Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another unplanned project - conclusion

The back-ordered Triangle palms have arrived.
In my Another unplanned project post, I discussed about the revamp of the landscaping at the entrance to the farm while I was there on vacation. I decided to remove all the plants in that area and replace them with Triangle Palms. However since the garden store did not have enough of the Triangle palms that we needed to complete the task, my vacation ended with an unfinished project.

On the evening of Monday of last week, all the back-ordered palm trees finally arrived. These trees should suffice to finish the two projects I started on that short visit. The other project required more Foxtail Palms. For this particular project though, my original plan was to use tall and short Triangle Palms in an alternating pattern. But I was informed by my mother that the short palms Dad picked are not short enough to achieve the effect I was going for. This meant another project revision.

Three Triangle Palms on the left side of the gate.

Instead of sticking to the original plan I just asked Dad to plant the tall palms where they were supposed to go, pull all the other plants out and plant them somewhere inside the farm. As for the five supposedly "short" Triangle Palms, I would have opted to return them had it been possible to do so. But since the backside of the farm badly needs more trees, I just told them to scatter these palm trees there.

Four Triangle Palms on the right side of the gate.

The same four palms as seen from the other end.

Now since the original design was not followed, consequently there are wide spaces in between the Triangle Palms. I still don't know what plants to put in between them as well as between the palms and the wall.

Although the changes we made may be considered simple, the area is neater and more pleasing to look at than before. As such for now I declare this project complete.
tropical garden Tropical Garden tropical garden

Friday, March 25, 2011

If you need ears...

"If you need ears go and borrow them from the elephant."African proverb

"Maganda din pala syang pang-landscape" (It's also good for landscaping).

That was what my mother commented when she saw the Giant Upright Elephant Ears (Alocasia macrorrhiza) gallantly growing as accent plants in one corner of the Sky Garden (SM Mall - North EDSA) sometime last year. After shopping for some necessities, Mom and Dad visited the open garden just to get some landscaping ideas. Dad said he knows where to get some.

Cool! So that's how this plant got introduced in the garden. There are other clumps of this Giant Upright Elephant Ear somewhere else, which somehow I failed to notice during my last visit despite their evident size. I'll just rely on my mother's assurance that there are indeed others elsewhere.

Although in fact a common plant, it's not a practical choice for those who have gardens that are space constrained. After all it's not called "giant" for no reason.

For size comparison: a Blood Banana on the left and a Giant Upright Elephant Ear on the right.

There are also other plants called "Elephant Ears" in the genera Caladium, Colocasia and Xanthosoma. Along with Alocasia they all belong to the family Araceae. All these other so-called Elephant Ears, whether giant or not, have leaves pointing downward, this one stands out because theirs point up.

Another so-called Elephant Ear, the Giant Taro, locally known as "Biga" ("Bira" in the north), is both an ornamental and an edible plant. But in our corner of the country, i.e. the rural area, it is valued more for its edible parts than for its aesthetic purposes. Maybe that's the reason why although we have plenty of "Biga" which we could incorporate into the garden they were still left out. I have no idea where to classify this Giant Taro though. Is it Colocasia or Xanthosoma?

A giant "Biga" growing somewhere in the currently unused and weedy side of the farm pretty much untended and ignored.

I'm glad that we have the Upright Giant Elephant Ear in the farm/garden. I've been wanting to get one since I first saw it in some garden photos. And I didn't even have to bother my parents to look for it. They too found it interesting after seeing its aesthetic beauty in a tropical garden setting. Best of all we got it for free.
tropical garden Tropical Garden tropical garden

Monday, March 21, 2011

The traveler sees what he sees...

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see."
Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

In my previous entry, "Another unplanned project", an ardent garden blogger and my cyberspace friend Andrea asked if I don't like the Traveler's Palm. Now who wouldn't like a gorgeous plant like the one below?

The Traveler's Palm. Photo courtesy of

If there is a mad scientist who has successfully crossbred two unrelated plants, the Ravenala madagascariensis, commonly known as Traveler's (or Traveller's) Palm would be a good example of his sinister work. At first glance one would think it's a banana and a palm tree spliced together. The leaves resemble that of the banana and the trunk looks like that of a palm tree.

Three young Traveler's Palm in different stages of growth in the garden.

