DemosNews: Flowering Favorites for the Windowsill
Flowering Favorites for the Windowsill
By: Anita Spertus

Particularly in winter, thereís a longing to have easy care, perpetually flowering plants add cheer and color to oneís nest. Cyclamen perform marvelously in this respect. They present lovely bi-colored leaves, long conical buds that unfurl like morning glories, and blooms that nod downward on their stems to display gracefully upswept petals. Starting with the wild originals that reached Europe mid-16th century from the Ottoman Empire, breeders broadened the color range to white, sour pinks, fuchsia , and dark red. Some blooms display a little contrasting picotée line along the petal edge, some a darling fuchsia nose. Anna Pavord, in her wonderful book The Naming of Names, reports that women in the ancient Greek world used cyclamen blossoms as diaphragm-like contraceptives (can that be??!) Give the plants a cool spot, plenty of light (mine face east), plenty to drink (I water them every other day until a little water seeps out the bottom), and pluck off spent blooms or yellowed leaves at their base.

African violets too, stalwarts from our mothersí days, reward one with nearly continuous bloom when content. They need more filtered light (north or west), less water (though I still attend them every two days), and nary a drop touching their leaves. Compact plants with velvet leaves, modern versions erupt in an enormous efflorescence of individual flowers that mound to 8 or 9 inches across. Singles and doubles, all named, occur in a delightful array of deepest purple and blue through wine, pinks and white. They really did come from Africa, discovered at the end of the 19th century in Tanganyika. A California nursery bestowed their popular nomiker, African violets, and bred and promoted them aggressively between the wars. Perhaps thatís why we of a certain age remember their much prized presence in our parentsí homes.

My two most treasured plants, however, canít be found in floristsí shops. They pass as cuttings from friend to friend. The first is an extraordinary orchid, aptly named Jewel (Ludisia discolor.) It naturally inhabits India and Southeast Asia. Matte sage green leaves, daintily striped in pink, reveal their exact color compliment on the underside-- a mysterious pinky brown. Foliage rises up and outwards on trailing fleshy fronds, handsome year round. But come November or December, each frond sends up a 10 inch stalk surrounded by a cloud of tiny white orchids that remain pristine and eye catching for six or eight weeks. My individual has performed and pleased me for over 30 years. Every once in a while, when it mounds and drapes to about 2 feet in diameter and its fleshy offshoots hugely overcrowd the pot, I divide it and start afresh. Meantimes, I remove the longest gangly offshoots that look weak, and nip off nice healthy cuttings to continue the giving circle. My plant faces east. I water it lightly every other day, but never allow it to stand in wet.

My other favorite of favorites is Night-blooming Cereus, called Queen of the Night. Both nomenclatures confuse, because they seem to apply both to an American cactus with spiny barrel shaped body, and to huge rain forest vines. My plant, Epiphyllum oxypetalum, has telltale flat, scallop-edged leaves a foot or more long but narrow. Indonesians know a seemingly identical flower, Wijayakusuma, as the mystically powerful perquisite once exclusive to the gods and kings of Java. New leaves arise from the scallop junctures. The whole gets to be 5 or 6 feet wide and tall, and unruly. But in the heat of summer, red buds appear, and swell to enormous, vulgar size. Suddenly one night about 10 oíclock the whole house fills with honky-tonk perfume, and the show begins. Neighbors and friends invariably duck in to watch. Huge blossoms with white petals like swansí feathers slowly open before oneís eyes. Many long stamen curve forward en masse to form an elegant passageway, pollinator to nectar. Bats and large moths serve as agents in the wild, hence the essential draw of scent and gleaming white in the dark.. 4 or 5 hours later, fertilizing opportunity ceased, the flower goes limp and withers. Iíve had 3 or 4 blooms pop on a single night, while others extend the run for a week or two. My plant loves lots of light (faces east), but burned when once I left it outside in direct sun.

Together with these successes, I have a great floral regret. I canít replicate the Ur image from childhood of my motherís enormous Christmas Cactus. 2 or 3 feet across, draping heavily downward over its support, it was covered with scores and scores of rosy, tiered blossoms for weeks. We ate at 6 o'clock those days in the Midwest, thereafter the dining room was dark, cool, and abandoned. I guess a city apartment, where every inch comes constantly into play and lit well into the night (twilit with ambient city glow all night as well), just doesnít do the trick for this gem that requires sleep uninterrupted.

© 2024 Anita Spertus of DemosNews

March 17, 2007 at 7:29pm
DemosRating: 4.33
Hits: 7289

Genre: Home (Flora & Garden)
Type: Creative
Tags: house, plants, , orchid, Night-blooming, Cereus


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Robert David Cohen   "My individual has performed and pleased me for over 30 year...
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