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Tag "Worldgardening"

The town of Palazzolo Acreide is situated 43 kilometres (27 mi) from the city of Syracuse in the Hyblean Mountains. Its cemetery is a city of stone for itself  and probably hosts more inhabitants than the town has living ones.

A city of the dead
…with rows of fresh flowers

“Il Giorno dei Morti” had  been the day before yesterday, and we found the cemetery dotted with flowers. The air was saturated from the scent of lilies, with the herbal aroma of the chrysanthemums wavering in between. The after noon sun shone on granite and sandstone, there were impressive family vaults in the shape of small cathedrals, and graves so massively lidded with marble slabs that even on the day of resurrection the dead underneath would not be able to lift them …

The dead here do not rest in earth, or do they? By what means are these massive stones lifted then?
Many gravestones were adorned with finely chiseled rose garlands, quite in the style of softly rounded rococo roses (in contrast to rose reliefs on German cemeteries that usually show a tea-hybrid style rose). Maybe this was a specialty of the local stonemason at that time.

Stone roses
… and sunglasses (after dark)

All gravestones carried oval enamel or porcelain plates with a portrait of the deceased, the majority of them in black and white. Stern faces, many of them young. Some men were portrayed with their sunglasses on. Among the women there were many beauties that had died in their early 20s or 30s. No one was smiling (except for a lady on a 1980s colour photograph). Time and sunlight and rain had worked on the surface chemistry of the portraits: Silvery lines and spots obscured parts of the face, or partly changed their expression. It made them reminiscent of photographs of ghost séances –with the ectoplasma appearing as a silvery or white substance in the picture. But even without blemishes many faces spoke clearly of the hardships of Sicilian life: black eyes staring relentlessly back at the visitors, hairdos worn like invincible castles, and an unspoken sadness in the lines of the mouth of all of them.

Von Zeit zu Zeit
Amazing artwork

There were rose bushes too, growing by the side of the gravestones. By the size of their branches they must have been old. 50 years, 70 years and plus. I kept wondering why or who would plant a rose in between either two graves or just at the border of a stone. “These roses”, said Patti, “maybe just fell out off the bouquets or wreaths and took root.” “These are grafted roses”, I said, “I don’t believe so”.

Rosehips enjoying the sunlight
… despite the confinement

We passed dozens of bushes, each almost directly growing from under a grave. In my imagination all those roses had been there first. Maybe this place had been a former rose garden. Or, when the cemetery was founded, the graves were smaller and earth only with a small stone. Any rose bush planted at that time could continue to grow after having graciously endured the great marble immortality of the late 1940’s.

A different arrangement with melocactus
Dead and alive at the same time: an opuntia
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Taipei’s flower market is located under the protective rain shield of a flyover about 100 meters from Daan Park. It’s Sunday, but the hall is not too crowded. White arrows on the ground direct the flow of the masses into the right direction. So, first look at everything to the right, and on your way back onthe left. Hasty lane-changing leads to a little confusion, but is possible. Almost everything is here to discover : Water-steam machines, fertilizers, garden tools, soil, aquarium supplies, young dogs (in pink cages), seeds, pots and vessels of all kinds and of course flowers and plants for house and garden, mainly the latter.

One thing that strikes me, is the relative silence in comparison to the London flower market: no barkers, no screaming, not even with the countless special offers for orchids. I am glad that I am not an orchid specialist, otherwise I would have shed tears of delight. There are exquisite selections of „lady’s slippers“, young plants of special varieties, cascading flower stems in light yellow and aubergine, darkly speckled pharynxes, mysterious root pieces and lots of smaller „home plants” from 50 TWD (ca.1, 60 Euro). The prices for more splendid specimens go from 200 to 450 TWD and I feel very tempted.

