Saturday, April 24, 2010

Oh Frabjous Day!

The pittosporum WILL soon be in bloom!

See? Buds!

Maybe you think this should not be cause for celebration and exclamation and so on but the flowering of this shrub has been a hit or miss affair since we trotted it back from a springtime trip to Savannah some five six seven or maybe eight years ago. Could have been ten.

They have a scent that smashes you over the head so mightily that even the prince, who is odor blind, noticed it. Like orange syrup. Like a Disney fantasy of Florida (albeit one tragically without Carl Hiaasen). Like heat and sun and endless summer. Wherever you stroll in Savannah the scent of pittosporum curls its scented fingers and lures your nose to hover.... MMMMMMMMMMPF, you inhale. FFFFFFFFFFFT you exhale. MMMMMMMMMMPF ... and so on, into delirium. And then you grow numb with it all and have to lie down for a good bit. Or at least I do.

We traipsed about with a stem of flowers I'd furtively pinched, assaulting people on the street and popping in and out of  hotels and restaurants, yanking at the sleeves of those we thought should know: "What IS this," we'd say and say.

And invariably the reaction was an inaudible shrug. Seems this stuff is common as dirt in Savannah. So common no one needs to bother to know what it's even called.

It was a doorman, I think I remember, who told us the name which we wrote down and directed us up a road that led to a garden center. A very long hot road, where suddenly the jungle lush of Savannah disappeared and cars kicked up plumes of dust and my flip flops began slurping against the asphalt.

But onward we trudged, for I don't know how far, but at last a rather seedy looking plant center materialized and we approached the genial looking man that ran it and waved our slip of paper and now rather sadly wilted stem, and he drawled, "Aha. Over hee-ahh..."

And yes, there they were. He said it's only the tall growing variety that will flower -- that's what he called it: Tall Growing Pittosporum.

Then he warned us that they would not grow up north. Frost, ya know. But we don't listen to warnings, do we? And sometimes that works out fine and sometimes it doesn't and this time it has turned into a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

For a few years we babied the pittosporum, keeping it in the dining room through the winter where it sat and did nothing but grow paler and more sickly looking, limping through the cold months. Come spring, we'd move it out into the garden, where it would grow flower-free but immensely perky.

Immense being the operative word.

After a few rounds it grew too big to move and I left it in the garden with a intense sigh of probable farewell...but it made it through, thanks to a reasonably mild winter, I assumed. And LO! It even flowered.

Unfortunately, there was a rather noisy conflict of scents between the honeysuckle, the mock orange and P (as I'll affectionately call it because I'm tired of writing it out) all blooming simultaneously and quite vociferously. It was a bit overwhelming.

The next year we had no flowers. Oh it looked like it was covered with buds but it fooled me. Each branch bunched up at the end, swelling into a cluster of greenish bubbles and then with a gigantic SPRAHHHH bolted out a spray leaves. 


Happened again the next year too. But at least it was alive ...though what good that was doing me was a wonder. Just growing bushier each year, it was, taking up otherwise useful flowering space with a dull swathe of glossy greenness.

I began to hope for its death.

[The photo at left is not really illustrative much of anything --it's  a partial view of P, since the entire plant no longer fits within the frame of my camera. I include it because baby told me it is important to stick a lot of photos in the blog. She takes great pleasure in instructing me, as does her father. But I digress].

In desperation I called the Savannah flower something or other and the nice lady, after telling me that P should be dead (given that I'm attempting to grow a southern plant in what southerners consider the north) suggested a dose of Holly Tone in early spring and again in the fall. Said it works for her.  

So that fall and spring I fertilized and waited and the bunching began and my heart when ta thud ta thud but instead of leaves we had, miraculously, flowers!

And then last year, despite the timely dosing with Holly Tone, nothing.

So this year, after the approximately 96 feet of snow had melted, I was a) amazed to see that P had survived, and b) I was stunned -- I'm telling you -- STUNNED to find real actual flower buds on him (or her) this morning.

Maybe all our hot air here on Capitol Hill has convinced P that this is the deep south. 

Maybe P just happens to feel like flowering every other year.

I do NOT understand the whims of this damn plant.

If you'd care to read something actually informative about the habits of the sublimely scented pittosporum, here you go:

1 comment:

  1. A) Are you suggesting that my bossiness is entirely Duddy's fault? Have you met you?


    C) A random sampling of visitors to Henry's would have anyone believing that we are definitely in the South. "I'll have a sweet tea," they say. "Drive three more hours south," I say, and bring them a regular damn tea. And when they leave, all the sugar is gone from the sugar thinger. The end.


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