Wednesday, February 16, 2011

And They Said You Can't Landscape with Philippine Native Plants...

PNPCSI booth
Bonsai Society booth
Yes it has always been possible but not easily realizable. For one, most of the plants we have known in our gardens for as far as we could remember are mostly exotics. Even the plants mentioned in our folk song 'Bahay Kubo' growing in the periphery of the vernacular house are all non-natives. The Spaniards dictated and drove the Indios to plant these common vegetables, all familiar edible fare for the colonizers. And even upto now, colonial mentality is very evident in Philippine gardening as most ornamental plants you find in local gardens are exotic plants. But hopefully that would not be for long.
George Mendoza's booth
This year's Philippine Horticultural Society's Annual Garden Show showcased our lesser known Philippine plant natives in their garden and plant exhibits. Most landscape participants used a significant number of Philippine species in coming up with their innovative and well designed landscape displays. The Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society was privileged to be given a booth to landscape, but among the participants it had the extra goal of using pure native species in its design. I was given the task to do the design and Susan Topacio and her Jardin Isabel team was so generous to execute the booth for the society. With the help of Jun Golamco and the very vigilant PNPCSI members Anthony Arbias, Ronald Achacoso, George Yao, Joey Diaz with Ernie Alvaran, it became possible to exhibit a 100 percent Philippine plant display for the PNPCSI horti booth. The design used hard and geometric accessories to emphasize and contrast the lushness of Philippine green. It was also stressed by the society board to use very little, if not none at all, critically endangered species to promote responsible conservation. So what found their way into the booth were landscape staples like Osmoxylon lineare (miyagos), Podocarpus costalis (maki or igem dagat), Dracaena multiflora (limestone dracaena or false yucca), Carmona retusa (fookien tea), Murraya paniculata (kamuning) and Asplenium nidus (dapo). Lesser popular but also cultivated species like Ardisia squamulosa (tagpo), Canarium sp. (pagsahingan), Schismatoglottis spp. (alapayi), Amophophallus paenifolius (pungapong), Alocasia spp., Syzygium polycephaloides (lipote) and a few more were also thrown into the mix. A (cast resin) replica of the conservation symbol, Rafflesia, was used as the color centerpiece for the PNPCSI greens display.

If I were to be asked, I would call the PNPCSI booth 'At the Edge of the Rainforest'. Honestly since the once impenetrable rainforest is now becoming less and less in area, the forest perimeter, on the other hand, is increasing. Light is slowly being let into the once dark shade of tall canopy trees. So along with the disappearance of the big trees, some plants used to the shady growth are also lost. But others who were stunted by the lack of sunlight are now becoming evident and common. Thus more light loving plants like pioneer trees, brushes and grasses are replacing our rainforests.

So before the Philippine plant species completely vanish, let us hope they find their way into mainstream landscaping and planning. But it should be done properly, by cultivating the said specimens from propagation materials and not collect them straight out of the wild. We hope we in the PNPCSI have put out that proper message in our participation in the horti show. May we see many more beautiful native species, in variety and number, in our Philippine gardens.

To the Philippine Horticultural Society and everyone who helped in staging the PNPCSI display, our very warm gratitude!


Andrea said...

Hi, i was there the last Saturday and saw your name. I learned from that booth and learned also we have some endemics in our property in the province. May i know if the money tree being sold here in MM(those with lots of red berries)is also Ardizia? We have tagpo and it doesn't look like that. Also i thought that pungapong is Amorphophallus campanulatus, does it mean the species is already changed? thanks.

metscaper said...

The one with red berries grown in Baguio is I believe a Chinese/ Japanese native - Ardisia crenata. Tagpo is Ardisia squamulosa, with pinkish, violet flowers. Pungapung is collectively used for Amorphophallus. I am not sure which is more common but the one we used for the landscape was paenifolius.

Orville said...

Nice to know that awareness about the ornamental use and conservation of Philippine native species is growing. I know it's sometimes a double edged sword when promoting native plants (as you've mentioned in an earlier post). Maybe to reduce pillaging of the forest, we may need a government entity that would not only provide planting materials at low cost but would also regulate the sale of species with potential ornamental value (esp. the critically endangered ones). It may be difficult to implement in the Philippines but has been done in other countries.

Plant Chaser said...

Congratulation on the exhibit. I was there the first weekend and enjoyed looking around. It's good to have learned about native plants.

Andrea said...

metscaper - thanks for those information.