Monday, July 29, 2019

Night Blooming Cereus

I remember attending a late night party at my cousin Janet's home in Danvers to watch the opening of an unusual flower. I'd never before heard of a "Night Blooming Cereus" and thought it very strange that a plant would produce a flower ONLY once a year, and ONLY at night!  I was young at the time and had never been invited to a midnight party, either. So this was a special, memorable occasion.

The white flower was large and impressive!  I was sad that it would only last that one night, but very glad to have witnessed the bloom.

Today, while editing a family history that Janet has compiled from diaries of our 19th century relatives, I noticed this entry: 

July 9, 1875:
I went to J. Robinson's saw 4 Night Blooming Cerius blooms on 1 stalk.
The woman who wrote that diary entry was Mary Ward Nichols, sister of my great-grandfather Andrew Nichols. She was also very much interested in plants, and taught Botany classes.

For more about the Night Blooming Cereus (and photos), see any of these resources:

    How to Take Care of Night Blooming Cereus
Four different plants are commonly referred to as night-blooming cereus. These include dragon fruit (Hylocereus undatus), also sometimes referred to as pitaya or strawberry pear, and Dutchman’s Pipe (Epiphyllum oxypetalum). The other two (Peniocereus greggii) and (Selenicereus grandiflorus) share yet another commonly used name, queen of the night. All four are desert cactuses that bloom once a year in the summer when the temperature drops at night. Their large, fragrant flowers are showy white (or sometimes pink) and present a startling display in contrast to their typically unassuming appearance.
   How to Make Night Blooming Cereus Bloom

   Time-lapse video (YouTube)   12 hours in 40 seconds

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Wistaria at Pine Knoll

Yesterday my cousin Janet Nichols Derouin shared this photo with me:

Wisteria on the garage at Pine Knoll
I recognize that Pine Knoll garage and cousin Annie Brewster, bending over to pat a cat.  (There were always many cats at Pine Knoll.)

Today, July 4th, is a fitting day to think of Pine Knoll.  The annual 4th of July picnics at Pine Knoll drew family members from far and wide.  As a child I didn't know all their names, but I participated in the gathering and enjoyed the scene. We sat under the shade of the large trees and ate festive food, always including watermelon. And I'm sure I spent some time following (chasing?) cats and kittens around.

This photo, however, is a spring one, with the wisteria vine in full bloom.  Janet tells a story about it:

"Our grandfather lost the battle to have the wisteria climbing all over the garage (see attached) cut back and he grumbled about it."  His older sister, our great-aunt May Nichols, said it couldn't be cut back because "Papa planted it" (referring to Andrew Nichols, the builder of Pine Knoll and father of the large family raised there). Our grandfather was a practical man, concerned that if not pruned back, the wisteria would collapse the garage. And it did. That garage did collapse – though Janet and I do not know how many years elapsed between that sibling argument and the eventual collapse. 

Perhaps others in the extended Pine Knoll family will share what they know of when and why that garage collapsed. Stuart Brewster, son of Annie, mentions that termites were also part of the problem. (See his full Comment, linked below).

For more about the 4th of July picnics at Pine Knoll, see my blog entries in July 2007 (with photo) and July 2009.  For photos of great Aunt May and information about her life as a teacher, see July 2013.  In yesterday's email, Janet wrote of Aunt May:  "... large kind brown eyes but she was very school teachery when she took me around and explained the history of things in the house.  She was very much the family historian."  Janet then shared a "funny story about her being in charge" – the issue about pruning the Pine Knoll wisteria.