Human Flower Project


Orrington, MAINE USA

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Murrieta, CALIFORNIA USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bower-Makers


The new kid on the block—Crimson Glory Bower—is showier than a hot rod.


image

Margaret Adie inspects an African native in her Austin yard

Photo: Human Flower Project

Neighbor Margaret Adie contacted us yesterday with the news: her Crimson Glory Bower had decided to bloom. Come on down!

Margaret repairs and makes violin bows at her home atelier. Her friend and customer violinist Elizabeth Bradshaw Pittman gave her this plant last year. “It did nothing but grow leaves.” Then the squirrels decided to plow up and heave over the pot. Margaret said her young vine appeared “deader than dead.” But she wintered it over in the greenhouse, and yesterday was rewarded. The twining plant had produced little white lantern-like calyxes, and from those sprayed showy red flowers.

We’ve never seen this flower or, truly, anything much like it. Fuchsia comes closest, but even it doesn’t have this drastically yin/yang combination of ornaments. It turns out that Margaret’s “Crimson Glory Bower” is Clerodendrum thomsoniae, native to tropical West Africa, from Senegal to Cameroon. It’s hardy in Zone 10 and higher (good thing Margaret tucked hers in the greenhouse, since Austin is only Zone 8). As if these stunning blooms weren’t enough, there may be fruits to follow.  “Green at first, they blacken as they ripen. Then, they split open from the top to the bottom to present a bright orange fleshy lining that contains four black seeds.”

This odd beauty happens to be one of many plants that the New Orleans Botanical Garden lost with Hurricane Katrina. Check the gardeners’ wish list. They ask,  “Please .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  with a listing of whatever plants you are able to provide. For those outside the greater New Orleans area, we will have to make arrangements for shipping….We also request that each plant be identified when shipped if possible.”

image1955 Chevy two-tone

Photo: Absolute Stock Photo

Somehow this flower has surpassed “bicolor.” That’s the term for purple and yellow iris, most pansies or striped marigolds. More apt, we think would be “two-tone.” This very red and white combo is reminiscent of a dazzling old Chevy, and the long whiskers (stamens?) whipping out of the flowers add definite vroom-vroom.

Elizabeth writes that she first saw one of these plants at the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. “It was huge and covered with cascades of flowers. I was with a friend, and when we got back she somehow found a way to buy it mail-order.  She bought one for herself and one for me.  I kept mine for years but then it died when I was out of town and my house-sitter forgot to water it. I was so pleased to see it at Breed last summer!  Your garden is so lovely,” she writes to Margaret. “I knew you had to have one.” 

Here are a bunch more photos of Clerodendrum thomsoniae, and a bit more information.

imageClerodendrum thomsoniae

Photo: Margaret Adie

Clerodendrum thomsoniae is also referred to as “bleeding heart” but we overwhelming prefer “crimson glory bower,” since “bower” is one of those weird words called homographs— where one spelling has two pronunciations and two meanings (like wind/wind, close/close—and, for that matter, flower/flower).

Clerodendrum thomsoniae’s “bower” refers to a “shady leafy recess,” which this vine in time may create. But what about violinists like Elizabeth Bradshaw Pittman and Margaret Adie? They, too, are “bowers.”

Thank you, Margaret, for this fabulous excursion, two-tone, and just four doors down.


 



Posted by Julie on 06/01 at 01:53 PM
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