Friday, June 7, 2013

Flora Porn

I love living in the desert Southwest. The dry heat is good on my achy bones.  Three hundred and fifty some sunny days per year keeps a smile on my face.  Triple digit temperatures make getting into an un-garaged car a challenge, but air conditioning takes the edge off before my flesh begins to sizzle.  I've learned to readjust my mental calendar, reserving indoor activities for June and July instead of January and February.

It's the gardening that gets me down.  Moving from Marin County, with its Mediterranean climate, was a sure fire way to highlight the differences between soil and dirt.  Marin has soil.  Tucson has dirt.

Gardeners will tell you, derisively, that dirt is what you find behind your ears.  Soil is what nurtures the flora. I get it.  I've touched them both and I am emphatic, convinced, certain, decided that this is dirt.  Soil has texture that soothes my soul.  This stuff feels like stale brown sugar.

When I feel the need to get down and dirty in the garden, I go to my shaded containers and, peeling off my gloves, I stick my fingers way down deep.  There aren't any worms; possibly it's too hot for them.  There isn't the same luscious smell of an in-ground flower bed.  But there are soft clumps of earth, brown and crumbly and rich with nutrients, ready to embed themselves under my fingernails.   I sigh every time.  It's a sensual event.

We have two planting windows in Zone 10a - two or three weeks around Mother's Day and then again around Labor Day.  Beyond that, the soil is too hot or too wet to accept new plants.  Containers, however, can be planted anytime.  That was the rationale I used as I opened the Van Engelen, Inc Fall 2013 Wholesale Price List for the best Dutch flower bulbs at the best prices.

It's a contractor's catalog, with quantities in the 100's for sale at ridiculously low prices.  If I were naturalizing daffodils on my tree lawn in Tiburon again, this is the place I'd go for bulbs. Since I'm thinking about filling five or six containers, instead, my evening with the catalog fell squarely into the flora porn department.  I wasn't looking to shop.  I was immersing myself in the dream.

What a dream it was.  The catalog is blue ink - the verbiage and the line drawings - on white paper.  Like all good sensual experiences, you have to use your imagination to enjoy it fully.  The illustrations were realistic enough that even TBG could recognize the parrot tulips I planted along the courtyard pathway in Marin.  Yes, they were Flaming Parrots, brilliant buttercup-yellow with vibrant red flames.  The Viridiflora tulips were truly heavenly blooms and the Triumph Tulips were gorgeous and shapely and radiant.  

The first thirty pages of the catalog were just like that.  Narcissus and tulips and crocus and iris and hyacinths were distinctively described.  Then, I turned to the Allium globes and the writing began to change.  Imperious height and planetoid globes are exactly how Little Cuter describes the cuttings MOTG helped her transplant in her own yard this spring.

The Salinas Oriental Hybrid Lily's dark, sultry raspberry-red blossoms left me with an image of Hedy Lamar. Forelock Allium, looking a bit like Tom Hanks' buddy Wilson in Castaway, made me smile, but not as much as the  Hair Allium description.  Appearing a bit like an alien life form, it launches several green, tentacle-like flowers per stem.... launched flowers make me wonder if I should be running for cover when they are ready to bloom.

Seret gave me a dozen pink peonies when Little Cuter was born; they've been her flower ever since. She inherited some in her own yard from the previous owners, but I'm thinking of sending her some Raspberry Sundae Bareroot Herbaceous Peonies.  Could you resist this description? The 1968 bomb-shaped Klehm double has gigantic, 10" pink flowers lightly ringed in gold with a dense center puff of raspberry and softer pink petals that mature to pale whitish-pink.  Sweetly fragrant.  I don't think that I can.

I was drooling.  I was circling the ones I loved, without regard to the zones in which they would flourish.  Then, I sighed, looked at the purple and orange desert sunset, and reset my priorities.  It did me no good to lust for that which will not grow here.  I found an information box that described forcing bulbs; this might be something I could do.

The Oxalis adenophylla makes a lovely...sweet little forced pot, they tell me. There are pages of Hyacinthus that, with some pre-chilling, might work as indoor color next winter.  I could use the wine refrigerator to keep them at a consistent, dark, 38-45 degrees Fahrenheit for ten to twleve weeks; I don't drink wine, anyway.  I was still doubting my ability to create beauty from bulbs, when I began to notice an addition to the descriptions.  Dates began to appear.

1893... 1910... 1922... 1800... 1876... 1789.... 16th century... 1596... 1570... if these bulbs have managed to survive for four or five centuries, they must be robust enough for me to give it a try.  the hyacinth bulb in the center container keeps reappearing every spring.  Its purple florets are smaller and denser with each passing season, but it keeps coming back.  It's sending me a message.

And then, the message got even stronger.  The last four pages of the catalog are filled with Amaryllis.  Grown in the southern hemisphere, the Christmas Flowering single and double and mini bulbs are on a blooming in the winter schedule, unlike the Dutch Hybrid bulbs whose northern climes make winter blossoming a challenge.  Even better, I know that they will work in my containers.  The bulbs I bought at Rillito Nursery and Home Depot and which came as gifts in the mail were all placed, unceremoniously, in the courtyard containers last fall.  Miraculously, they bloomed all through January and February, and their leaves are still green and flush with nutrients.  I'm going to fill the containers with specimen plants and watch them explode into gorgeousness next winter.

It's the least I can do for my Marin deprived, gardener's soul.
*****
For smaller quantities, the firm has another site.  Click here to browse.

1 comment:

  1. Cool beans. Even though I don't have a green thumb, hubby loves to garden.

    Thanks for the great tips.

    Have a wonderful weekend.


    Megan xxx

    ReplyDelete

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