Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Insignificant Blooms

or A Delicate Subject

I hope I don't embarrass anyone today.  Some people might consider the topic to be a little outré, a bit "specialized" (hem, hem) in a mildly unsavory way.  If we were in an Agatha Christie novel, sitting with the vicar's wife and the flower committee over tea when someone mentioned it, we would raise delicately penciled eyebrows, glance sideways at the person next to us, and try to hide a knowing half-smile by raising a bone china cup to our lips.  After an awkward pause, the vicar's wife would tactfully change the subject.

You've probably guessed by now that I'm talking about plants with  insignificant blooms.  (Blush.)  I had no idea that they were know... until I was looking through a book on houseplant care and came across the section on parlor palms.  The book recommended trimming off the insignificant blooms—all well and good—but then it added, and I quote, "Unless you're into that kind of thing."

Well.  "Unless you're into that kind of thing."  What else was needed to give insignificant blooms a seedy, pulp fiction patina, to transform them instantly from hum-drum to "Oh, la la...", to make them seem dangerous, risky, maybe just a little beyond the pale?  The life of this houseplant owner suddenly became a lot more racy and adventurous, and I didn't even have to do anything.  But then I looked closer at the parlor palm blooms and trimmed them off, because it turns out that I wasn't really into that kind of thing.

All to say, the "Winter Gem" boxwoods are blooming in the narrow side yard by the kitchen door.  Now, I love these shrubs—they are such sturdy little growers.  They flourish in conditions that are hard even on native plants:  full sun all summer, reflected by a south-facing wall; full shade all winter, right where the wind funnels between the casitas; poor soil even by New Mexican standards.  The boxwoods thrive so happily while making so few demands; they are "salt of the earth" shrubs if ever I saw them.

But they have (insert portentous music here) insignificant blooms.  Right outside the kitchen door, too.

And I'm afraid that I might be into that kind of thing.  My camera isn't—the auto-focus rebelled against them, and I must have at least four dozen slightly fuzzy photos (including some of these) of insignificant blooms.  But I kind of, well, like them.  In such a gentle, subtle way, they look like they've stuck their metaphorical finger in a light socket (not that I'm into that kind of thing!).  Mind you, I wouldn't make a special trip to the botanic gardens to see a swath of Winter Gem boxwood in glorious bloom.  They're no magnolias, and you can quote me, but they're not actually objectionable.  Not really.  (Don't raise your delicately penciled eyebrows at me.)  And surely the blooms are significant to someone, even if only to other Winter Gem boxwoods.

If there's any one moral I've learned while writing this blog—and I'm not just saying this to appease the vicar's wife—it's that looking closer almost always yields some sort of wonder, some awe at the novelty and intricacy and ingenuity and (dash it all!) the sheer beauty of the natural world; the peculiar, "specialized" ways that individual species have to cope with the concerns of growth and survival shared by all.  Significance isn't about scale; it's about accomplishment, about filling your niche.  It's also about paying attention.

If you're into that kind of thing...


  1. Can't help but smirk from behind my not-so-delicate teacup :D

  2. Oh, dear. I fear I am into that kind of thing. The shame.

  3. You are so very right that "looking closer almost always yields some sort of wonder"... And besides, it's all a matter of stature, isn't it? We are just too oafishly large to enjoy some things properly.

  4. And I was drinking tea as I read this -- but from a mug, not a delicate bone china cup (the vicar's wife probably wouldn't approve). Seriously, though, I have the same problem with the auto-focus on my camera every time I'm trying to photograph delicate blooms. You'd think that when it's in macro mode, it would be willing to focus on the closest thing. Fortunately, I have a digital SLR, so I can switch over to manual focus; but this is a focus issue that the camera designers need to work on. Love your boxwood blooms. -Jean

  5. I love boxwood blooms! So, I must be into that kind of thing. And the bees definitely like that sort of thing!

  6. oh my what a delightful read
    and.. oh.. I confess to BEING and insignificant bloom....
    lovely writing

  7. Did you notice the fragrance? Sort of like Grape Koolaid?

  8. klbrowser - Hmm... Is that because you do or do not share our specialized tastes? :)

    David - We're a shocking bunch, aren't we? And now, our proclivities are posted on the internet for all the world to see. Forever. Thanks for visiting - I'm delighted to have discovered your own blog!

    Zoe - When you put it that way, the insignificant blooms probably have just as difficult a time appreciating us!

    Jean - OK, I'll admit that I was actually swigging coffee from a mug, myself. :) It's good (in a way) to hear that the fuzzy auto-focus is a problem with digitals in general. I'm using a more-or-less entry level camera and have been thinking of upgrading just b/c of the focus issue, but if even the dSLR's have that problem, maybe I'll hold off a bit.

  9. HolleyGarden - Aha! Another gardener with dangerous tastes. :) So far the bees are keeping a low profile this spring, but we're still about a month from the last frost date--I haven't seen too much insect life at all yet.

    Suz, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! For some reason the winter posts almost all end up being Very Serious. Hopefully spring will throw some more light-hearted inspiration this way! And I can't quite see you as an Insignificant Bloom...

    NellJean, the fragrance is so light that I keep wondering if I'm imagining it. I'd always read that boxwood had a lovely scent, but maybe the microphyllas don't as much?

    Elaine, thank you. :D

  10. Stacy, I did chuckle out loud with your ". . . they look like they've stuck their metaphorical finger in a light socket . . . " for that is a good description of the ___ flowers. ;>) I confess to not understanding what Miss Marple or the vicar's wife would find to blush about. Unless you mean that which all blooms represent . . . that delicate part of every plant. Bees enjoy the blooms and I am sure do not find the food insignificant. They are into that sort of thing in a big way. To think I have picked blooming boxwood and used it in brides bouquets! Now I am all in wonderment at my faux pas! Thank goodness no one seem to notice. ;>)) Sometimes manual focus is best for close ups that are more wispy.