Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Anemone, Pink Chablis Sedum, and the Startling White Iris

             A toast to September flowers. They're typically far fewer in number than those that bloom in the previous months and they come at a time when a lot of the late summer standards are wearing down: the tall phlox, the black-eyed susans. The echinacea, or purple cone flowers, are long gone. I leave their black heads out there supposedly for the birds, but don't see any birds on them, and the effect of all those withered black seed heads is looking increasingly funereal.
           But some plants do best in the autumn months of September and October. The morning glories; various other annuals. Some blue salvia in front of the house that have taken all year to make up their modest but stylish flowerheads. Some verbena keep putting out  blossoms.
            Among the perennials, my favorite September bloomer is the dark pink flowering anemone (top photo). A lighter pink anemone kept us company all of last month, a welcome late summer bloomer. Its first prolific round of flowers is gone now; I 'm trying to coax a second round out of it. All I know about the anemone flower is that it was imprinted on my memory after I heard its name spoken in a poem by the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish recited shortly after his death.
            I'll plunder here what I wrote two years ago when I last tried to explain this connection. The poem is known by its first line, “The beloved hemorrhaged anemones.” The "beloved" here means the land. Darwish's poem reads:  
Oh people of Cannan… It’s your good luck that you chose agriculture as a profession
it’s your bad luck that you chose the gardens
near god’s borders…
The first of our songs is the blood of love
that gods shed,
and the last is the blood shed by iron gods . . .

(You can read the rest of it on: batcityreview.la.utexas.edu/pdf/Darwish.pdf)
              I'm back in 2013 here, thinking that even those of us who don't live "near god's borders" in the sense meant by the poem can choose to grow anemones on our own beloved pieces of earth. These valiant, late-call flowers, blooming sublimely when so many other perennials have shut down for the season and sent their vitality to winter quarters awake certain ideas and feelings in me every year that I treasure. But that’s the way it is with flowers. They are nature’s poems.
            According to reference sources "Anemone is a genus of about 120 species of flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, native to the temperate zones."
            Then of course (since names get to me) there are the "Sea anemones," described as "a group of water-dwelling, predatory animals." Only now, as I look them up on line, do I learn the sea creatures are named for "the anemone, a terrestrial flower." If you look at pictures of these two life forms from very different realms you can see what name-giver had in mind -- that tightly gathered symmetry of brightly colored parts. The sea anemones do look gorgeously strange. But if you don't happen to have an aquarium in your back yard, you may find that the flowers are more than adequate substitution.
            Our Pink Chablis Sedum (second photo), described by an online reference as the "scrumptious white-edged [variety] with white-snow buds and vibrant pink flowers," seem to be getting better every year. Another source states: "Broad green succulent leaves have a clean white edge that is well displayed. Pink flowers appear in late summer from white buds."
            They said it. 
            Our plant stays the same size each year, but its blossom deepens its color. I don't know why. It's planted in a "part-shade" spot where some plants thrive and others don't. A couple of its original neighbors are long gone. As a sedum (those succulent leaves) it tolerates the mid-summer drought well. The sources agree this is a "sun plant," so I'll accept its willingness to thrive in our semi-sun neighborhood as a gift from the gods.
            The "startling white iris" (third photo) that began blooming in the middle of September is more like the laughter of the gods, hooting at my inability to do anything with irises. The traditional bearded iris is a sun flower that will not adjust to our low-sun diet no matter where I put it. I transplanted a few under-performing irises to a new site last year but didn't get around to it until October, so perhaps I've simply destroyed this valiant specimen's sense of time.
            Irises bloom early in the year and disappear quickly. They're heart breakers. Maybe we're being set for a fall here by this rare September favor. So be it; I'm still in love.