A Winged Dinosaur Soars In My Garden
Saturday, May 11, 2013
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln
|Rosa sericea subsp. omeienses forma pteracantha|
Every year my Rosa ‘Blanc double de Coubert’
is usually the first to bloom. But that did not happen this year. Due to many years of growing in the shade (and growing taller and taller to get to the light) Blanc double de Coubert gave up the ghost. The first rose to bloom did so a week ago. It is Rosa sericea
Lindl. subsp. omeiensis
(Rolfe) A. V. Roberts forma pteracantha
For short we usually call this unique rose Rosa sericea subsp. omeiensis forma pteracantha.
United States Department of Agriculture
Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Area
Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN)
GRIN Taxonomy for Plants
Taxon: Rosa sericea
Lindl. subsp. omeiensis
(Rolfe) A. V. Roberts forma pteracantha
Family: Rosaceae subfamily: Rosoideae tribe: Roseae.
Nomen number: 32167
Place of publication: Pl. delavay. 1:220. 1890
Name verified on: 09-Feb-2001 by ARS Systematic Botanists. Last updated: 09-Feb-2001
Species priority site is: National Arboretum (NA).
Rosa sericea subsp. omeienses
is most vigorous and if left alone it would spread in every direction. You do not want this to happen near pathways as she has the most vicious thorns around. Technically roses do not have thorns but prickles. Rosa sericea subsp
prickles are exceptionally beautiful. They are translucent and red and when grown where you get a backlight they shine blood red.
I like my Rosa sericea
because it is a species rose. It is a rose in which man, and woman, have not tinkered with to “improve” it. I love it for its primitive nature. I have often wondered why botanist Giovanna Franchetti would have been involved in the naming of the rose as pteracantha. The name brings to mind primitive flying pterosaurs
. All I could find is that the word pterosaur, has Greek roots, πτερόσαυρος, pterosauros, meaning winged lizard. What is winged about my Rosa sericea
? Could those large prickles be like wings?
The names of plants and what these names can do to my imagination remind me of Emily Dickinson’s, “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.”
I often wonder when I gaze upon the pale pink, almost white, Bourbon Rose, Madame Pierre Oger
not only who Pierre Oger was but what do we know about his wife? There is nothing so I could go at length here on what I have invented about her! And there is that hosta, Hosta
‘Tokudama Flavocircinalis’. This hosta is not big. It is slow growing and I have had it in my garden at least 23 years, and yet, every time I notice its elegant variegation I think of a fierce and imposing Roman emperor that never was.
Going into my garden is venturing into a past that was and that was not.
Rhododendron ponticum 'Variegatum'
Friday, May 10, 2013
|Rhododendron ponticum 'Variegatum' |
When we first started to garden in 1986 our present home on Athlone Street my craze for variegated hostas took me to buy anything else that may have been variegated. Because variegated plants have less chlorophyll they can be fussy. They need more sun to make food but paradoxically many burn in the sun and you cannot win one way or another.
A fixture in our garden since that beginning is the variegated rhododendron, Rhododendron ponticum
‘Variegatum’. The leaves almost always look like a sorry mess. Some of the leaves are misshapen and others have burned in the sun. Many times I have wanted to get rid of it. I am glad to admit now that I am happy I never did. It has come to its own. I rather like it. Here is a scan of the flowers. I have progressively lightened it so in the third picture you can observe what the leaves look like.
The Teardrop, Brother Hubert, Craig Tolbert & My Gym Floor
Thursday, May 09, 2013
|Craig Tolbert -1960-61|
I must confess that as a man I have never ever wanted to own or drive a motorcycle, grow a mustache or a beard and the only sport I ever excelled at was ping-pong before it was promoted to the status of table tennis.
Perhaps my un-jockiness has something to do with having been in three school systems. In the Argentine one (at an American School) I was subjected to rugby, cricket and football (the soccer variant). In Mexico it was football (the soccer variant) and baseball. I could not hit a softball even if it had been a lobbed softball.
In Austin, Texas I broke my elbow playing touch football. The closest I ever got to a basketball floor, a baseball diamond or a football field was with my alto saxophone in the school band.
This does not mean that I am ignorant in the finer niceties of sport. I admit my failure in trying to explain to my Argentine nephews that in Canada they have this sport called hockey where one man attempts to kill another with a vicious hit on the head with the stick and the officials then reprimand him, “ You have been a bad boy. Take a penalty and sit in that box for four minutes.”
I know good players in most of the sports I have attempted to play. I never quite understood the difference between the double dribble (you could not) and the dribble (you could) in basketball. In basketball as well as in volleyball, after a couple of days of play, I would sprain either the middle or index fingers of either of my hands.
Of football (the soccer kind) the less I write here about my shortcomings the better as I am an embarrassment to my fellow Argentines.
