Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Where is the truth? Landscape lies.

Cattywhampus view of my back yard, Northeast to Southwest
 I took these four pictures more or less simultaneously on my Android, touching different points of the screen to shift the aperture (and hence the exposure).  This one almost captures the glow of the Cardinal Flower, but somehow bleaches it nonetheless: and that bleached horizon: all lies!

 This one captures the golden glowof the distance, but of course the dark foreground is a lie.

 Blinding light in the distance: pure lie! But the shadows on the lawn are right. The flowers are all contrasty lies.

This comes the closest in some ways, but is also perhaps the least pleasing. We pretend that pictures depict reality: they do nothing more than capture tiny fragments of what our eyes gather. And we take it all so for granted. A short lifetime of vacuuming space with our eyeballs, and most of us (me included) are mired and wallow in our daily desperation, totally oblivious to the smorgasbord our fragile planet dishes up with each fleeting glimpse!

After publishing the first four pictures, I revisited my Facebook and realized I had to include this--the moodiest one, with the nicest capture of the sunset (albeit the garden is dark). Reality so outpaces art, but art is often the only treasured residue left us.

Coeur du jour! Cyclamen purpurascens

Cyclamen purpurascens (same for all the other pictures too!)
 I start with this amazing leaf form--which I obtained from Edelweiss Alpines (which reminds me, I need to order from them again this fall!). The foliage (with Christmas tree) is the thing! Cyclamen are one of those key genera that form a leitmotif throughout my life (on more than one level) that would make a novella that might be more readable than you would suspect. I may even write that book one day--but here is a draft of one chapter, perhaps! This widespread species--the hardiest  of the genus, has found my Quince St. garden to its liking. I think I planted the first one only 15 or so years ago: they are now seeding and dozens are showing up everywhere--including full sun, and places I NEVER would dream of planting them!

Unlike other cyclamen--these bloom with their leaves...these pictures hardly do them justice--I should patiently wait for the right light etc. blah blah--but can't resist snapping shots anyway--but notice how different the patterning is on each one!

This seedling perched on a spot I would have never put a cyclamen--and is doing its thing..

My biggest patch--if you look carefully you'll notice myriad tiny seedlings--loves this spot. I can't recall planting these here--but will take credit for  my talent in doing so!

Here's one (actually several) that came up in the middle of a patch of Iris ruthenica var. uniflora.  I don't approve, and will probably divide the iris next spring and see if I can't transplant the cyclamen.

Here's a seedling that came up in the middle of Dryas. Oh well! I have them in the middle of any number of plants. May the best one win!

Another shot of the same plant as the first picture: my favorite foliage form. I love how it contrasts with all the other miniature shade polants growing with it (Kitagawia bottom, miniature Hosta above)

These MAY be the leaves of Cyclamen coum Pewter form. Pretty nice leaves too...

But not too far away are the undeniable flowers of C. purpurascens, with a pewter leaf next to them:  Could I have been so stupid as to plant a Pewter leaf coum next to a pewter leaf purpurascens. I fear the answer may be yes.

My fullest individual, with pretty nice foliage. What the picture does NOT convey is the heady fragrance that actually wafted through the whole garden from all of these--by far the most fragrant cyclamen. They're worth growing for that alone!

Yes friends, I was "trumped" (he's even ruined that innocent word)...here is a fantastic individual I photographed in Keith Funk's great garden this past weekend.

I titled this blog post "Coeur du jour" as a tribute to Edie Deweese--with whom I went to high school a few years ago...we reconnected thanks to Facebook and high school reunions. She charms me almost daily finding hearts in all manner of natural and man-made sites. I must dig up a few cyclamen and pass them along to her to plant at Allenspark where she spends her summers: I have a hunch they'd love it up there, and she'd have some handy coeurs to photograph if she's running low on random ones along the road! Hope this brings a smile to you, Edie!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


Ohio river
I remember as a very young man how I yearned to travel! I didn't have a career yet (or so I thought) and traveling even short distances strained my budget. Many decades and hundreds of trips later I recall my youthful yearning with a tinge of....of...of....nostalgia? Amusement? Perhaps just satisfaction: I listen to people complaining about travel, about airports, hotels with a bit of my youthful perspective: I travel a lot, it's true. And love every minute!

Hotel room at Comfort Suite
 In some ways, all hotel rooms are the same. Beds and bathrooms...but just this year I've probably stayed in a few dozen different ones--and each has its own quirks, own little character. Some, like this one are strangely satisfying: a nice couch, a good desk, comfortable mattress, functional shower AND bath! And best of all a fantastic view: although I confess I only really need one bed. One bed would have been sufficient and a tad cozier even! But then some people have multiple houses and that's not enough!
Room with a view

That's downtown Cincinnati in the distance and the Ohio river in front: the view I saw as soon as I got settled in my room, taken from my window. All the traveling I've done has not diminished the genuine excitement, the thrill of a wonderful sensation of a "room with a view". I recall my mentor Paul (who was about the age I am now when he said it): "Panayoti, you only age on the outside: inside I'm still a kid": and he was. And I hope the same can be said of me. The capacity for excitement, for unalloyed satisfaction with the passing view, the joy in colors, textures and the quiddity of the moment: that for me is what makes life rewarding. That and the four "F's": friends, family, food and flowers! Such a "filosopher" I've become!

