Tuesday, 27 July 2010

gradual demise of the world's mangroves

CNN ran a story today, about how mangroves are disappearing by up to four times faster than the world's land-based forests. A study commissioned by the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP) reports that one fifth (around 35,500 square kilometers) of the world's mangroves -- forests straddling both land and sea -- have been lost since 1980.

"Although the study reports that annual destruction has slowed to 0.7 percent a year, the authors of the "World Atlas of Mangroves" report warn that continued coastal destruction and shrimp farming could cause financial and ecologic havoc.Studies estimate mangroves generate between U.S.$2000 to $9000 per hectare annually from fishing -- much more than the aquaculture, agriculture and tourism, which the U.N. says are the biggest drivers of mangrove loss.

Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), said in a statement: "This atlas brings our attention onto mangroves and puts them up front and central, plotting where they are, describing where they have been lost, and underlining the immense costs those losses have had for people as well as nature."

Mangroves cover around 150,000 square kilometers and are found in 123 countries worldwide. The biggest concentration (21 percent) of the world's mangroves is in Indonesia, with Brazil home to around nine percent and Australia, seven percent.
Mark Spalding, lead author of the report and senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy, told CNN: "The value of mangroves has been hugely overlooked. Mangroves are incredibly valuable, left standing."

Preserving the environmental diversity of mangroves is essential to maintaining what Spalding calls "the real hard dollar values" for the people who live near them and depend on their survival.Apart from providing a degree of coastal protection for communities -- there is evidence that mangroves reduced the impact of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 -- mangroves are also of vital economic importance to locals.

"There are a lot of fish that depend on mangroves - mud crabs, oysters, mussels - and there are also a lot of fish that don't seem to be connected to the mangroves but actually are. These fishing industries employ a lot of people," Spalding said.

The U.N. estimates that mangrove-related species support 30 percent of all fish catch and almost 100 percent of shrimp catch in southeast Asian countries. Mangroves and associated habitats in Queensland, Australia, are thought to support 75 percent of commercial fisheries species.

The forestry aspect of mangroves is also important economically. The wood is dense, rot and termite resistant, Spalding says, making it good for use as timber or as charcoal, among the best in the world, he said. "It's highly productive so you can continue to harvest it, which is rare," Spalding said.
It's taken Spalding five years to piece together the "World Atlas of Mangroves," and despite the findings, he remains positive that mangroves can be preserved.

"My sense is that we can turn this around into a good story," Spalding said. "Knowing what we know now, mangroves can be restored and help us fight climate change," he said. They are incredibly resilient ecosystems, which aren't bothered by increasing temperatures, he said.

"These are habitats that are going to be around with us if we just look after them and the economic benefits will just accrue. There has been sustainable use of mangroves in Bangladesh and other parts of Asia for over a century."

Thursday, 22 July 2010

botanical artist

I appreciate botanical art. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people who specialise in this discipline, at least not in Singapore.

Most of the botanicals I see are prints of old pieces painted many years ago. In fact, most of the better ones are now in the archives, having been painted from as far back as the 1700s. It was little wonder then, that I got very excited when I chanced upon Anna Lu at the Singapore Garden Festival in 2008. Back then, most of the popular pieces on zingiberacae were snapped up by NParks for their archives. I ended up with 6 pieces consisting mainly orchids, irises and some seeds.

Anna exhibited again during the recent Singapore Garden Festival. Due to severe austerity measures, I had to stop myself from getting overboard. Although she did paint musas and etlingeras, they were rather expensive. So, I ended up getting just one painting on periwinkles, much like the one featured here, which she donated to the Cancer Society in London.

Anna was born in Singapore and studied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Singapore) in the late 1950’s. Although Anna is a trained Fine Artist she has always been interested in botanical painting. She started exhibiting her botanical work in London at the RHS shows in 1999-2004 and was awarded 3 silver-gilt and 2 silver medals. She also exhibited at the Society of Botanical Artists shows.

In 1999, she was invited to take part in the ‘Watercolour Challenge’ broadcast on UK television. She painted flowers in one of the Chelsea Flower Show exhibition gardens.In 2004 she enrolled on the one-year botanical painting course at the Chelsea Physic Garden directed by Anne Marie Evans, and in 2005 was awarded a Diploma (Merit) in Botanical Painting.

Anna is also a member of The Society of Floral Painters.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

purchases from garden festival

I got quite a few plants during the Singapore Garden Festival. Woon Leng brought in some pretty unusual hoyas which you do not normally see in other nurseries. Jason tells me that they have loads more at their nursery in Choa Chu Kang. I guess that's reason enough for me to make another trip there in the not too distant future.

