I’m back! This visit to Montreal was mostly work, very little play. Though I did get a chance to walk around my old haunts in St. Lambert, on the south shore. What a lovely little town – it just works, somehow. The trees are mature and reproducing like mad, to the extent that yardwork involves beating back strong saplings on a regular basis. It’s almost as though nature and habitation* have shaken hands and decided they’re comfortable living together. When I was a kid, I used to collect rocks along an abandoned railway line by the golf course. I remember it as a very industrial environment, all steel and gravel and creosote ties. 30 years later (ok, maybe a little more….), nature has moved in and it’s a footpath through a young forest. Amazing. And hopeful.
I arrived home tonight to find that as expected, the Queen of the Night (night-blooming cereus) had finished blooming – a flower for each night that I was away. Sigh. The evidence was four long limp dead flower things hanging off the side of the leaves. Oh well….
My labours in tacking up clear plastic on the walls and floors of the “grow” room (back porch) have paid off. When I walked in to check on my charges, the air was soft and smelled of growing things. With the humidity at 75% tonight, it’s a tropical jungle in there. The orchids, and all the other plants, are loving it. Lots of new growth and a couple of spikes.
Great weather – it’s Indian Summer. I sat in an outdoor cafe in Old Montreal this afternoon, and had a tourtierre (traditional pork pie) and a beer. These warm days are precious — the cold weather will settle in soon. It’s supposed to be nice right through until Sunday.
*“Habitation” is apt in many ways. The town got it’s start in the 1640’s as part of the Longueuil seigneurie. The old and elegant stone “habitant” homes still dot Riverside Drive along the St. Lawrence river.
There’s lotsa action in the grow room tonight. One of the four big buds on the Queen of the Night has bloomed — sadly, the other three will bloom tomorrow night while I’m in Montreal, missing it. I made Laird promise that he’d invite his friends over tomorrow and stare at it and make all the impressed noises this occasion deserves. Plus, I bought a new orchid today, at a little flower shop in Bloor West Village. It’s Blc. Alma Kee, a gorgeous yellow with a deep burgundy lip that is lined with gold. It’s a real beauty.
Here’s something else that’s interesting. Remember I wrote a while ago that the Hibisicus Moscheutos blooms became white as the weather got colder outdoors? Well, I brought the giant plant indoors, and in the warmer conditions the blooms are dusted with deep pink. Odd. I’ve read that this plant is hardy to zone 5, which I find very hard to believe — it looks so exotic. I’m afraid to leave the pot outdoors all winter and risk losing it.
To the right is a close-up of the Queen of the Night plant. The blooms open at night and are dead by morning. The scent is intoxicating — a very heavy perfume. To the left is a close-up of the Hibiscus Moscheutos bloom.
The Queen of the Night honoured us with an audience last night! Here are the pictures as the drama unfolds…. (move over CNN!)
11:30pm Laird moved the whole pot (very carefully….) to the foot of the bed, so we could watch it before we fell asleep. The scent was so strong (nice, but strong) that Jake buried his nose in some blankets. The bloom wasn’t yet fully open, so I planned to wake up in the middle of the night to take another picture. As it turns out, I was just too beat. It was enough to know that this beautiful thing watched over us as we slept.
The morning after, and the party is over:
Queen of the Night update: Four days after our first look at it, the bud has doubled in length to about 2 inches long. When I got right up close I noticed some tiny webs criss-crossing the bud — spider mite! Crap. Time to pull out the spritzer and cook up a concotion of Neem oil and organic insecticidal soap. Personally, I kind of like the smell of Neem, though it makes Laird gag. However, it is organic, which makes the odour worth putting up with. The only early deaths I want to contribute to are the bugs’.
More about Neem
A couple of summers ago, my great friend Atilla gave me a cutting of what appeared to be a green stick, and made it very clear that this was an unusual and special plant. I was a bit dubious at the time, and over the past two years I’ve watched this stick shoot up to become a much taller stick (5 feet!!), occasionally transforming into flattened leaf-like things along the way. I’ve chopped it back several times, wondering what on earth this weird looking plant was ultimately going to do.
I’ve since learned it’s the Queen of the Night
, otherwise known as an epiphyllum oxypetalum
Saturday night past a little phallic protusion on the edge of a leaf caught my eye as I was watering my plants. A bud!! These ugly/beautiful/bizarre plants bloom rarely, and when they do, it’s for one night only. The bud opens at dusk, and the magnificent scented flowers apparently fade away by morning.
I don’t know how long it will take for this strangely sexual little nub to emerge and do its thing. I’m thinking of throwing a “Queen of the Night” party when it does. Stay tuned for updates.
A.K.A.: Queen of the Night, Night Blooming Cereus, Dutchman’s Pipe