Rouge Romantique – Bauhinia galpinii

Bauhinia galpinii - ECU

|Close Up Detail Of Bauhinia galpinii|

What are we looking at?  Is it an old Cocteau Twins album cover?  The filaments of some psychedelic light bulb? What we’re looking at is beauty.  Something so vivid, so mysterious, yet so romantic.  Have you ever seen such a symphony of hot color? Sometimes to see beauty you have to look closer, fall deeper, and allow yourself to let what you see wash over you. Here is one glorious case.  Maybe you’ve met before.  Maybe you haven’t.  Let me introduce Bauhinia galpinii also commonly referred to as Red Bauhinia, Pride-Of-The-Kaap (“Cape”), or South African Orchid Bush.

Bauhinia galpinii - floral profile

|Bauhinia galpinii in bloom|

Bauhinia galpinii is a semi-deciduous shrub that comes to us from Southeast Africa. I never encountered it until I moved to Los Angeles.  We first met when I spied it growing in an overgrown garden of some old hollywood star.  Its exotic flowers lured me in like the song of a siren.  Bauhinia galpinii can grow up to 10 feet tall and wide; 25 feet at maturity if provided with ample nutrients.  It tends to have a horizontal branching habit.  Branches are outfitted with bilobed, fan-shaped leaves that remind me, for some reason, of lily pads floating on a still pond.  The 3″ flowers it produces are five petalled and look as if they are made from a richly delicate crepe paper. They appear mostly in spring.  Flower color appears in hues of vivid scarlet to soft salmon. Lightly pruning after bloom encourages bushier growth, keeping its size in check, and promotes a future of abundant flowering.

Bauhinia galpinii - form + foliage + flower

|Bauhinia galpinii – form + foliage + flower|

Bauhinia galpinii likes full sun, fertile, well-draining soil, regular water, becomes drought resistant once established, and is hardy to around 25 degrees fahrenheit/-3 degrees celsius.  There is something fantastical about this shrub.  Its presence in the garden or cut in a vase conjures a tropical vision so romantic, so soul satisfying, that it’s as if paradise has been found.

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Posted in Habitat, Inspiration, Plants, Style

Lemon Delicious – Justicia aurea

Justicia aurea - CU buds

|Justicia aurea – CU buds|

It is said that the color yellow is the color of creativity, courage, enlightenment, and optimism.  It is also a color that reminds us of the warmth of the sun.  It’s a power color.  The Plant Provocateur believes it is a color of luxury.  In the case of Justicia aurea,  commonly referred to as Golden Brazilian Plume, that luxury is no more evident than in its stunning bloom and lush tropical foliage.

Justicia aurea - bud + flower + form

|Justicia aurea – bud + flower + form|

There is something so familiar, yet so exotic about Justicia aurea.  This evergreen shrub presents itself as a verdant treasure of lusciously large 12 inch pleated leaves steeped in refreshing spring color.  Hailing from the subtropical climes of Mexico and Central America, it possesses a jungle-like beauty in an elegantly upright manageable form that grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.  In late summer,  spires of whispy bracts telescope outward and upward to present lemon yellow buds that will ignite into a luminous torch of dazzling flowers as vibrant as the rays of the sun.

Justicia aurea - form + flower detail

|Justicia aurea – form + flower detail|

Justicia aurea prefers to grow in part sun/part shade locations.  It looks amazing, especially in the stillness of the late afternoon, where it seems to luxuriate and beckon you to come closer, leave your cares behind, and fall under its exotic spell. Justicia aurea likes fertile, well-draining soil, regular water, and is hardy down to around 30 degrees fahrenheit/-1 degree celsius.  This shrub benefits from being planted between plants that can shelter it from wind and potential frost exposure.  It also can be grown in a container indoors, but with full sun exposure.  It needs the warmth to bloom. Cutting plants back in early spring encourages lusher, bushier growth.  The more stems…the more beautiful torch-like flowers are likely to appear. It definitely gives off a chic vibe.  Very ‘calgon-take-me-away’.  So, if you want to elevate your estate, so to speak, why not lavish your garden or home with some delicious lemon luxury.

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Posted in Habitat, Plants, Style

Opulent Origami – Koelreuteria bipinnata

Koelreuteria bipinnata - CU Capsule

|Koelreuteria bipinnata – CU Latern-like Capsule|

I’m gonna say it now… it’s not always about the flowers.  Culturally, we’ve been taught to worship the flower but sometimes plants do cool things that take our attention away from those florific hoggers-of-the-spotlight.  Sometimes they ornament themselves in eye-catching accoutrement.  Such is the case of the opulent origami seed capsules of Koelreuteria bipinnata also known as the Chinese Flame Tree.

Koelreuteria bipinnata - bark + canopy + foliage

|Koelreuteria bipinnata – bark + canopy + foliage|

Koelreuteria bippinata is a deciduous tree coming to us from the Yunnan Province of Southwestern China.  It outfits itself with fresh green, subtly sawtooth margined, bipinnate foliage.  Its tree bark is stippled with spots of sandalwood color and creviced with splits reminiscent of a pound cake fresh out of the oven.

Koelreuteria bipinnata - floral details

|Koelreuteria bipinnata – floral details|

In late summer, a flurry of teeny tiny flowers cluster and bloom.  If you look closely, some flowers display the most amazing anthers you’ll ever see with pollen so mysteriously and inconceivably blue.  Some flowers also display a spirited stain of red on their petals.  As the flowers fade, 2″ large pillowy seed capsules form that remind me of piñatas made from richly dyed crepe paper.

