Sunday, July 24, 2011

The beehive state

Every state in the good ol' U.S. of A. has a nickname. For example the state of New York is called "The Empire State", California is also known as "The Golden State", Texas is "The Lone Star State", and so on. Utah, which celebrates its 115th year of statehood today, the 24th of July, is also called "The Beehive State."

Utah has been my "adopted" home for the past several years now, from the day I first set foot in America. Currenly I have no plans of moving to any other state as I've come to agree with Brigham Young1 when he declared: "This is the place."

Happy birthday to the Beehive State!!!

Similarly, the state of our Beehive ginger (Zingiber spectabile) leaves nothing to be desired for now that I know it has adapted to its "adopted" home i.e., the farm.

Last February of 2010 I asked Mom and Dad to buy another Beehive ginger. There is already one in the farm which was purchased last December of 2009. However we were not sure if it's the real thing so the second purchase was just an insurance just in case it's not. This more recent purchase we're sure is a Beehive ginger because it had a flower when it was bought.

For over a year the gingers just grew but very slowly and did not produce any flowers. I was beginning to think that they may not be suited to our local climate or maybe they were planted in the wrong area. Maybe the soil is lacking in nutrient, perhaps they are not getting enough water and nourishment.

Then in May two small knobs began to appear at the base of the more recent Beehive. I was so excited when Mom mentioned this development during one of our long distance phone conversations. Finally it's doing something more than just converting carbon dioxide to oxygen.

It took more than two months before the knobs turned into what they are in the picture below. They are now past their prime and will very soon be a part of history. Hopefully this is the start of a new era for this species of plant in the farm.

I suspect one reason why our Beehive gingers are sluggish is due to deficiency in nutrients. The upper garden was once a cornfield and as such the soil was subjected to much stress in growing corns, amended with chemical fertilizers and lacking in organic nutrients. The soil needs to heal from decades of mismanagement which could easily be remedied by applying composts. But despite the availability of materials they are not utilizing this eco-friendly means of soil amendment. Yet there is a glimmer of hope, as exemplified by the emergence of these two Beehive ginger flowers.

1 Brigham Young (June 1, 1801 – August 29, 1877) is the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) who led his flock's migration from Illinois to the current state of Utah.

tropical garden Tropical Garden tropical garden Tropical Garden

Monday, July 18, 2011

Not my Iris

I was told it's an Iris but it sure doesn't look like the Iris I had in mind.

The flowers of our Walking Irises (Neomarica gracilis).

It all started when I asked Mom a year or so ago to buy some Iris plants so we could start propagating them. My plan was to use these Irises as bog or marginal plants in the future Koi pond and water garden. That way when the pond and water garden are built there would be plenty of Irises ready to use without the need to buy more.

Our Walking Irises in bloom in the nursery.

So that's how these Irises came to exist in the farm. But the flowers don't resemble the ones I've seen in some online pictures growing near bodies of water so my only conclusion is that this is not the Iris I wanted. However, since they look good just the same they are a very welcome addition in the garden.

The flower of our Giant Apostle's Iris (Neomarica caerulea).

But once again I was at a loss as to what type of Iris these are. I've been wanting to write about them but I don't exactly know their actual names. But the wonders of the internet never cease to amaze. I wasn't even googling for this type of plant when lo and behold there it was staring at me on my monitor, a flower that looks exactly like the blooms of our no-name Irises.

Our Giant Apostle's Irises temporarily placed in front of the front porch of our humble house.

Now I know. Our mysterious Iris is called the "Walking Iris" or the "Apostle's Iris" from the genus Neomarica with sixteen different species. It is native to Central and South America as well as the tropical regions of western Africa. This plant belongs to the family Iridaceae so technically it's still an Iris but quite different from its true Iris cousin which is from the genus Iris. To be specific ours is the Neomarica gracilis and the other is the Neomarica caerulea.

More young Walking Irises in the nursery.

I could only blame myself for not getting the plant I was looking for. It could have helped a lot if I had been more specific when I asked Mom to buy some Irises. I should have said 'Water Iris', now that would have been clearer. The ones we have don't even like wet soil so they'll definitely feel miserable in the future Koi pond and water garden. Anyway, there are plenty of spaces waiting for them in the upper garden where they can thrive in peace and multiply as they desire.

