Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall Travels 2015 - Part 1: Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA

The weekend before last I went home to my parents' place in Michigan - I  already posted a few flowers from the garden there - and that Sunday, while enjoying the most glorious fall weather, my mom and I took a walk around Cranbrook, the historic estate and gardens at the heart of the Cranbrook Educational Community. The latter encompasses not just PK-12 schools but also a prestigious and historically important graduate school of art and design, an art museum, a science museum, and an Episcopal church. I have written about Cranbrook before, but the gardens looked particularly beautiful a week ago so I wanted to post some of the pictures.

View along the Reflecting Pool towards the Cranbrook Art Museum

A lovely toad lily (Tricyrtis sp.)

The mansion bathed in autumn sun

The Herb Garden

On one of the terraces between the house and the Sunken Garden

The Sunken Garden from above

Perennial borders in the Sunken Garden

Another view of one of the beautiful long borders

A white Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis cv.)

An autumnal riot of New England asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae cvs.)

Apparently the greenhouse range, which is located just behind the Sunken Garden, can be visited on certain days as well. I never knew about this, but I will have to make sure to check it out next time I am back in Michigan.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Happy Eid ul-Adha!

"The Feast of Sacrifice" goes by many different names across the Muslim World, including 'īd ul-Kabīr, Baqr 'īd, 'īd-i Qurbān, Kurban Bayramı, and Hari Raya Korban

 In the Moroccan Garden at Taman Botani, Putrajaya, Malaysia

عید مبارک

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Beauties of the Night

I grow a number of plants that bloom at night, including regular four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) and Epiphyllum strictum. The former have been blooming continuously since July, and the latter is currently producing its third flush of flowers this summer. Two more species have come into bloom more recently. The sweet four o'clock (Mirabilis longiflora) has been flowering for a couple of weeks, but the buds open so late in the day that it is a challenge to get a picture before it gets dark. Meanwhile the moonflower (Ipomoea alba) just began blooming three days ago.

Sweet four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa)

Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)

Unfortunately, the moonflowers do not really get going until the weather gets really hot, and do not set buds until the days get short enough again. As a result, their season here in New England is quite short. However, even if I only get a handful of flowers each year, I think those huge silvery discs are well worth the minimal effort of planting a few seeds in late May and watering and fertilizing the plants through the summer.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mystery Plant

Today while walking the dog my mom and I passed by the Bloomfield Township Public Library, and noticed a beautiful, sprawling shrub covered over and over in elegantly drooping clusters of purple pea flowers.

The shrub as a whole

A branch full of flower clusters

A close-up of the flowers

Does anybody happen to know what plant this is?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

La vie en rose

I am visiting my parents in Michigan for the weekend, which of course also means I am checking in on the garden here. Dry, hot weather has left its mark here as well, though perhaps not as much as back in the Boston area. Much of the garden is beginning to take on autumnal hues, and among the things actually in bloom, saturated shades of red and pink definitely predominate.

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea cv.)

Flowering maple (Abutilon x hybridum)

A bright pink New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae cv.)

A semi-double Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis cv.)

The bougainvillea is putting on its best show ever. It was a souvenir from a trip to Florida many years ago, and was languishing without flowering or growing much in a pot that had gotten much too small for a long time until last year I finally moved it to a big container. Since then it has been growing and blooming like crazy. It spends the winter in my parents' cool, bright sitting room and the summer on the south-facing front steps of the house. The flowering maple is the last survivor of whole host of Abutilons in many different colors that I raised from a packet of seed when I was in high school. It, too, spends the winters in the sitting room but in the summer it occupies a cooler, shadier spot on the terrace in the backyard. The Japanese anemone, too, is a survivor from my first Michigan garden, where it had formed a huge clump that flowered like crazy quite late in the fall. In this garden, in a spot with more consistent moisture and slightly less sun, it has been much slower to establish itself and for some reason blooms quite a bit earlier.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - September 2015

Fall has not quite arrived here yet, but the temperatures have dropped somewhat and this past weekend we finally got a good bit of rain after weeks of drought. The effect is already noticeable in the garden, as many plants are perking up noticeably. Alas, not that much is really in full bloom as many summer-flowering annuals and perennials are coming to an end and the fall bloomers have not really gotten started yet. Here are therefore just a few things that look good at the moment:

The first blossom of the Arabian jasmine's (Jasminum sambac 'Maid of Orleans') latest flush of 

Nicotiana sylvestris

 Nicotiana mutabilis - this one is sending up scores of new flowering shoots at the moment

 'Old Fashioned Vining' petunia - somehow the white-flowered plants are always a bit more vigorous and keep going for longer than then pink and purple ones

 Persian basil (Ocimum sp.)