Roughly speaking, the flower market can be divided into the sections orchids, succulents, ferns and epiphyts, camellias and bonsai (they really don’t belong together, but they are often grouped together), plants for the herb and vegetable garden and “showy perennials“, among them above all asters, pericallis and tailflowers as well as snap dragon, some roses and delphiniums. The stalls offering western spring flowers attract evidently delighted woman customers: There are hyacinths in full bloom and bulbs of daffodils. All of these are comparatively expensive.
Taipei flower lovers also seem to share an obvious liking for decorative Chichi, especially in aquaristics…

Coming to seeds, I search for Asian flowers, but there’s nothing there. Maybe because everything grows here almost by itself? The assortment – apart from garden vegetables – is almost the same as in Western stores, although a bit more limited: sunflowers, cosmea, Sweet William, autumn asters.

Garden tools are a story for themselves. To my astonishment, Western product names are abundant. Yet, much more interesting are the super-stable steel rakes, garden knives and shovels, which lie heavy in my hand and unfortunately would increase the weight of my suitcase considerably.
Tea is also sold: First, by the cup, being filled from huge steel vessels, secondly also in packages. Happy, I cram 300 grams of Oolong into my bag.

In the middle part of the hall, young dogs (and cats) are sitting in cages and I feel sorry for them. The seller tries to pull one of them out for a potential customer by grabbling its paw, and it seems to me that the animal here is viewed just as a living object.
In general, the dogs being walked here in the streets are often adorned with extravagant hairstyles and/or clothes. Being a dog groomer seems to be a profitable profession in Taipei. Also, it is not uncommon to transport dogs in buggies, for whatever reason..

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(Translation follows) Treasure Hill Artist Village im Zhongzheng Distrikt Taipehs liegt nahe am Fluss, über dem ein Wirrwarr an Flyovers und Zufahrten die Lüfte kreuzt. Dahinter: grüne, in Wolkendunst gehüllte Berge. Auf dem Weg zum Ufer liegen die Gemüsegärten der Dorfbewohner: Etwa 19 Familien teilen sich das Viertel von Treasure Hill mit heimischen und auswärtigen KünstlerInnen.

Während die Einheimischen vorwiegend ihre Nutzgärten pflegen, ist die gesamte Anlage nicht weniger auch geprägt von „Picknickorten“, Wandelgängen und einer Vielzahl versteckter Mikrogärten. Was von den alten Fliesen geblieben ist, mit denen Plätze, Betonwände und Terrassen gekachelt sind, zeigt meist Blumenmotive. Die Dächer begrünen sich von allein…, aber einige Dachgärten wurden doch mit Absicht angelegt. Mauern und Wände sind bewachsen mit Farnen, Winden, Moosen und kleinen Steinbrechgewächsen. In Töpfen stehen Zitronen- und Mandarinenbäume, Hortensien, Wandelröschen, Azaleen und Kamelien. Kohlweißlinge sind unterwegs, weshalb die meisten Kohlköpfe sorgsam unter Fließ gehalten werden. Ein Teich, eine Seerose und viele Mücken auf einem Pfad, der bereits hinter das Dorf führt, in einen weitaus ungeordneteren Garten unterhalb der historischen Fassaden der Bunker. Dort finde ich auch ein Exemplar der indigoblau blühenden „Schmetterlingserbse“. Eine Pflanze, deren Name, Clitoria ternatea, quasi selbsterklärend wäre, wenn es sich hier nicht um eine gefüllte Variante handelte.

Eating the blossoms of this plant is said to increase intelligence and beauty…

Nun ein paar Treasure Hill Gartenansichten:

(Translation follows) Treasure Hill Artist Village im Zhongzheng Distrikt Taipehs liegt nahe am Fluss, über dem ein Wirrwarr an Flyovers und Zufahrten die Lüfte kreuzt. Dahinter: grüne, in Wolkendunst gehüllte Berge. Auf dem Weg zum Ufer liegen die Gemüsegärten der Dorfbewohner: Etwa 19 Familien teilen sich das Viertel von Treasure Hill mit heimischen und auswärtigen KünstlerInnen.

