I first came upon this incredibly strange ginger (Zingiber spectabile) while touring a wonderful garden and wilderness retreat in Dominica called Papillote.
I thought I’d post a sunny photo today since we’ve been living under grey skies all week and I’m about to collapse into a no-sun, low-energy coma. Although, scrolling through folders of photos of us frolicking in the Caribbean a few months ago is kind of miserable in its own way.
I took this photo on the first of a short four-day stay in Barbados, where I saw lots of wonderfully fragrant fragipani (Plumeria) trees in bloom. If you have never smelled a real frangipani bloom I hope you get the chance someday. They are extremely sweet, soft and rich. For many they epitomize tropical floral fragrance.
We walked for miles through the countryside on that first day trying to see as much as we could. It’s a good thing I soaked it all in while I had the chance because I don’t believe I saw a single frangipani through the following three weeks. Frangipani plants do not like their roots to be waterlogged. Barbados has a MUCH drier climate than Dominica so I figure that has got to be the reason.
Here’s a link to the photo and story of the very first frangipani plant I had a chance to see and smell, ten years ago.
Last Friday, a friend with a car (THANK YOU JOHN, I hearby bequeath my first born to you. The cat is also an option.) drove Davin, myself, and another friend on a field trip to Richters Herbs about an hour outside Toronto, in Goodwood, Ontario. The goal was to enjoy some greenery, buy some herbs to use as table decor for my forthcoming book launch party (more on that soon), and of course, get a few plants for myself while we were at it.
The goal was not to get loud and obnoxious on caffeine, plant oxygen, and a half glass of wine… but I did that too. You can’t take me anywhere.
Here’s the outside. Look they got the fancy log reindeer out just for us! No, not really. We are not special.
The entire operation is made of of several greenhouses but only one was set up for retail. It consists of three aisles with four long tables of plants. Since it’s winter, the place wasn’t as stocked as I imagine it will be come spring, which is just as well since it was difficult enough to make a selection and avoid overspending. Here I am pondering what to buy for the launch party. I think you’ll like my choices. And if you hang around long enough, you’ll get to take one home. It pays to be a party hanger-on.
There was much agonizing over plants and purchases. We look absolutely tortured, but I’d imagine that what Davin has actually captured here is a blissful moment of total plant geekery. This is what my face looks like when I am having fun and in my element. For the record, I did buy the plant Barry and I are so painfully considering: curly chives (Allium spirale).
You know, I’ve never much cared for caladium. They’ve always been a “whatever” plant in my book, a humdrum bit of foliage most often seen crammed into decorative baskets and seasonal greenhouse exhibits. Who cares? (Perhaps many of you. In which case, I’m a monster and a tasteless fool. Sorry.)
In all honesty, my eyes pretty much just skimmed over them, even during desperate mid-winter greenhouse trips when I was literally scratching at the walls for some greenery. Even then they just barely registered on my visual radar.
I’d sooner cuddle up to a massive pachypodium with deadly spines or grow a circle of impatiens surrounded by ring of decorative plastic edging before I’d go for a caladium.
That’s just how it was for me back then.
But somehow all of that changes when you see one growing up through a lawn in St. Lucia. Suddenly, you find yourself exclaiming out loud, Hey, look at that!
The next thing you know, you see a small caladium with bright, variegated leaves growing between the rows of raised beds on an organic farm and you think to yourself, Gee, that’s kind of interesting. You mention it to other gardeners as if you’re the first person in the world to have discovered that caladiums sort-of, maybe aren’t that bad after all. You even consider for a moment whether it would be possible to smuggle one home in your suitcase, a distinction reserved for only the most exciting plants because face it, you don’t have the guts or wherewithal to pull that off.
And suddenly, without your consent, you don’t even seem to mind the most fakey fake, over-the-top, completely classless varieties with cheesy names like ‘Fantasy’, ‘Miss Muffett’, and ‘White Christmas.’
And you can’t help but wonder, Who have I become?
On our last day of the trip, our friend David in St. Lucia picked some red, ripe coffee beans (aka cherries) off of the Arabica bush, one for each of us, and instructed us to bite through the thick skin with our teeth.
Next, he said, remove the beans and put them in your mouth, but don’t bite them.
We were all surprised to discover that the thin layer of pulp covering the bean had a sweet, citrus taste, not unlike the delicious fruit that covers the fresh cacao beans! Who knew? My mind was blown.
This is one of the things I cherish most about that trip. We experienced new tastes and delightful discoveries nearly everyday. And some days were bursting with more than my brain could take in.
I think I’ll go make myself a cappuccino now.