Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Garden Catalogue Speak

Garden catalogue prose is sort of a language unto itself; like a doting grandmother trying to put a positive spin on everything her wayward grandchildren have done, catalogue writers attempt through their descriptions to spiffy up the resume of their potted charges, to get them out the door. Two notable phrases I've always looked out for, are "airy flowers" and "unaccountably neglected by gardeners"... the former (in English) means "tiny flowers with lots of space between them", and the latter means, "gardeners won't buy these plants, and I'm stuck with a whole greenhouse full of them".
Rabdosia longituba has the distinction of having both of these phrases hung on it in the catalogues, and I bought it anyway. I guess (rather, KNOW) that I'm a sucker for plants that are completely unknown to me that grow in some far off, exotic spot (in this case, the lush mountains of Japan). Rabdosias are supposedly called trumpet spurflowers, but a plant that's as little known and grown as this doesn't usually really have a common name... I've forgotten a lot, but I'm absolutely certain I've never been in anybody's garden and heard them make a comment about their patch of trumpet spurflowers.
Rabdosias used to be in the genus Plectranthus (which I actually have heard of); the genus Plectranthus is fairly well known; they are sometimes called tropical mints. It must have been a hodge podge of a genus originally, as creeping Charlie used to be in the same genus (a plant with tiny flowers that most of us "grow" whether we like it or not).
I will say that in its second year now, I'm coming to like my rabdosia; while the flowers are small, there are a lot of them, and anything that blooms in a soft pink this time of year is worth a small spot in my garden. However, be warned: objects in my photographs may appear larger than they actually are... I'm being kind when I call the flowers small: they're tiny. This species I also see offered now in white and bluish purple; the latter I've heard is very pretty, and I think I have a spot for it in a shady ravine. I can't imagine that the white flowered form would make much of an impact; whatever the color, rabdosia is not exactly a border plant, and will never be the anchor of the cutting garden. Since it is in the mint family, I must go out in the garden and see if there is any fragrance to the leaves.
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