Friday, December 24, 2010

Small stream

The stream meandering at Zone E and showing better flow after the clearing works.

Today it rained light over the farm and thus I was able to brave the rain for a short but important task. At around 3.00 pm I decided to widen the stream, clear the sides of roots and debris ( twigs, silt) in order to improve the flow. I was working in light rain because I wanted to see those bends and corners of the stream that hold on the traffic flow. I took me about three hours of raw power to finish the job. I was happy to note how the stream improved tremendously once the debris were cleared and the sides widened. The area that I focused today was at Zone D and E. The above picture shows the stream as it meanders a section of the Heliconia Valley at Zone E area. The long shot view shows a tiny white flower at the center of the picture. It is the White Costus ( Costus speciosus ) as shown in close-up at the inset to the left. Somewhere to the right of the picture is seen a banana tree and below is the medium shot of the fruiting tree.

There are a couple of banana varieties at the garden. Bananas belong to the genus Musa and as you can recall the popular heliconias are also of that banana family ( Family - Musaceae). I intend to build up a collection of edible varieties next year. CU of the picture above shows the purplish terminal head which Malays call " Jantung". In Malaysia the jantung are favourite for salad, of course to be eaten with the ever popular " Belacan" paste or cooked in coconut milk called " Santan". The popular banana cultivars that are readily available in Bintulu tamu or jungle produce market are the " Pisang Berangan" ( Note: " Pisang" in Malay means banana), Pisang Embun, Pisang-pisang, Pisang Hotel, Pisang Keling or Rastali, Pisang Emas, Pisang Kapok, Pisang Tanduk, and many more. Ripe bananas contain about 27% carbohydrate and surprisingly very little cholesterol or fats. They are a good source of vitamin C . The banana varieties that are commonly used for making banana fritters are the Pisang-pisang, Pisang Kapok and the Pisang Tanduk. All three are my favourites too!.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hues of the heliconia

Heliconia rostrata

Heliconia 'Sassy Pink'

Heliconia psittacorum

Heliconia psittacorum

Heliconia psittacorum 'Golden Torch'

Heliconia latispatha

Heliconia psittacorum

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Garden views today - vegetation island no.2

Entrance from east showing philodendrons and the bird's nest fern.

Close up of the Bird's nest fern ( Asplenium nidus) and Philodendron 'Yellow Spathe' growing naturally on site.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Garden views today - vegetation island no.1

View looking west
Location : Top hill footpath, Vegetation island no.1, Zone E

View looking west
Location : Mid Hill footpath, Vegetation Island No.1 , Zone E

View looking west
Location : Valley foot path, Vegetation Island No.1, Zone E

Monday, December 13, 2010

Garden images - Agave americana

Agave americana ( Century plant)
Family - Agavaceae ( Agave family )
Zone C
I was clearing the area at Zone C when I noticed this Century plant in prime form. Even though the Century plants are from the arid tropical and sub-tropical regions they do very well in our humid tropics climate. This is a variegated form of the Agave americana. I estimate that the plants have been planted about four years ago and still not bearing any flowers. For that matter the Century plant is known to flower from 5-35 years , long enough to seem like a century.

Infill planting of heliconia psittacorum 'golden torch'

Heliconia psittacorum 'Golden Torch' infill planting along main road at Zone B
Since last week I have started to undertake infill planting of heliconias at Zone B. A few varieties will be planted between the Eugenia oleina trees. The infill planting is mainly for the purpose of ornamental shrub planting and will cover a distance of about 200 meters from the farm entrance gate to the garden's office.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Red Sealing Wax Palm

Location : Zone C ( near swamp)

Today I was busy clearing the bushes around the Red Sealing Wax Palm at Zone C of our Kambatik Botanic Garden ( see sample above).
This palm is very much embedded in Sarawak's local culture. In my childhood days I always remember how we were sent to the jungles nearby our schools to collect these colourful palm trunks or stems to make decorative arches during our school sports day. In Bintulu it was and still is common to see families in the kampungs putting them up as making arches to welcome those back from performing the Haj pilgrimage. The charateristically bare and erect stems have consipiciously ringed leaf scars. This palm tree grows extremely well in the garden because it is native to Sarawak. In Bintulu it is seen along coastal beaches especially in peat swamp forests. It can be noticed from a distance due to its brilliant, glossy scarlet leaf bases. Its pinnate leaves are stiff in character and its midrib is reddish in fully matured plants. The leaves are directed obliquely outward and look like feathers. Note the inflorescence that is born on spreading branches ( See picture inset). The oblong or ellipsodial green fruits will turn black when ripe.

Typical clustering habit of the Pinang Lakka ( Cyrtostachys renda) or commonly called Red Sealing Wax Palm.

