Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Plant version of Anni's Literary "meme"

Anni, who Blogs at Mayday 34°35'S 150°36'E sent me a literary challenge, which I am not sure that I am ready to handle. In the past I have been a very enthusiastic reader. In recent years, I have found myself reading plant books - reference books about native plants, Orchids, Peonies. I love these books. But I am sure these books are not what Anni was asking about.

Anyway, Anni suggested that I vary the "meme", to make it centred around plants - plants I have always grown, plants I have never managed to grow, plants that I wish nobody would ever grow, etc. You can see where this is heading. So, I am up for this challenge. I will stick as closely as I can to Anni's original literary questions.


One plant which changed your life:
I can answer this question in a very literal (not "literary") way. The plant in question is the Madagascan Periwinkle. As that link explains, it is the source of two extremely potent drugs used in Chemotherapy treatments - Vincristine and Vinblastine. The old Latin name for this plant is "Vinca", (which means a chain). That "latin root" (Vin...) appears in the names of the two drugs mentioned. The botanists have now revised the name, and it is officially called catharanthus roseus.

Anyway, as you have doubtless guessed by now, this was the source of one of the drugs with which I was treated last year, in my first round of Chemotherapy treatments for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. So, in a very physical way, this plant changed my life!

One plant you've grown more than once:
Well, there are many plants which meet that definition - such as Lawn Grasses. But speaking of plants which I value more that. The Rose "Just Joey" would be the best example. I love this plant, and always find myself planting it in any garden I have something to do with. I have donated one to the CTC in Robertson, where it is growing beside the main door. "Just Joey" is a "good doer", ("healthy as...." in the modern vernacular).

It is a large flowered modern Rose, with shades of pink and apricot in its flower. It has a slight tea scent, so one tends not to grow it for its perfume. I have a pair of "grafted standards" planted either side of my front door, so that it has enough stem height to give me flowers at eye height. Last year, when I was in hospital in Canberra, Anni posted this photo of one of my own "Just Joey" flowers, on her blog - which was very sweet of her.

I love the old fashioned roses, The Gallicas, the Damasks (especially Isphahan and Kazanlik) and the tough, but lovely Rugosas, from Japan, for their wonderful elegant, true "Rose perfume". "Just Joey" has none of that perfume (it has Tea Rose ancestry, alas). It also has a stupid name. However, despite these fundamental deficiencies, I still rate this plant as my favourite Rose.

One plant which made you giddy:
In this case, I would go for a perfumed plant. I am very responsive to the scents and odours emitted by plants. My personal preference is for the heavier, muskier odours. Light fragrances, such as Violets emit are unfortunately lost on me. I know they are very powerful for some people.

Currently, my favourite aromatic plant is a Mint Bush - Prostanthera sieberii. There are many Mint Bushes (Prostantheras) in cultivation - P. seiberii, ovalifolia, and melissifolia are species which are all nice. But I find the perfume of the leaves in P. seiberii to be
most to my liking - a combination of sweet and musky odours.

Sydney Botanic Gardens "plantnet" site for this species, describes it as being "strongly and unpleasantly aromatic".

As my old Latin teacher used say: "De gustibus, non est disputandum" - (Regarding tastes, there can be no argument.)

I have this plant growing beside the path to my front door - deliberately planted too close to the path, so that one has to brush past it, as you enter the house, and you get enveloped in its perfume as you walk past it. It is also known as Prostanthera incisa var sieberi.

One plant which wracked you with sobs:
(This question makes more sense in the "literary" version of this "meme")

I will take the "literary" (dare I say it - the "girlie") interpretation of this question. I take it to mean a plant which is so beautiful that it almost does not deserve to exist.

This plant takes my
my breath away.

Here is Tree Peony "Shimane Hakugan". (please click to enlarge the image and study the centre of the flower, and then the purity of the white petals).

One plant which you wish had been bred:
Many people would say a "blue rose". I will not. I like plants to do what they do best. Roses do pinks and reds, and even yellows to perfection. Why ask them to do that which they cannot manage, genetically? If you want blue, grow one of the Forget-me-not family, or a Pansy, or the stunning sky blue Himalayan Poppy (Meconopsis sp.).

I would like to see a disease resistent Meconopsis, to follow up that particular flower. I have had great difficulty growing this plant, but I have a friend in Canberra who was successful with them, by growing them in full sun, in a half Oak Barrel, filled with a blend of rich leaf litter and sand. Perfect drainage is required, it seems. Even though Robbo soils are well drained, it seems they are not well drained enough for this most stunning blue flower.

One plant which you wish had never been bred:
Well, obviously I would list weeds - like the Blackberry, as being a terribly invasive pest. But it is a natural plant, more or less.