And so the search for the Water Iris is still on. But wait! I have no budget left for more plants.....grrrr!tropical garden Tropical Garden tropical garden Tropical Garden

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Milestone #3 - Bittersweet taste of ownership

This journal entry is dedicated to my nephews, nieces and my future children (if I ever get blessed to have at least one).

May you learn to appreciate the sacrifices your elders are making so that you may have a better and brighter future.

Like a dark chocolate, one must endure the bitterness to enjoy this decadent treat.

First the sweet...

Woohooo!!! All debts have been settled with the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), the government bank holding the encumbrances to the farm. We are another step closer towards complete ownership of our farm (and garden) !

Annotation at the last page of each of the title stating that the lot is encumbered in favor of the Land Bank of the Philippines, the owner.

Because this is a Land Reform issue, the bank had to sit and wait for the Supreme Court's ruling to determine the price for a hectare of reformed lot. And this is the year the ruling came out. With that, I asked my parents to immediately get in touch with the bank.

After long years of anxious waiting we have been presented with the bill that must be settled so the government bank could release all its claims to the farm. And contrary to some might think, we don't have "inside connections" so the bill we got was calculated based on what the highest court of the country has mandated. And that's the amount we paid, no more, no less :(

Our only consolation is the fact that we were told that with this particular land reform saga, we hold the record for being the first in our entire region to settle our debts...and voluntarily at that. The bank didn't even have to come after us, we went to them, we presented our papers and "begged" them to please, please compute the total amount of our debts. Now if only there's an award for that.

My gratitude also to the LBP officer and the Agrarian Reform officer who promptly looked into our case and did not give my parents the runaround that is usually encountered by ordinary individuals when dealing with government entities.

And now the bitter...

The budget meant for the farm's daily expenses had to be diverted to completely settle our bank debts. Because of that, the farm is ours (woohoo again!).

But not quite yet! Despite its minuscule size, the farm is an aggregate of 13 different titles under 13 different names, both current and previous owners. Lucky 13 indeed! The process it takes to transfer the titles under just one name will require more legwork and even more funds to pay for the taxes and other associated fees.

The top part of the first page of the Land Reform title. There are 13 of these titles that must be consolidated under one name

Unfortunately, the "bank" (guess who that is) that finances all expenses in the farm is already in the red and is at the point of insolvency. What does this mean? This means that all projects must be frozen, all non-essential expenses must be avoided, and no one is allowed to get sick until the financial institution (guess who that is) is again in the black. And that will take a very long time.

(Sigh) the hustle and bustle in the farm must momentarily grind to a halt. If only I could eat dirt and pretend it's a dark chocolate... LOLtropical garden Tropical Garden tropical garden Tropical Garden

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Return to paradise

Just a month after our first Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) graced our garden with its very first set of elegant blooms, it's our second Bird of Paradise's turn to shine. And it's also its first time to bloom so it's another memorable event for us.

When Mom spotted two developing pointed shoots, she already knew that these aren't ordinary shoots, they won't be turning into leaves but something else, something more interesting.

A couple of weeks of waiting and the first flower bud opened to reveal its awesome 'feathers'.

And several days later the second flower bud unveiled its colorful 'plumes'. Ah, the Bird of Paradise... definitely one of my most treasured tropical plant in the garden.
tropical garden Tropical Garden tropical garden Tropical Garden

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


This year our summer income generator failed to deliver. This is not a big surprise since what's left of our mango trees have not completely recovered from the severe damage brought by a devastating storm that passed through the farm late last year.

As I've mentioned before, our mango orchard is dwarf in size compared to commercial plantations. Despite that, if the conditions are right, the trees are able to produce plenty of fruits that come harvest time the income our small orchard generates is enough to sustain the farm's financial needs for a couple of months.

Some of our mango trees before the devastation.

This year not a single fruit was in sight from the trees that survived. The pictures below were taken when I was in the farm last February. Typically by that time the trees should be teeming with flowers and/or tiny fruits. But as you can see bare trunks are more prominent than leaves. As to how many more years before these trees become fruitful again is anybody's guess.

That is the thrill of living in a tropical country where on one day the weather is a friend and on another an enemy. It's how you deal with it that matters. And all those open spaces between the trees are saying that the time is ripe to plant new mango seedlings in preparation for the next generation.

tropical garden Tropical Garden tropical garden Tropical Garden