The Admiral’s Garden

I don't pretend to be botanically wise.  I watch the flowers that I enjoy, but am seldom moved to inquire after their names.  It could be that I'm not social.  But I do nod in passing to those that please me:  golden clarion trumpets, daisies flat-faced and innocent, winking magenta stars and the dear garden that I wrote about months ago and which is now curling up and preparing for its winter sleep.

But there is one type of flower that always gives me pause.  Its petals are sheer, tracing-paper shapes, etched with green capillaries.  Sometimes they are translucent, gray as pearls; sometimes they are opaque, with fighting colors torn from a dragon's back:

sometimes they are clusters of tiny sunsets, tinted with apricot and coral:

They hang rich and heavy, a living brocade, off vines that leap over walls.  They travel like ships with colored sails and wave like a lady's maddening, dainty handkerchief.  They grow in gossamer clutches, with hues that insinuate, like the touch of a watercolorist's brush:  sometimes these flowers carry only a scent of color.  Those are the ones that I like the best of all, because the color moves and grows, like an open vein emptying its life into a clear pool.

I wanted to learn this flower's name.  And after some effort I was able to find its nom de bloom.  It was born in South America, in the pulsating jungle, amidst lianas and creepers, breathing the thick, heavy air.  In the 1760's, an explorer introduced it to the hothouses of France.  He was an Admiral, and his name was Louis de Bougainvillea.

So I would like to thank the Admiral; if it wasn't for his efforts I wouldn't be peering into the gathered colors of the many rouged and tinted faces.  Nor would I be watching the braids of knitted vines unraveling as if the hand that worked the spinning wheel had grown tired and was silent.

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11 responses to “The Admiral’s Garden

  1. Simply beautiful.
    So the flowers are called Admiral Louis then?

    (just joking)

  2. I adore your closing line. And these flowers, so paper-thin and delicate and colorful, cannot find justice in a camera lens. Fortunately for us all it was found by the admiral.

  3. They travel like ships with colored sails and wave like a lady's maddening, dainty handkerchief.
    I think thats a nice way of saying that they grow out of control and totally take over any area where you choose to plant one.

  4. "…braids of knitted vines unraveling as if the hand that worked the spinning wheel had grown tired and was silent…."Beautiful, Aubrey.

  5. I adore bougainvillea!! Its my fave. Makes me want to live some place warm year round!

  6. Jando – GAH. For a moment I thought I had committed a grammatical faux-pas!
    WBaby/YGRS – Thank you! I wanted to go with a sort of Rapunzel-type image, you know, letting down your hair and all, but it just wasn't happening. So I used the spinning wheel.
    Cat – Well, they have sort of taken over my neighborhood – not that I mind!
    LM – Thank you – I wonder if the Brothers would approve?
    DKN – One of the few good things about a temperate climate is the growing things it encourages. Still…well, I want my Autumn.

  7. they are all so stunning, the colors are like a sweet dessert for my eyes!

  8. Hah, the petals from those blow into my office all the time (we're in building G).

  9. So I would like to thank the Aubrey; if it wasn't for her efforts I wouldn't be knowing how bougainvillea got it's beautiful name. Thank you.

  10. I love this too, aubrey! My favorite flower — it always reminds me of home.

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