Friday, May 21, 2010


Our two Blood bananas, one is in bloom.
Here is another unintended plant acquisition, the Blood banana (Musa acuminata 'Zebrina').

I was actually looking for a different ornamental plant, a relative of the bananas, the Abyssinian Red Banana (Ensete Ventricosum 'Maurelii'). The leaves of this tree are reddish, that's what got me attracted to it.

We were not able to find the plant we were looking for, but the owner of one store offered us instead a banana tree that has random streaks of red on its leaves. It looks different and interesting that we ended up buying a couple. Our quest for the Red banana was unsuccessful but we ended up bringing home something else. It's the Blood banana.

As usual, our new purchase ended up in the nursery for the time being while the upper garden is still suffering from prolonged drought. Plus, I am still unsure where exactly to plant them anyway.

A closer look at the banana flowers

In less than a month in the nursery, one of them began to bloom and developed fruits, just like commercial bananas. This however is an ornamental banana so the fruits are small, the size of one's fingers and are red. I asked mom to gather the seeds once the fruits mature, so we can try our luck propagating this plant from seeds.

My quest for the Abyssinian Red banana continues.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Short and sweet

The Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) is another significant plant to the perfume industry. The essential oil extracted from Ylang-ylang flowers is used for the production of floral themed perfumes.

Aside from the tree, there are also vines and climbing Ylang-ylangs.

There is also a dwarf variety (Cananga odorata var. fruticosa) which can be grown as a small tree or kept as a compact shrub. Despite its size its flowers look and smell just the same as those from the tree.

The photo on the left is of one of the two dwarf Ylang-ylangs we have in the garden. Both plants are blooming profusely although they are only a couple of feet tall. But, despite their short stature, the flowers are incredibly sweet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Joy to the world

Michelia champaca 'alba' with flower and buds.
Its seven months before December so I must be talking about something else.

The Champaca belongs to the Magnolia family of trees. Although its blooms are not as beautiful as those of its cousins, it is the source of one of the most fragrant flowers in the world. There are two variants, the yellow Champaca (Michelia champaca) and white Champaca (Michelia champaca 'alba'). And according to some online literatures, the flower of this plant is the main essence in 'JOY' perfume. Whether this is true or not, to me it really doesn't matter. What matters is that we have this in our garden. And come to think of it we almost missed this opportunity.

Flowering yellow Michelia champaca
When I was in the Philippines, I was browsing through the plants in one garden store when I was approached by one of the sellers. He offered me this slender plant with a few branches. It was about six feet tall with several glossy leaves and a couple of white flowers. One glance from a distance and there is nothing about this tree that is worth a second look. Even the flowers had no visual appeal.

Not to appear rude, I feigned interest and went to check on the said plant. But as I got closer, I could smell this familiar scent in the air. It was a very sweet fragrance and it got stronger as I got nearer to this sickly looking tree. Then the seller disclosed the identity of the unassuming but very fragrant flowers - Champaca.

One of our little Champaca trees in our nursery.
I knew I've seen this flower in my youth. It is sometimes found strung in garlands which are usually sold outside every Catholic churches in the Philippines. And that was the extent of my knowledge of this flower back then. Many, many years later, there I was standing in front of the tree that produces those sweetly scented flowers.

I didn't immediately buy the tree though. Weeks later, when I was back in Utah (USA), that's when I decided to go for it. So I called home, told them to buy as much as they can on their next visit to the garden stores. That's how we ended up with eight (six whites, two yellows) little Champaca trees in our nursery.

Even though our Champacas are still in the garden's nursery, with roots confined in cramped spaces within their plastic containers, right now they are aggressively in bloom and is filling the air with an aroma so pleasing, so crisp and so fresh.

I will attest that the bloom of this tree is very sweet and very fragrant.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Garden update #9 - this time no new plants

Most of the time when I post a "Garden update" I'd have a list of new plant purchases to write about. But not this time.

They have been so busy at the farm lately, attending to another very important project very much unrelated to the farm nor the garden. That's okay though since they have plenty of plants to attend to whenever they can.

