Saturday, March 26, 2011

Casa Asinas!

Finally, I got to see the famed house (among plant collectors) of Mike Asinas! After numerous invitations to come, I finally got the time (synchronized with Mike of course) to brave the South Luzon traffic to San Pablo, Laguna. The long travel was compensated by Mike with the warm reception to his small kingdom, flanked with old recycled wood and very interesting plants. Mike is a horticulturist, thus his garden is not confined to native species. His collections also included a number of beautiful exotic species. But slowly he said he was trying to incorporate the good native trees and landscape worthy plants he could get his hands on. FYI: Mike is one of the proponents why ALI is now using native species in its developments. More power to you, Mike!

Mike's house is actually a conservationist's dream. It is an ancestral type bahay-na-bato which he spotted in another town in Laguna. He had it transferred piece by piece on his family's compound in San Pablo, where it now stands as the lot's centerpiece. To compliment the architecture he collected a number of old wood furniture for the house's interiors and integrated some rustic Filipino relics into its surrounding landscape. And as the garden's focal points where different flowering trees like kalachuchi, bagawak, etc mounted with different staghorn ferns (Platyceriums) and dapos (Aspleniums).

I never realized Mike's abode is such a jewel (when he first gave his invite). Visitors are virtually transported back in time as one ascends up to the main porch area. When you get inside the house you'll get amazed with the intricate detail of the mouldings and Mike's old wood furniture collection. He had some pieces which are authentic with stories and histories attached to them. Some were reproductions, which he painstakingly assembled from old and new wood, bearing in mind the different grains, colors and textures of the different timber species. Mike mentioned a lot of balayong (or some people call tindalo) but other woods carved into the tables, chairs, cabinets, etc were molave, kamagong, narra, and a lot more I could not anymore remember.

Personally I did not expect to find a rich plethora of heritage pieces on this trip. I was expecting to find just a specimen of batikuling (Litsea leytensis) which Mike promised me some time ago. Instead I got treated to a nostalgia of sorts as I had my camera taking snaps of every detail I could see and feast my eye and lens on. Probably took more pictures of the house than the trees surrounding it. To Mike, again my many thanks for opening up your house to me and my sister, Cecil. I can't wait to go back and explore the surrounding lakes of San Pablo next time!

Casa San Pablo and the Shingle Plant

Is it obvious that I am catching up on my blogging? Sometime in February I was invited by Mike Asinas to visit his San Pablo house which I finally did. But before we could reach his fabled house, we passed by Mike's friend's inn, the very quaint Casa San Pablo. It is a very charming bread and breakfast type establishment with very cozy rooms and casitas. The ambience is very rustic and the landscape is undeniably country-styled.

I was then with my sister Cecil (she gave me a ride) and she was in picture taking mode (as in me taking pictures of her as model against the picturesque Casa San Pablo background). Well, sometimes we have to be a good brother, hehehe, so I did take her photos. She wanted me to take pictures of her in the private house, the typical rooms, the gardens, the kitchen and even the dining hall. My sister was really picture-crazy that day! Last, she asked me to take pictures of a plant she found to be weird (as if I needed prompting from her, knowing it is a plant).

What my sister fancied was the very unique aroid, the shingle plant or Rhapidophora sp. I was told it is also a native of the Philippine forest. This very interesting plant is a climber which will grow like its namesake, imbricate on the climbed surface. The arranged leaves are very attractive on very healthy plants, which could effectively adorn a very plain wall. Vigorous specimens could climb a 2 storey house's plain empty siding. The shingle plant certainly brightened up the plain walls in Casa San Pablo. It also took the attention off Cecil in her pictures... hehehe (she' ll kill me!!!)!

Friday, March 25, 2011

It is U. P. Flowering Season!

