Tulip Time

Red Tulip Blossoms Close Up

Today, despite the vaguely threatening weather, Martine and I went to Descanso Gardens to see the tulips, which are at peak bloom right now. They were magnificent! For Martine, it was even better, as we dined twice at her favorite Glendale eateries: Sevan Chicken and Elena’s Greek and Armenian Restaurant.

If I were asked which are my favorite flowers, I would answer tulips and California poppies. Roses are nice too, but I have too many memories of having to pick off and kill Japanese Beetles from my parents’ tree roses in Parma Heights, Ohio. Moreover, roses never look quite so perfect as tulips and poppies do.

This Tulip Reminds Me of a Venus Flytrap with Its “Teeth”

Next after poppies and tulips come camellias. At Descanso Gardens, this has been a bumper crop year for the camellias, which are still at peak bloom throughout the park. We have had a relatively wet and cool winter, and the camellias has responded in great profusion.

Descanso was more crowded today than I can recall from any of our previous visits. The parking lot was full, and hordes of people were positioning themselves in front of the tulips with plastic smiles while others pointed their smart phones at them and clicked away.

Purple and White Tulip Blossoms

I have always hated posed photographs, particularly in front of flowers. Is it because my mother and father always had me positioned in front of flowering plants with an artificial smile? Ever since I have started taking pictures, I have avoided posed pictures, preferring always to shoot candids. One gets more natural facial expressions when they are not expecting a picture. In the end, I got even with my mother. When we were visiting the former Marineland in Palos Verdes, I posed my mother to the right of a sign pointing to the right with a large arrow, with the sign reading “To the Walruses.”

By the way, if you like tulips as much as I do, I highly recommend that you read Alexandre Dumas Père’s novel The Black Tulip about tulipmania in Holland.

The Year of the Camellia

Camellia Japonica at Descanso Gardens

On Saturday, Martine and I went to Descanso Gardens. We were amazed at the lushness of the camellia forest after the torrential rains of the last six weeks. And, to make things better, there was also an exhibition of particularly beautiful camellia blossoms. It was a good day, something like the old days, which ended when a sudden switch was thrown and Martine was too depressed to enjoy anything. I hope this is a portent of better days to come for her.

I have finally succumbed to the cold, rainy weather and come down with a nasty cold. It’s as if my body were down a quart of the oil it needs to run. But this too shall pass.

Award-Winning Camellia Blooms

Actually, I’m surprised I haven’t come down with something earlier. The temperature has not edged much above 60° Fahrenheit (16° Celsius) since I’ve returned from Guatemala. Moreover, this is the rainiest winter we have seen for a couple of decades, it seems.

 

Camellias Are My Life

Red Camellia Blossom at Descanso Gardens

Red Camellia Blossom at Descanso Gardens

Yesterday, Martine and I visited Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge. At this time of year, the garden is still pretty dead—except for the camellias. The blossom above, fo example, caught my eye.

The title of this post refers not only to the flowers, which are stunning, but also to the fact that I am addicted to the Camellia sinensis, which is the scientific name for tea. I do not drink coffee, and I don’t particularly like carbonated beverages. In this cold month of January, I make a pot of Indian black tea every morning. I drink the tea hot for breakfast and iced for dinner and as a snack. Other than water, that’s about all I drink, ever. I might have a beer when it gets really hot, but no more than a dozen or so times a year.

The camellias at Descanso this time of year are Camellia japonicas, though there are a couple of other species, such as reticulata and sasanqua are also to be found. What makes Descanso’s collection unique is that they are protected by a large forest of California Live Oaks (Quercus agrifolia)—protected in the sense that camellias usually do not like direct sunlight.

Some of the Oak Forest at Descanso

Some of the Oak Forest at Descanso

There is talk that many of the oaks at Descanso are centuries old and need to be replaced little by little with some other shade tree that coexists well with camellias. I don’t know how the garden staff will accomplish this, but I am sure that their professionals will be ultra-conservative, in the best meaning of the term.