's Crimson China'. These two varieties are believed to have been the first cultivars of Rosa chinensis to reach the West from China sometime in the 18th century. They were a great novelty due to their ability to flower continuously as long as the weather permits and became important ancestors of all the modern classes of roses that possess the ability to bloom repeatedly or continuously, from the fantastic Bourbons to the hybrid teas, polyanthas, and floribundas which have unfortunately come to define for most people what a rose is and should be. 'Old Blush' has yet to bloom but 'Slater's Crimson China' has been flowering for a while now and has a delicate charm all its own, quite distinct from many of its descendants.

 Rosa 'Slater's Crimson China'

The colors of the flowers is difficult to capture adequately in pictures; newly opened flowers like the ones at the top of the picture have a pinkish sheen and are slightly lighter towards the center, while older flowers like the one at the bottom darken somewhat. Some flowers also have a bit of white striation on the smaller innermost petals. The blooms have a light fragrance, very much a typical rose scent but only perceptible at very close range.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Odd Names and Beautiful Blooms

I used to grow  tobaccos - both cultivars of Nicotiana alata, the most common ornamental species, and the commercially-grown Nicotiana tabacum, which can be quite decorative as well - in the first Michigan garden years ago and was always very pleased with their ease of cultivation and abundant flowering. For the little garden plot here, then, I decided to give yet another species from the genus a try and ordered some seed of woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), generally sold as 'Only the Lonely'. I am not quite sure what the deal is with that somewhat odd name. Is it a cultivar name and all the seed offered different from the wild form? Or is it a colloquial name for the plant? If so, what is it in reference to? Whatever the story behind that may be, the plants have been as easy to grow and carefree as the other tobaccos, and the first is just beginning to bloom.

Woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)

The plant now beginning to bloom is the only one planted in one of the raised beds and is a bit bigger and more advanced than all the other ones that I stuck in much tougher, drier spots at the edge of the property. However, those specimens, too, seem healthy and are progressing well, so they seem to be quite adaptable and drought-tolerant.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Azaleas

Over the past week, I have been noticing white and very pale yellow azaleas blooming in gardens here and there. At first I thought those seemingly unseasonal blossoms were just stragglers but then I saw more and more of them, entire bushes happily flowering away. It turns out they are specimens of the sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens), a deciduous azalea native to the eastern United States that naturally flowers between the middle of summer and early fall.

Sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens)

So now this plant will be added to the long list of plants I shall have to have if I am ever so lucky as to have a sizable garden in these parts.