Writing Sometimes Means Getting Up Off the Chair

Spring in Arizona is glorious. We never did have winter this year, but I can tell it’s spring because there is a nest of baby quail behind the house. All but two of them hatched yesterday. A large and messy nest weighs down a flimsy Palo Verde branch overhanging the wash. I watched the bird fly back and forth to the nest, but the bird was so small and my vision so limited that I couldn’t make out the type of bird.

We also have lots of blossoming shrubs and trees and vines. Bougainvilleas are one of the more distinctive blossoms.

Living in the southwestern United States, I expect to see Bougainvilleas as backdrop to certain settings, especially around the walls of Spanish and Italian style stucco houses.

Bougainvilleas are apparently native to South America, but they have made their way to Arizona and California–and to the Philippines and southern European countries.

They are well-known for their distinctive reddish (but not red) color. The shade differs a bit, according to the sunlight and the soil. They come in both vine and bush varieties.

My husband and I decided we wanted to buy a few new bougainvillea vines, and the company delivered them to us. The place we wanted to put them is not only across the driveway from our other bougainvilleas, but on the same wall as our neighbor’s plants.

So it was important to match the color. Not a problem, I figured. To my knowledge, all Bougainvillea plants were the same color. (I always envision how gorgeous they are against white stucco near the beach in San Diego).

The plants that were dropped off at my house, though, were an orangey shade. They completely clashed.

The company exchanged them. For a hot pink color. I couldn’t figure out how it could be so hard to select the right color when all the Bougainvillea between the Pacific Ocean and New Mexico were the same color.

I checked the internet. Apparently there are over 80 different Bougainvillea plants

So I got off my writer roots (that’s the body part you use to plant yourself on the chair at the computer) and hauled myself to the nursery–armed with a twig from ours, a twig from my neighbor’s, and a twig from the hot pink so-not-right plants.

The man who helped me at first showed me to a section of Bougainvillea. I matched my “swatches” the best I could, but nothing seemed quite right. I said, “I want the color of San Diego Bougainvillea.” He just gaped at me.

I felt as if I were in that scene from Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream HouseI was Myrna Loy describing paint color to her gape-mouthed painters:

I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin’s egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow, but don’t let whoever does it go to the other extreme and get it too blue. It should just be a sort of grayish-yellow-green. Now, the dining room. I’d like yellow. Not just yellow; a very gay yellow. Something bright and sunshine-y. I tell you, Mr. PeDelford, if you’ll send one of your men to the grocer for a pound of their best butter, and match that exactly, you can’t go wrong!

When Myrna Loy is done with the full description, the painters say:

Mr. PeDelford: You got that, Charlie?

Charlie: Red, green, blue, yellow, white.

Mr. PeDelford: Check.

That was how much my flower man cared about the color I needed. I hemmed and hawed and sent him on another errand.

In a few minutes, Ryan (an everyday hero) stopped by to help me. He brought me to another section of the nursery. All the Bougainvillea, vines and bushes, were the right color. And they were 1/3 the price of the other colors. Go figure.

What I learned is that when you want the correct San Diego color Bougainvillea you want to buy “Barbara Karst Bougainvillea.” That’s all you need to know. Those will be the perfect ones.

My new vine matches my neighbor's boughs.

My new vine matches my neighbor’s boughs.

Now I want to know how one goes about getting one’s name on such a well-known flower. And who is/was Barbara Karst?

Do you have a gardening tip to share?

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31 Comments

Filed under Arizona, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing

31 responses to “Writing Sometimes Means Getting Up Off the Chair

  1. great post……love these flowers pictures…….

    • Luanne

      Thank you so much for stopping by, komarovstyle! Aren’t the flowers just gorgeous? I couldn’t do them justice with the camera, but I did my best!

  2. We have a lot of Bougainvillea here in FL as well, but I can cope with the long painful thorns in keeping it maintain. Everything grows so fast here. Somebody planted some at the entry to our subdivision, but now we can’t see around it to pull out into traffic. GORGEOUS though.

    • Luanne

      Yes, you do have to be careful where you plant it! It’s beautiful covering a wall (not too close to intersections!) and the side of a house, too. I prefer the vines to the bushes. Now the plants that reminds me of Los Angeles (as opposed to San Diego) is white Oleander. I need a trip to Florida. It’s been so long since I’ve been there. Now I’m getting restless.

