An Eccentric Neighbor
I’m glad I’m a walker; I’d miss so many interesting sights otherwise. And, I love walking pre-dawn, when all is dark and chill … but leaving the house as early as 5:30 these days, it’s already fairly well-lit out. This past Sunday the cool morning light was my friend, when, as I neared Farimount Park, I caught in my peripheral vision an unbelievable sight: a puya berteroniana in bloom! Whatsa puya? I posted about them just over a year ago (read it here) after being taken by them in a Annie’s Annual catalog. Quickly: Puyas are distant relatives of the pineapple that hail from South America by way of Planet Bizarro; they sport unusual foliage (think stiff, saw-edged yucca-type leaves) and produce tall stalks laden with strange flowers in outré colors like black, blue, lime green and turquoise (I ordered one of each from Annie’s). Sunday morning’s puya was in full flower, its stalk well over 6-feet tall, with blooms in a mind-boggling color combination … how could I have such an eccentric beauty for a neighbor and not know it?
Moving in for a closer look, I see the tri-cornered blossoms are a sapphire blue with an almost metallic sheen reminiscent of colorful anodized aluminum drinking glasses from the 1950s. And, nestled inside each blossom is a tight bunch of bright tangerine-orange anthers. The intensely contrasting color combination, the sheen, the shape; they all combine to give these blooms a “from somewhere else” quality… but I’m not thinking the mountains of Chile where they originate, these seem strangely Martian.
Standing on the wall now, looking down, I can see that the blooms ring spear-like bud clusters along the main stalk. I wasn’t the only party enchanted by puya’s good looks: Two iridescent hummingbirds kept darting in for a closer, sweeter, look. I wasn’t able to detect any fragrance coming from the puya’s blooms, but an intoxicating smell on top of all this exceptional beauty would just be gilding the lily, really.
According to Annie’s catalog, the puyas I ordered wouldn’t flower for a couple years … this amazing puya specimen is in-ground, so I may move mine there, too. Clearly, they’ll flourish; I can’t wait! Later, in the afternoon I knocked at the owner’s door to find out how long ago she’d planted it, but there was no answer. It’s for the best really; gives me an excuse to return. This homeowner’s house and yard is a wondrous tangle of interesting plants that look decades old and not a little unruly. I’ve seen a tiny, older lady working among these plants, almost hidden, during other walks, but never spoken to her. Seeking information at her door, I was surrounded by interesting objéts, enormous, gnarled cacti and heavily patinated yard art and planters … and, that’s just the front yard! Needless to say I have to meet this lady and learn more about the puya, as well as the history of her home and grounds. Hopefully, she’ll allow me to take photos to share here, along with her story. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy this statuesque neighbor’s beautifully bizarre good looks as I walk to the park and dream of the days when my own puyas will bloom in the colors of the Martian summer.