Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cute little Pineapple

An Ornamental Pineapple with fruit and pups.
As we all know, Pineapples (Ananas comosus) are members of the Bromeliad family but unlike all other Bromeliads, they are the only ones that produce edible fruits. This particular Pineapple though (left picture) is not grown for human consumption. Its main purpose is to delight the eyes with its cute and tiny Pineapple fruit.

A row of Ornamental Pineapples sandwiched between rows of baby Desert Roses in the nursery.
Whether this Pineapple evolved or de-evolved on its own or a product of human intervention through genetic manipulation, it has irrevocably lost its commercial value. Its been relegated to the role of an ornamental garden plant, a curiosity, something to look at and admired for its pineapple-like fruit. Today there are several varieties of Ornamental Pineapples available in the market, there's even a dwarf one.

These plants are good seasonal focal points for a small garden. It's 'seasonal' because this species is short-lived. Once it produces fruit the plant dies and then you have to plant a new one to keep it going.

We have several of these Ornamental Pineapples currently growing in our nursery. And I think they are best suited in the garden being developed just below the patio where they can be easily seen and admired for their 'cuteness'.

In the Philippines, the fibers extracted from Pineapple leaves are used in the production of an expensive textile called 'PiƱa'..

Monday, September 27, 2010

The snake in the garden of Eden

I think there is no question why the Calathea crotalifera is called  the "Rattlesnake plant". Just look at how the bracts are arranged and it will remind you of a certain snake that rattles its tail when agitated or disturbed. No need to worry though, this Rattlesnake won't slither and bite, and carries no deadly venom either.

In my older entry "A case of mistaken identity" I narrated how we got the Cigar plants (Calathea lutea) in our garden. Mom thought it was the Rattlesnake I wanted. So when I went home to visit last May of 2009, I felt a slight disappointment when I saw that it was not the Rattlesnake (Calathea crotalifera) plant I was looking for.

Not to be completely disheartened, we set out on a quest to look for this plant. It was not the easiest plant to find. Most of the garden stores we went to do not sell it. We were able to locate it in one of those specialty garden stores, where plant prices are much higher than in the common garden stores.

Despite the hefty price, we purchased a couple knowing that it's all worth it. I knew that with Mom's tender touch and loving care she will be able to propagate and multiply the mother plants. And I was not wrong at all.

Propagating this plant was not as easy as the other Calathea. The Cigar plant just grew like its native to the place. It must have loved the garden so much that it almost dominated the other plants in the small garden space. The Rattlesnake was not as quick to acclimatize though. It was alive but not growing fast enough. It did not put out any bloom for so many months.

I'm happy to report though that now our Rattlesnakes are doing well. Mom was able to divide the mother plants and they are once again blooming, showing off their distinctive characteristics that earned them the name "Rattlesnakes".

Just like that of its relative, the flowers of the Rattlesnake is not significant. It's the way the bracts are arranged that makes this plant unique and a good specimen to have in the garden. Propagation is through subdivision of the mother plant.

Now this is a "snake" that you will certainly not avoid or run away from.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back to the grind

A row of Angel's Trumpet in Copenhagen.
Where did my 2-week vacation go?

Time does fly fast when you go for a break. But no matter, over all it was an interesting and fun experience, never mind the fact that every other day I had to hop on and off an airplane to get to my destination. That was because my city-hopping tour also meant country-hopping to five countries in northern Europe.

Red Abyssinian Banana and some annual and perennial plants in Geneva.
The only thing I could complain about this trip would be the security procedures one has to go through at every airport especially if you realize that you get extra attention, the kind that you don't wish to get, the kind that I usually get just before I step out of the airport. I'm beginning to think that I have a "terrorist" word flashing on my forehead.
It was the last days of summer and the days were overcast and the evenings were chilly. It was not the most convenient time to visit this part of Europe, unless you don't mind the cold and the almost daily on-and-off rain. But no cloudy nor rainy day though would dampen the enthusiasm of this lost soul from discovering what the "old world" uniquely offers.

Beautifully arranged tropicals in Geneva.