But again to take the "romantic" interpretation, I would say a Red Rose, with no perfume. In my mind, a Red Rose deserves to have perfume. It cries out for perfume, it demands perfume.

Some French couturiers (who tend to market perfumes as well) have specified that any Rose named in their honour must not have a perfume - it would clash with their "brand" perfumes. An example of a nearly scentless, but beautiful red rose is Rosa "Christian Dior" (see image at left). An affront to nature, in my mind.

One plant which I am currently growing:
Well, Peonies are my particular "favourites", one might say, my obsession. Of these, I rate the Tree Peonies very highly indeed. But the Herbaceous Peony Hybrid called "Coral Charm" is an extraordinary plant. This plant (surely a "female plant") is so lovely in bud, when freshly opened, at fully mature stage, and at her "blowsy best" when fading ("like an old courtesan", as my friends Steve and Celeste like to say).

I would rate her as my most special plant, and she is "currently growing" in the precise meaning of making growth, right outside my front door, today - with buds about 10 cms high now.

Two weeks ago, Coral Charm was getting ready for Spring!

Anticipation, at its feminine best!

One plant I’ve been meaning to grow:

There is one Magnolia which I have seen growing (overseas), which is a white Magnolia with a dark strawberry-red coloured centre. It is called Magnolia sieboldii.

A truly lovely plant, which I would dearly love to grow - one day, maybe, perhaps. This photo was originally sourced from the Dutch Botanic Garden Collections Foundation.

What is about white flowers with dark centres?

Now tag some "Bloggers":
Well, I have to start with Anni, of course, whose suggestion led to this modification of the original "literary meme". I hope you think it worked, Anni. I must admit I have had fun with it, even if it has taken me hours to compile my list.

Then Miss Eagle (who rang me hours ago, to ask how I was going with my book list). She was so enthused by the "literary meme" that she broke the task into 2 separate postings. Her second post is here.

At the severe risk of losing a good email friend, I shall tag Leo, my Peony-growing pal in Canada. Leo's Blog is called "Peonies - and the rest". If it is raining in Nova Scotia, and too wet for digging Peonies, or for cycling up and down the steep hills of that region, Leo might get around to responding, in his own way to this "meme" on his blog. I do hope so.

Anni, would you please pass on a notice to your fellow Finnish ex-patriot (in Sweden), namely Jaska that I would dearly like to see his list of favourite plants, and least favourites, etc. You might also tell him please, that I liked his insect photos on his recent posting. Typical late summer scenes - butterlies and Dragonflies. Lovely.


Denis Wilson said...

Apologies for the odd fonts and odd sizes in the text tonight.
I could not control the text sizes, for there were some embedded links and a few "downloaded" words in there, and it was all too hard to retype the whole thing, to sort out wherever the tiny html errors had crept in.


Anni said...

Denis, I think this is much better than the literary one!

Jaska said...

I've got the challenge and I'm working on it.

Anonymous said...

Denis, what a lot that page tells me about you!
I am a wardrobe gardener, since I long to grow things but my sydney courtyard doesn't want to.
One day......

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Jaska
I look forward to your listing.
Welcome Kaite.
Great things can be grown in Sydney courtyards. But I appreciate that space is an issue.
Enjoying other people's plants is a blessing, in those circumstances.

Leo said...

Hmmm, well Denis, this really IS a challenge of the mental variety. A challenge which my mind seems unable to rise to... An unfortunate side effect of having a "commercial" nursery with a staff of self only is that I tend to lose track of the plants as plants and they become just a commodity, some with better assets than others. Plus I am fickle: my favourite at any given time is the one that happens to be catching my fancy for that few days, for whatever reason. Hence I can never ruthlessly discard "ordinary-looking" peony or daylily seedlings either.

The only question of the bunch that has a possible consistent answer with me is that a couple of windows full of very ordinary but bright Pelargoniums and a few tables laden with young Rhododendrons in pots, changed my life when the Real Estate agent who was (unsuccessfully) listing my property in 1990 had a look at all that green stuff and suggested that I should start a greenhouse operation. A year later I did, and it has been a love/hate thing ever since, and definitely something which has changed my life beyond recognition.

For the rest of it, I was pondering on it while walking between stores today when my train of thought was summarily STOPped when I walked into a stop sign which was encroaching on the pedestrian right-of-way at head level (of course!)I have a bump on my forehead to prove it... So I have concluded that continued wracking of my brains on this Floral Challenge is hazardous to my health.


Denis Wilson said...

Leo, as usual you have gone to extra-ordinary lengths to respond to my challenge. But knocking down Stop signs with your head is beyond the call of duty.

I do like the idea of blaming the Rhododenderon seedlings for getting you into the nursery business. It qualifies as a plant which changed your life. It also changed your mind, as you have become more of a specialist is Peonies than Rhododendrons, it seems (although I know you do grow them from seed too).