Let’s return to basketball. At St. Ed’s I worked (I saved up to my first good camera) for Brother Hubert Koeppen, CSC. Had he ever been in a concentration camp (he was not) he would have been the guy who could find anything as he collected everything. Brother Hubert was frugal and years later when he died they found a huge quantity of umbrellas in his quarters that he had collected here and there. There are persistent rumours that there was a fully operational Model-T Ford there, too.
|Brother Hubert Koeppen, C.S.C.|
Brother Hubert, besides teaching me World History (and Ancient History) ran a shop where you could buy model airplanes and the like. I worked there doing odd jobs. But Brother Hubert’s pride and joy was the beautifully varnished and maintained basketball floor in our gym. I was in charge of pushing treated sawdust, many times a week, with a wide mop on the gym floor. I was given full authority to browbeat anybody who might walk across the floor with street shoes. The otherwise patient, kind and easy going Brother Hubert would explode in anger if he saw you even skirt the corner of his floor with street shoes. Brother Hubert had enormous hands and there was the story that he would pick you up from the head with one hand (I never saw this done so I cannot attest for its veracity) and carry you out of his treasured gym. Brother Hubert was always in the lookout for street shoes during the sock hops or in the Saturday night movie evenings where he would take out a venerable 16mm projector and screen John Ford westerns. We sat on the bleachers and he projected on a screen on the gym floor.
Because St. Edward’s High School was run by Brothers (and a few priests) of Holy Cross, the same that ran and run Notre Dame in Indiana, basketball and football were important. The adjacent small St. Edward’s University had no budget to compete with the University of Texas football team but in basketball it was a different story. There were quite a few (not that the university would have admitted it) basketball players with failing grades who were sent from Notre Dame to improve their grades in Austin. These players could run rings around just about anybody and while St. Ed’s Hilltoppers were not in the same league as UT in friendly scrimmage games UT often lost.
Since this was 1960 basketball was unrecognizable from the sport that it is today. I thought the old shorts were sexy. The baggy ones of now are laughable and only seem to stress the idea that those who play this sport professionally are somehow almost freaks. I would immediately raise the hoop by two feet and that would terminate most attempts at the lack of finesse that the slam dunk is.
I do not mean to offend when I use the word freak as many of these 7 footers have the grace of ballerinas. But you must understand that one of the last players I really admired was Oscar Robertson and he has not played since the 70s. Because he played with many players so much taller than he was, at six five he seemed short.
At our St. Ed’s High School in my 12th grade we had a new student from New Orleans, Craig Tolbert who was not too tall but dazzled in his dribbling (never did double as far as I could tell) and could shoot with an extremely high percentage of shots scored.
I may not have all the details but I do know that we had what looked like a really good season and all we had to do was feed Tolbert and he would dribble around and score from any position. Then he broke his finger. He broke the middle or index finger of his right hand. We were devastated. But not quite as Tolbert did not know he was an ambidextrous shooter and did just as well with his left hand. His dribbling was almost as good.
But in the final game at San Marcos, I was there with the band, we lost against the Texas Military Institute and the ending was not a Hollywood kind of ending. Tolbert shot and shot but it was not enough. He still holds the school record for highest scoring in one year.
In a recent reunion, I met up with Tolbert and he was as lean and soft-spoken as I remembered him. We talked about John Havlicek’s (Boston Celtics) beautiful hook shot.
Basketball came back into my imagination today when on the front page of the NY Times
(my hard copy) I read Hop and a Flick: Floating One Over the Big Guys
by Scott Cacciola.
I will only write here the first few paragraphs and the last three paragraphs of this beautifully written piece that tells me that finesse, against what I thought, is still in existence in the NBA.
Miami – The slam dunk has captivated the basketball world for a generation with its combination of raw ferocity and balletic grace, but this year a different shot is sweeping the N.B.A. playoffs.
It’s called the teardrop. And it’s the antidunk.
If the slam dunk is all power, the teardrop is all finesse, a dandelion fluff of a shot that is nearly always tossed up by the smallest player on the floor. The teardrop floats over the defenders’ outstretched hands, arcs towards the rafters and then – especially this year – drops through the net with barely a whisper.
George Gervin, a Hall of Fame player who turned the finger-roll layup into an art form in the late 1970s, is regarded as a teardrop visionary. In his modified version, he extended his arm toward the basket and simply let the ball trickle off his hand, almost as an afterthought. If a defender got in the way, Gervin flicked his wrist just so, sending the ball on a high arcing parabola. It was an underhand scoop so delicate and precise that the basketball could have been a Fabergé egg.
Basketball experts will endlessly debate the finer points of a finger roll versus a teardrop: broadly speaking, a finger roll is underhanded, and a teardrop is tossed from a high point. Still, Gervin says he was transfixed by Game 1 of the Warriors-Spurs series, and especially by Curry, who is half innovator and half throwback, as spontaneous as he is prepared.
