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The picture of the gardenia on the left – this one was taken last year. The gardenia is known as kuchi nashi in Japanese. Seek growing gardenia tips from The Garden Helper

IN BLOOM

Kuchinashi (Gardenia)

By LINDA INOKI

News photo
The day we parted In gardenia mist, in rain, You blamed me like a child. And still, it stings my heart. A white gardenia: a flower like you. Such a little happiness, But it slipped away. Whenever I see gardenias I see you, sadly smiling. A white gardenia: a flower like you.
Abridged from the 1970s hit song “Kuchinashi no hana (Gardenia Flower),” by Kaoru Mizuki and Minoru Endo

The rich, deep fragrance of the gardenia’s white flowers is particularly beautiful at night, and suits the sultry summer evenings in Japan. A single flower will scent a whole room while, in the garden, moths are attracted to the ghostly blooms. Yet there is something sad about this flower: the pure white blossoms turn dull yellow when they droop, and the shrub quickly sheds its buds if it is unhappy. However, in the right conditions the bush can grow to over 2 meters high, with the flowers standing out beautifully against the abundant mass of glossy, dark-green leaves. The most popular gardenia species is the intensely fragrant Gardenia jasminoides, a native of China. The gorgeous double-flowered variety looks like a white rose set in a star. However it is sterile, and only the simpler version with single, star-shaped flowers produces seeds. A yellow dye is made from these orange seeds, which are sold in packets in Japanese supermarkets to tint traditional foods. Curiously, the Japanese name kuchinashi means “no mouth.” One theory is that this is because of the sealed seed chambers. However I prefer the second theory, that kuchinashi is a corruption of kuchibashi, meaning “beak.” After all, the seeds look like a bunch of little birds opening their beaks. The English name is easy to explain: it was that of a U.S. naturalist, Alexander Garden.

The Japan Times Thursday July 1

Posted on Apr 13

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