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?

15 comments:

Chandramouli S said...

WoW! What a wonderful arrangement! I don't prefer crotons a lot as they don't flower but love their looks but after Steve's Fab Foliage Series at Clatter Valley (http://clattervalleygardens.blogspot.com/) I changed my mind about them. They do look great when arranged properly! Great post!

Carol said...

What is ordinary to one gardener is certainly exotic to another. And if we have room in our houses, houseplants do stand out when grouped together in an arrangement much like they've done in the conservatory. Elizabeth, thanks for the link and thanks for the ideas... suddenly I need, want, more houseplants.

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Lisa at Greenbow said...

The glass house surrounded by snow looks so cold and lonely...until you enter. Aaaahhhh I can smell the damp earthy smell. Seeing all of these "house" plants makes me wish I had more. I guess it tis the season.

Kathy said...

I remember getting the same weird feeling in high school when I visited the Alamo and saw all my houseplants growing in the ground there.

fairegarden said...

Hi Elizabeth, I love visits to large indoor gardens, you can show it everyday and I would never tire of seeing it. All the plants are special too, I agree, except maybe for crabgrass, that is not special to me anyway. Crotons always catch my eye, and plectranthus makes a fine container planting. Maybe the houseplant section should be the source for next spring's container plantings, thanks for the idea.
Frances

Gail said...

I love visiting the display gardens, too. Not only are they colorful and needed during these brown time (here in Nashville) but the greenhouses/conservatories are toasty warm and bright. I won't get more houseplants (still blaming the cat) but I will head over to our botanical center to get warmed up.

Gail

ledgeandgardens said...

Now I have to go visit a conservatory! Nature Deficit Disorder is in full swing here and plants are the only cure. That question requires just a moment of thought...all living things are extraordinary when you think of what it takes to grow and survive!

Jen said...

I make it a point at least once a year to visit the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. I would go more often but I live three hours away. But I do agree, the place is a joy to visit and it offers something new every time. I was there back in November for the mum show. I love it there. It is great!

JAbel said...

What a beautiful building.I never knew of it till your post.Next trip east I'll take a drive over from Rochester and visit it.

Dreamybee said...

That IS a gorgeous building! You are so right about context. When we first moved to HI, I planted a bunch of little plants outside our front door, thinking they would grow to be nice little 3'-4' shrubs, as they would have done on the mainland, had I planted them there. Well, when they started reaching 8' tall and leaning into the gutter, which was about every 6 months or so, depending on the last pruning, we had to cut them back a bit!

TC said...

I was thinking I had left a comment here a few days ago; perhaps not.

Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh looks similar to Erie's Botanical Gardens. I wonder if both had the same designer?

I find euphorbia to be one of the easier houseplants I maintain. Mine is a pink variety.

jodi said...

I don't think it's possible to ever say too much about a place as wonderful as this obviously is. I really HAVE to win a lottery, and then spend my days touring private and public gardens around North America. And then Europe, and Australia and....well, you get the picture.

Your post reminded me that my Euphorbia milii expired this summer and I have yet to replace it. It was one of those nice yellow-white flowered variants, too.

Pat Leuchtman said...

It is true that there are no ordinary plants, it is how we use and arrange them that can make others take real notice. I've been hearing a lot about Crown of Thorns lately. I am trying to figure out where I can add one.

flowergardengirl said...

Agreed--no ordinary plants and how nice of you to bring up that point. My mom always planted marigolds. She was nuts about them. To her...they were the prettiest thing ever. I can not grow them at all.

We had someone bring in a huge Crown of Thorns at my former job. I thought it was a tree. I had never seen one so big. It was in a little bitty pot but was 6 feet tall and wide. I suppose because we watered every day that it thrived on the water and not the soil. The one we had bloomed red.

lisa said...

Well written, and I couldn't agree more! I like your idea of visiting the indoor gardens to chase the winter blues, I'm gonna copy! :)