Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Out with the Old and In with the New...Garden That is!

This is my old roof top garden
Succulents in old garden has now been transferred to the new
I think I have been over-explaining myself for not regularly blogging in the last number of years. This last hiatus is because I transferred houses. Yes my old garden is expected to seize existence in the next few months.  But I have started transferring some of my plants into the new house, especially my prized succulents and of course some of my seed-grown natives which I have cared for in the last decade or so. The new house is quite far from the old so transferring the plants is a tedious task, which requires time and effort and I would have to of course squeeze it in with my work load. But the garden has to be given the time too, or else I might lose my precious plants - the ones that have been shocked in the transfer and even the others left in the old house, under the care of our house-sitter. 

Challenge is to fit the bigger plants into the smaller space
As with any garden, I did start from scratch in the new location. Yes I have the plants, but the space is considerably smaller than the old one. The new space was literally bare soil and a breadfruit tree when I arrived. But at least this one had the soil to plant some of my trees and shrubs in, not like the old where it was all concrete of the roofdeck. The soil however is noticeably mixed in with much garbage bits like broken glass shards, candy wrappers, plastic bottles, discarded concrete, etc.   It was a tough palette to attack but I am already deep into taking the challenge, garbage and all.

The new site is much smaller but had bare soil ground
Pavers were introduced as stepping surface to minimize muddy areas
I asked my friend Susan Topacio of Jardin Isabel to help me in setting up the new garden. First thing we did was to top the old soil with new stock garden medium to cover the garbage.  Then we laid out paving stone so that when it rains, the area would not be muddy and it would be easier to step on. Then we planted the bigger plants into the soil.

I started this about 4 months ago. I will post the other progress pictures some other time.  But so far the garden is shaping up quite well, but I still have to see how the plants will react to their new location.  Just keeping my fingers crossed!

More than half of my plants are still in my roof garden.  I have to empty the roof top so probably all of it will not get to be transferred to the new site though.  I would have to get them new homes.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fat-bottomed Plants

A small unknown specimen
A hybrid of E. rossi
I have been saying this over and over, I am a gardener aside from other stuff that I do. I have been keeping plants and it makes me centered especially when all other things in my life are becoming stressful. Aside from growing the natives which I occassionally talk about here in this blog, I keep succulent plants. I fancy the non-cacti species in the genera of Agave, Sansevieria, Dyckia, Aloe and a lot more, but the plump branching specimens of Euphorbia have a soft spot in my heart.  I have been collecting since probably the year 2000 ever since I picked up my very first specimen of Euphorbia millii. And I have not stopped since then. I probably have jumped collecting several succulent genera but my fascination for Euphorbias has never waned.

Euphorbia enopla
Euphorbia tortirama
Last year there was a resurgence of the succulent collecting hobby especially when local hobbyists put up various fora in Facebook.   The prices of locally sold succulents especially the cactus varieties escalated from the usual 3 for 100 pesos value in the Cubao stalls. They are now much higher in price. But because of the interest, a lot of new Euphorbias and other succulents became available in the local scene. But even with the emergence of new succulent plants I still am very much sticking it out with the Euphorbia species especially the ones with succulent branches and thick base caudex. They are very nice to pot though some may prove to be quite delicate and sensitive.  But when you get the hang of how they are grown you are rewarded with a display that in my opinion is out of this world.

E. stellata
Euphorbia decaryi ssp. decaryi 
Here are some of the Euphorbia plants which I have seen sold locally and some I have the privilege to keep in my garden.  I bet that seeing them makes you understand why I am crazy-gaga over these fat-bottomed plants!
Euphorbia squarrosa

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Anonang in the Old Cabrera House

The rustic looking character of the Cabrera house  
The large anonang tree
My friends Albert and Minnie decided a few years ago to leave the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila for the simple and more relaxing life in Mindanao. For the past 5 years they lived in the quaint ancestral house in Surigao del Sur belonging to the Cabrera clan. Last March my other friend Pinky and I visited them again (we did before in 2013 while the house was still being fixed) and we were elated to find that the couple's projects are starting to come into fruition. 
Garden is greens all around 
Branches are covered with Pyrrosia
The house stands in a lot of about a few hundred square meters but the buiding footprint occupies about a fourth of the lot area.  The remainder was planted with a garden with lots of ornamental and edible plants cultivated by some of their household mates and by Minnie and Albert themselves. It appears to be the greenest property within the city center. One garden feature which immediately ctches every visitor's eye is a massive tree at the farside of the lot which appears to be anonang (Cordia sp. probably C. dichotoma).  

The branches frame the house beautifully
Minnie had many stories about the garden.  One is that people, some are pure strangers, come knocking on their door asking for plants. But there are a number of them who ask for leaves and branches of the anonang tree to use as medicinal remedy.  She does not exactly know what sickness they are used for though but recalling a friend's statement, they were used for high fever and poultice for 'pilay' in Bicol. I have not confirmed whether these claims are true but it is evident that even here in Surigao, they believe anonang has some medicinal properties. 

I frequently encounter anonang in my trips to different provinces but everytime I see a tree, I can't seem to remember how to identify them.  It appears unremarkable to me, with non-memorable features. I tried to examine the Cabrera house anonang but it is hard to see the individual leaves as most are high up the tall specimen.  Plus the tree is enchantingly covered with Pyrrosia ferns. The anonang beautifully frames the old house charm of the old Cabrera house, adding a little more rustic character to that part of Tandag City.   