The banana-like leaves and petioles are symmetrically lined on a plane which extend out from a single trunk. This leaf and stalk arrangement gives it a very beautiful hand fan appearance. Like a palm tree, the Traveler's palm has a single sturdy trunk. The trunk of the young plant is hidden below ground level but as the plant grows it sheds its dead leaf, slowly revealing the trunk with its distinctive leaf scar rings, another characteristic of true palms.

Three more young Traveler's Palm in the garden.

We have several of the Traveler's palm in the garden. None are as big and beautiful as the one in the first picture above, but given time and proper care they too will look the same.

One of our Traveler's palm with most of its leaves chopped off due to severe damage caused by a strong typhoon.

The last big storm to hit the farm last year has been brutal to these plants as demonstrated by their tattered leaves. But new leaves have sprouted since then. Our biggest Traveler's palm which is at the entrance to the farm (right picture) suffered the most lashing. It successfully held its ground but got severely beaten in the process. Most of its older leaves have been lopped off as they have been completely damaged. Now it faces a new trial since it will be dug up and transplanted inside to make way for the Triangle palms. I hope it will survive this impending transplant.

Because of its unique appearance the Traveler's palm has indeed traveled from its native place of Madagascar to see and conquer other parts of the world and will not fail to catch the eye of anyone who visits a garden with a tropical landscape theme.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Another unplanned project

Our three helpers installing the newly bought Triangle palm.
In conjunction with my impromptu project, this project was not planned either. The original plan was simply to replace the young Triangle palm near the gate which died late last year due most probably to neglect. So when I bought ten Foxtail palms on impulse, I also bought one mature Triangle palm as the intended replacement.

When the shipment of palm trees arrived this was the first thing our helpers worked on. They dug a hole in the ground and planted the Triangle palm. As soon as the palm tree was in place, that's when I had an "aha!" moment.

As it stands right now, there's a hodgepodge of plants growing at the entrance to the farm, as such there is no coherence. So I thought maybe it would be better to landscape the area purely with Triangle palms or at least make them the focal plant or the dominant species.

We measured the length of the space and decided to plant five Triangle palms on the left side of the gate and seven on the right. The right side needed more plants because it's longer than the left. To vary the height we will plant alternating tall and short palm trees.

Two of the Triangle palms already in place on the left side of the gate. The other plants will be replaced later.

When Mom called the garden store to order ten more Foxtail palms, she also put in an order for the required number of Triangle palms. However the store did not have enough of the Triangle palms, only two of the same height as the one we bought earlier are available. We took what's left and put in a back order for the rest.

One Triangle palm installed on the right side of the gate. Six more will be planted to replace the rest of the plants on this side.

All the other established plants along the entrance to the farm will have to go. They will be transplanted  inside. And once the back-ordered palms arrive they will replace those that have been removed. This will make the area around the gate more coherent and cohesive.

Once again, I did not get to see this project finished as my visit to the farm was over. Just like our other projects, I will have to monitor this one from afar and see to it that it gets completed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

An impromptu project

Our three helpers begin working on the newly bought Foxtail palms.
During my less than a week of stay at the farm, I had a brief opportunity to go to a garden store in a neighboring town.

On one particular day, we had a long list of errands in the closest city near our town. We (my mother, brother and a friend) were in a hurry to head home (my father was anxiously waiting for us as demonstrated by his endless phone calls) when I decided to go on a side trip to the garden store.

The number of plants they were selling at the store was quite varied. Pressed for time, we didn't have the luxury to go around. I immediately went toward the rows of palm trees and said "OK, give me ten of these and one of that", pointing to the Foxtail and Triangle palms respectively. After choosing which ten and which one, I arranged for their delivery in the afternoon of that same day.

That's me inspecting one of the newly planted trees.

It's not that we are lacking palm trees in the farm, in fact we have plenty. My only complaint is that most are still small, ranging in size from less than one foot to less than six feet in height. Because palm trees are known to be slow growers, the height of our palms trees stirs my impatience. That's why these eleven I just bought are already quite tall, and tall palm trees are not cheap, they are pretty pricey.

Back in the farm, I was thinking of what to do with the ten Foxtail palms I bought on impulse. I knew beforehand what to do with the Triangle palm so it was not a problem. As for the Foxtail palms... hmmm.

A few hours later a delivery truck carrying the palm trees arrived, the trees were unloaded, the bill was settled, the truck left and I was left with ten Foxtails and a problem of where to put them.

From the camera's point of view the palms on the right seem so close to each other, in reality they're 8 feet apart.

