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“Today, while Mother was watching me work, she suddenly remarked, ‘they say that people who like summer flowers die in the summer. I wonder if it’s true?’ I did not answer but went on watering the eggplants. It is already the beginning of summer. She continued softly, ‘I am very fond of hibiscus, but we haven’t a single one in this garden.’ ” ‘We have plenty of oleanders,’ I answered in an intentionally sharp tone. ‘I don’t like them. I like almost all summer flowers, but oleanders are too loud.’ ”

From “The Setting Sun” by Osamu Dazai, translated by Donald Keene (Charles E. Tuttle)

The blooms have a delicate fragrance, rather like sweet almonds. The shrub’s leathery leaves are evergreen and the stalks are a handsome garnet red, but the milky juice is often poisonous — a fact reflected in the unusual name of this plant family, “dogbane.”