Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Rose

Walking home the other day I passed by the garden in which I had taken the third picture in this post. The rose hedge had been trimmed, and the sidewalk was littered with the leftover bits and pieces. Among them I found a small, pretty bunch of buds still unopened and a nice healthy shoot which I took home, the former for the vase and the latter to try to make a cutting of it.

The small spray of buds blossoming in a little glass of water

Does anyone want to hazard a guess what variety this might be? The flowers are deliciously fragrant and I am tempted to think it might be some sort of Damask, but I might well be wrong. Either way, it would be great if the cutting took and I could add this one to my own garden.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ramadan Kareem!

In the Moroccan Garden at Taman Botani, Putrajaya, Malaysia

رمضان كريم

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cactus Flower

The Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) is an awesome hardy cactus native to much of eastern North America. In Michigan I have been growing it for close to a decade now, and from the small sapling I originally planted at our first place there it has multiplied into a number of large colonies scattered around my parents' current property, helped by the fact that the pads  will root very easily and a number of pads often fall off from a plant during winter and spring. Of course, I eventually also brought some cuttings back with me as well, and now they are blooming for the first time.

Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa)

My success with other cold-hardy cacti has been limited so far, but I do have another species of Opuntia - though I am unsure which one - that has been growing in the Michigan garden for two years and when I was there a few weeks ago seemed to be setting flower buds for the first time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poppy #2

The first flower opened today on the second row of opium or breadseed poppies (Papaver somniferum):

If my memory serves me right this row is 'Ziar', though since according to a quick Google image search the flowers of 'Ziar' and 'Elka' are virtually indistinguishable, I will not know for sure until I harvest the seeds.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

More from the Garden

Just a few more flowers from the garden today, since at this time of year there is such an abundance of them.

Stocks (Matthiola incana) being all ruffly and fabulous

Another stock, sadly underdeveloped but with an interesting color

Pelargonium 'Attar of Roses' - Dainty and deliciously scented!

Dwarf Asiatic lilies (Lilium cv.)

The first orange daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva)

I am contemplating what I should plant amongst the daylilies and irises to keep the show going later in the summer and fall. Right now there do not seem to be many plants for late-season color in the garden...

Monday, June 23, 2014


This morning the first flowers opened on my 'Hungarian Blue Breadseed' opium poppies. They are a beautiful plum purple, which is what they are supposed to be according to the seed packet and most of the pictures on the internet, but after getting only white flowers with pale pink basal blotches from another batch of seeds supposedly of the same variety a few years ago, I was half expecting those more muted flowers. All the better then that these actually turned out as advertised!

'Hungarian Blue Breadseed' poppy (Papaver somniferum cv.)

Now I am still waiting for the buds of 'Elka' and 'Ziar' to open. The plants of these varieties - about whose history you can read more here - are even bigger and more vigorous, so I am hoping for some big flowers and lots of seed!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Roses Around Town

The roses are in bloom around here and they are oh so wonderful. Never having been around during the month of June in previous years I never really realized how many roses people grow around here and how well they do at this time of year. Here is just a sample:

I for my part recently received my first order of roses from Rose Petals Nursery, which consisted of one plant each of 'Slater's Crimson China' and 'Old Blush'. These are two China roses which are believed to have been the first of their kind to be introduced from China to Europe in the late 18th century and which became pivotal in the breeding of modern repeat-blooming classes of roses. Now I am only waiting on another order from a different nursery containing 'Gruss an Teplitz', a China-Bourbon hybrid produced in 1897 by Rudolf Geschwind in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. While it is nowadays rare in the West - even rarer than the already rare other Bourbons, Damasks, and various other antique roses that have been so aggressively displaced by hybrid teas, polyanthas, and most recently those soulless, plastic-y 'Knock-Out' cultivars - it continues to be widely cultivated commercially in the Indian Subcontinent, presumably because it combines the heat resistance and continuous bloom of the China roses with heavy Damask/Bourbon fragrance. I, in any case, am excited to give it a try.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Flowers from the Garden

There are all sorts of things blooming in the garden downstairs now, both in my raised beds and in the more communal flowers beds around the edges of the garden:

Stocks (Matthiola incana), always amongst my favorites...

... and this time I seem to have gotten plants of almost every color in the mix!

