Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Corsage for ‘Clerodendron’

Bulb expert Judy Glattstein of Frenchtown, N.J., wears the reward for botanical curiosity.


The handoff: Mavis (right) of the Gilded Lily brings Judy Glattstein a well-earned corsage in time for New Year’s Eve in New Jersey.

Photo: Paul Glattstein

Why are these people smiling? Because they’re smart and talented, it’s a New Year, and they’re on the receiving and giving ends of something floral. (If you require more than that to grin, please see a plastic surgeon in 2008.)

Last week, an exotic and mysterious photo from our friend Sandy Ao in Kolkata, India, provoked a contest—to identify this weird blossom with shiny blue blisters at the center. We actually had two winners, but Judy Glattstein named it first.

“Not a flower, but a seed/fruit,” she explained, “of Clerodendron, possibly C. bungei which is native to N. India, and with the common name of Glory Flower. When bruised, the leaves on clerodendron smell like peanut butter to me. C. trichotomum is hardy here in NJ.” This kind of stunning detail is fruit also, of Judy’s tenacious botanical curiosity—a trait that’s led to authorship, teaching, photography, and museum curatorship, primarily with the New York Botanical Garden. (Here are two pieces she has contributed to HFP, on a bulbs exhibition she organized for NYBG and the more recent blockbuster chrysanthemum show.)  For lots more of Judy’s articles, book reviews, and plant expertise, take a look at her Bellewood Gardens.

imageTo the winner from the Gilded Lily

Photo: Judy Glattstein

In our head-scratch of a post last week, we promised a corsage to whomever could correctly name Sandy’s flower and, after Judy came through, were pleasantly surprised to find Gilded Lily in Flemington, New Jersey, still taking orders at 4:50 p.m. on Saturday afternoon (our own neighborhood florist is closed Saturdays). Knowing a little of the florist’s trade, we order corsages apologetically—they’re lots of work for very little mark-up—but the people on the other end of the line were most interested and patient. We told them what colors Judy planned to wear New Year’s Eve, and they even thought to ask, “How tall is she?”

Honestly (and regrettably) we had no idea! But the question alone is powerfully suggestive: violets for Judy Garland, a hollyhock for Veruschka….

Monday afternoon Mavis appeared at Judy’s house in Frenchtown and they completed the “handoff.” That evening, Judy was set for a splendid night out.


Judy with white roses and stephanotis

Photo: Paul Glattstein

Many thanks to Sandy and all who participated in our end of the year “reindeer game.” We honorably mention Allen Bush, North American Manager of Jelitto Perennial Seeds—and more than that: a great guy. The day after Judy sent her identification, Allen wrote, “It looks like Harlequin Glorybower, Clerodendron trichotomum, but there are other attractive species that it could be. I bought one 25 years ago when I was living in Fletcher, NC, thinking it was something unusual, and was surprised to find one growing the same year in a fence row (they will seed around). It’s a rangy shrub that has admirers (what’s not to like about the colorful seeds?) and critics – uh, the smell. I recall the white flowers as being sweetly fragrant (little unsure about that) but the foul smelling leaves – if crushed or bruised – are unforgettable.” Must not be a peanut butter man.

After getting the word from Allen and Judy, we dug around several batches of Clerodendron photos—there are many varieties of this plant, most of them blistery. Our best guess is Clerodendrum indicum: check out this photo by Albert Perdeck and many more pictures of this strange breed on the Texas A&M site.

As we think ahead to next year’s contest (for Sandy is full of surprises), Judy, Allen, how tall are you?





Posted by Julie on 01/01 at 03:57 PM
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