There are a half-dozen of these stunning clumps around in the garden. Two varieties can be found here are the scarlet and orange ones. I have been successful in propagating the tree from seeds last year though this method takes a longer period because the seeds will produce shoots in about 2-3 months time. Alternatively I grow them from splitting the adventurous sucker roots ( plantlets) and success is almost guaranteed. This palm is excellent for road medians, roundabouts, golf courses and even residential homes. It is very hardy and can be transplanted easily. In its natural habitat it grows exclusively in peaty swamps but for ornamental experimentation many landscapers and garden enthusiasts have in Sarawak and Malaysia planted them on clayey soils with no apparent growth problem. Today the palm remains a standard among landscapers who need to create that tropical exotic look. The palm is sometimes referred to as 'Red Sealing Wax' palm due to its red wax obtained from boiling the red petioles which are then used for imprinting a seal on documents and letters. In Sarawak it is also called Pinang Rajah short for 'Maharajah' meaning ruler in Malay. The palm can be grown in large pots or jars but needs heavy watering.

Natalie W. Uhl & John Dransfield (1987) Genera Palmarium, Allan Press, Kansas.

Dr. Paul P.K. Chai & Sylvester S.L. Liew (1988) Selected Plants for Town and Country Beautification in Sarawak, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Sarawak.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Garden images - Strophanthus gratus ( Cream fruit)

A vigorous shrub, hardy and seldom diseased. It has a semi-climbing habit. The plant bears close clusters of attractive, large, funnel-shaped pink flowers. The flower buds are waxy and dark crimson in colour. A very characteristic feature of the flower is the presence of scale-like appendages on the throat of the funnel. The plant flowers frequently and quite continuous in sunny situations.

I manage to propagate this plant by woody cuttings. This plant is seldom seen planted on Sarawak roadsides or gardens. I suggest that this plant be re-introduced in urban landscape designs.

Location : Zone C ( behind chalet)

Syn. Roupellia grata
Family - Apocynaceae
Origin : Tropical Africa

Reference : Ministry of Law and National Development, Singapore , "Selected Plants and Planting for a Garden City".

Garden images - Costus speciosus ( White Costus )

Location : Zone D ( near stream)
This plant will grow into a clump and can reach 3 meters high. The terminal flower head resemble a pine cone and has overlapping bracts and the white frilly flowers emerge between the bracts. Loves the direct sun.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Natural landscaping with Senna

This is a marvellous plant for natural landscaping. The Senna alata is sometimes called Cassia alata. It flowers throughout the year. Its erect inflorescence's resemble yellow candles ( see inset). The flowers are cup-shaped and the plants are a source of chrysophanic acid used in the treatment of some skin diseases. I find that many public authorities have abandoned planting these colourful and free flowering plants in open spaces, parks etc.. It is for this matter that I try to plant as many of them in the garden for posterity reasons. Being a large shrub it can reach up to 2-3 meters high.

Above: Stands of the the Senna alata at Zone G

Notice the long tall grasses that grow abundantly on this wet basin. The grasses provide shelter for the water hen and sparrows love to cling on the ends of the grasses feeding on its seeds. I have propagated a number of these senna plants elsewhere at the garden especially at Zone B.

It is very easy to propagate the seena from seeds. I think Senna alata are best planted in the open as part of natural landscaping. They love direct sun and need space as the stems reach spaces around them in very short time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Aquatic plants collection project

A partial view of the Heliconia Valley area . The project site is behind the row of heliconias.

Being a Sunday and having just a few days left before going to Kuching, I decided to do something memorable this morning. At the break of dawn I was busy finding a site at the Heliconia Valley area to start a small collection of aquatic plants in the garden. I've already in mind a species that I wanted to propagate easily obtainable from Zone B which was there for a while now ( see inset). I chose the Heliconia Valley for the main reason that it is just 50 meters away from my chalet and therefore easy to keep watch on its progress and further develpment. It is my intention to showcase more water or aquatic plants at my Kambatik Botanic Garden. The environment at the farm is ideal for this project because there is plenty of marsh land, small streams and natural features that could accomodate the idea of aquatic planting at the garden.
Close up of the Fairy Waterlily. This is a example of a perennial aquatic plant that is rhizomatus and is very easy to pull out a smalll clump from its stock for new planting material. The white flowers with a deep yellow center is indeed pretty to look . There are varieties of the nymphoides that have features like snowflakes and as such are sometimes referred to as " Snowflakes".

Above shows the location of the mini pond to accomodate the water plants collection. I envisage more ponds to be build in future. The source of water is the water table at the front right bottom side of the picture. Even in times of drought there is always water gushing from underground. When there is rain, the drain channel would direct excess runoff to the stream further down the valley( not shown).
Working in mud is a bit taxing because the soil is heavier. However, I managed to dig out a small pond in about half an hour's time and fill it with water from the tiny drain channel bypassing it.

Finally, the aquatic plant commonly known as " Fairy Waterlily" of the Nymphoides spp. is planted from clumps taken at the marsh land at Zone B. Close up of the Nymphoides is shown in the pictures above and at the inset. Cuttings of the Red Ti ( Cordyline terminalis) are added for colour.
After the work was done I felt a deep satisfaction for today's work or should I say funwork!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The royal "Senduduk"

The flowers of the "Senduduk" ( Melastoma malabathricum) are an enchanting purple attraction and reminds me of the official colour of my first university i.e. the University of Pulau Pinang. Purple is the royal colour of the university. The Senduduk is also called the "Singapore Rhododendron". Over at our garden the Senduduk is everywhere . It is a pioneering species of plant and it is very difficult to "grow" them. They just appear anywhere, anyhow. They flower en masse and the fruits are a dark bluish black. I notice the birds dispersed them over the garden and chiefly among them is the Bulbul ( Pynconotus goiaver). I like to eat the fruits because they are sweet tasting but would leave a bluish mark on your tongue just as if you accidentally tinge your tongue with blue ink.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is it a fern?

