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

Do You Know Dipladenia? (1 of 3)

What Is Dipladenia, and What Makes It Different from Mandevilla? by Alyssa Brown:

“Dipladenia is a flowering plant you’ve likely seen before, either at your local nursery or growing in a friend’s pollinator garden. Most recognizable for its bushy leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers, this tropical plant thrives in pots, in the ground, and in hanging baskets. Horticulturist and gardening expert Melinda Myers has been growing dipladenia for about 30 years — ahead, she shares everything there is to know about the plant, including what makes it different from its relative, mandevilla.

“‘Dipladenia is botanically in the mandevilla genus, but they used to be separate,’ says Myers…. The two names are commonly used interchangeably, she says, but there are some differences between the plants. Dipladenia, for example, tend to be more shrub-like in appearance, with smooth, glossy leaves, while mandevilla has longer, thinner, textured leaves that are less bushy; this plant looks more like a vine. Both plants’ flowers are similar, but dipladenia blooms are often smaller — plus, this iteration changes all the time, thanks, in part, to its popularity: Growers are regularly introducing new varieties, some of which include new bloom colors, larger blooms, denser foliage, or types that act more like a vine….”


Hello!

As you might have gathered from the title (and the quote above) the flowering plants featured in this post (and the next two posts) are called: dipladenia, a nice roll-off-the-tongue kind of name that you might find hard to say if you were drunk. Over the years, I’ve alternated between buying dipladenia or their relative mandevilla every spring: sometimes, I buy whichever one I find first at the garden centers; other times, I’ve bought them specifically for smaller pots so wait until the little dips are available. Despite some naming confusion, mandevilla is usually associated with larger vines, typically sold in a big pot with the vine already heavily entangled on a plastic or bamboo trellis. Both are very common and grow quite rapidly here in the southeast; the smaller, bushier plant — the dipladenia — works quite well on the back steps leading to my courtyard, and, unlike the mandevilla vine, never grow so long that they need frequent pruning or manual detachment from whatever structure happens to be nearby.

Both plants are annuals, and, from my experience, they’ll flower well into fall, even if there are plenty of cold nights. By now — mid-November — flowering tends to stop, but their hardy vines and leaves will keep on growing (a bit more slowly) through much of the winter unless there’s a multi-day stretch of temperatures well below freezing, and then all the leaves fall off. Despite their small size, they produce an enormous volume of roots: when spring comes and I replace them, I get to cuss profusely as I cut and tug and pry the roots out of the pots and always wonder where all the soil went.

Despite having a big batch of plant, gardening, and botany books, I didn’t find any references to either plant, the plants’ family name (Apocynaceae), or some of their common names (rock trumpet, rocktrumpet, or trumpet vine, and possibly (from the olden days yore) dogbane), which led me to dig around on the internet and find an equally small amount of information. Perhaps I’ll keep digging — note to self: watch out for rabbit holes! — but, for now, we’ll just have to enjoy the pictures. These are the red ones (sold as “Dipladenia Rio Red”). In the next post, I’ll feature white ones (my favorite of these flowers); and in the last post, I’ll upload a handful of each on black backgrounds.

Thanks for taking a look!





Lantana, Floating on Black

From “Some Remarks on the Nature of Contrast” in Lantana Lane by Eleanor Dark:

“And how it grows! Nature — so neat and ingenious at devising forms, patterns and routines — seems here to have become bored with one of her creations; to have informed it with life, and then left it to its own devices. The result — as one might expect — is frightful.

“Other plants and weeds, endowed with a master plan providing that the growth of one part shall contribute, in conjunction with that of others, to a final harmony of shape and function, understand exactly what is expected of them, and address themselves without pause or hesitation to the achievement of their task. But a glance is enough to betray the sad fact that one stem of the lantana knows not what the others are doing; each sprouts upwards, downward or sideways at will, guided only by an eager, blundering vitality, a fervent, planless exuberance, a kind of anarchic zeal….

“Does this shrub… consist of a great many stems and no branches, or a great many branches and no stem? A stem — so we understand — is the ascending axis of a plant in contradistinction to its descending axis, or root; and a branch — if we have been properly informed — is that part which grows out of the stem. This definition may enable us to identify those stems which, having emerged from the earth directly above their descending axis, steadily and without further ado concentrate upon the business of ascent, putting forth boughs and branches as they go; but it is no help at all with lantana….

“For although lantana certainly ascends (and to prodigious heights), it can hardly be said to grow upwards. It achieves, rather, what we might at first be tempted to describe as an act of levitation….

“One’s sensations, while crawling into the lantana’s nether layers must markedly resemble those of a psychiatrist groping his way into the twilight of the unconscious, Great Heavens, what a mess!”


Hello!

For this post, I took a few of the lantana flowers from the previous post (see Lantana, Wild and Tame), shot them into space with my Garden Rocket, then took their pictures once they reached a black hole.

This may or may not be true. But they do look like they’re floating somewhere out in the universe, don’t they?

🙂

Thanks for looking!






