Gardening with Georgia

Archive - August 2011

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A flower of many meanings

Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 01:09:34 PM

Find the hooded cobra in the flower of the
cannonball tree.

The cannonball tree, near the cycad circle, is flowering profusely, offering a pleasant perfume to anyone who walks by. Couroupita guianensis is found in South America, but has been grown in India for centuries. Considered a sacred plant in India, the flower’s complex structure is said to symbolize a hooded cobra protecting a Shiva lingam. Shiva is the Hindu god who is the Destroyer of life (only if life is destroyed can rebirth and regeneration occur). The lingam is a symbol of Shiva’s phallus, but also a sign of the energy from which creation emerged.  The lingam usually is displayed in a cuplike container, which is female.

In the 1990s, a concrete pillar with a rounded top was placed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and it took little time for Hindu offerings to be made there. In Kashmir there’s a cave at 14,500 feet where an ice stalactite forms every winter, resembling a Shiva lingam. Thousands of pilgrims visit the cave annually, but this year, reported the UK’s Telegraph, a warm summer and too many people caused the lingam to melt early. In some villages, the cannonball tree is considered sacred and is the setting for offerings to Shiva, especially from childless couples.

Meanwhile, back at the Garden, the cannonball flowers are being produced on long wooden stems that emerge from the trunk like so many tentacles.  Sterile stamens arise like small purple and white bristles, while the fertile stamens are much reduced and found around a ring surrounding the stigma.

The cannonball tree has a special place in my heart because it was so badly damaged in Hurricane Andrew that people thought it might be lost. I recall the way it looked after that storm and marvel at its tenacity. Perhaps Shiva is the right god to associate with it.


Keeping us on our toes

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 10:35:29 AM

Irene gave us our first wake-up call of the 2011 hurricane season. Say “Good Night Irene,” snag some extra water and canned goods at the store, and double check your storm plan.

Remember what you should have on hand for the post-storm reckoning, and buy these now: extra shade cloth; copper-based and other fungicides; rope; chain saw with oil and gas; pruning and hand shears; gloves; hose-end sprayer and water-soluble fertilizer.

Place orchids on ground
beneath shade house
benches before a storm.

For a fuller storm checklist, see the Summer 2011 issue of The Tropical Garden. It is online if you have lost track of the magazine. Click “publications” and scroll to page17.

Here are some reminders:

Attend to palms to prevent bud rot. Use 1 Tbs. Kocide to a gallon of water and pour into the growing point. Cut away fronds that have twisted over the new spear, but allow others to remain. Avoid using this copper-based fungicide on dendrobiums, gesneriads, ferns and bromeliads.

Cover the roots of any hardwood trees that may go over, keeping them damp until you can reset the trees. Cut back some roots to get them back into the ground, and prune one-third to one-half of the canopy, but allow as many leaves to remain as possible for photosynthesis.

Treat reset trees as transplants, water daily for two to four weeks, and then gradually reduce watering. A light solution of water-soluble fertilizer can be used on the area of roots that remain in the ground.

Put orchids on the ground before a storm, and spray with Captan and Dithane M-45 (1 tablespoon each per gallon of water) after the storm. Banrot and Subdue are systemic fungicides that fight root-rot diseases. Cleary’s 3336 is good for foliar diseases.



iPhoneography and plants

Mon, Aug 08, 2011 at 09:46:50 AM

Shirley Drevich was our instructor for the iPhoneography class series at the Garden, and she opened our eyes to new ways of seeing plants. Various apps downloaded into the iPhone4 can be used singly or in combination to create a vast array of results. Have a look.

Water lilies.



Dioon cycads.








Bird of paradise.