Sunday, 28 September 2014

Turquoise Puya

"Puya berteroniana, Turquoise Puya", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

Turquoise Puya as it looks 
growing wild

For those who work in or visit a botanical garden where Puya berteroniana has been carefully cultivated, the appearance of blossoms is a moment of great beauty tinged with even greater sadness. An exotic plant that flowers once in its lifetime before dying has bloomed. 

The spiky plant had shown no signs of blossoming for over 10 years but has now burst into an array of turquoise petals with orange anthers -- a very unusual colour combination in nature.

While searching online, I found the following quote from Chris Kidd, curator at the Ventnor Botanic Gardens located on the Isle of Wight: 
"The Puya berteroniana is a monocarpic plant which means it flowers just once and then dies. It will be in flower for a couple of weeks and then hundreds of the seeds will be pollinated by birds, and only one or two of those will survive. The Puya berteroniana can grow up to 10 ft. tall and last for [a great many] years before it flowers."

The flowers of the Puya berteroniana are expected to last for around two weeks but it will sadly be the first and last time the tall plant blooms as they die shortly after the flowers fade.

Occasionally, monocarpic plants can be kept alive after flowering if: (1) the flowers are removed as soon as they are done blooming, before seed formation begins, or (2) if the flower buds are removed before they begin blooming (option 2 seems rather pointless, however, as you would never be able to enjoy the beautiful turquoise flowers!). 

The plant - a bromeliad - is a relative of the pineapple and is native to the Andes in South America (where it is known by the local residents as chagual). The dry shoots are used in construction and as fuel.  As well, the fibres are used for the fabrication of mats. Fresh leaves can be eaten in salads. 

The name "Puya" was derived from the Mapuche Indian word meaning "point" and probably refers to the spiny points that cover the leaf margins. The species name of berteroniana comes, perhaps, from someone named Berteron (a French name); however, I could find no definite information on this matter even after extensive research. 

Puya berteroniana is seldom seen outside of its native Andean areas except in botanical gardens or research facilities.  Some determined and patient gardeners do make the effort to cultivate this plant in their gardens where it requires just the right temperature and moisture.  As well, while waiting for the blossoms to appear, you would have to be wary, constantly, of the fish-hook shaped spines on the leaves!

Much of the above information was taken from various Internet sources. ST

"Turquoise Puya, Puya berteroniana", drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2014

I have tried drawing this plant several times previously and have always given up because I could never quite get the right colour of turquoise from my palette.  This time, I simply forced myself to keep working on the drawing even though I remain unsatisfied with the shade of turquoise I achieved.  The drawing immediately above is an earlier drawing I went on to finish after completing the one featured at the beginning of this posting.  Notice that the colour in the drawing here is a bit more turquoise than the one shown at the top.  

Puya berteroniana blossoms
If you look at the photo on the left, you can a better idea of just how rich this shade of turquoise really is and how the petals shine with the colour.  My drawing looks, to me, so very dull by comparison -- but then, I guess capturing the brilliance of a colour saturated by sunlight has always been a challenge for any artist.



As you can see in the photo below, Braden is growing into a big boy.  As well, he is obviously quite pleased with his Batman shirt. I must say, he does look very handsome in it!

As the day draws ever nearer for the arrival of his baby brother, Braden is still trying to figure out exactly what is going on.  As his mother says:  "he knows a big change is coming soon!"

Braden looking so happy in his Batman shirt



Suki thinking about what mischief 
she can get into next!
Well, Suki must have heard me bragging about how well she was behaving as she seems to have outdone herself misbehaving this past week!

She has been up to all her nasty habits, especially the ones which include finding ways to make repetitive noises starting at about 4 a.m.!  She tells me, when questioned, that it is because she is so very hungry.  I ask her, in return, why she feels her hunger so much more during the six hours when I am trying to get a night's sleep? 

Sure, she wants to eat but I know for a fact that she is always fed a big meal sometime between 11 and midnight.  I also know that during the day, she goes six hours at a time without being fed her favourite food (her "crunchies" are always available but she eats them only in desperation). 