Virginia stock (Malcolmia maritima)

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) - the flowers are silky and luminous but their color always hard to capture in pictures

Firecracker flower (Dichelostemma ida-maia)

My dinner tonight consisted of a big bowl of mâche (Valerianella locusta) salad fresh from the garden, dressed simply with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, pepper, salt, and lots of lemon juice, with some walnuts and fresh blueberries scattered over the top. Now that the days are hot, the mâche has to be harvested quickly before it bolts and goes to seed. In Germany it is a traditional and very common cold-season green; unfortunately in this country it is comparatively little grown or appreciated.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Bit of History

Saudi Arabia's national oil company Saudi Aramco produces a free bimonthly magazine entitled Saudi Aramco World. With the tag line "Arab and Islamic cultures and connections," it deals not with fossil fuels but contains mainly articles on the history and cultures of the Islamic and Islamicate world. In the current May/June 2014 issue, for example, there is an article on a historic Muslim minority in northeastern Poland and contemporary efforts by its members to preserve their culture, as well as this not-too-bad article:

Flowers from the East

It touches on a few of the things I work on in my academic work, though it focuses a bit more on the Middle East - and particularly the Ottoman Empire - than on South Asia, no doubt because that is what much of the existing scholarship has focused on.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

June Lushness

I am back from Michigan and happy to report that the little garden plot here back east is doing great, thanks in no small part, I am sure, to the attention and effort of my wonderful neighbors while I was gone. Mustard, stocks, and California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) are blooming already, and the opium poppies have grown nice and fat and will hopefully soon send up buds as well.

 My garden patch as seen from one end

Seen from the other side, with the opium poppies filling up the nearer of the two raised beds

A first harvest - mint for tea, some lemon balm to be dried for later use, and lettuce for lunch

The heat-loving things like eggplants and melons have not grown that much yet but they are so far healthy and sturdy, so hopefully as the summer heat settles in they will pick up the pace and grow to fill up the space that will eventually be vacated by these spring and early summer flowers and crops.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Just a Few More...

Another sample of things blooming in the Michigan garden right now:

Herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora cv.)

Rosa multiflora, which rather an invasive weed really - I never planted it, yet it comes up all around the property - but pretty nonetheless

Another variety of bearded iris

A delicate Siberian iris (Iris sibirica cv.)

Amsonia 'Blue Ice'

Indigofera kirilowii

Pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa)

There are also a few things that look lovely but do not photograph well at all, such as the red oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) or some bright pink Dianthus. Maybe one of these days I really should get a proper camera...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

More Blooms

It is that time of the year when something new comes into bloom almost every day while other flowers fade away as quickly as they appeared.

Helianthemum 'Wisley Primrose'

A fringed pink (Dianthus superbus)

A little pink bulbous plant that came up between some lilies and irises, a kind of Allium I suppose

A big perennial cornflower (Centaurea montana) between emerging clumps of Hosta plantaginea

My darkest bearded iris

I am still moving around plants that would be in the way of the patio extension. There used to be lots of empty spots in the beds to which I have been transplanting them, but now they are filling up fast. Hopefully this way not just the terrace but the whole garden will end up looking a lot better because of this project.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Out and About: Lafayette Park in Detroit, Michigan

Lafayette Park is a small housing development built in the first half of the 1960s on the east side of Detroit. Consisting of two high-rise apartment buildings and a small grid of one- and two-story townhouses as well as an elementary school and a tiny shopping center, the complex was designed by the famous modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) and is rather representative of his signature style. In between and all around the lovely, airy residences are leafy, manicured grounds that shield the neighborhood from the surrounding roads and the city.

One of the rows of two-story townhouses

In between blocks

Across the neighborhood green

I was surprised to find that the school integrated into the complex had lush red-leafed Canna growing all along the front of the building. The building must leak heat like crazy for these tender tropicals to have not only survived one of the harshest winters on record but to have already regrown to a height of two feet or so by the end of May when spring had been so late and comparatively cool.

A red-leafed Canna cultivar flourishing seemingly without any help along the outside walls of the neighborhood school

Detroit is, of course, a famously troubled city, and while there is much more to see and do than many people think, large parts of it are still not exactly pretty. Lafayette Park, however, is beautiful, even if it is only a small enclave, and definitely worth a look.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

(Late) May Flowers

My apologies for not posting for so long; after those two big general exams - which I passed! - I came home to Michigan, and then the best of significant others came for a whirlwind visit that was wonderful but as always much too short. Hopefully we are really in the home stretch now of that pesky long-distance deal. In the meantime, the garden here has come along nicely, even with the damage from the extreme winter and the delay from the late spring.

Columbines (Aquilegia cv.) in the front yard

Creeping mazus (Mazus reptans)

Perennial flax (Linum lewisii)

One bearded iris...

... and another one, positively luminous

Later this summer the terrace in the backyard is supposed to be resurfaced and expanded toward one side, so today I began moving some of the plants that will otherwise be in the way of the new construction. I started with some of the most valuable  a dwarf crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), the Bourbon rose 'Honorine de Brabant', and my winter-flowering heather (Erica carnea), and a few other things, but there is enough in those beds to keep me busy for a few more days.