Saturday, 14 June 2008

Petrea Season

Petrea is still one of my favourite flowers. There are three varieties available locally. The older, light lilac one, a new vibrant purple (the one below) and a white one. In Guatemala, petrea are everywhere. Because of the combination of the dip in temperature and the volcanic soil, both petrea and jacaranda really put on spectacular shows. It's been years since I visited Guatemala but I still think of it as a purple country. The petreas are just coming in. Blooming usually follows heavy rain after a protracted dry spell.
The ones in North Eastern Trinidad have come in before their Western counterparts- strange- but I am hoping that my own will soon follow suit.

I was able to shoot these lovely blooms at Wendy Lee Yuen's farm where we are finishing up our advanced landscaping course. I really like horticulture. Could I do it as a business? The jury is still out on that one. But chances are that I will continue to write about gardening and see where that takes me. Whichever way, it allows me the exquisite pleasure of coming face to face with natural beauty on a daily basis.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Frog on the Blog

Now that the rain is here, the frogs have been going crazy. These little ones live in my copper and make a racket. You can see their size as the ginger lily is their own party pad. They were obviously under the influence of some rain, birds and bees pheromone. When I mimicked their cry, they both leapt in my direction and I nearly dropped the camera in the copper. Bear in mind this is all being done in pitch black darkness with a torch under my arm. Aren't they ridiculous? They are so much prettier than the big crapauds that are everywhere. The crapauds looks like big bullfrogs and the dogs are oblivious to the fact that just one bite can be their ticket to heaven. I don't think these little ones have the same toxic effect but who knows? For anyone who is wondering how I managed to have pink gingers in my water copper- they are flowers that I picked a few days ago and thought I would leave in this giant "garden vase" for a difference. The frogs are obviously impressed.

This is just before he took the leap towards me-aaaaarrrgh Frog on the blog. If anyone can identify these little beauties- please post a response. I would be very grateful.
As I sit typing this, the noise outside is truly over the top. They are all SO happy it is raining. When the first heavy shower came down at dusk yesterday, all the big crapauds lumbered onto the lawn and just sat with their heads raised croaking away at the sky. I had never seen this or perhaps never noticed it before. It was something to see.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Random things that make me happy

Mama hummingbird in her nest. This was late in the evening and I was trying not to use my flash. Hmmm......kind of arty I guess. To put her into scale- the nest cannot be bigger than 2.5 inches.
This is with the zoom lens and a flash- She was a bit annoyed but never moved- I loved the way she tucks herself into the nest, almost like a folding doll- there are two little white eggs on their way to a new life.

This is at my sister-in-law's house. I liked everything about this scene. She has a different variety of cocoa growing in her garden. Her pods are smaller and smoother than my own and her tree is more rambling.

A late evening glimpse of the garden with the copper to the side. This copper does not have water in it- I believe it is called the "sugar loaf" variety because of the high sides.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Landscaping course at UWI

I have had these pictures up for most of the week but am only just getting around to posting about them. This was our class visit to Wendy Lee Yuen's farm. I had done the first part of this landscaping course about 6 weeks ago and have beenputting all the info to good use. This is the advanced segment- here we are getting a handle (literally) on the rototiller, a fab machine that mixes and digs your beds. I have added one to my wish list- it makes light works of many of the hard, heavy, time consuming work that is the sweat and blood (or blisters) of landcaping work. This little machine can plough up a bed in no time flat, mix your soil and nicely incorporate all the composted cuttings.

A new variety of acalypha. I was not familiar with this one. I love acalyphas because they offer such a range of colours and textures in the garden. Their downfall is that they are irresistible bait for batchacs and they tend to get wooly scale and other sucking aphids. And the occasional fungus. My were out of commission for almost a year with a particularly nasty fungus and I did not want to spray. I eventually did treat and they all bounced right back.

Our lesson in topiary. I truly had no idea that ficus were so malleable. Apparently they catch very easily from piece, grow well and varieties such as mini-monique and others make it vereasy to make your own topiaries. I was reminded just a bit of Edward Scissorhands.

He makes it look so easy!
Here Adanna from Tracmac shows us the dreaded Cuban thrip and the resulting damage on a ficus leaf.

This is one unhappy plant. And this is why I'm so glad that I am doing this course, In the old days, my rationale would have been that the plant hated me and died based on this strong emotional aversion. Now I have learnt to recognize the problem and help save the plant's life. And that's what makes gardening fun. Nasty infestation of wooly scales, Or white blight as we all know it.
I saw a lot of these Jack Spaniards. They must do a lot of pollinating. Which is why I still try to stay away from insecticides. I hate the thought of poisoning that whole food chain. At the moment, I have a terrible case of cinch bug on my lawn. But I am determined to wait it out. I can't bear to kill the birds that come down to eat the bugs. And as someone pointed out to me, the insecticides affest the bats as well. I need my bats to keep my insect population down so I'm taking my chances and waiting it out.
But if you do have to spray, this is how you should do it. We got a full demonstration as Adanna from Tracmac brought all the kit out to show us- fancy disposable suit, gloves, proper respirator- not dust mask- and really important tip- wash your gloved hands before removing gear after spraying. And of course, the obvious, always spray with your back to the wind. Chemicals are scary things- and they are designed to kill- often on a cellular level- so treat them with great care.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Dendrobium Moschatum

This is what greeted me when I arrived home after a weekend away. Yaaaaayy! It's the first real blooming of one of my deciduous dendrobiums. All this means is that all their leaves fall off and then the canes send forth these fabulous flowers. I picked up this plant years ago in Arima thinking that it was the more common "Dendrobium superbum" which flowers a strongly scented purple flower. This flower is quite different because of its lip or "slipper" pouch.
Isn't it gorgeous? has lots of information on it including the fact that is is indigenous to the area around the Himalayas, Nepal, Vietnam and Burma. Visit the site for more information on this amazing plant which grows to be very large.

Evening glory

The sight of the sun setting on the South American mainland never fails to amaze me. The mountains in the background are not Trinidad, but Venezuela. Less than seven miles away. It's surprising that there is not more movement between the two countries but language barriers persist.
There are several small islands that hug the northern peninsula of Trinidad and each of these islands has a distinct history. Our family has an island home on Monos.
This pirogue (local name for these solid fishing boats) was bustling on its way when we passed each other.

Just off the tip of Gasparee, one of the largest of these off shore islands, we were lucky to see the wild dolphins that are so common in our waters.

This was a particularly big pod and they frolicked (they really do frolic, because that's not a word I use lightly) around for a long time. They love to run with the bow of the boat so all the children hang over the edge to watch these magnificent creatures criss cross as they run alongside and under the boat. They often travel in pairs and sometimes we are lucky enough to see a baby. I don't presume the benevolence of dolphins because they are wild animals and interact according to the rules of their pack. I will never underestimate their intelligence but see no reason to impose my Hollywood "Flipper" assumptions on them.