We've just returned from a few weeks south of, or more precisly, along, the Equator. We were in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and it was a trip full of energizing ideas, incredible sights and a feeling of what the the earth might have been like had humans never trod upon it. The Galapagos are an amazing destination about which I can offer only one word of suggestion: GO!
While our trip is likely to generate a number of future posts, I still need to intellectually digest All the stimuli it provided. In the meantime, please enjoy this gallery of faces-such as the blue-footed booby above-from the Galapagos Islands, latitude zero.
Giant tortoise from Santa Cruz. Each island has its own variant of the tortoise. Supposedly Steven Spielberg visited the Galapagos years ago, and the tortoises provided him the inspiration for creating the face of the most famous alien of all--E.T.
I'm agape over agaves. Really, just about anything agaveaceous gets my attention. So sculptural! So shapely! So...lethal! They are one of those plants that go with anything, anywhere. I know I'm not being so specific as to nomenclature, but that's because many of my agaves have come from Home Depot, a friend or whatever and I have no clue as to their actual botanic names. I don't have to know the name of something to like it. Any agave will do, from the steely blue-gray ones to the beauteous variegated version seen here. This year I even got a way cool gold one, and though hail and slugs have battered the poor little guy, it should put on a good show next time around. So easy to grow: well drained soil, sun and...well, that's it. Overwinter in cool bright indoor space.
Shades of Audrey II! Not since "Little Shop of Horrors" has there been a plant so hungrily carnivorous as the rat-eating pitcher plant recently discovered in the Phillipines. You may recall reading about the real mutant monster in the newspaper. As it turns out, the plant, named Nepenthes attenboroughii (after the intrepid BBC naturalist), may not actually eat rodents. At least not on purpose. What does all that have to do with Fab Foliage Friday? Well as it turns out, those amazing pitchers, of the aforenamed Nepenthes and its many relations, are actually leaves. Who knew? It's fascinating...but why not let Richard Attenborough himself explain. Enjoy the hypnotic imagery.
Hat tip: Boingboing
I've heard of using the plant hormone Gibberellic acid to coax reluctant seeds to germinate, but according to Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, it can also be used to induce gigantism in plants. In other words, it can make big plants. Really big plants. Amazing. Now, if only I can use it to create a sequoia-sized Brugmansia...
OK all you taxonomy geeks--this one's for you. As a gardener one who is forever fascinated by the sometimes changing nature of scientific names-Latin binomials--I've always been interested in the process of assigning stuff--plants, animals, insects--not only a name but the science behind it: family, genus, species, and all the rest. Kings Play Chess On Friday, Generally Speaking--if you know what I mean. Anyway, interesting story in the New York Times this morning, here.
OK, I like all the Nicotianas. For different reasons. Some I like for their fragrance, some for the color of their flowers. This one, tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), earns my affection for the lovely blue gray of its foliage. I grow this South American native as an annual, but in some parts of the world this can top off at more than 20 feet. Hereabouts it rarely reaches a third that height. It does get some attractively dangling, yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers, but only rarely for me. The leaves are what this is all about--they can easily be big as your hand, and their color comes in handy for making neat foliar compositions and groupings. I often cut plants back to make them bushier.
Why won't my wisteria bloom? I can't tell you how many times I've seen this question asked in magazines, newspapers, and the like. Maybe I'm just lucky, but my wisteria not only blooms, it does so three times a season. Once in late spring as per usual, again just now and then yet again later in the season. I reckon this happens because: A) the roots are restricted--yes it's in the ground, but in an island bed in the middle of our patio, so it is, in essence, a small oasis of good soil in an ocean of stone dust and gravel. B) I never feed it. C) It gets cut back-ruthlessly-after every flush of flowers.
But those are just guesses. Maybe it's the way the stars align over Clatter Valley. Or maybe something even more esoteric. Really, I don't know why it happens. Gardens are often full of mysterious, hard-to-explain events? How wonderful is that?
Like an arrow pointed to the sky, Alocasia 'Sarian' aims for the heights. And it gets there. This awesome elephant ear reaches anywhere from 4- to 8-feet tall, with the leaves accounting for about half that size. The upright, arrowhead-shaped leaves look a lot like the better-known but harder-to-grow (for me anyway) elephant ear 'African Mask' (Alocasia x amazonica 'African Mask'), only bigger and greener. I grow these guys in a pot, so the dramatic effect they create is a portable one. Anywhere I need a quick blast of drama, it's ready and willing to provide a touch of magic.
Burgundy Japanese maples--especially the low, mounding cutleaf types- always make stellar backdrops for more delicate plants.
A naturalistic swimming pool lies at the garden's heart.
Love the tawny oranges of this Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon' echo with the orange azalea, rhody, whatever.