Monday, April 9, 2012

Pride of Madeira

We've been in California. A friend, hearing of our plans for Easter, understood how ideal the timing was going to be.

She said she always thought it'd be neat to be somewhere you can walk out of church in your Easter finery into the sunshine with kids waiting on the green grass for the Easter egg hunt like the movie Steel Magnolias.

She's a poet. She catches the essence of things. She catches, too, the hunger in the northland at this time of year to be seasonally caught up with the rest of the world. Blooming time is necessary to the proper feeding of the soul.

We arranged the family visit to include some California travel. We enjoy going back to favorite spots. We add new places each time, widening the familiarity which makes the West seem more and more a second home.

The coastal hills are green or getting there. A wet March, following a severely dry winter, was turning hills a Celtic green. The brilliant color, with wild golden mustard intermixed, was mystical in appearance as if seen in a dream.

The weekend storm which followed our arrival kicked up high seas, some of the roughest in years. Al was pleased to get pictures of some really high waves and seabird shots. Throw in a Pacific sunset and a full moon at night and the proverbial cup was pretty much full.

Knowing my liking for local history my son gave me a book which tells the California story through a combination of archaeological, documentary and oral history research.

It was through this gift I learned that California as a name goes back four hundred years. It surfaces as a name less than twenty years after the first voyage of Columbus to America.

California was depicted as an imaginary island to the right of the Indies in a novel published in Spain in 1510.

When Spanish sailors came upon what is now California, distant and isolated from the Mexican mainland, with a geographical location they mistook as an island, it was put on the map as such.

It was given the name of the imaginary island - a place of fabulous riches - and the name California stuck.

The riches of the fictional island might be regarded as a prophecy of the wealth that was to shower upon its namesake. Gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill at Coloma on January 24, 1848 and the gold rush to California began.

The real richness of California remains its natural beauty. Come in April and you strike the Mother Lode.

California in April is an oasis of beauty. It's a composite of everything in flower. The perfume is heavy in the air even as you stand on a busy city street.

We delighted in primroses, pansies, snapdragons, geraniums, bright sprinklings of daisies, roses and calla lilies.There were California poppies, the fragrant California lilac known as ceanothus, lavender and rosemary hedges and cherry blooms.

One flower previously unknown to us took center stage on our travels.
Considerable energy went into tracking down the name of this gorgeous flower seen in many coastal gardens.

Without actually ringing doorbells to query the homeowners we did buttonhole many others asking if they knew what this exquisite flower is.

The flowers are blue, or you might say blue-lavender. The blossoms are very tiny but tiered together in cone-like clusters they look like blue wands. They're gracefully erect and elegant as if knowing what scene stealers they are.

They grow to some height. They're great proportion for smaller plantings with which they share space. Finally, at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, we were able to find out their name.

Our cruise of discovery didn't lead us to the Indies but to Madeira, an island of beautiful aspect in the Atlantic off the coast of Portugal.

The enchanting flower called Pride of Madeira is native to this island. California is one of the few places that match the conditions found on Madeira for the flower to thrive.

Exploration can be in oceans or gardens or any place where curiosity is set free. The search to find the name of this plant, to give its beauty even more meaning to us, made our time in California compellingly complete.

Ro Giencke - April 9, 2012

1 comment:

  1. Here's proof, or at least good evidence, that if we don't know something we don't recognize it even when it's right in front of us.

    When Pride of Madeira was a mystery flower in our search to find out its name I picked up the then current (April 2012) Sunset magazine.

    Sunset is always a good read. I can never decide if the magazine is more interesting when away from the West, and the magazine brings it to you, or whether it's more motivational reading when you're actually there.

    I went through the issue thoroughly - how-to ideas, photos, travel, recipes. I totally missed the fact that the flower we were trying to identify is pictured and named on page 58.

    After days of effort led us to learning the name of the flower it chanced that I picked up the Sunset to look at it some more.

    This time the garden scene, with the pretty purple flowers named in the caption below as Pride of Madeira, got my attention.

    Earlier I'd glanced at the picture without recognizing the flowers as the ones which interested us. I gave no thought that the caption below the illustration held the name of the flower we were looking for.

    It took knowing Pride of Madeira to recognize its name on the April garden checklist page.
    Funny how that goes.