Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Atraphaxis on the Oxus

Do we really need another white flowering shrub that blooms in May and June? Albeit this one can grow in Colorado with no summer watering. The name is intriguing: Atraphaxis buxifolia. It sounds to me more like a Persian satrap's name than a plant. We grow several accessions of this genus at Denver Botanic Gardens, although the monster above is on East Ridge at my Quince St. garden blooming several weeks ago. The second picture shows what it looks like almost a month later from the same spot (the magic of gardens is their changeability after all)...full disclosure: there is a certain little down side to the plant.

It stinks. Literally: a strange scent somewhere between rancid and down right pungent. I planted it fifteen or more feet from the nearest path, but the scent still wafts along. During my garden open day the stiff breeze saved the several hundred visitors from staring at one another and wondering who hadn't showered...small compensation for stiff breezes--when you want to have that late afternoon glow and calm air (and perhaps a string quartet tucked away in the background) to help with the illusion that you have created a bit of paradise. Instead, hurricane force winds buffeted the poor plants and visitors alike. Sheesh. Blew the damn smell all the way to Arkansas.

Even if it's stinky, I love it. For the name first of all (I love all plants beginning with Z for the same reason: Zauscheria, Zinnia, Ziziphora, Ziziphus, Zizia and what about those zesty "x's": Xanthorhiza, 'Xanthoceras...of course, Atraphaxis has that marvellous "x" in it) Can't you just see Ataxerxes treading the Atraphaxis on the Oxus? Oh excellent! Gently turn up the volume on Borodin's "steppes of Central Asia", and let us tread the Ziziphora past the Ziziphus, seeking the traces of Iskander on the gray and feathered fields on the road to Samarkand!

Xanthoceras sorbifolium

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