“He was like Fred Astaire,” Gervin said. “He was dancing and twirling around, gliding across the floor. We ain’t seen that in a while.”
Kudos to Scott Caciolla for his beautiful piece and my congratulations to whatever NY Times editor decided to put it on the front cover. This is the kind of journalism which does not make me question in the least that I pay $1500 for my daily delivered NY Times.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
There is a paradox in the idea that one must fertilize one’s plants to then, come spring, find that one has to prune and cut back what has overgrown.
What is not a paradox and a certainty is that I used to be a lot more ignorant about gardening than I am now. When we first moved to our present home on Athlone Street, my eldest daughter’s boy friend of the time offered us horse manure from his parent’s home in Ladner. I remember shoveling the precious stuff under our laurel hedge! One of the worst chores of the year is tackling the four day pruning of that damn laurel hedge
The above is but a preamble to state that after a long day of pruning and moving plants in the garden I found myself losing my balance and I knew that if I persisted in the garden I was going to fall or perhaps (worse) accidentally sever one of my fingers with my secateurs.
I opted to come inside and write this blog. It is not in the least difficult to think about something to write. Originally I was going to write about the baker’s wife. Both the baker and his wife live on Salt Spring Island but that story will have to wait for another day.
I was thinking of one very important question that Driftwood
reporter Elizabeth Nolan asked me at my opening at the Duthie Gallery
this last Saturday afternoon. She asked me, “Which is your favourite photograph in your show?”
That was a tough question which I was about to answer and did indeed answer, “It depends,” until we entered the gallery and I saw Liv Ullman’s portrait, nicely framed and occupying, all by herself and artist’s easel.
It was then easy to say, “This portrait of Liv Ullman is my favourite,” and I proceeded to tell its story
The usual answer to any question of what’s my favourite this or that is almost always, “It depends.”
In the garden the answer might be the rose in bloom or a hosta in all its glory. In the winter the question about a favourite rose becomes much more difficult as I have to choose one at the expense of the others. Could it be Rosa ‘Mrs. Oakley Fisher’
who so reminds me of my portrait of Rebecca, as a child, wearing one in her hair?
I have very nice hostas (over 400 of them) and some not exactly the most beautiful, like Hosta
'Sea Dream' or H.
Alex Summers remind me, the former of its hybridizer Mildred Seaver
, a dear and wonderful woman and the latter of the handsome and warm founder of the hosta society, Alex Summers
. Both of them befriended my granddaughter Rebecca. These two hostas have my friends’ faces on them. But on a rainy and cool day, or why not, a sunny day, Hosta
‘Krossa Regal’ with no variegation and with its dull battleship grey, grey it is as elegant as a plant can be.
Which brings me to what is my favourite jazz tune right now as I write this?
One is from a no liner note CD called Dizzy Gillespie – Con Alma
and the title song, one of the most beautiful jazz standards ever runs for a not-long-enough 9 minutes and 25 seconds. The other jazz tune is Stan Getz
(his last album, released posthumously) and Kenny Barron - People Time
playing Charlie Haden’s First Song (For Ruth).
And Elizabeth Nolan of the Driftwood, thank you for the lovely review and keep asking that tough question.
A Bleak Queen Of Coquitlam
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
One of the bleakest and most depressing films I have ever seen (and thus one of my favourites) is Stanley Kramer’s 1959 On the Beach
with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire (he doesn’t dance here, he drives) and Anthony Perkins. Mankind is all but dead after a nuclear conflagration and what remains of the world are those who live in Australia. But their days are numbered as the radioactive clouds move in. And then there are a few Americans in the nuclear submarine, the USS Sawfish under the Royal Australian Navy Command who are dispatched to investigate a strange Morse code signal coming from San Francisco. Could there be a pocket of humans alive in that nuclear wasteland?
The crew and Captain (Gregory Peck) see a perfectly empty (no physical damage) city with no people through the periscope. What they find is what makes this film so bleak and so black and white.
These two pictures, which I took on board the Queen of Coquitlam have that bleakness. I took them when I was returning from my show at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island. The colour pictures (also taken with my Noblex, a swivel lens panoramic camera) by the very fact that they are in colour seem to be more attractive to the eye. These in black and white and only one of the images has a token human made me think of Fred Astaire in On the Beach driving furiously to win a grand prix race in which the winner as well as the others would ultimately be all losers.
It is Tuesday and Rosemary will be in Lillooet until Friday. I need her to return soon.
The Ferry in colour
The Amateur Artist
Monday, May 06, 2013
|Click on image to view in bigger size|
As I reflect on the influence of my mother in my life with the advent of Mother’s Day next Sunday I have been giving special consideration to the memory of my grandmother. Is not Mother’s Day also Grandmother’s Day?
