Monday, November 21, 2011

This Grass Almost Made Me Miss a Wedding

Masses of 'White Cloud' Gulf Coast muhly

Matt and I were in Atlanta last weekend for my cousin's wedding. We went to the Atlanta Botanical Garden during the day, where we saw the awesomest grass--'White Cloud' Gulf coast muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris).  It makes frothy masses of pale blond billows, and it is very aptly named: it's like being surrounded by a fluffy, luminous cloud.

In my excitement over sharing pix of this beautiful new grass with my brother, I kept the three of us from leaving the hotel on time, which meant we had to slip in the side as the bride was processing up the aisle. Oops. The irony is, my brother doesn't really care about plants at all ("Sure. It's awesome," he said, appeasingly.  He did not say, "Can we go now?" but I'm pretty sure that was in the subtext.)  The further irony is that none of my pix really do the plant justice.  You'll just have to take my word for it: in real life, it's awesome.  AWESOME.

More 'White Cloud' in the background

Anyway, the ceremony was very nice (flowers were very stylish--terra cotta orange lilies and lime green accent flowers. And the boutonnieres were made of moss and yellow globes of the disc flowers from some sort of asteraceae--very funky.  And at the reception:  sashimi!).  I don't think anyone noticed our late entrance, aside from my gimlet-eyed grandmother.

And we really enjoyed the botanical gardens (good thing, too. Admission was $20 a pop!  Yeesh.)  It wasn't a super-geeky bot. gar.--labeling and signage was spotty; you got the feeling it was more into design than botany.  But it was very pretty, and intelligently pretty.  Sometimes this kind of pricy destination garden depends on waves of gaudy annuals (yuck) to wow the visitor.  But when the heart of your gardens is perennials and shrubs, you have to know how your plants will work in all four seasons.  In Atlanta, for example, they left spent hydrangea heads on the fading shrubs, which is wonderfully seasonal and melancholy; not the Disney World approach.

My second favorite plant, after the inestimable 'White Cloud' was this radioactive Japanese maple, 'Yama Kagi' or "Full Moon" maple.

Acer japonicum 'Yama Kagi'

Here's a closer view, showing the brilliant color and interesting leaf shape (click for a bigger version).  I started making sounds about digging a really deep hole, filling it with peat moss and sulphur, and trying to grow this glorious thing back in Texas.  Matt just snorted.  Maybe he was remembering my earlier attempt at this kind of thing with the doomed farkleberry. Ours is a cruel, cruel climate.

Closer shot of 'Yama Kagi'

Also of interest was this espaliered loquat--who knew you could grow them this way?  Matt thinks it's insincere, but I think it's a very clever way to enjoy your loquat without having to find space for a giant, shaggy monster.

Espaliered loquat (Eriobotrya japaonica)

Other than that, my favorite thing was the orchid house, which was really a wonderful place: tons of freaky strange orchids, several very nice water features, and three staghorn ferns that were bigger than stags.  No lie. Beyond that, it was just a place that felt nice to be in, maybe because it featured a stimulating balance between formality and wildness.

Orchid house with giant staghorn ferns

This was one of many nifty weird orchids in the orchid house.

Strange pink orchid

Finally, my other favorite thing of the whole trip. I give you--Bugscuffle, Texas. It's better than Oatmeal, Dime Box, or even my old favorite, North Zulch. To whomever named this town: my hat is off to you.

Bugscuffle, Texas
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