datura data


The lovely, moonflower-like blossoms in these photos defy my skills as a photographer, but you get the idea. When we were visiting the east coast a few years back, we toured a heritage garden in Rockford. I spotted a strange pod on a bush that was otherwise bare (this being September). The gardener was nearby, so I asked her about it. “Oh, that is Angel’s trumpet” said she, and went on to explain that it came back each year from seed. Invited to take some of said seed home with me, I did. Each year, I would grow one or two in pots, where they stayed considerably smaller than the three foot plants I had seen in the heritage garden. Somewhere along the way, I shared seed with Michelle of Jockey Hill Nursery. This year I opted to put them in the ground, with the results you see here. Discussing it with Michelle lately, she warned of its reseeding habits. I like it enough, right now, to deal with swarms of seedlings, but we shall see if the romance holds up.

I had always thought that Angel’s trumpets were the dangling blossoms, similar in form to these upright beauties. Turns out Brugmansia is the dangler, while this is Datura. Both are commonly referred to as Angel’s trumpet…yet another example of the usefulness of Latin to pinpoint a particular plant.

pot flags are practical!

When I first started making the pot flags, I regarded them as an impulse buy, to lure in potential buyers with a lower-priced item. I bought one of the new sun-friendly coleus to put in a big pot on the porch. It was a lovely acid-green, with subtle shades of orange around the margins. Each day, I would stick a few pot flags around the peremiter of the pot, to show how flags can substitute for flowers when blossoms are in short supply. As the summer progressed, the coleus grew more luscious by the day, but eventually became top-heavy and wanted to flop. The utilitarian role of the pot flags became apparent: they would prop up the sagging coleus in addition to their showier duties.

the nose knows

I am one of those weird gardeners who actually enjoys weeding. While many would prefer to hand off this lowly chore to a team of teens, I get lost in the process. A lot of editing goes on, as I decide to let the rampant violets live to merge into ground cover, but consign the nigella to the compost, knowing that however diligent I might be, plenty of them will live to reseed another day.

Yesterday, as I mucked about in the rain (more of a mist, and perfect gardening weather in my book) I was rewarded by the scent of peanut butter from a crushed Datura leaf. Two other plants in my garden exude this yummy scent when their leaves are brushed: Clerodendrum and Melianthus major. In both cases, I read somewhere that they have an unpleasant odor…go figure.

dear deer

This morning, as I dragged my sleep-addled self and my therapeutic coffee to the table, planning to ease into the day by doing the midweek, mildly challenging NYT crossword, I happened to glance out the window. There was a fawn, still with its spots, cavorting about. The mom was nearby, keeping an eye on things, but she didn’t seem to see me as a threat. I got to watch the show for a full fifteen minutes. They sniffed every plant, nibbled on a few, then chowed down on dandelion greens and dogwood. The little un would every so often spin about or leap into the air with sheer exuberance. They can have the dogwoods.

lyrical latin

In last Thursday’s Homes and Gardens section of the Oregonian, Dulcy Mahar wrote the most graceful piece on the use of Latin botanical names that I have read so far. It served up the issue of wielding its proper pronunciation as a weapon of snobbery, with a side of its usefulness for accuracy in the search for specific plants. The part, though, that particularly resonated with me was the pleasure of the sounds of the words.

I have always been a sucker for words. When a client showed me a fetching daisylike flower and told me it was called osteospermum fruiticosum, I was hooked. Besides, the coiners of common names were practical sorts, given to names like toadflax and spiderwort. What self-respecting beauty would stand for getting stuck with a name like that when linaria and  tradescantia virginiana denote one’s presence with so much more panache?

This is as close as I will likely ever get to learning another language. Years of French in high school and college tend to atrophy when not surrounded by the spoken words, and dreams of living in faraway places have long since been supplanted by a love for the place where I am. Here, then, is my chance to savor the exotic, foreign sounds of words rolling around in my mouth, even if the pronunciation remains a struggle.