Gardening: The healing potential of hoyas

Posted 8/27/20

Valerie with one of her star hoya plants. By Stan Cutler If you enjoy words, consider this sentence from Wikipedia, “Hoya flowers appear in axillary umbellate clusters at the tip of peduncles.” …

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Gardening: The healing potential of hoyas

Posted
Valerie with one of her star hoya plants.

By Stan Cutler

If you enjoy words, consider this sentence from Wikipedia, “Hoya flowers appear in axillary umbellate clusters at the tip of peduncles.” Ain’t that something?  It means that flowers of hoya plants form an umbrella shape on stems that appear where a leaf emerges from the stalk. My wife, Valerie, who cares for eight varieties of hoya, would never say such a thing. She’s a plain-spoken person who likes gardening, in part, because it is not a wordy pursuit. She’s married to someone who thinks the sound of “axillary umbellate clusters” is as beautiful as a flower. She is practical; me, not so much.

Hoyas are named for Thomas Hoy, an 18th Century botanist. Their common name is “wax plant." They originate in Asia where there are more than three-hundred known varieties. Most other plants fight gravity, climbing upward from the earth. Hoyas don’t waste energy that way; they live in trees, growing downward on tangled stalks that can be as much as 60feet long. Their leaves are “succulent," thick and water-filled, in shades of green with swirling splashes of creamy yellow, red or purple.

You have to look up to see their tiny waxy flowers. The petals are grayish pink surrounding pinpoints of deep red or purple. The plants organize flowers as gently domed bouquets an inch or so across. The flowers face down, compelling you to look up to admire their symmetry and color. Most varieties attract pollinators with perfume. One of Valerie’s smells like garbage. She thinks that’s cool.

In the picture, Valerie is holding one of her star hoyas. Note the sprays of magenta flowers. Above and behind her right shoulder are the seven other varieties, hanging from the low limb of a maple tree. Hoyas bloom in summer but will also bloom at other times if kept with indirect sunlight indoors.  Valerie had to climb a ladder so that I could get a picture with her holding a hoya. She can’t wait for me to be finished because her arms are getting tired. In the distance, Lori, our next-door neighbor wearing a blue shirt, is tending her garden.

It is with sadness that I report that Lori’s Golden Retriever, Seamus, “Famous Seamus”, the friendliest dog I’ve ever known, passed away in August. His absence is a loss to the neighborhood. Many of you met him when you were on foot. He was a big, handsome fellow with a thick, lustrous coat. Lori and her husband Terry would take him on long walks, during which Seamus assumed that every person he joyfully encountered was a dear friend.

Condolences also to Beth and Fabrizio, who live across the street. Sadly, their dog Gilly also died in August. He was glossy black, mostly Lab, a devoted guardian and a real sweet character when he was relaxed. He will be sorely missed.

If you're lucky enough to have one, a garden is a good place to be when you lose someone dear. If you don’t have a garden, if you can screw an eye hook to a wooden ceiling or the top of a window frame, you could get some consolation from an ever green hoya. Plant it in light soil, water it lightly every week or so, and it will descend slowly, year by year, in thick tangles of life.

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