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„Aspirin is very good“, Patrick says, „but take care you buy uncoated tablets only“, and he’s not talking about his head but about the roses of the ELP Municipal Rose Garden on 710 Aurora Drive. We stand in the blazing heat and are talking roses.

A rose garden always seems to be a formal matter and the El Paso rose garden makes no exception. Its surrounding walls are whitewashed, the paths and plots follow prescibed horticultural plans, and yet, the neighborhood seems rather unimpressed. A police car is the only vehicle on the gravel parking lot of the garden. Teenagers in yellow shirts jump up and down under the terracotta colored roof of a nearby school. In front and behind the walls, rows of Hespealoes (Red Yucca) show off their last blossoms on gracious stalks, with black seeds spilling out of elegantly shaped pods.

Patrick is about 70, wears checkered trousers and a  Catweasel-like beard. How come we started talking about the roses? He was working at a stretch of red shrub varieties.  We admired him and the roses, unfilled simple red blossoms on age-grey sun-battered strong stems: desert hardy roses. And as it turned out, desert hardy roses were a favorite theme of Patrick who starts at 7 in the morning and has been working for the past 11 years in this garden.

He leads us to a shed where the gardeners stash garlic and onions to fight off the white fly, baking power against soil pests and aspirin against black spot desease and yellow leaves.
“If your roses becomes weak and sick, a good spell of aspirin helps them recover their health again”, says Patrick.


Aspirin is good for roses

Texan desert rose information files…

Desert roses are bred on rose wood that is not the European Rosa Canina but the (still!) hardier and heat resistant desert rose Rosa Stellata. They are bred to withstand the enormous temperatures encountered in the regions of Texas, New Mexico and and and.
The bushes, floribundas and tea hybrids bear mostly simple open blossoms, many of them with a strong, quite varied scent. Some are like apple, others almost cinnamon, others like old scented wood.

A multicolored specimen…


Purple Passion

Shoot from withered stem


Patrick takes us back to his pruning work, a basket full of grey wood and wilted flowers stands next to him. Of course, he has the shears ready anytime, stashed in a leather sheath fixed to his belt. Next to the basket leans a very reliable looking pair of lobbers.

One of our questions seemingly puzzles him. “How about lavender?”, I had asked, to fight off the pests and give the roses company. “This has never been taken into consideration or planning… though, from now on I’ll think on it”, he says.

The sun has called its tribute already. The roses, hardly opened up, fold their leaves exhaustedly together, the rims of their petals at times even dried up before the whole flower has opened. Against one of the fences leans a tattered New Dawn, evidently unfit for this desert climate and close to fainting. Maybe this is a reason for the floribunda’s preference and also for the selection and breeding of smaller flowers. The resident tea hybrids of course still have prominent blossoms, but these are not always as much scented as one would suspect. Some have almost Dahlia-like spirally arranged petals, some variegated in while and red, or yellow and red.

The Municipal rose garden has quite a bit of staff to care for its roses, next to Patrick there is another elderly gardener (sturdier but with no beard and rather in his 60is) and a young woman who sets herself to work just as we are leaving the garden. In our bags we carry a small catalogue on desert roses and the inevitable leaflet on how to fight common pests and pruning.
One last theme: Almost all roses in the Municipal Rose Garden are American bred, the greatest part of them during the 50s and 60s. Their names convey quite accurately the diptych of culture and patriotism while a third section refers to their brilliance of colours: “Judy Garland”, “Betty Boop”, “Freedom”, “Roosevelt”, “Veteran’s Honor”, “Fourth of July”, “Proud Land”, “Prairie Lass”, “Purple Passion” and of course, “Knockout”…

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The only two times I photographed a desert prickly poppy (Argemone polyanthemos) was in 2003 and in 2018, and both happened on the occasion of a visit to the Chinati Foundation.