I also bought my first, well, first three Amorphophallus plants. I've read about them before but knew little. They're not plants for everyone as they are probably more suited for the avid collector because these go dormat for a period of time. Only collectors would find this acceptable.

Friday, 16 July 2010

singapore garden festival 2010

One of the gardening highlights for the year is the Singapore Garden Festival 2010. Unfortunately, I felt that the displays were quite disappointing this year and there's just something artificial and not quite right about having garden shows housed within the confines of a convention centre. Either the venue has to be changed, or the lighting has to be improved. In fact, I feel that garden shows should be featured in natural light so as to bring out the best of the plant's natural colours and splendour. The organisers should seriously consider having the 2012 show done at Gardens by the Bay, probably within some large air-conditioned marquee. Landscape / garden designers can have the option of housing their displays either outdoors or within the marquee, depending on the type of plants used. I do see the draw in having the garden festival housed indoors. It's weather proof, it therefore guarantees more visitors and it's generally more comfortable given the air-conditioned environment. Still, I think its too much of a compromise.

The only thing I enjoyed about the festival was watching Jason and others getting their display done. I also enjoyed scouting around the many plant retailers hoping to look for unusual finds and good bargains. It was fun seeing fellow gardening friends busy milling about, with nosily asking others what they got. Ryan had a stall selling mostly pitchers and bromeliads, and strangely, his set up was reminiscent of some stall at Chatuchak (see photo). Jason was a great help, not only in the tips he gave, but the "kick-backs" I got in the form of discounts from the many retailers he knew. Then again, he is a serious collector who has no qualms in spending hundreds, if not, thousands from the likes of Woon Leng, Song and various others.

In the end, I ended up with quite a huge haul consisting mainly hoya, tillandsia, orchids and ferns. I did not get any nepenthes this time around as Borneo Exotics did not participate in the festival.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

crotalaria retusa

I saw this (left) many moons ago at the Hortpark. Then I saw them being planted at various public spaces including the entrance to Dairy Farm nature reserve. When I saw it on sale at World Farm, I grabbed a pot.

Then just weeks ago, I spotted another specimen growing wildly along the roadside near the Biopolis park. So I uprooted that and took it home. However, I noticed that the one I picked up is different from the one I bought from World Farm. Though the flowers and leaves look similar, the one from Biopolis (pictured left) looks more like a weed whereas the other (pictured right) is a lot more ornamental. Other notable differences included the size of the leaves and the fact that the yellow petals of the one from Biopolis had fine purple lines. Perhaps one is a species while the other is a hybrid?

Commonly referred to as Rattleweed or Rattlebox, Crotalaria retusa is an annual herb and member of the bean family Fabaceae). It is effective as an ornamental plant when planted en masse as the bright yellow flowers which are borne on an erect spike makes this a very cheerful plant, particularly when planted as a border.

Cultivation of this plant is relatively easy. The seeds can be collected from the flower pods once they are dry (brown/black). As it's common name suggests, the seeds within the pod will rattle, particularly when the wind blows. Another interesting feature about this plant is the fact that it is known to be a butterfly host plant, particularly that of the pea blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus).

seeds of the hoya obscura

I never knew Hoya seeds would look like this. I chanced upon a seed pod on my Hoya obscura one early morning. I harvested it and kept it in a tea-light holder and within a few days, the pod had "exploded" with lots of fluffy like seeds filling up the entire tea-light holder.

Hoya obscura is a fast growing hoya from the Philippines. Characterized by medium-sized veined leaves that range from deep green when grown in shade, to a deep reddish color when grown in sunlight.

This hoya is very easy to grow and is extremely floriferous. As the flowers have an intense and pleasant scent, it would make an extremely wonderful addition for the patio, particularly at night when the scent is at its strongest and is likely to pervade every area.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

another cat

I found another guest in the garden, this time munching on the tender leaves of a young costus guanaiensis var tarmicus shoot. I find caterpillars fascinating because they all so different and they come in a myriad range of colours and sizes. I don't know whether this will end up as a butterfly or a moth (most people think the former) but i'm sure it would be one beautiful specimen. The thing about caterpillars is, never try to touch them with your bare hands, particularly the hairy ones because they will cause an allergic reaction which could end up in a major rash.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

update on garden 53

It's been a while since I last posted any photos of the garden. Having been in this house for coming to a year now, some of the plants have obviously taken root and are doing fairly well. Given the space I have now, I have been increasing my collection quite substantially. I'm sure moving them to the new place is going to prove to be another nightmare.