January 27, 2018

Beauty (and Disgust) is in the Eye of the Beholder

Spring Flowers and the Horrors They Bring

I think it's safe to say that most of you reading appreciate growing, smelling and seeing flowers (otherwise, you're in the wrong blog!) Granted, not everyone likes the same flower (for example, it seems nothing polarizes people more than being presented a bunch of freshly pulled dandelion flowers.) Flowers (or you can argue plants in general) can evoke certain emotions, feelings and physical reactions based on distant memories and associations with people, events, locations, etc. For those who haven't read my profile blurb, I'll always associate tomato plants with my kindergarten (maybe grade 1?) teacher handing out a styrofoam cup with a precious seedling to each of us in her class. I think my mom even grew it but this memory may or may not have actually occurred 45 years ago; nevertheless, the scent from a tomato plant always triggers this happy memory from primary school.

I recently was reminded of my little tomato plant in a round-about way after sharing this picture on another social media forum I visit:

"Royale Red" Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue, Scalloped Tube Tongue or Velvet Trumpet Flower) at Toronto's Allan Gardens Conservatory Spring Flower Show.
"Royale Red" Salpiglossis sinuata (Painted Tongue)

The plant's common name is Painted Tongue and botanically known as Salpiglossis sinuata. I took this photo during a Spring Flower Show from four years ago (here's the original post titled "Allan Gardens Conservatory Spring Flower Show 2014: primulas, cinerarias, grape hyacinths. Toronto blooms (without the distracting home renovation booths)" if you're interested.)

Painted Tongue is an annual for us here in zone 5 Toronto and these flowers were grown from seed just for the Show. There are many cultivars and I think this particular one is called "Royale Red".

What do you think of its appearance? It's certainly grabs your attention as the veins seem kaleidoscopic. To me, it's even a little hypnotic.

After I shared this picture on the aforementioned flower community, I received an unusual reply. (To give you some context, the particular group is for members to share pictures of plants and the moderator and I'm guessing 95% of the members are Japanese.) Here's my conversation with Seiichiro:

S: This is a very less attractive flower for Japanese people's soul, I think.

Me: Can you explain? I'm not sure what you mean by "less attractive" :-) Do you like it?

S: For me, it seems a kind of monster and my heart rejects it.I suppose many Japanese feel like me. 毒々しい (poisonous) , this is the very Japanese word for the flower.

Me: That's very interesting! I never viewed it as evil or poisonous but the pattern does get your attention, in a good or bad way. I googled the kanji and the images produced included many poisonous mushrooms!

I appreciate your comment. I am sure many here in North America also find this flower's appearance too shocking!

I didn't receive other negative comments so maybe Seiichiro is generalizing but then again, maybe not. I tried to translate (via Google of course) the Japanese characters he provided above and got results like "gaudy", "detestable", "odious" and the all encompassing "gross." And if you searched these characters by image, you'll be surprised (try it, don't worry, it's definitely safe for work.)

My little conversation with Seiichiro confirmed what I've known all along: sometimes, a rose is not just a rose and in this case, an attention-seeking annual flower which at first glance provides much needed colour therapy after a long Toronto winter isn't so innocent-looking after all. 

At least to Shisido-san....

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