In a garden next to the studios (it was absolutely forbidden to take pics of the interiors and the library) a row of sunflowers lined a Judd-fashioned adobe wall. As the whole place is imprinted with this man’s concept of perfect proportion, it appeared to me that not even  the sunflowers could withstand his sense of zen-like order. Their silhouettes stood out in immaculate wilting… and reminded me somehow of a procession of Don Quixotes.

The open fields that frame the buildings and outdoor concrete sculptures stretch over an 340 acre areal bought by Judd  during his first visits to Marfa in the 70s. Inside and outside melt into each other on viewing his aluminum sculptures through the giant glass panes.

The ground is gravel and red earth, interspersed with pebbles and small rocks… and desert flowers.

Different kinds of prairie grasses grew there, e. g. so-called weeds like the Silverleaf Nightshade, that has much bigger blossoms than the European kind (Solanum nigrum). Its flowers appear in different hues of blue, from lilac and mauve to an almost clear blue).

The Prickly Poppy stays one of my favorites…


Also to be found are some handsome thistles, silvery dead aloe(heads), lots of  bronze-coloured dried up, unknown (to me) annuals, and in the background exhausted looking shrubs and desert willows meddling with the low hanging clouds.


And here are still some other (not yet specified) flowers that grew among the sculptures.



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The Sotol plant (Dasylirion liophyllum) abounds on the Northern slopes of the Big Bend National Park. Its slender flower stems reach into the air, gently waving in the occasional breezes coming down from the mountains.
The sotol belongs to the family of the agavea yet its outer appearance resembles more a yucca. The Indians used to roast the heart of the plant in fire pits dug into the earth, coals beneath and silt on top to cover them.

Yet, as we approach the Big Bend’s “Sotol View“ it becomes apparent that quite recently a bush fire has raged in the region. The ground is almost bare, splashed with grey patches of ashes and in between, the stumps of the sotel plants sit like churned pineapples, surrounded by the black sticks and twigs what was formerly mesquite and coal back stubbles of gras.

A closer look reveals that most of the Sotel plants are not dead at all! Slowly (but not really slow, as desert plants are fast-reacting beings), one days after another, new green pushes the scorched leaves forward. I’d say that the fire happened maybe 2-3 weeks ago, no more. Already new seedlings have appeared in little clusters, some of the stubbles show new leaves of grass. The opuntias however, look desolate. Their „ears“ have turned to a sickly, almost transparent yellow, and where the whole plant has been seized, there is nothing left to rescue.

Some plants are only burnt half, clearly the fire had been extinguished fairly quickly. The Big Bend’s fire brigade goes by the name of „Los Diablos“, a Mexican troop notoriously known by its efficiency, courage and speed. As they say, they „fight the fire like the devil“, hence the name. Still, there is a bitter taste to the story of this brigade. Being Mexicans and having their home mostly close to the border, the men are – despite the fact that the group is even recruited for emergencies all over the South West far into Presidio county – not even allowed a permanent working permit.



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From the Red Roses of Texas to freely growing “Night Shades” in avocado shaped BBQ roasts found on the corners of derelict houses: Stay prepared for selected postings (and excuse the delays: it’s either too much sun or no W-Lan or too much sun again.

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Absolutely amazing and incredibly fast: in just 6 days, the hornets, having conquered the pine tree’s birdhouse straight after the sweet cherry season, have built a fantastic annex: Welcome to the hornet’s Datscha!

I wonder how this will go on … with the fair weather season extending into at least two more months. Hornets are a nocturnal species, yet in the mornings and in the early afternoon, the sounds of their nesting activities are loudest: a permanent rasping accompanied by the buzz of wings.  Nice idea, to install a microphone at a close range – well, it won’t be me who’s doing that!

Which type of hornet may this be?

View with the former bird house


Close-up of the lower section


Datscha Hornet Front View

Adorned entrance



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