Clouds from both sides now
I do like the convenience of aisle seats...but on a morning flight I usually book a window where I can spend a ridiculous amount of time just gazing out at the clouds. I know clouds (like hotel rooms) are pretty much all the same. I look around the plane, and nowadays half the people are looking at their phones. Have we become so jaded that we cease to marvel that we're hurling over the planet in a metal tube, with the Universe flying past us outside the other little window? I even marvel quite often that we're hurling through space on a tiny sphere at tens of thousands of miles a minute or something unfathomable.  I hope never to lose that sense of wonder. I can't resist gazing, staring, marveling at that miraculous Universe and thanking my lucky stars!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The right light

Veratrum formosanum
 Some plants no matter how hard you try never look in a picture the way they look to your eyes. For years I have photographed this miniature black corn lily from Taiwan in various lights--every time it disappears among the background noise. Till this morning. I was strolling around the garden with my coffee cup and thought "maybe this is the light"--and I think it was!

closeup of Veratrum formosanum 
Other times and other lights when I tried to take a closeup, the camera wouldn't focus worth a darn. But this morning it did...almost anyway!

Allium togashii
 If you search the Prairiebreak archives you will find a few pretty good pictures of this little onion: good because they're taken with Origanum acutidens together, making a lovely contrast. My closeups always were wishy washy--which it's true the plant is hardly a bright colored thing. But it is fetching and a highlight of the late August garden for weeks on end. It deserves a better chance, and this morning at 8:30 I think it was about right!

Closeup of Allium togashii

Wikipedia informs us that this endemic to the island of Shikoku in Japan, around Azuki and "Kankakei", which sounds rather strangely like Kankakee...This is the southernmost big island of Japan: fascinating the onion is so vigorous and hardy on the steppes of Western America!

Lobelia cardinalis 'Black Truffle'
 On Facebook I demurred that this should have been called "Milk Chocolate mushroom" instead of it's "correct" cultivar name. Whichever, it's very photogenic in almost any light--but the best light does make it show even better than usual.

Asplenium fontanum
The kicker for me has been this fern, which I've grown for a decade or more and photographed ad nauseum. Always a blur of green and little more...which is what YOU may think this is. If so you are wrong wrong wrong: it's a nearly succulent little mound of intricate charm from the European alps that gives me no end of delight to contemplate. Yes, I should have removed the pine needles...but for once the picture almost conveys the charm of the original...

And this matters for many reasons, as you can imagine. You can list a few if you like!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Going, going...Goth! Spring in late August...Colorado never ceases to amaze.

Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum
The fiery color on the rock is a sulphur flower going over: but most of the flowers we found on our several day field trip to Gunnison County were in fresh bloom--spring was so delayed by the colossal snows of last winter (and the chilly June and July). I happened to be in Tibet when spring ordinarily occurs in our mountains, so needless to say, I was thrilled that it was delayed!
Eriogonum umbellatum v. aureum
The mistiness on the right is dust from a passing car: it may have been snowy and cold earlier this year, but it was gloriously sunny and dry during our visit!

Castilleja miniata
I hardly think my pictures need a commentary: these are typical emblems of our Southern Rocky Mountain spring--out en masse, and in peak form during our visit this past weekend.

Castilleja miniata

Castilleja sulphurea with C. miniata photobombing

Aconitum columbianum
Henceforward our two hikes around Lake Irwin and on the trail to Copper Lake will be conflated and the plants shown alphabetically. Just to give you a taste of our very tardy spring bloom!

Anaphalis margaritaceum and Erigeron speciosus in an embrace

Antennaria microphylla

Apocynum androsaemifolium

Aquilegia caerulea

Corydalis caseana ssp. brandegeei
The giant corydalis (the largest in the genus I believe) is a local specialty we were thrilled to find at several spots--it's far from ubiquitous even in Gunnison County where it's especially "common"...

Corydalis caseana ssp. brandegeei

Corydalis caseana ssp. brandegeei

Delphinium barbeyi

Delphinium barbeyi

Erigeron speciosus

Erigeron speciosus
The Aspen daisy was phenomenal everywhere!

Frasera speciosa
This was a mast year for Monument Plant: over 25,000 bloomed in the study area--the most ever!

Frasera speciosa

Helianthus quinquenervis

My favorite sunflower--unfortunately no picture depicts its grace properly...

Helianthus quinquenervis

Heracleum lanatum

Heterotheca sp.

Hordeum jubatum

Ipomopsis aggregata

Ligusticum porteri
I was delighted to see the masses of "Osha"--the amazing endemic herb that is such an efficient cure for chest ailments.

Ligusticum porteri

Ligusticum porteri

White Admiral Limenitis arthemis
See? I'm not totally obsessive about plants!

Lonicera involucrata

Yellow Bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)

Pachystima myrsinites

Penstemon whippleanus

Platanthera huronensis and friends

Deschampsia sp.?

Pyrrocoma crocea

Pyrrocoma crocea

Pyrrocoma crocea

Rhodiola rhodantha

Waterfall above Lake Irwin

Cystopteris fragilis

Galium boreale from a distance

Galium boreale

More Frasera speciosa

Pedicularis procera

Tour participant Jan Midgley sizing up Rudbeckia occidentalis
Jan was one of five Denver Botanic Gardens' members who signed up for this trip: she ran a native plant nursery in Birmingham Alabama for many years and has written wildflower guides for the Southern States. I was delighted to get to know her!

Senecio bigelowii

Senecio sp. not yet keyed out

Senecio sp.

Frasera speciosa

Veratrum californicum

Veratrum californicum

Veratrum californicum

Veratrum californicum

Veratrum californicum

Woodsia oregana

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