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Fairest and the Flawless

Alma Moreno was regarded as the pretty one.
Lorna was said to be more sexy at the time.
Quick Post: These were exhibited in a place I did not expect, the Quezon City Museum. They were part of the industry display as these were promotional calendars of businesses that thrived in Quezon City, at one time or another. It is  a throwback moment as it featured the primary sexy vixens of my generation, Lorna Tolentino and her loveli-ness Alma Moreno. 

Calendar with a daring model who I do not know
I remember that in our time, my siblings and I were always arguing as to who was more sexy, beautiful or famous. Undoubtedly one of my sister's favorite was Alma and I recall myself choosing the side of Lorna. But looking at the calendars now I think I find Alma Moreno the cuter of the two. Hahaha, evolving taste I guess. But I would prefer both of them over the more daring calendars brought out today by the alcohol brands, which are also exhibited.  And like wine these memorabilia pieces are now classics, which is why you could find them in a museum.  

So who do you prefer, Alma or Lorna? Probably Rio Locsin, hahaha!

Green Judgement Day

First prize winner of landscape competition
I was invited by the Philippine Horticultural Society to serve as a judge for the landscaping competition, which I did last Wednesday, along with plantman Michael Asinas and multiple landscape competition winner Francis Gener. There were 12 entries in the competition done by various individuals, groups and even other plant societies. It took all three of us about an hour to view admire and of course evaluate each and every one of them.  After judging, the PHS people commented that for them it is sometimes identifiable who executed what landscape as some entrants have already developed styles or some plant species and specimens are identified with particular growers over the years. But when we did judging, we were suggested to base on pure appreciation, so I made my choices on pure aesthetic merit, which turned out was not much different from the other judges' preferences.  It was not hard for the three of us to come up with a unanimous decision. Below are the winners of the landscape competition.
The bonsai landscape is the second prize winner.
This cactus and succulent landscape won third prize.

Honorable mention landscape
The Philippine Horticultural Society Annual Plant show will run for almost 15 days, up to February 15.  You could catch the exhibits as well as the plant sale booths, open from 8 am to 6 pm.            

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Small Cordillera Collection

My first bulol is 3 inches high
Trio of  twin bulol carvings
I bought my first bulol on my first trip to Banawe Rice Terraces.  It was unique because it is tiny yet said to be made out of mabolo. It is in my opinion beautiful despite its diminutive size. And ever since I have been on a look out for cute Cordilleras items. 
A selection of pocket-size lime containers made out of different wood materials
Another lime container made out of bone
On trips back to the mountain provinces I search for these as souvenirs, from wood carvings, bulol statues to lime containers. Sometimes I don't actively look for them.  They just find their way to me. Some were given as gifts, one by Mang Ramon who owns a home-stay in Batad. My collection of smalls is still relatively small, but I believe I have gotten a few interesting ones despite the tight budget I set (the reason I buy only small items is that I don't want to spend much on them). But even if they don't cost much, they occupy a prime spot in my treasure trove.  
A small mortar and pestle made out of bone.  One of my favorites because of the intricacy and the weaving.
My Ifugao friend told me it is rarer to find dancing bulol statuettes.  This pair is 4 inches high.
Ifugaos also carve utensils, pipes and other household items.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Watching Wildlife at a Parking Lot

The lone dove in a long parking lot
The bird was first trying to flee my attention 
It is not the ideal pastime I know.  But every time I see wildlife in an urban setting I could not help myself. This time I saw some local doves which are much smaller than the domesticated pigeons used as pets.  I believe they are locally named bato-bato but I am not sure as I heard there are several pigeons and doves native to the Philippines.  But most Pinoys find them drab or don't mind them and probably could not tell them apart from the common maya bird. 

Bato-bato are small but are larger than the ubiquitous maya. They are still quite numerous around Manila. You just have to be a little observant to spot them, as I am that hot Sunday afternoon. As I alighted my sister's car I caught glimpse of one hopping around the parking lot in the CCP complex. I try to get a better view of it but once it saw me it tried to flee and create more distance between the two of us. When it reached the back end of another vehicle, a red SUV, it was joined by another bato-bato
Another dove showed up!
I was probably about 50 meters from the two doves and at the corner of my eye I could see a feral cat entering my field of view. It was creeping in slow, probably watching the pair of birds with a keen eye.  It went under a stainless vehicle a few slots away from the SUV. The cat was thinning out its distance from the birds.  
The pouncing cat
I am a cat person, but of course this time I am at the side of the birds.  It reminded me of the Tweety-Bird and Sylvester-Cat chases in the Looney Tunes cartoons of my childhood. But with wildlife as a rule you could never interfere with interaction, even if it is happening in an urban setting.  But it appears the birds do not need my help as before the cat could approach the nearest vehicle to the SUV, they were already scampering and eventually flying away from the scene.  Seems like the bato-bato doves have more challenges apart from habitat loss to urbanization  But fortunately they manage. A good thing to know especially because my sister and I did not find anything great in the flea market we went to and this was the excitement of my afternoon. Hahaha!