mercredi 9 avril 2008

Accidental plant identification

Knautia macedonica, syn. Scabiosa rumelica

I fell in love with this picture from Louisa Jones' The French Country Garden, with the gorgeous interplay between the golden flowers of the grass, touched with crimson, and the purple-scarlet capitulum of the flower.

ca·pit·u·lum (kə-pĭch'ə-ləm)
Plural capitula
  1. A small knob or head-shaped part, such as a protuberance of a bone or the tip of an insect's antenna.
  2. An inflorescence consisting of a compact mass of small stalkless flowers, as in the English daisy. The yellow central portion of the capitulum of a daisy consists of disk flowers, while the outer white, petallike structures are actually ray flowers. The capitulum is the characteristic inflorescence of the composite family (Asteraceae) of flowering plants.
I didn't know what the flower was, but I suppose I assumed that I could find it easily enough. It was on a page facing another photograph of a rose bush that intrigued me no end, having an exceptionally dark, almost black, red rose. The rose climbed a wall of the house in the same garden, designed by Alain Richert and his wife, the sculptor Catherine Willis.

I spent hours in my books and rose catalogs and on-line, searching for the rose, but there are so many out there, and nowhere is there -- at least not in my possession (gift idea) -- a book containing the entire range of roses currently and once available with photographs. I typed Mr. Richert's name into Google, and it was kind enough to provide me with a link to an Internet site with his email address!

More wonderfully, Mr. Richert was kinder still and replied. I not only have the name of the rose that intrigued me, but its partner and an accompanying vine, whose leaves appear different than the same one I have here at home, the Chasselas Doré. Having pestered him that much, I didn't dare ask for the name of the little button flower that looks so much like Verbena bonariensis, but isn't. Instead, I spent a good deal of the afternoon looking for it, guessing likely plant families and missing. Since I was flipping pages anyway, looking for plants that jumped out at me from the 15,000 described in the book (6,000 photos!) for our friends' garden, I tried to be on the lookout for this one.

I didn't see it.

Then, after a morning searching for a likely match for a magnolia specimen in the garden of the friends' garden I am designing, I returned to selecting images for plants from one of my favorite sites for information and photography, crocus in the UK, for the herb garden, bordered by Buxus sempervirens in a form that repeats the pattern in the wood balcony railing over their glazed entry portico. I looked up Salvia, and there, in the plants that look good with it was the very one for which I had been hunting, Knautia macedonica!

What great, dumb, stupid luck.

Or not, because when you find one common plant you love, you will very, very often be led by its associations to others you love but whose names you don't know, and still others you have never seen before. I am looking forward to the day, far, far away, when I will no longer have to rely on that "intelligent" luck. I am making significant progress.

(Like Sam's report card, "a fait des progrès, continuez.")


I feel like singing! Two roses, one vine and a lovely flower all in 48 hours.


Of course, I returned to the big, fat plant book and looked it up. There it is, pictured in the top left hand corner of the left page, page 576.

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