Anyway, during this trip I didn't intend on getting pictures of local plants since this was my very first visit to this continent and I just wanted to enjoy the local sights and sounds. I couldn't help but notice though that much of the plants I saw were just the same as the ones we have here in the U.S. and elsewhere. It just shows that like people, plants travel too, and when conditions are right they colonize and adapt to their new environment.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A rose by any other name...

... would smell as sweet. However, this "Rose" I'm talking about has no scent to boast of and is not even a real rose.

The mother plant that produced our next batch of baby Desert Roses.
This Desert Rose (yeh ley yeh ley),
each of her veil's a secret promise
This desert flower (yeh ley yeh ley),
no sweet perfume ever tortured me more than this

Sweet Desert Rose (yeh ley yeh ley),
this memory of Eden haunts us all
This desert flower, this rare perfume
is the sweet intoxication of the fall...

("Desert Rose" by Sting)

So why would Sting sing of the Desert Rose like it has a sweet and intoxicating perfume? Maybe his song is about some other plant or perhaps it's about a woman whom he calls "Desert Rose", I don't know. What I do know is that we now have an abundant supply of Adenium obesum. Sweet!

I have no current pictures of our Desert Rose in bloom. What I do have though are proofs that they did flower and their blooms left behind progenies that will guarantee their species' continued existence in our garden.

The second batch of young Desert Roses in the nursery with a couple of ornamental pineapples lost in their midst.

In my previous entry "A rose is a rose is a rose", I've mentioned how we got to produce a lot of baby Desert Roses from a single mother plant. I'm glad to say that those babies are no longer babies and some of them are now scattered all over the upper garden. Some are still left in the nursery and they too are doing well just biding their time until they too are moved to their permanent location.

What's left of the first batch of Desert Roses bred in our garden nursery. Their siblings have already been scattered in the upper garden.

Mom was so successful at her first attempt in propagating this plant from seeds that she tried her luck once more. Now we have a new batch of young Adeniums in the nursery. They're still small and cute but they are already manifesting one of the distinctive characteristics of a Desert Rose, a stout base. They will reside in the nursery for a few more months until they're old enough to be transplanted.

The flower of the Desert Rose may not have a sweet scent that intoxicates the senses. But that does not diminish the beauty of this plant.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The hills are alive...

... with the sound of bleating...

Surely Maria Von Trapp wouldn't mind if I've made a little tweaking on the lyrics of her iconic song to something that suits my topic for today.

As I have mentioned before, my purpose for this blog is to chronicle the transformation of our sleepy farm into an integrated farm and tropical garden retreat. Part of this plan is to put a garden and landscape the area where it is either barren or overgrown with weeds and wild vegetation and blend it with the animals which also call this place their 'home'.

A few of the plants planted on top of a mound overlooking the sheep pen below.

One such area is the current grazing ground for our small herd of sheep. A sizable portion of the farm has been allotted for them so they can freely roam, play and seek their own sustenance. Watching them loiter in their own pen somehow elicits a sense of calm and relaxation. After all, these are peaceful and docile creatures.

Plants were positioned near the fence which will eventually hide the wire fence from clear view.

To embellish their stark surroundings, we have made the the initial step of landscaping their perimeter with tropical plants. As they grow thick and tall, this should help camouflage the wire fence and fence posts that surround the sheep. More plants and accent details like rocks, arbors, and water features will be added in stages as resource permits.

We all know that weeds and wild grasses are hard to get rid of. The best way to control their growth without using herbicides is to deprive them of sunlight. Hopefully when these garden plants grow bigger and fuller, the shade they produce will help stunt the growth of these unwanted plants below them.

A young Traveler's Palm and Crotons are competing with the wild grass for space.

Time and nature also need to lend a helping hand to allow these plants to mature and make them look like they have been growing there naturally. What I hope to achieve is to create a harmonious balance between plants and animals, at the same time create a strong contrast between a heavily vegetated area and a field that is in a constantly mowed down state.

The hills are indeed alive with the sound the sheep make and are getting livelier still with the addition of more beautiful plants.