I thought about my Aunt Phyl a few days ago. At the beginning of November the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos and the Feast of All Souls remind us of family members who have died and my aunt has been gone for many years. Remembering her now might be appropriate but the calender didn't bring her to mind - it was an unexpected bud on a plant.
Phyl loved clothes, parties, plays and gourmet cooking, but she was also a gardener. I can remember being a child in her flower border, watching as my aunt showed me how to squeeze the sides of the blossom to make Snapdragons talk. A few decades later, when impatiens was a newish, trendy annual, she showed me how to snap off a few flowering stems and arrange them on needlepin holders for a sunny table, telling me that way they'd look good while growing roots to make more plants for the garden. She handed out divisions of Siberian iris and Annabelle Hydrangea and Jack-n-the-Pulpit - all still growing in the gardens of my family back in Illinois.
Aunt Phyl gave me starter plants of another passalong back in the late 1980's. It grew as a houseplant in Illinois but has been a porch plant since I brought it to Texas. Here's that bud unfolded:
Its names are Starfish flower, Carrion flower, and Stapelia - possibly Stapelia gigantea. The thick stems look almost like a cactus but are relatively soft and have no spines.
I brought one plant with me and have started several more in the last 8 years. I lost a few to sudden cold snaps - this plant is happy outside in mild weather but the pots must be taken in and out of the garage when the temperatures approach freezing. This was the first flower in a couple of years - strange and spectacular, with long hairs all over the edges, and they emit a faint scent of meat to attract a pollinator - flies!
Once the flies showed up I realized that white shelf was a little too close to the door and the floral display moved down to the other end of the veranda.
It seems ironic that such an odd plant brings memories of my rather glamorous, well-groomed aunt - but it's the only passalong from her that made it to Texas. Maybe she'd be amused.