Nov 27, 2015

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Why I often feel like
A Stranger in a Strange Land

So, I’m researching Penstemon rupicola because I have two plants that are the result of a cross between it and Penstemon speciosus var. kennedyi and wanted to compare the physical characteristics of both. I was mildly surprised by the lack of information on this particular species (despite all the books and the internet!), but finally found a reference and read that it grows in depressed mats with flowering stems glabrous, petioles densely canescent, the inflorescence glandular-pubescent, herbage glaucous. Leaves elliptic to orbicular . . . petioled, serrate-denticulate, raceme condensed, calyx 6-10mm, lobes lanceolate, long-acuminate, . . .ventral ridges sparsely villous, anthers slightly exerted; staminode . . . at the filiform tip, and much more.

It got me thinking about vocabularies, and how horribly limited most of us are when it comes to the English language. I went to my reference library and pulled out at random a dictionary of legal terms, and a pocket music dictionary, and just riffling the pages I realized I recognized very few words I would use in general conversation or correspondence. Almost all of the words were subject specific. I don’t know why I was surprised, or was I?. I took a few years of latin (never even considered Greek) simply to be able to pronounce the words correctly, and get an understanding of the root of so many scientific words and terms. (something I have never regretted) Then I wondered why we seem more likely to accept unfamiliar words into our world, even if we don’t understand them, if they relate to the sciences, but less so than if they are related to, let us say, pedestrian subjects such as masonry. Over the years even the most prosaic of professions have developed vocabularies best, if not only, understood by those who are active in that particular trade or profession. For the masonry worker words such as corbel, pilaster, parging, and wythe are, we hope, easily understood, and likewise for the dozens if not hundreds of other ‘specialists’, but for the rest of us. . . we become stumbling verbal strangers in a strange land.

When is that last time you used amplexicaul or caducous in a sentence? for me it’s been a week or two.

Nov 13, 2015

Lilium regale

Lilium regale and

The Consequence of Impatience

About three years ago I purchased seed of Lilium Regale. Seeds were stratified and planted on March 21, 2013. Germination occurred and on June 3rd I managed to transplant about 80 seedlings into two inch pots. Being rich in Lilium regale seedlings on September 20th I planted 39 in one area of the garden along with two other lilium species. All grew well, and this year all of them bloomed profusely. A magnificent display of 4 - 5 foot stalks flourishing huge white/pinkish reverse, heavily scented trumpets. (I can't believe I didn't take any pictures!) I know I should have deadheaded them after blooming but the seedaholic in me persuaded me to let all of them set seed. I gathered seed in buckets, but, something about them seemed odd. They were paper thin with only the hint of a dark line passing through the center. The slightest breeze sent them fluttering into the landscape. As I had planted all the original seed I had none to compare mine with, but somehow they seemed too ephemeral to be viable, so, I decided to do a germination test and took twenty seeds, placed them on a damp paper towel, put the towel in a plastic bag and placed it on top of the range hood where they would get a little warmth. After a couple of weeks I began to check for signs of germination - nothing. I assumed they were infertile, and me with several thousand seeds on hand. Finally I carried the bulk of the seed to the garden and scattered it - just in case.

A day or two later I decided to check the seeds on top of the range hood. Talk about irony (and stupidity), almost every seed had germinated; roots had worked their way into the fabric of the paper towel, and one or two showed over an inch of green top growth!  I went out to where I had dumped the seed but of course it had rained heavily overnight and the seeds were a soggy mess. Who needs thousands of Lilium regale seeds anyway?

How satisfying to discover, a few days later, a plastic basin filled with more than enough Lilium regale seeds to satisfy anyone.

It occurs to me that a well-illustrated book describing seeds in some detail would be a boon to many gardeners, plant propagators and collectors. I’ll buy the first copy.