Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Adonis amurensis: excellent plant with a cool name

Damn I love plants that flower in the middle of the winter. It is February 3, we have had one of the colder winters in recent memory, and yet here it is! This particular plant, one in a colony, lives in the middle of the Asian Collections. I don't even know if I've seen it since 1992. There are many more now than there were then. To find it, from the Asian Collections parking lot, take the left-hand trail, stay right, and at the end make the very hard right hand turn that sends you back towards the road. Look to your left very shortly after you turn and the colony will be about 10' below the trail. For a closer look, turn around on the trail and walk away from the road watching the right edge of the trail. A smaller less formal path heads into the collection. Follow it and you will come within a few feet of the Adonis.

Today was a good day for me; not only did I come upon the Adonis amurensis in bloom, I was offered, and accepted, the position of Horticulturist in the Asian Collections. This position has never before existed before in this collection, so its definition will become clearer to me as time goes by, but it is exciting. While there will be a bit more non-garden work, I will still be physically in the collection most of the time.

I began avidly (both in the covetous and the eager sense of the word) reading seed catalogs when I was about 14; I can visualize Pheasant's Eye Adonis in, as I remember, Park's Seeds; they carried it for years, but not anymore. I don't remember for certain but suspect this was Adonis annua. Its petals do have a basal spot and the black anthers give the entire flower the appearance of an eye...not really. But they do seem a more plausible source for the name than a flower with yellow petals and yellow centers. The name pheasant's eye seems to have been somewhat arbitrarily adopted for all members of the genus (a not-unprecedented occurrence). It's the earliest flowering perennial that I know of and a sure sign that spring is sluggishly stirring beneath the frosty veneer of winter.

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