One of the things I like best about visiting the garden district of New Orleans — along with the lovely old buildings and the tantalizing assortment of cafes and galleries — is the landscaping. No, really. Looking through the scrolled ironwork, catching glimpses of lush courtyards and tiny gardens, it seems to me that everything planted in the Crescent City grows three times larger than its horticultural counterpart here in Mobile. And while I have seen a few good-sized angel trumpets growing in local front yards, they are simply enormous in NOLA. Here, they are shrubs. There, they are practically shade trees.
In her wonderful book, 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names, Diana Wells writes that Thomas Jefferson had a scientific interest in these pendulous and highly narcotic flowers, but his curiosity stopped short of exploring their medicinal potential. Laced with scopolamine, they induced a deep unconsciousness that sometimes proved permanent. In his garden diary, Jefferson noted that the seeds were carried in the vest pockets of artistocrats during the French Revolution, as a sort of botanical suicide pill in the event the bearer was dragged off to the guillotine.
The angel trumpet’s darker side, although utterly fascinating, seemed a little grim to be included in my latest botanical notebook painting. So instead of doomed French noblemen I drew the graceful plant’s namesake. And a few odds and ends about its floral anatomy. I hope you enjoy seeing it!
And here, also is a better image of the previous botanical notebook entry, the rose: