Monday, 29 June 2009

what's that stench?

I bought this Aristolochia grandiflora from Worldfarm on Saturday. It was the second time I saw it for sale and judging by how quickly it was snapped up the first time around, I decided not to miss the boat and promptly bought myself a pot for just S$18.

Commonly known as the Dutchman's Pipe, the A. grandiflora is an aggressive vine which does well in full sun. Even with the kind of dry weather we have been experiencing, the vine didn't wilt in the heat. Unlike other species of Aristolochia, the grandiflora produces one of the largest flowers. It also emits a rather foul odour, akin to rotten garbage. The stench is meant to attracts flies which help pollinate the flower. The pollination process is rather interesting. Flies and bees would venture into the throat and get trapped by backward pointing hairs that prevent them from retreating. The insects fall into the swollen tank at the base where they trash around until they pollinate the flower. Once this is done, the hairs wilt and the insects escape to pollinate another flower.

From the look of things, the stench didn't just attract the flies. It also attracted the attention of the dogs who were probably wondering where the horrid smell came from.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

the yearly affair - grammatophyllum speciosum

If you happen to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, you should look out for the Tiger Orchid as they have started to bloom. However, it's funny how many people appear to have either missed it or dissed it as being just another orchid. However, any orchid enthusiast will tell you that this isn't just any other orchid! It is probably the King of Orchids!

The Grammatophyllum speciosum, more commonly known as the Tiger Orchid or Sugar Cane Orchid is probably the largest orchid and the heaviest known to man. It is native to New Guinea, Indonesia and Malaysia and is epiphytic, growing on trees and exposed areas of the lowland tropical rainforest. In Singapore, Tiger Orchids are seldom found in the wild. Ironically and thanks to NPark's efforts, you will find many clusters attached to wayside trees along Napier Road, Botanic Gardens and Orchard Boulevard.

The Tiger Orchid can grow into gigantic clusters weighing several hundred kilograms. The spikes can grow up to lengths of about two metres, each bearing up to eighty scented flowers, about 10 cm wide. The flowers are yellow colored with maroon or dark red spots. The orchid blooms only once every two to four years and it can normally remain in bloom for up to two months. Because of its enormous size, it is rarely cultivated.

I was fortunate enough to buy a clump from World Farm several years ago. It is currently sitting in the shade in my backyard and appears to be doing well. Given that it is epiphytic and is commonly found on trees in the wild, I gather it is pretty adaptable and can tolerate a range of light levels. I did notice that the leaves of my plant tended to turn yellow when exposed to direct sun, but the leaves of the clump at SBG remain rather green even when exposed to the elements. Anyway, I will keep mine potted for now, until such time I find a place of my own.

Friday, 26 June 2009

bromeliad landscape

Currently, I have more than 50 different types of bromeliads sitting pretty in my backyard. This collection is likely to grow over time. The long term plan is to incorporate these bromeliads into the garden-scape. Some species like Bilbergias, Aechmea orlandianas and the smaller broms will probably be mounted on trees while the rest like the Hohenbergias, Vrieseas, Alcanteras and the larger Neoregelias and Aechmeas will remain at ground level. A few will probably be mounted in pots and placed somewhere prominent for dramatic effect. Think species like the Aechmea blanchetiana, Aechmea Malva and Alcantera imperialis!

For now, I am drawing inspiration from the photos (see posts below) of the bromeliad gardenscape which I found from GardenWeb. I hope to do better!

Monday, 22 June 2009

the future...?

Many of you (assuming the readers are my friends) know that i've been hunting around for a place of my own for quite some time now. In fact, i've seen the property market rise from its stagnant state in 2005, reach its peak in 2007 and fall sharply in early 2009. Still, i've ended up with nothing.

It's somewhat different with landed property. People do not generally speculate on land (because capital gains aren't as profitable in the short term), hence the prices do not fluctuate quite as much. This means that when the price of land goes up, it seldom falls quite as dramatically as non-landed property during a property slump or downturn. The beauty of owning land is, it tends to hold its value a lot better as it is based on economic fundamentals.

Needless to say, one of the main criteria I look out for in landed property is the size of the plot. Not only do I require sufficient space for the dogs to run around, more importantly, there should be enough land for me to grow my huge collection of plants. All these years, I have been amassing and cultivating all sorts of rare and beautiful plants for one single purpose, to incorporate them into my garden.

Over the last weekend, I viewed this particular property somewhere near Binjai estate. It has a land size of about 4000 sq ft and a built up of about 2800 sq ft spread over two and a half floors. This means that there is at least 2500 sq ft of land which I can use to landscape with. Both the front and the back yards have rather sizeable plots, sufficient for my needs. The house in itself is quite unique as the living, dining and even the kitchen have double-volume ceilings. Needless to say, it would be quite spectacular if I incorporated floor to ceiling folding glass doors which provide me with a clear view of a heavily planted garden. Who needs art on walls when you have a living, breathing garden which you can enjoy from within your own home.

Although the location is a tad far, it is still a gem. All it needs is some A&A to the interior and the facade (it could look like the ones in the photos below) and a touch of magic to the garden. Best of all, the seller's price isn't particularly unreasonable either. All I need to do now, is to make a few calls to the bank. Who knows! This might be home.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

lavender gold!

I couldn't resist when I saw these photos on the web. It's a pity we can't grow lavender in Singapore? Places like Perth appear are probably more suitable as their climate is sub-tropical and therefore closer to the mediterranean climate. I remember seeing some grown just outside Tim's house. (See photo below)

G knows someone who owns a lavender field somewhere in Northern India. Basically, you buy a plot of land, let someone and his family live on it for free. In return, the family tends to the land and its crop in consideration for a monthly salary. You end up making money from the harvested crop. I know of people who have done the same with tea plantations and even lotus farms. Time to get that entrepreneurial spirit going!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

the perfumed corridor

This is the Jane Magnolia (liliflora 'Reflorescens' x stellata). I remember seeing this for the first time in the spring of 2006 in Boston! The entire street (can't remember which one) of brownstone houses were lined with rows of both the Jane Magnolia and the more common white magnolia.

Spring is always a delightful and cheery period due to the burst of flowers which emerge from the branches of all sorts of trees. My earliest and fondest memory of spring has to be the time it snowed for the first time in my 3 years in Exeter. It was mid-March in 1998 and the beginning of spring but freak weather had caused one of the heaviest snowfalls recorded for that time of the year. The next morning, I got up at about 5:30 a.m. as I had wanted to capture the snowy landscape of the university grounds on film before it melted away. It was certainly quite a sight to see the snow and dew collect on the white apple and cherry blossoms, and the canary daffodils "emerge" from the snow. Too bad the digital camera hadn't featured yet, otherwise I would have been able to post them here.


Imagine a street lined with this tree in full bloom! It would be truly a sight to behold. It is strange that NPARKS has not thought about planting trees like the Jacaranda and the Cassia fistula being planted as wayside trees. So far, i've only seen the Jacaranda grown around the bandstand at SBG. The Cassia on the other hand is by far more commonly grown. However, the most commonly grown trees are still the rain tree, the Angsana, the Tembusu and occasionally, the odd palm or flame of the forest.

cassia fistula - golden showers tree

There are only that many trees which I would want to have in my garden. One of them is the Cassia fistula or Golden Showers Tree. The other is the Jacaranda.

Monday, 15 June 2009