"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

White Quince (1 of 2)

From “Flowering Quince” by Winfield Townley Scott in American Poetry: The Twentieth Century by The Library of America:

If right in front of me,
Slow motion — fast motion really —
The cold branch of the quince
Should all at once
Start with a rash of buds
Then the thin green nudge
The brown back, then the color
Of the waxen flower, the flame,
Open everywhere the same…

From “Chaenomeles” in Garden Shrubs and Their Histories by Alice M. Coats:

“This is the plant that the public still firmly calls ‘Japonica’ as though no other flower ever came to us from Japan. No changes in nomenclature have been more justifiably resented by gardeners than those affecting this well-loved shrub; and yet the reasons for the changes are logical enough….

“The first species was found by [Carl Peter] Thunberg on the Hakone mountains in Japan, and was described by him in 1784 under the name of
Pyrus japonica. In 1796 Sir Joseph Banks introduced a plant to Kew from China, which was thought (wrongly, as it afterwards proved) to be this Pyrus japonica, and it was illustrated under this name in the Botanical Magazine for 1803. In 1818 Robert Sweet noticed that it was not the same as Thunberg’s plant, and renamed it Pyrus speciosa, but by that time the name of ‘japonica’ had become firmly established and nobody seems to have taken much notice of the correction….

“In 1869 the firm of W. Maule and Son of Bristol introduced Thunberg’s original species from Japan; but as Sir Joseph Banks’s Chinese plant was still usurping its name (in spite of Sweet’s attempt at a rectification) another one had to be found, and it was christened
Pyrus maulei by Dr. [William] Masters in 1874….

“It has now been restored to its rights as the original ‘japonica’ and Sweet’s name of ‘speciosa’ has been officially adopted for the Chinese plant. The other changes are explained by the fact that for a time botanists classed these shrubs as Quinces (Cydonia) rather than as Pears (Pyrus); then they were replaced among the pears, but that family, being inconveniently large, was split up into a number of more manageable sections, and Chaenomeles was chosen as the name for this particular group….

“So the old ‘Pyrus japonica’ is now
Chaenomeles speciosa and the old ‘P. maulei’ is now C. japonica. How much simpler to keep to the Japanese name of Boke!”


If you read the excerpt from Garden Shrubs and Their Histories above, you have some idea how confusing it was for me to try and figure out the names of the plants I photographed for this post (and the next one). I knew they were quinces, but wanted to try and be more precise than that; and, eventually, came to the conclusion that they are a mix of Chaenomeles japonica and Chaenomeles speciosa based on their growth habits: the first twelve photos below were taken in the same location, where these Chaenomeles japonica tumble along the top and down the sides of a stone wall stretching twenty or thirty feet; whereas the rest were in other locations where the plant presents as a compact shrub with larger, more dense collections of flowers. This may or may not be precise; but if it isn’t: they’re still quinces! And they look good in pics!

Thanks for taking a look!

Not-Quite-Spring Spring Snowflakes (2 of 2)

From “Lovesome Flowers” in The Origins of Garden Plants by John Fisher:

“[Just] as the [sixteenth] century draws to a close we meet with John Gerard, probably the most frequently quoted garden writer of his day. Gerard was born in 1545 and qualified as a Member of the Court of Assistants of Barber-Surgeons in 1595 and as Master in 1608….

“Gerard had his own garden, thought to be in Holborn, and his catalogue of plants, which listed more than a thousand species, many for the first time, is believed to have been based on those growing there at the time, that is, in 1596. The famous Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes was published in the following year….

“The descriptions which it gives of even the most commonplace plants are highly readable, and the style is confidential so that one might imagine that we are strolling alongside John Gerard, dressed for the part, four hundred years ago….

“Part of the attraction of Gerard’s writings lies in the unlooked for names given to familiar plants….
Leucojum vernum, known to botanists as Spring Snowflake, becomes the ‘Early Bulbous Stocke Gilloflower’…. Leucojum aestivum, Summer Snowflake, becomes ‘Early Sommer fooles or Somer Sottekins’.”

From “Of Bulbous Violets” in The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes by John Gerard:

“The first of these bulbous Violets riseth out of the ground, with two small leaves flat and crested, of an overworn green colour, between the which riseth up a small and slender stalk of two hands high; at the top whereof cometh forth of a skinny hood a small white flower of the bigness of a Violet, compact of six leaves, three bigger, and three lesser, tipped at the points with a light green: the smaller are fashioned into the vulgar form of a heart, and prettily edged about with green; the other three leaves are longer, and sharp pointed. The whole flower hangeth down his head, by reason of the weak foot stalk whereon it groweth. The root is small, white, and bulbous.”