The Staghorn Fern - is a regular fixture on tall trees at our Kambatik Botanic Garden.

Mention of ferns the common perception is of the lacy type of ferns or the more dramatic ones like the Staghorn fern as shown above. But here we have too the creeping type of ferns called Drymoglossum piloselloides. The local Malays call it " Duit-Duit" which means coins. Others call it " Sakat Ribu - Ribu" - meaning thousands of epiphytes because of the numerous small leaves. Sometimes it is also known as " Sisik Naga" or Dragon Scales. At the Mid Hill footpath, these ferns creep tall trees ( see inset) Dragon's Scales get established on the fork of trees where there are abundant algae, lichens and dirt for the fern to forage. These ferns have fleshy leaves to assist in water storage and the stomata mainly open at night when the temperature is low and this help to reduce water loss through transpiration.
Close up of the Dragon's Scales

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Welcome in says Arundina

This is the entrance to my Kambatik Botanic Garden. The Bamboo Orchid ( Arundina graminifolia ) is seen on the left of the entrance gate, amidst grasses.

It was just about 3-4 months ago that I notice two stands or clumps of the terrestrial orchid Arundina graminifolia showing its presence by the entrance of the farm. This morning I couldn't resist the temptation to take a second look at this very common orchid. The Bamboo orchid gets its name from the slender narrow grass-like leaves resembling bamboo leaves. For that matter it is also referred to as Arundina bambusaefolia, but the oldest name graminifolia ( grass-leaved ) stays.
One characteristics of the Bamboo Orchid is that it flower a little all the time. Their dainty flowers , mauve or white and yellow on the lip are very attractive. I used them occasionally as cut flowers if you want to get the 'minimal effect'. It is very easy to grow in our tropical garden and please don't have any home without it.
Over my road travel throughout the length and breath of Sarawak in the last three years I find that this orchid species is prevalent on both sides of the Pan-Borneo Highway for about 400 kilometers from Bintulu to Sri Aman. It is as common as the long grasses we see after the road shoulders of the highway. In the good old tin mining days in West Malaysia, it was so prevalent that it was often called the " Kinta Weed". Kinta to refer to the place where the major tin mining operations were held during the colonial era. But to me what a beautiful weed. Welcome in to the garden.
Note the seed pods.

Hole through heliconia

The bright orange bracts of the Heliconia psittacorum ( Parrot Flower) is seen together with the " Bleeding Heart Vine" flowers ( Clerodendrum thomsoniae ). Note the rich humus and organic matter that make the forest floor.

I'm still working out at the Mid Hill footpath. What an amazing surprise today was when I saw the stem of the Heliconia latispatha ( see inset) protruding out from an old tree stump. This shows how vigorous the rhizomes of the heliconias can be. Previously, I planted heliconias near the rotting trunk. Apparently one managed to sneak underneath it and push through the stump. Now this gives me much inspiration on how to present or display heliconias in future which I call " Hole through Heliconia" presentation or 3H in short.

The Mid Hill footpath houses many varieties of heliconia. Another example is the Heliconia psittacorum commonly referred to as the Parrot Flower or the False Bird of Paradise as shown in the top picture.

Heliconias are one of my favourite for cut flowers. It is always advisable to plant a few species of heliconia in the garden because they provide colour all year round.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mid Hill surprises

The Traveller's Palm planted at the fringe of the jungle with oil palm trees in the background. From the stout trunk two rows of leaves are arranged in a fan-like shape.

I'm still working at the Mid Hill footpath area of Vegetation Island No.1. at Zone D. One of the interesting features about the vegetation island is the presence of oil palm trees surrounding it. Between the oil palm trees and the island jungle I added some fringe trees and shrubs. Today I focus on the Traveller's Palm ( Ravenala madagascariensis ), which is neither a palm nor of the banana family botanically speaking. While clearing some bushes within the island I met with the young dark purple leaves of a jungle creeper. The yellow edging around the leaves provides a beautiful contrast ( See inset) The Traveller's palm is at one end of the mid hill footpath as shown below. Around it are two foliage plants that seemed to have gotten accustomed to the place :- the sword-like and variegated ( pink/cream) leaves of the Dracaena marginata and the long white to creamy arched leaves of the " Song of India" ( Dracaena reflexa ) with a central green strip.

" Song of India " ( Dracaena Reflexa ) Synonymn : Pleomele. It seems to thrive in the humidity of the vegetation island.
Dracaena marginata has cream stripe with red edges. Loves the shade here. Dracaena is one plant that is very easy to propagate by stem cuttings.