Lantana, Wild and Tame

From The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (Vol. 4) by Liberty Hyde Bailey:

“The lantanas are free flowering in winter and summer, but an odor of foliage and flowers that is disagreeable to many persons prevents them from popular use as cut-flowers. They are very useful in window-gardens and the dwarf kinds make good subjects for hanging-baskets. From the window they may be transferred to the open in summer, where they grow profusely.

“The lantana is not particular as to soil, provided the exposure is sunny, and also that the soil is well supplied with moisture at least until a fair growth has been made. When well established the plants do not seem to mind drought, and continue bright and attractive in the hottest weather. They should not be transplanted out in the open before danger of frost is over. If the old plants are wanted for propagation, cut them back and transfer to pots. In September, and when they start into new growth the soft wood will furnish cuttings that root easily….

“Gardeners train them into fine standards, as prim and shapely as need be.”

From “Some Remarks on the Nature of Contrast” in Lantana Lane by Eleanor Dark:

“Lantana is generally termed a Weed. We go further, hereabouts, and call it a Pest, to say nothing of less printable names. But in fact it is not altogether useless, and it is not so much wicked as crazy. It preserves, through all its misdemeanours, a kind of feckless innocence which, while often inducing extreme exasperation, still disarms hostility. We have become used to it — as those who work in lunatic asylums become used to mental aberration.

“Other weeds, such as Noogoora burr, Cobblers’ Pegs, Crowsfoot, Groundsel and Stinking Roger, are systematic and purposeful enemies — Napoleons and Hitlers of the vegetable world, shameless aggressors bent upon territorial conquest; but the lantana, poor fool, is not really greedy for
lebensraum. Like an amiable, gangling half-wit who, without the slightest intention of incommoding anyone, gets under everyone’s feet, it simply keeps alive, and grows.”


Hello!

As I’ve featured it here many times before, early this fall I only took a few photos of some of the lantana growing on my property. Click this lantana tag if you’d like to take a look at the previous years’ galleries.

Since the flowers are small — typically about an inch in diameter — lantana is always an excellent subject for macro photography, even moreso perhaps because its stiff stems keep the flowers from swaying too much when it’s windy. It’s not flat — the tiny petals curve backward on a rounded structure about the size of a large marble — so it gives The Photographer a chance to practice achieving balance between depth of field and focus with a macro lens. You can see the difference among the set of images below: those with the sharpest focus on the flowers were taken at f-stops f/16 or f/19; those with a softer overall appearance (especially in the backgrounds) were taken at f/9 or f/11.

I like this variation — it’s officially called Mary Ann Lantana — because it packs so many colors in such small spaces. I mean, really, how many flowers can you think of that exhibit all these distinctly different tones?

Each spring, lantana varieties occupy a lot of space in southeastern garden centers, packed onto long tables in the tiniest plastic pots the stores carry, each pot sporting a single plug with just two or three foot-long stems. That’s how all of mine started, but they spread rapidly, filling up open ground spaces or stuffing a pot with new roots, sometimes shooting a long root through the pot’s drainage hole and deep into the ground. One had a big surprise for The Gardner when — in a frenzy of relocating pots — he grabbed a potted lantana, the lantana held its ground, and The Gardener fell on his ass.

But I’ve dug them up and pulled them out and replanted them many times, and they never seem to mind. Some wild varieties are considered invasive even here in Georgia; those perennial and annual variations available from garden centers are not. The annual varieties — despite being annuals — often return for a few years, and may continue to grow back without blooming but still produce beautiful thick batches of spear-tip-shaped, saturated-green leaves.


The second quotation at the top of this post, from the book Lantana Lane by Australian author Eleanor Dark, is in a book chapter whose full title is…

Some Remarks upon the Nature of Contrast with Special Reference to the Habits and Characteristics of Ananas comosus and Lantana camara and an Examination of their Economic and Psychological Effect upon Homo Sapiens

… which is a humorous mouthful. The contrast examined by the author compares pineapple plants (Ananas comosus) with lantana shrubs, both of which present challenges for Australia’s farmers and ecologists because of their unchecked growth, yet only one of the two — the lantana — meets the definition of “noxious” weed.

Because a weed is just a plant with a bad reputation, pineapple plants are let off the hook since they can at least bolster Australia’s economy (lots of pineapple for pizza, folks!) whereas lantana plants just tangle everybody up until they’re cut down or smothered with deadly chemicals (and are even then only in remission). Having wrestled to untangle and prune some that grew beyond their garden borders a couple of times, I can relate.

The book is mostly fiction, containing a series of short stories or vignettes about various characters and their struggles to live with lantana. In that sense it follows a typical literary theme of “man versus nature” or “civilization versus wilderness” — with the antagonist taking the form of a shrub whose exuberant growth will not be stopped. It’s unusual for a plant to feature this prominently in a work of fiction, so that — along with Ms. Dark’s lyrical writing style — makes for a delicious read. Lantana becomes an ominous presence in many scenes, not entirely unlike its appearance in the 2001 murder-mystery Lantana (also set in Australia) where the shrub waved menacingly throughout the movie and (spoiler alert!) was used to hide a corpse. Stand aside, Audrey Jr.The Little Shop of Horrors is amateur hour compared to exploding invasions of lantana.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!








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