My grandmother Lolita
born in the 19th century when people with money did not work was part of the British (even though she was Spanish) concept of the amateur who did nothing for money. Lolita, or Abuelita or Abue had a beautiful coloratura soprano voice but never sang professionally. People of her ilk would not have dared to mix with “prostitutes” in the opera!
Early in my life my Abue was my protector from parental discipline. She would say, “Alex and I are artists and you simply have to be more understanding.” I wasn’t sure what an artist was but I liked having carte blanche (almost) to do anything I pleased, because I was an artist.
In my teens I became obsessed with chess and when I began to have chess nightmares and started losing games I knew I had to stop. The only explanation for losing in chess was that I had to admit to myself that I was stupid.
In my 8th grade class in a one-room schoolhouse in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico (my mother was the teacher) there were six boys. One of them, Sammy Simpson
, was the best student plus he was tall and handsome. He wore blue jeans that were expertly ironed with a sharp crease and looked great on him because of his long legs. My only relief in my intense jealousy is that I knew I had a higher IQ than Sammy. That was shattered when one day my mother told me (and I cannot remember the occasion that caused it) that I had a very high IQ but not as high as Sammy’s. That was it and from that point on I had one big chip on my shoulder.
While my journey into the direction of becoming an artist began some 15 years ago in Vancouver I have always played it safe by considering myself to be a competent editorial and commercial photographer who just happens to dabble in the arts. To call myself an artist would leave me in a situation where if I am not recognized as one I would be another variation of the failed chess player and second best IQ-er.
Part of this “No, I am not an artist,” identity I have carried in my feeling a sort of pride in never having attempted to qualify for some sort of arts grant.
In a recent past I took photographs of a woman who had received a Canada Council grant to document, photographically, all the bus stops in Surrey for a year. I was shocked (dismayed?) to find out that the grant included money for lunch and transportation.
One year, perhaps 8 years ago, I participated in an erotic show at the now defunct Exposure Gallery on Beatty Street. Two of my works were narratives (6 tiny photographs in a row) of women experiencing a self-induced orgasm. I was shocked when many (and many they were) of my female friends told me they were nixed because I had not asked them to participate. One of them suggested that I might be able to get a Canada Council grant with such a project as many women would pose for this.
It was at about this time that I came up with the idea of doing one of those “A Day in the Life” with our BC Ferries. We would unleash a battalion of photographers to take pictures for a whole day. I even thought that we might have obtained BC Ferry backing for funds for film and free rides on the ships. But in the end I gave the idea a rest and it disappeared from my thoughts.
This past weekend I knew I would be on a ferry as I had to attend my opening at the Duthie Gallery
on Salt Spring Island. I decided to pack my Noblex Pro 175 U
swivel lens panoramic camera. I have taken successful BC Ferry pictures in my past so I thought this might be a good opportunity to continue. I have noticed and it was most evident this past Sunday as Rosemary and I returned on the Queen of Coquitlam from Long Harbour that the many photographers on board where using the vessel as a platform to take pictures of the surrounding landscape and seascape. Few, if any turned their cameras around to focus on the ship.
It was a brilliantly sunny afternoon and I shot three rolls of Kodak 800 ISO colour negative film. My camera gives me four shots per roll. I took 12 exposures of which two were near duplicates of each other. The rest were all different.
When I looked at the pictures I smiled to myself as I thought what a change they were to those erotic photographs of mine at the Duthie Gallery. Is it too late to apply for a grant?
For one I would have to admit in being an artist. That would be dangerous. I can imagine my grandmother smiling at me, prodding me on to do what she could not do for being a person of her time. I wonder if it is too late to apply for a grant. Or is it safe to be an amateur?
And More Noblex
Not the end of it
The Grand Canyon - North Rim
Remontant We're Not
Sunday, May 05, 2013
|Rosa 'Belle Isis' |
Logic says that it would be a travesty to cut a rose bloom before it’s time. This would be particularly true with an old rose that is not remontant. This means that the rose in question, Rosa
‘Belle Isis’ blooms only once and then you have a green bush for the rest of the summer. And yet if you observe the bud you might notice its beauty. It is reminiscent of the filigree of the Acanthus mollis
which the Greeks used as a motif for their Corinthian column capitals.
But other buds of Belle Isis will open in the next few days and the perfume of myrrh will go up into my brain like Keen’s Mustard and refresh me to the realization that life is good even if like many of those old roses we are not remontant either.
'Belle Isis' Parmentier Belgium 1845
A small to medium-growing shrub with tidy, upright growth and grey-green foliat. The flowers, which are fully double and open flat, are a lovely shade of pink and have a strong perfume.
Peter Beales Classic Roses