Suki gets through these six hour periods during the day without any noticeable misbehaving.  She may, indeed, notify me when it is 30 to 45 minutes before feeding time, but she doesn't misbehave in order to bring this to my attention.  At the very most, she will give me a few mournful meows and will then, probably, position herself somewhere very close to me -- like in my lap or on the back of my recliner -- but, otherwise, she simply waits. She does not misbehave.

So, I ask myself, what is it about those nighttime hours that causes her to misbehave?  I know that cats are often more active during those hours that we humans are and so maybe since she is less likely to sleep during those hours, she feels the hunger that much more.  I am just speculating here.  I have asked Suki to explain things to me, but thus far, all I have gotten are some more mournful meows!

If I was feeling as well as I did up until about a year ago, I would have continued to spend more time playing with Suki in the evening -- I could watch TV and pull a catnip mouse back and forth across the sofa at the same time.  Now, however, I just do not feel well enough plus any repetitive movement on my part quickly becomes very painful.  

So, while I may have identified why Suki misbehaves as she does during the night, I have not yet come up with a solution.  Perhaps I need to ask someone to volunteer to come by each evening and play with this silly cat for an hour or so before bedtime.  If, after a few days, I find that it makes a real difference in her behaviour, then I might have to consider hiring someone full-time.  I wonder how I should word the ad for such a helper... any suggestions?

As for me, other than having to deal with Suki each morning while trying to get sufficient sleep, I am doing the same.

I had expected to have a visit this past week from a dear friend; however, I received an email from her early last week informing me that she and her family were all suffering from the flu!  I was distressed to hear that flu season has already started, but I was grateful for her kindness in not trying to visit while she might still be contagious.  I really don't know how I would handle all that extra joint pain that the flu brings with it!  Hopefully, she will be feeling better soon and we can arrange for another visit.

This coming week looks as though it will be very quiet for me and I am grateful for that -- no medical appointments for a few more weeks yet.  I can hardly believe that Wednesday will be October 1st.  Just one more month and it will have been a full year since I became basically housebound!

Ah, well, perhaps my aches and pains will settle down for a while and there won't be any need to deal with any additional problems until the new year... No matter what the doctors say, I find that I still have a bit of hope that this whole painful process will slow down. Truly, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast..." as Alexander Pope so wisely said all those years ago.



"Icon, The Good Shepherd", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2009

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching and challenged his authority. So Jesus asked them this question. “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.
Matthew 21:28-32

I chose the icon of The Good Shepherd to accompany today's reading as I do not have an icon illustrating this particular story and the story does say something about God as the Good Shepherd... let me explain what I mean.

A really good shepherd, it seems to me, would take care of all the sheep equally whether they were pretty, fluffy and well-behaved or prone to get dirty, messy and constantly wander off, getting into all sorts of trouble.  Just like the two brothers -- one of whom ended up doing as he was asked while the other one lied and was disobedient. Did the father stop loving one and love only the other after this? Not our Father, certainly.  

Our Father doesn't stop loving us even if we are now, or will be in the future, "tax collectors and prostitutes".  Nor does He love us because we are "chief priests and elders".  No matter what we are or what we may become, we will always be welcomed into the Kingdom so long as we never stop trying to love... so long as we never completely turn our backs on Love. 

Some of those who were listening to Christ as He spoke had hearts so full of pride, envy, jealousy, greed and so on that there was simply no room left for love.  So, they were being told, just as we are, that unless they "changed their minds and believed" there would never be room in their hearts to desire the love that is necessary for us to enter into the Kingdom.  We must never forget that God, the Good Shepherd, is Love. 

May I be granted the grace necessary to follow the Good Shepherd wherever He may lead -- simply out of a desire to respond to His unconditional love for me -- not out of any hope for reward or desire to be well thought of by my fellow "sheep"!

May we all experience peaceful hearts as we become ever more aware that the Good Shepherd loves us whether we are "chief priests and elders" or "tax collectors and prostitutes".


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