Annual Return of the Orange Watsonia

Friday, March 20, 2009

My grandmother (nee Watson) felt a special attachment to the Watsonia, and nurtured a healthy patch of them in her yard. My sister had the foresight to gather some of the corms. She’s moved several times over the last decade, but a colony of those Watsonias moved as she moved. At some point, she passed a couple of starts to me. Rushed for time, I put them into a poorly-chosen patch of ground, not knowing where I might eventually place them. In part, I stuck them in a patch of yellow oxalis (O. pes-caprae) because this was another plant I associated with my grandmother’s yard.

That must have been, what, six or seven years ago? I wish I could say these plants were thriving. (Well, the oxalis is: no matter how pretty it may be, it well-deserves its reputation as an aggressively invasive weed.) Recent research tells me Watsonias like loose, well drained soil that doesn’t completely dry out in the summer. Unfortunately, I have them in heavy soil, beyond where the sprinklers reach in our 110° July. Under the circumstances, I’m thrilled that after all these parched summers, the Watsonia still manages to send up its annual stalk of orange blossoms.

Wikipedia tells me that Watsonias are out of fashion in a nursery industry that wants to fill that niche with its near-relative the gladiola. I suppose the gladiola is showier, with a dramatic spray of bigger flowers. I do enjoy a gladiola when I see one. But the Watsonias carry me back 50 years to my grandmother’s yard.

It is difficult for me to believe that this year will mark the 20th anniversary of my grandmother’s death. It is remarkable how much she is still with us. My brother recently digitized old recordings of her playing ragtime piano. That reminded me that someplace I have several hours of interviews on reel-to-reel that I want to transfer to CD. This week, however, it has been enough to watch the symmetrical rows of orange trumpets catch the sun, and enjoy my grandmother's company as I admire them.


Didn't someone in the family use these to decorate a cake once? Maybe a wedding cake? That's what they remind me of.

caedmonstia said...
March 27, 2009 at 10:34 PM  

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