  3. There is call in the Netherlands by Greenpeace to sow bee and butterfly seeds for the declining bee populations and to help the butterflies. I’ve planted at least 7 pots with bee and butterflies seeds.

    • Luanne

      Paula, I just googled bee and butterfly seeds. It seems as if they are an assortment of wild flower seeds, is that it? How wonderful! Do you live in an area with a lot of plants and flowers or not? I knew that the bees are in an emergency situation, but I didn’t realize that about the butterflies.
      We have a bee situation here in Arizona. The bees have been Africanized and can be quite dangerous. Their swarms are more aggressive, too. So on the one hand I am very worried about the bee population as a whole, but I don’t like bees in Arizona because they have become dangerous. Now I am off on a tangent, wondering if the Africanization has helped to endanger the humble honey bees.
      Do you have Africanized bees in the Netherlands, Paula? I am wondering whereabouts you are. My mother’s grandparents came from Zeeland: Goes, Kapelle, etc.

  4. I just love desert gardens and yards. Great job with the Bougainvillea, Luanne, it looks great!
    Were you able to find out who Barbara Karst is? She must be someone with a green thumb, something I don’t have.

    • Luanne

      Jill, thanks so much. I haven’t been able to find out. It seems as if there must some sort of data base with all the information about how landscaping plants get their names. I’m sure the rose “society” does that with roses, so wouldn’t there be a respository of that knowledge for other plants? Or do you think one nursery named it that and then it took off (went viral haha)?

  5. I love your story and the deep red color you chose. My tip is that I’ve been raking my lawn, which appears to have grey snow mold. I think that the grass needs to be disturbed so sunshine can do a miracle: turn the grass green. I’ll let you know if it works. Also interesting is that fact that my neighbor, who never fertilizes, has no snow mold.

  6. I envy you the warm temps!

  7. Ditto “wordsfromanneli”. Still very brown and beige in my part of the world although on my lunchtime walk I saw some promising green shoots peeking through the soggy earth. I will see your bougainvillea in my dreams.

    • Luanne

      Aw, well, you will no doubt have a lovely summer, fresh and green, while I will be a soggy mess in 115 degrees or somesuch. It’s supposed to get hot this week, too!

  8. Fun and beautiful post, Luanne! My sis lives in Safford in eastern AZ and I know she will be thrilled with your tip. Gardening is a most soothing therapy 🙂

    • Luanne

      It feels like creation (planting), even when it’s destruction (weeding), for some reason. And it’s more refreshing than writing!! Does your sis live in the mountains?

  9. Interesting, tried looking up who Barbara Karst is/was and couldn’t find a thing. Lots of photos of the flower though!

  10. Luanne, these bougainvillias are absolutely breathtaking, and I do love the Myrna Loy story, too! Great Post!!

    • Luanne

      Aren’t they though?! I love that movie. It’s one of my favorites. Anything with Myrna Loy or Irene Dunne, really. Thanks for stopping by, Sheila! Hey, I couldn’t see a link to your book on my iPad. Do you want to share the link here?

  11. LOvely post Luanne – loved the mYrna Loy quotes – delicious…I’ve gone through the same ordeal with crab app0le trees – thinking I had a pair and both quite different when they fruited!!!

    • Luanne

      Valerie, it’s true that we often don’t know what we have when we plant. And the surprises can be pleasant or they can be a letdown. Maybe it’s dull of me to like to know what I’m planting ahead of time!
      Mr. Blandings is one of my favorite movies–anything with Myrna Loy, really.

  12. Oh my goodness, Luanne! I wish I could push “Love” button instead of just like button on your post today! I am always having conversations with my friend, Jenny, about colors! She is looking for a new sofa, but we also tend to talk about our clothing choices, too. She likes just three colors to wear and I am always, the persistent pest of a friend, trying to persuade her to go to a different palette. She chooses, blues, grays, tans and black. She is blonde and would look great in my palette of oranges, pinks, reds and lavender, too. The quote from “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” was both hilarious, but also frustrating! I could see why you were a little upset about the flowers’ colors! And the seemingly disinterested clerk, is typical!

    • Luanne

      Hahaha, I just wrote on your post today about color. I admitted over that though I am a huge fan of color (I think to think a “special” fan of color 😉 ), I feel most confident when I wear black or even gray. That’s kind of sad, I guess. Or maybe it’s that I am not skinny like I used to be!

  13. I was just reading another of my blog friends–on nature walks to inspire writing. Perfect.

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