Milkweed

A repeat post from 2012. . .

Milkweed,” 1900, by Mary Frances Carpenter Paschallvia Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

This photo was part of a large group of “artistic photographs,” primarily by early women photographers, that was donated to the Library of Congress by Frances Benjamin Johnston. In the spring of 1900, she had used some of these images in an exhibition of work by American women photographers at the Exposition Universelle Internationale in Paris.

. . . I look down now. It is all changed.
Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret.
It is here. At a touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.

James Wright, from “Milkweed

A-s-c-l-e-p-i-a—

I walked by the White House a few weeks ago to look through the fence at the famous vegetable garden. Then I took a further look around and realized that all of the ornamental beds and pots on public view, on all sides of the house, were planted out in red wax begonias.

Just wax begonias combined with dusty miller.

And I thought, “seriously?”

Yes, this — just this, all around.

I know they’re tough and look neat and give reliable color and my feet were hurting from too much walking, but how dull.

The kitchen garden looked fine and huge kudos, but next year, would it not also be educational for D.C. schoolchildren to learn to spell ‘Asclepias tuberosa‘ — as they tuck them in around the fountains with maybe some native switchgrass and goldenrod* — or even the family to which it belongs, ‘Apocynaceae‘ (formerly thought to be ‘Asclepiadaceae‘), and its subfamily, ‘Asclepiadoideae.’

Or maybe just the word ‘perennial,’ which I have to let spellcheck fix every time I write it.

Why do we have wax begonias at the White House, while the British Museum currently has this?  (“North American Landscape:  Kew at the British Museum”)

* and even some scarlet rose mallow (Hibiscus c-o-c-c-i-n-e-u-s), which was planted at the Old Executive Office Building and looked great. (Addendum:  I’m now thinking it could have been this.)