Koelreuteria bipinnata - capsule cluster

|Koelreuteria bipinnata – capsule cluster|

Koelreuteria bipinnata’s  latern-like seed capsules come in shades of brilliant fuchsia, salmon, and rosy red.  Their display blankets the tree’s canopy, which can then be seen from miles away.  These trees tend to grow up to 30 feet tall and 25 wide at maturity.  They set deep, noninvasive roots and also make a beautiful street tree. Foliage fall color is rich and golden.  They like full sun to part shade, well-draining soil, regular water, and are hardy down to around 10 degrees fahrenheit/-12 degrees celsius.  Wanna keep the hood classy…say it with Koelreuteria bipinnata.

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Posted in Plants, Style

Smokin’ Hot Electric Lava Drops – Seemannia sylvatica

Seemannia sylvatica - throat detail

|Seemannia sylvatica – floral detail|

Have you ever stared down into the mouth of a volcano?  Take a closer look.  Can you feel the visual heat?  It makes me sweat with excitement just looking at it.  What you are looking at is the inside of the amazingly electric, tubular bell-like flowers of a plant from the Gesneriaceae family.  Same plant family as the African Violet.  Let me introduce you to ‘Violet’s’ cousin from the new world tropics, Seemannia sylvatica also referred to as Gloxinia sylvatica and Bolivian Sunset.

Seemannia slyvatica - foliage + form + flower

|Seemannia slyvatica – foliage + form + flower|

Seemannia sylvatica comes to us from the eastern Bolivian slopes of the Andes.  It’s a rhizomatous perennial that forms a trailing, yet bushy groundcover outfitted in narrow, satiny lance-like leaves.  Slight hairs on their surfaces give them that extra luster. Plants grow to around 2 feet by 2 feet in size.  When seasonal temperatures are on the cool side, Seemannia sylvatica punctuates its plush stems and foliage with lusciously luminous flowers that are symbolic of smokin’-hot-electric-lava-drops.  The color demands to be visually tasted, leaving you stimulated by its electric eruption of deliciousness. And if that weren’t enough, the flowers continue to intoxicate with their stunningly seductive yellow-orange throats speckled with volcanic visions of rich, riotous red.

Seemannia sylvatica - bud + bloom

|Seemannia sylvatica – bud + bloom|

Seemannia sylvatica likes to luxuriate in part sun/bright light conditions with regular moisture and, ideally, some humidity.  It likes to grow in fertile, well-draining soil and is a colorful candidate to grow indoors as well as out.  It is fairly hardy down to 30 degrees fahrenheit/-1 degrees celsius.  Another thing to note is that it can get scorched and wilt in hot, dry conditions.

I first saw Seemannia sylvatica in the Conservatory at The Huntington Botanical Gardens.  Stopped me in my tracks.  If you want to check it out in bloom, visit late autumn through spring to catch the light show.  This is definitely one stylish plant to know and grow.  If you can find it (I’ve only seen it available online), get yourself one and bask in its electric awesomeness!



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Posted in Habitat, Plants, Style

Botanical Bain De Soleil – Cucumis metuliferus

Cucumis metuliferus pulp detail

|Cucumis metuliferus pulp detail|

So this might be a weird way to start a post but…if you’re having a problem with keeping ghosts out of your house and need a way to kick those pesky paranormals to the curb, why not take the roots of Cucumis metuliferus, also commonly referred to as the African Horned Melon or Jelly Melon, pound them up, mix ‘em with some lard, and smear the produced paste liberally all over your body. The elderly persons of the Okavango region in Southwest Africa say it’ll do the trick.  In my honest opinion, I kinda think sporting this botanical-bain-de-soleil while hanging out at home might scare anyone away.  If you’re into it…let me know how it goes.   Well, what is this ghost repelling  Cucumis metuliferus, anyway?  It’s one of the coolest looking funky fruits I’ve seen in a while.  Seeing is believing.

Cucumis metuliferus fruit + detail

|Cucumis metuliferus fruit + detail|

Behold!  Have you ever seen anything like it?!  I only discovered Cucumis metuliferus, native to Africa, recently and was even more excited to find it is easy to grow from seed and bonus…is edible.  Last season, I got seed for this alien apparition from my friends at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.  Once I got my seedlings planted, they took off on my bamboo trellis and created a bountiful harvest of armed egg-like fruits covered in a spine tingling greenish-yellow skin that later turned bright orange. When I sliced open the fruit, an insanely contrasting and juicy lime green pulp was revealed.  Unbelievably beautiful!  Of course, I tried the pulp to see what magical mystery tour awaited my taste buds and what I got was a TART, with a capital ‘T’, taste of something vaguely cucumber-ish with a very subtle note of lime and a hint of sugar-free banana.  Now I will admit, it’s a taste that I don’t find all that knock-down, drag out amazing.  Not in the least.  However, if you scoop out the pulp, strain it to remove the seeds, and add simple syrup to the remaining juice, something interesting starts to happen for the old taste buds.  Something exotic and new.

Cucumis metuliferus vine + fruit + tendril

|Cucumis metuliferus vine + fruit + tendril|

Although the taste of this fruit may not be for everyone, at least Cucumis metuliferus gives us something fun and funky to grow in the garden. The vines are lushly outfitted with beautiful leaves, ticklish tendrils, and produce some of the most intriguing looking fruit ever seen.  Here’s a little fact for you…I’ve seen this fruit at grocery stores for around $9-$10 per fruit!  Why spend that when you can grow your own!?

Cucumis metuliferus is an annual vine.  It likes full sun, rich, fertile soil, and regular water.  Be sure to let soil dry in-between waterings.  It will grow almost anywhere you can grow other melons.  So, why not put some fun and intrigue back into the garden? Use the fruit as decor or better yet make an exotic elixir so green, so mysterious, and serve it at your next get together.  Dare your friends to go where they’ve never gone before…on a surreal taste safari.

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Posted in Food + Drink, Plants, Style