When my father asked where do I intend to put these trees, I could only smile and say "I do not know". Then all of a sudden an idea hit me. Why not line the path leading to the sheep's pen with these trees? That path is fairly wide and winding and has a great view of the ponds below. It once had a rustic bamboo hut on one side where they used to entertain guests until an infamous storm destroyed it. This path has potentials and I do intend to develop it anyway. Bingo!

Suddenly, a very busy day for our three all-around helpers. Thanks to me.

Not wasting time, we measured the distance between trees and staked the spots where they will be planted. After measuring the whole length of the path, it became apparent that ten trees are not enough to complete this project. Ah, what mess did I get myself into?

Hurriedly, I asked Mom to call the store and have them deliver ten more Foxtails, plus two more Triangles (there's a different story to this). While waiting for the next batch of palm trees to arrive, our three helpers began to dig holes for the Foxtail palms.

That's me again, checking each palm just a few hours before my visit to the farm ends.

At the end of the day, after unintentionally ending up with twenty Foxtail palms and three Triangle palms, we were still short of six of the former and nine of the latter to finish not one but two unplanned projects.

The following day was my scheduled trip back to the capital city so I didn't get to see the completion of a project that started on an impulse.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Teach a man to fish

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
Chinese Proverb

If you've been reading this blog for a while then by now you're familiar with the series of ponds right in the middle of the small farm. Pockets of garden are being developed on selected spots around these ponds to dress up the area and obscure the fact that these are just big holes in the ground filled with brownish-greenish water collected from the rain and from few sources of spring waters.

A visiting friend having a fun time feeding the fishes.

The ponds are stocked with several fish species, mainly tilapia and catfish. There are also other uninvited residents like mudfish and snails. These two are considered pests but are nonetheless edible.

In one of the ponds, the kois seem to be out of place for a pond that houses edible fishes. But for now they share this space since they have no permanent location yet where they can have a pond of their own. They are however peacefully coexisting with the other fishes and just happy to swim with them.

Kois, catfish and tilapias in a frenzied state gobbling up fish pellets.

In my last visit it amazed me that these fishes seem to know when it's feeding time. Mid-morning and late afternoon are the usual schedules for this. As soon as someone stands at the shore of each pond, you would immediately notice ripples on the surface of the water moving toward the person. The fishes begin to surface and congregate at the edge of the pond waiting for the precious dole outs.

A good friend who came with me noticed this too that he found enjoyment in teasing the poor fishes. He would go to the edge of the pond and as soon as the fishes congregate he would leave. After the fishes disperse he would come back and the fishes would once again swim toward him, only to be left high and dry (no pun intended) again.

Fishes beginning to congregate near the edge of the pond. It must be feeding time.

Our ponds are not big enough to commercially produce fish for the market. But it does help provide alternative and nutritious source of protein for the table. The rest are sold locally whenever possible.

Any caught koi is immediately pardoned and released. Although edible, their main function is to entertain. Good thing the other fish species don't know about this preferential treatment.

Our helpers netting some fish for lunch.

On our last day at the farm, my father asked if I would like to sample some tilapia. Being a fish-lover, I immediately said yes. Our helpers lured some inside an open-ended net half submerged in one of the ponds. The open side was then raised trapping the unsuspecting fish inside.

Picking Tilapias that are big enough to be harvested.

After choosing those that are big enough, the rest were released. Those that were chosen were grilled. Nothing beats a freshly caught fish for lunch.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A quick trip to the farm

In truth the visit was quick, but the trip was not! After one interstate and two international flight connections and an overnight travel by bus, at last there I was.

Not losing any time and although quite tired from the trip, I immediately donned the proper gears and went on a quick walk around the compound. It was still early, the sun was just peeking out of the horizon, the morning dew has barely lifted and a fresh, cool and crisp air was gently blowing. The clean breeze of air was very refreshing.

Finally, I was seeing in person what I've only seen in pictures which I received through e-mails. And sometimes when you see only parts of a whole, it just confuses you when you don't get the full picture. Now, confusing things got clearer and disjointed thoughts started to connect.

As I was going around I was also able to witness the telltale signs and remaining scars left by the strongest storm that hit the farm late last year, like the deep gully scoured by the raging flow of rain water. I also noticed other pressing matters that require immediate attention.

Overall, the quick visit to the farm was so enjoyable that leaving it behind was quite sad and difficult knowing that it may take another couple of years before I see the place again.