Four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), which in my garden stubbornly refuse to open before 7:00pm

Rosa 'Old Blush' 

Now off to teach introductory Urdu to a class off eager college students. To see what is blossoming in other people's gardens, check out Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Argentine Treasures

The best of significant others spent the past week on a business trip to Brazil, with a weekend side trip to visit a friend in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Ever the thoughtful one, he brought back gifts: lots of different alfajores stuffed with dulce de leche, chocolate filled with dulce de leche and a big tub of the delicious milky, caramelly stuff to boot, and two issues of the gardening magazine Jardín.

 I am spoiled

The gardening magazines are lovely - sleek, contemporary, with beautiful photographs. They are also very patriotic. Even just the titles of the cover stories suggest as much: "Primavera nacional" or "National Spring" for the regular spring issue, and "Encanto argentino: una mirada sobre nuestra identidad" or "Argentine Enchantment: a Look at Our Identity" for a special issue dedicated entirely to beautiful estates and landscapes in different parts of Argentina. This nationalist tenor continues throughout the elegantly illustrated articles. There is the extensive article about spring-flowering ornamental trees native to Argentina and the feature about flowering tobaccos (Nicotiana sp.) that pointedly distinguishes between species native to Argentina (Nicotiana alata, Nicotiana sylvestris, Nicotiana longiflora, Nicotiana langsdorffii) and all those whose origins lie elsewhere, whether nearby in neighboring southern Brazil (Nicotiana mutabilis) or further north in Peru and Bolivia (Nicotiana glutinosa) or even Central and North America (Nicotiana rustica). Then there is a column about how pests and plant diseases "enter" - that is, how they arrive in Argentina. Brazil is evidently to blame for most troubles unleashed on Argentine gardeners, including such horrors as the giant African snail (Achatina fulica), but plant material illegally introduced from Europe brought with it the plum pox virus or sharka. Now, the spread of invasive species and pests is definitely a serious issue, and the use of native plants - especially in a country with such stunning native vegetation as Argentina has - is certainly to be commended and a big topic in gardening publications in many parts of the world. Nonetheless, it feels as though here there is more in play - as if the verbal barrage of "national", "native", "indigenous," "Argentinian", etc., has as much to do with nationalist ideology as with environmentalism.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Few Flowers

It is only a week until the next Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - unbelievable how time flies! - but in the meantime I thought I would post a few things that are blooming now.

A yellow-and-red wild form of Canna indica, grown from seed collected in the backyard of a friend's place in New Orleans

A flower of okra (Abelmoschus esculentus)

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) - these were grown from seeds collected in a neighboring yard and now, in their second season, are flowering for the first time

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)

Spanish needles (Bidens alba) - the seeds for this, too, come from a trip to New Orleans; it is probably considered a weed in some of the warmer parts of the country, but I think it is lovely and so far it has been well behaved in the garden

I did not actually notice until I began putting this post together that all these flowers are yellow and/or white. Yay for accidental color schemes!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Beguiling Berries

While perusing the fascinating catalog of heirloom plant varieties of the Austrian organization Arche Noah (German for "Noah's Ark"), which dedicates itself to preserving crop biodiversity, I came across a category of strawberries under the heading "Erdbeere, Moschus- (Fragaria moschata)". I had not encountered such "musk strawberries" before, so naturally I was intrigued - even more so because the descriptions of all of the varieties - 'Askungen', 'Blindendorf Thumfart', 'Capron Royal', 'Marie Charlotte', and 'Profumata di Tortona' - stressed how intensely aromatic they are. I did some research, of course, and came across this fascinating, if old, article:

Berried Treasure

Needless to say, I will now have to grow some musk strawberries. Hopefully with some further research I will find out where to get some transplants of 'Marie Charlotte' and 'Profumata di Tortona', and maybe 'Capron Royal'. Those are evidently the most historic of the available varieties, and besides, their names sound the most enticing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gratifying Greenery

I tend to post a lot of pictures of showy flowers, but there is also a lot of satisfaction in observing the vegetative growth of plants and the swelling of fruit and setting of seeds. This is especially true, of course, of useful plants like herbs, spices, and grains. Here are a few that are doing well for me right now:

Tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

A baby pandan plant (Pandanus amaryllifolius)

Curry leaf (Murraya koenigii)

'India Jvala' hot pepper (Capsicum annuum 'India Jvala')

'M-101' rice (Oryza sativa 'M-101'), a modern Californian variety that is doing very well this year

The 'Duborskian' rice has been harvested, though due to very hot and dry weather while it was flowering and we were away in Malaysia, its yield is quite poor this year, with lots of blanks on almost every stalk. 'M-101', which was blooming just as we got back three weeks ago and is starting to ripen now appears to be doing much better. 'Hmong Sticky' is just about to begin heading, as are a few plants which I think are yet another variety - though I have lost track of whether those particular ones were 'Koshihikari', 'Carolina Gold', or 'Charleston Gold'. Hopefully at least a few heads will have a chance to develop properly, in which case it should be easy to tell the variety by the shape and color of the grains.