This is the second of two posts featuring snowflake flowers from Oakland Cemeteries gardens. The first post is Not-Quite-Spring Spring Snowflakes (1 of 2).

I had learned a little about John Gerard’s sixteenth-century book The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes last year, and written about his delightful descriptions of anemone flowers as “winde-floures” (see Anemone, the Winde-Floure (1 of 2)). I hadn’t come across mentions of the book since, until today when I was searching for something to quote about our neighborhood spring snowflakes. The first quotation above was one of the things I found, which explains how Gerard referred to Leucojum vernum as “Early Bulbous Stocke Gilloflower” — the last word also written as “gillofloure” or sometimes as “gillyflower.”

Of course I had to see if I could find these references, which took a little digging because of the variations in wording or spelling among The Herball’s various editions that have been scanned as online books. But I did findeth them after an extended passage of time (!!), discovering a chapter where Gerard groups the snowflake variations, and — with illustrations — appears to include the flower we commonly call snowdrop among his categorization of “bulbous violets.” Here are three of the pages from his “Of Bulbous Violets” chapter, showing his original illustrations of these flowers, followed by the section John Fisher refers to above.

Toward the bottom of the third image you can see the Somer Sottekins, Sommer fooles, and Stocke Gilloflower that Fisher refers to. Just above that, you can also see a very early form of the plant genus Leucojum written as “leuconarcissolirion” — a blend of terms that appears to reflect an even earlier (or perhaps concocted) version of the genus name. Happily we don’t have to call it that anymore!

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Not-Quite-Spring Spring Snowflakes (1 of 2)

From “The Garden” in Hold Bright the Star: A Book of Poems by Sue McConkey:

Dreaming of springtime
she held in her mittened hand —
a single snowflake flower

From “Leucojum” in Garden Bulbs in Color by J. Horace McFarland:

“These are the Snowflakes of the early spring garden. Taller than many of our early-flowering bulbs, they grow best in small clumps, like violets. In fact, the genus name, which dates back to Theophrastus, means white violet. They were cherished in the seventeenth-century garden of John Parkinson, who considered them next in importance to the daffodils. Leucojum should not be confused with Galanthus, the Snowdrop; the former produces more abundant foliage and large flower-spikes.

Leucojums are by no means difficult to grow, and seem to do well in ordinary garden loam, preferably in full sun. Set them at least four inches deep, in well-drained soil. As with other early-flowering bulbs planted in the shrub-border, they can be left undisturbed for many years, increasing into great clumps, from which arise the dainty blooms….

“The species
Leucojum vernum is perhaps the best known, with its delicate white bells, dotted green, on twelve-inch stems. A later-flowering kind is L. aestivum, the Summer or Meadow Snowflake. Then there is a fall-flowering kind known as L. autumnale, but it is comparatively rare.”


My frequently-visited favorite historical cemetery and garden was closed for the month of January and part of February — the first extended closure in the eighteen years I’ve lived nearby. There are several large reconstruction projects going on, many of which started last summer and will continue well into the year, including repair or replacement of retaining walls and brick drainage culverts, and repaving many of the roadways. When I was able to observe some of the repair work last fall, it was fascinating to see how the it’s being done with materials that readily match what was originally put in place, including brick and stone that match that of a hundred years ago yet is still available for purchase at your friendly neighborhood hardware store — and can also be found in many residential properties (including mine!) throughout Grant Park.

This work is taking place in parallel with the construction of a new visitor center that broke ground last fall and is expected to take 18-24 months to complete. Of several articles I read about the new center, this one from Rough Draft Atlanta has the most renderings of the proposed building, including this bird’s eye view of the property…

… which shows that the spacial orientation and layout (including the landscaping behind the building) is being designed to mirror the layout of the cemetery itself…

… reminding me of three research papers I wrote years ago about how the layout of the cemetery mirrored the geographic, racial, and ethnic divisions of the city of Atlanta throughout the early years of its founding and subsequent development. The research project is one I remember well, and from it I learned a lot about how to better observe public spaces and how to consider the relationships between those spaces and the people that (historically or currently) inhabit them. It will be interesting to see if the completed visitor center and its surroundings will help provide another reflective layer to that history.

While the work continues, the cemetery reopened a couple of days ago — it was only the road paving that necessitated a temporary close-up — whenst This Photographer returned to find a variety of late winter, pre-spring flowers, including the first light yellow daffodils, some white and red quince, and the happy little snowflakes you see in the images below (and in the next post). The snowflakes had popped up in two locations: the first ones (shown in the first five photos) were emerging in a shaded area filled with pine bark and were skinny and and a bit sparse; but the rest were in a sunnier area near the property’s entrance and exhibited the more robust clusters of white flowers and clumps of dark green leaves. These are officially called Leucojum vernum — the spring snowflake — which has a summer relative called Leucojum aestivum and an autumn version (that I just learned about from the quote above) originally called Leucojum autumnale.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

More Winter Red: Japanese Maples (2 of 2)

From “Another Truth About Red Trees” in Primary Sources: Poems by Ann Staley:

Sweet fires, elegy to summer’s long goodbye,
you know them from the east side of the Alleghenies
Maple and Oak burnished by October’s flinty light.

