Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Naked as a Caladium

I'm going to start right out by saying I don't like white caladiums (Caladium bicolor).

Native to the lush shade of Brazilian forests, caladiums are grown in pots in the Pacific Northwest. They'd never survive a winter here, and probably not even a summer, so we keep them indoors. And though houseplants are beyond the scope of my talents (tiny sucking spider mites seem to know where I live), I like them in the homes of my friends.

I know a woman who banishes all multicolored plants from her garden, whether striped, streaked or spotted. Some of my very favorite plants are variegated, so it's not that.

The garden of my childhood included a bank of the magnificent green and white large-leafed English ivy Hedera helix 'Glacier' and it was spectacular. Every leaf was different from the next. There were areas of green, white, grey green, quite distinctly separated from one another.

During the Christmas holidays I like to have cut holly in the house, and my favorite is the green and white Ilex aquifolium 'Argenteo Marginata' which will look fresh and crisp in a vase for a month. Like the ivy, each leaf is distinct and the colors are clearly delineated.

The caladium, on the other hand, is not at all like the ivy or the holly with sharp lines and glossy surfaces that deflect light away from themselves. In contrast, the caladium has a matte appearance to it, and nothing is reflected: all is absorbed because in its native habitat very little light hits the forest floor.

Clearly articulated green veins stand out sharply against the white background. You can see them from across the room. And that's the problem: they are way too exposed, unprotected. The plant's operational parts, its elemental working innards, are visible. It's as if it were a creature without skin.

The personal seems much too public with this plant and it unnerves me. But then I'd be the first to admit I wouldn't wear a bikini on the beach in Ipanema.

No comments:

Post a Comment