Year of Grace Day 225. Early winter in Palo Alto

I am back in California after an absence of almost two decades. The glowing colours of the Liquidambar’s leaves in their maple-like winter garb and the stalwart blooms of daylily and sage are an inspiring sight after sadness and grieving over my brother’s passing. I intend to plant a Liquidambar or two in my garden in Catalunya; my brother was very fond of this tree.

Maple-like leaves of Liquidambar

Maple-like leaves of Liquidambar

Other plants in bloom still despite the chilling winds, not unlike those of the Mistral and Levante that blow through the little town of L’Ametlla de Mar where I live, are daylilies and a sage with waving purple spikes.

There are lots of plants that I see doing well here in people’s front gardens — drought-tolerant and surviving only on the rains that come in autumn and winter. Definitely inspired to start planting in my Catalunya garden!

Year of Grace, Day 224. Shades of the colour green

I used to have two brothers: the first, thirteen years older than me, I lost nearly 25 years ago in LA in a traffic accident caused by a man recklessly chatting on his mobile phone. The second, younger than the first by three years, I lost a mere four days ago, also in California, in Palo Alto, due to a head injury sustained during post-surgery rehabilitation.

Now bereft of brothers, I look back with longing at things and events that bring them back to life for me. The youngest of 4 siblings, I realize and acknowledge with grateful thanks how much of my life – my interests, my hobbies, my preferences – has been shaped and defined, unconsciously and unintentionally, by them. And how much I have benefitted and been enriched, simply from having been around them growing up.

The thing that stands out the most, of all the memories linked with my brothers, is the colour green. And it is most likely that my own belatedly awakened passion for gardening and everything to do with plants, including illustrating and photographing them as they did, has its roots (sorry, couldn’t resist that — puns being a major part of my second brother’s brand of humour) way back in my childhood with some startling encounters with plants.

When I was ten, my oldest brother Elmore, then working in community development in Cavite, a province south of Manila, brought me along one weekend to view one of his projects. In a flooded field along a path we were walking on, I was entranced by spikey leaves growing in orderly ranks, their colour a vivid green, heightened by sunlight reflected from the surrounding water. I called his attention to them as I’d never seen spring onions growing so robustly before. “Where?” he asked. “Those there,” I said pointing downwards. He burst out laughing. “Those? Those are rice!”

My second brother Stanley had a vegetable garden in the back yard, and in one of the beds grew enormous cabbages. In the shade, the outer leaves surrounding the central head threw off a soft bluish-silvery-green, a colour I had not expected from cabbage, being accustomed to seeing them only in their market-ready state. To this day, that particular shade of cabbage-leaf green, with plenty of steely blue within, is one that I find extremely pleasing, and one I can never have my fill of. Now you can understand why it is that I adore Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy” and Festuca glauca “Elijah Blue” and sage and other plants that sport bluish- and silvery green leaves. I can already see in my mind’s eye just how my next garden will look -– a diverse assortment of bluish-green foliage set amidst the silver- and blue-green of olive leaves — a garden to remember my loved ones by.