Some of the plants in the upper garden are doing well despite the drought and heat.

The plants in the upper garden are now established. Although they still require constant watering, they are now able to survive periods of brief neglects. So far there were no casualties from the transplants during the unfortunate time of drought. But since the drought is still on the land, they are on continued vigilance, which means constant watering.

The continuous dry days were broken by two consecutive days of heavy rain. After that it's back to dry, hot days again. At least the plants in the upper garden got their first drink of fresh water from the sky.

The lower garden (which is the unofficial nursery) is faring much better. With an easy access to water, even the grasses and weeds are very green.

The month of May is when most flowering plants show off their flowers. Mom said it's so nice to linger in the garden, day or night. The fragrant blooms are filling the air with their sweetest scents. During the day, the different Jasmines, Champacas and Ylang-Ylangs are all competing for olfactory attention. At night, the 'Dama de Noche' (Cestrum nocturnum) and Angel's Trumpets join in the fray.

My goal is to fill the garden not just with beautiful plants, but with fragrant flowers too. That way, the garden will not only be pleasing to the eyes, but to the nose as well.

Some of the plants still waiting to be transplanted into the upper garden. They have been moved out of the nursery to make room for other plants.

But, sadly there are also casualties to report of.

The leafless trunks of the Tree ferns tried in vain to sprout fronds but they withered before they could even begin to unfurl. Some just could not take the heat and are now goners. I'm beginning to think that tree ferns are not suited to grow in our garden.

The same fate was met by some of the Carabao ferns.

Comical as they can be, the rambunctious bunch of juvenile goats are wreaking havoc at the garden when no one is looking. They chomp on any plants that look appetizing. They are allowed access to the garden/nursery since the grasses are greener there and there are more weeds to browse on than in their regular pen.

Overall the garden is in better than expected condition. There are bound to be plant losses to incur but they are overshadowed by the gains. And I am delighted.

The first Lotus seed Mom tried to sow has now sprouted tiny leaves.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A tough nut to crack

A Lotus flower bud and seed pod.
When Mom told me that the Lotus plant is already forming seeds where the spent flower (the very first in our garden) used to be, I immediately searched the net for info on how to grow Lotus plant from seed. With the knowledge fresh in my head, I called home and told Mom the steps to take to entice the seed to germinate.

First scarify part of the seed using a rough object like a file, until the flesh of the seed is almost visible. This will help the seedling break out of its hard shell when it begins to germinate. Then drop the seed into a container that has several inches of water and put the container in a warm place, preferably where the sun can shine on it. Then let nature take over, just change the water often.

A few weeks later, I was on the phone with dear Mom and she was complaining how hard the seed of the Lotus plant was. It took her almost an hour to scarify the seed with a knife. I told her she should have used a file. She replied: "If a sharp knife could not crack open that seedcoat how can a nail file help? It's harder than the shell of a chestnut."

I could not say anything more. If I were there I could have been the one doing that and knowing that Mom is a very patient lady and she almost gave up, I know I would have given up in a couple of minutes.

The seeds of the Lotus are almost ready to pop out. A plastic bag is waiting underneath to catch the seeds when they decide to come out of the pod.

Anyway, had she used a rasp or wood file, it would have been more effective than a knife or nail file. But, she accomplished her goal anyway (the hard way) and now all she needs to do is wait.

And while she's waiting, she can experiment on the other seeds that are just about ripe for harvest.

This is just another of those that frustrates me about the pictures I get from home. It doesn't help if the person I ask to take pictures just don't care about the quality of the images.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The road to nowhere

Garden experts and landscapers say that a winding path that seems to vanish at a distance evokes a sense of mystery and arouses one's curiosity to discover what's concealed behind the bend.

Aside from its enigmatic effect, a curved path is also used in small gardens to fool the eye and create an illusion that the garden looks bigger than it actually is.

So where does the path lead to in the picture above? It's suppose to lead to the garden in the making. But there are times when I feel like it only leads to nowhere.