A few weeks ago I went around UP again with Cel Tungol. Cel was of course on bird watching mode hoping to find and glimpse on the more elusive bird species, including a pair of peregrine falcons frequenting a communications tower on campus. I, on the other hand, was hoping to find time to sketch a few plants around the oval ,which I did. It helped me get motivated to do the drawings as a lot of the plants were in flower. I got to pen in 2 plants in my itsy bitsy plant notebook.

The first I found to draw was Terminalia microcarpa or the familiar sounding kalumpit. This is very much related to the talisay (T. catappa), hence the flower of kalumpit appear to be smaller version of the talisay's. The tree located behind the Biology pavilion at the back of Palma Hall was profusely in bloom as seen in the accompanying picture. I was once told that the kalumpit flowers have a slight stink in it, similar to cat feces. I could attest that this is partly true, but it is not as bad as it sounds, much more tamed than a kalumpang's.

Plant no. 2 is Dracaena angustifolia or malasambal which was also in bloom that week with erect yellow inflorescence spikes. This on the other had I believe is very fragrant (but not sure if only at night). I once smelled the flowers of this in a private garden and I could recall it having a very pleasing smell. Though the plants behind Palma hall had flowers, they were in the late stages before falling off. Thus I did not get to smell them in their prime and glory moment.

A plant we also saw but dared not to get close to, even if it was too tempting to sketch, was a suspected lipang kalabaw or Dendrocnide sp. To shoot this one, Cel and I had to go through the back alleys and open lots of the student dormitories. It is actually a surprise for us to even find a big plant within campus, not sure if it is old, either remnant of original QC flora or introduced by Biology students or teachers. The specimen we found was very big, growing and flowering out of a very deep ditch.

The last find of the day was a flowering iba or karmay, Phyllanthus acidus. The plant is very similar to kamias but its fruit is more rounded. The flowers are quite small and could only be appreciated in close up. But the trees we found were in very profuse blooming stage, thus the branches are almost covered with the inflorescence. I am not sure if karmay is native. I asked Ray Ong about it and he said it is a native of tropical Asia including the Philippines.

To cap off our day, we waited for the peregrine falcons to perch on their reported favorite spot. But the falcons had different things in their minds as they were no-shows, to Cel's disappointment. She just had to content herself with the other birds she saw and the flowering trees which did not disappoint us at all.

P.S. Oh and yeah, the narras were in flower too!

Ano ang Amoy ng Sanggumay (What is the Sanggumay's Scent)?

Sorry for the lull in my blogging. I have been busy with work which is starting to become frustrating for me. Anyway, fortunately I have my garden to turn to and plants as a diversion.

Just a quick post for now. In the past few weeks, the native orchid Dendrobium anosmum or populary called sanggumay was and I think is still is in bloom. The pendulous thick stalks of this orchid become borne with flowers ranging from pink to lavender, which is truly a sight to behold when specimens bloom simultaneously. In Sidcor, the weekend market, the sanggumays are very visible and hard to miss. There is also D. anosmum var. Dearei, or the almost pure white flowered sanggumay, which I find a little more subtle in its fragrance.

Incidentally most people regard sanggumay to have a very agreeable scent when in bloom. But to me the fragrance reminds me of cough syrup mixed with an antiseptic solution. It is undeniably fragrant but a bit overpowering, almost similar to chemicals formulated in a laboratory. Well, maybe it is just me. Ronald Achacoso commented that I am the only person he knows who says sanggumay is not entirely fragrant. But then again not all flowers could please everybody, hehehe. But the sanggumay is still a beautiful specimen to keep in the garden, fragrant or not!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Ant House Dischidia

While trekking in our extreme Zambales adventure, we came across this plant. It is a Dischidia, probably D. pectinoides. It is related to a Hoya, epiphytic and has a unique adaptation. Some of its leaves are balloon-like. They are said to be like this to accommodate colonies for ants to live in. It is a symbiosis developed in nature, where the host plant provides shelter and at the same time the animal provides much needed protection (and in some cases pollination) in return. Another illustration that every organism has a particular role in the forest. Remove it and some other species depending on it may also suffer in the chain reaction.