Saturday, January 17, 2009
Familiar, but not quite
Here we are at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens again. I know what you’re thinking. “What could she possible find to say about this place for the umpteenth time?”
Well, I may have told you everything there is to know about this place (actually I doubt that, but you can get it from the website), and showed you everything there is to show, but another aspect of the gardens hit me today as we visited. It was frigid out; we went there because I knew they had the amaryllis show and that it would be balmy enough for a coatfree stroll. And it was delightful.
What I noticed amid all the exotic blooms, rainforest plants, Everglades room, bromeliad collection, and so on, were the many plants familiar to me as common houseplants. It was a lesson on context. What is rare and exotic to me is a weed in Hawaii. What is an annual to me is a perennial in Texas. And what is a completely-taken-for-granted houseplant in my house turns into a lush array of textures and colors in the hands of the BG gardeners.
For example, I have croton and plectranthus, both of which are mainstays here (above). The repetition of the two very different plants in this display is what takes them out of the ordinary. I suppose it is artificial, but I never saw anything in gardening that was anything but artificial, no matter how many native plants you use. In any case, for someone who depends on having growing things during zero-degree weather, it was great to see these plants used so attractively, turned into something special.
I also saw plenty of other plants I have, including hypoestes phyllostachya (polka-dot plant), colacasia, musa, saintpaulia and others. (I wonder if I should count the water plants.) It goes without saying that their versions are usually much bigger and often there are many more of them. I see that their polka-dot plant has gone annoyingly into flower, as mine has.
I don't have this Crown of Thorns euphorbia, but Carol/May Dreams does. It has some spots on it, most likely from water.
Isn’t the goal of using ordinary plants of extraordinary ways something all gardeners strive for? And is there such a thing as an ordinary plant, when you really think about it?