Des Esseintes holding a list in his hands, verified each one of his purchases. The gardeners from their wagons brought a collection of caladiums which sustained enormous heartshaped leaves on turgid hairy stalks; while preserving an air of relationship with its neighbor, no one leaf repeated the same pattern. Others were equally extraordinary.
The long roots of trees, following exposed rock surfaces downward for yards, and twisting and bending to find lodgment in the crevices, were curious. Great tufts of a plant with long, narrow, light-green leaves hung down along vertical rock faces. In little caverns, at the foot of cliffs, were damp spots filled with ferns and broad-leaved caladiums, and brilliant clusters of begonias in bloom.
My Malays worked hard at their paddles, and late in the afternoon we left the main Sarekei River and paddled up a small and extremely narrow stream. There we found ourselves in the depth of a most luxuriant vegetation. We were in a regular tunnel formed by arching ferns and orchid-laden trees, giant pandanus, various palms and arborescent ferns and caladiums.
A ride of about twenty minutes in the bullock sleigh, up a steep hill, by the side of a rocky torrent, whose banks were overgrown with caladiums and vines, brought us to our destination, Til, whence we had a splendid view of the town and bay stretching beneath us.
Especially so when used with Cannas, Caladiums, and other plants of striking foliage, where their rich colors take the place of flowers. Phlox decussata, commonly known as "Moss Pink" because of its fine foliage and bright pink flowers, is a most excellent plant for the hardy border, because it stands our winters quite as well as the hardiest perennials.
At two places we crossed pretty streams, with cascades and narrow gorges, opening on to the gorge along the sides of which we were travelling; where these streams crossed our trail there were great masses of caladiums with their leaves of green velvet. We passed two little coffee plantations, the first of which was sadly neglected and overgrown with weeds, the second neatly kept.
"I would like a large group or bed of ornamental foliaged plants on the lawn, but have grown rather tired of Cannas and Caladiums. What would you suggest? I don't want anything hard to grow." If very large plants are wanted, I would advise, as best of all, Ricinus, better known, perhaps, as Castor Bean, or Castor Plant. This is an annual of wonderfully vigorous growth.
The heat and hardness of the rocks cause the streams to dry up on these abrupt hills, especially on the eastern slope, and the water is therefore conveyed along the sides of the path, in conduits ingeniously made of bamboo, either split in half, or, what is better, whole, except at the septum, which is removed through a lateral hole. The Arums are replaced by Caladiums.
A combination of plants with richly-colored foliage is especially desirable for boxes on the porch or veranda, where showiness seems to be considered as more important than delicacy of tint or refinement of quality. In these boxes larger plants can be used than one would care to give place to at the window. Here is where Cannas and Caladiums will be found very effective.
The upper parts of the small creeks, which come down in these plains, were full of water, and had their source generally between heaps of bare basaltic rocks, surrounded by rich grass, and a scanty scrub of Pittosporum, of the native mulberry, of the fig-tree, and of several vines, with Polypodiums, Osmundas, and Caladiums growing between them.