They remind you of bronzed baby shoes, first crocus,
haunted Mars, blood count afterimage,
river water shimmering with late light —
unstoppable beauty, particular-and-everyday at once,
accidental signals, ballast for any doubt or regret you carry.

Red trees in the west now, Japanese maple sentinels, curbside,
that Big Leaf out along Decker Road nestled near conifer green,
and in the blurred periphery driving north past Ash Creek swale….

Today the trees signal autumn, its early, damp darkness,
wood-fire smoke in the neighborhood,
apples ripening in fruit-room baskets….

The painter set them down in acrylic;
the writer transforms them one more time.

From “Maple” in Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History by Diana Wells:

“Many Japanese maples are red year-round, and almost all turn dazzling shades of scarlet in autumn. The Japanese celebrate their brilliant color with festivals, similar to those for spring blossoms. They love to tell a story about Sen-no-Rikyu, a famous sixteenth-century Japanese tea master, who had just finished sweeping the garden in preparation for a tea ceremony. It looked clean and soulless, so he flung two or three of the red maple leaves he had swept up onto the clear mossy ground.

“Not all maples turn red in autumn, but many do. The color comes from anthocyanin, produced as chlorphyll is withdrawn from the leaves and the tree shuts down for the winter. The sharp points of these blood-red leaves are probably the origin of the maple’s ancient Latin name, and our botanical name,
acer, meaning ‘sharp’….

Carl Peter Thunberg, a Dutch botanist stationed on the island of Deshima when the rest of Japan was closed to foreigners… brought the first Japanese maple west. This maple,
Acer palmatum (‘like the palm of a hand’), has green leaves that turn scarlet in fall. In spite of imperial edicts, Thunberg was able to collect Japanese plants, partly by sifting through hay brought to feed the livestock on Deshima (and collecting the seeds in it) and partly by trading information with young Japanese botanists. In exchange for plants he taught them rudimentary Western medicine, and the Linnaean system of classification.”


This is the second of two posts featuring the last of my Japanese Maple photos from late autumn/early winter. The first post is More Winter Red: Japanese Maples (1 of 2).

Thanks for taking a look!

More Winter Red: Japanese Maples (1 of 2)

From “The Japanese Maple” in Shade and Ornamental Trees: Their Origin and History by Hui-Lin Li:

“The Japanese maple is undoubtedly the most variable species, so far as foliage is concerned, of cultivated trees or shrubs…. While in other ornamental plants, especially in herbaceous ones, variation frequently occurs in flowers, here the ornamental feature depends mainly on the leaves, and sometimes also on the shape of the plant.

“This great variation is brought out by intensive cultivation and selection in the Japanese garden. The species has been cultivated there since very early times for the brilliant red foliage in autumn so frequently praised in poetry and depicted in paintings. The Japanese call it ‘Takao maple’ because it is especially abundant on the mountain Takao, famous since ancient times for autumn coloration. They use it extensively in their gardens and also as a potted dwarf tree…

“The Japanese maple is a shrub or small tree. It is native to Japan and adjacent parts of the Asiatic mainland. In the Japanese literature there are hundreds of named forms, many of which are now also in cultivation in Western gardens. The variation may be either in the color or the shape of the leaves or sometimes in a combination of these two characters….

“In color, the leaves vary from bright green to yellow and different shades of red or purple. They turn yellow to orange or red in the autumn.”

From “The Japanese Maple” in The Turn of the Mind to That Shaded Place: Poems by A. G. Mampel:

For decades you’ve lightened us
in every season of the year
Your small veined leaves
in early spring
speak greenly
of life and promise and health
so soundly standing there
of bare trunk and crowded limb
There in the prime of summer
your luring red leaves — flirting
with ripe appeal
And even more — my autumn beauty
you offer mature foliage
a russet-red unspeakable glimpse
beyond breath or word


I took the photos in this post (and the next one) whilst gathering some outdoor winter color for my Christmas project (see Seven Days to Christmas: When Nature Does the Decorating) — but didn’t use them back then (which seems like YEARS ago, for some reason). The photos are of various Japanese Maple shrubs, trees, and leaves at their peak autumn color (or slightly past it) — which maybe fills in a gap as we wait patiently for the appearance of pre-spring buds and new flowers around the ‘hood.

Thanks for taking a look!