Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Crown of Thorns

I've always liked Crown of Thorns.
Perfectly symmetrical, the way the bracts fold against each other. Another xenic plant that does very well in rock gardens where it is one of the few succulents to actually sport foliage. With sticky poisonous sap, it is designed for rough living and one of the quickest ways to kill it is to pamper it with too much water.
The Crown of Thorns is also an emblematic plant.
It's thought that Christ's infamous crown of thorns was this charming euphorbia.
With its thorny spiny stem and poisonous sap, it tops the list of plants I would not like on my head.

Interestingly, famous cousin, Poinsettia, is associated with Christianity as well. It is one of the undisputed botanical stars of the nativity season.
The flowers of the Crown of Thorns (like the Poinsettia) are colourful bracts rather than the true flowers. The real flowers are small and often insignificant. The bracts now come in a number of colours ranging from vivid reds to muted salmons. Lemon colour is still quite unusual.

To grow it sucessfully, keep it out of open weather and warter sparingly. It likes full sun. It fact, it will thrive in full sun. It is a fairly heavy feeder. Watch for rot from over-watering. The stems will just disintergrate and that wil be the end of your plant.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Unspoken in Carnival - Bikini and Beads and the Traditionals

It's easy to forget how frightening Blue Devils can be. As a child I was terrified of the devils who would surround you and demand small tokens of money before moving on. Sometimes they had other devils on chains; others wore hideous masks.
That the 'mas' has become sanitised is beyond dispute. The issue of "beads and bikini" mas which has taken over the streets is still a sore point for many purists. But I like to look at it differently. Each Carnival character developed as form of protest or to give form to an unspoken sentiment.
Devils were meant to be devils.Like most of the traditional characters, they grew out of a need to make a statement against some ill in society, some form of oppression or social injustice. Devils, in particular, were meant to represent the pagan. In post-Emacipation 19th century Trinidad society, the Catholic Church still represented the plantocracy.
Devils thumbed their noses at the plantocracy's elite.
The ritual of demanding money a form of parodying the church's demands for money.
A way of paying the piper.Saying that, I will make my case for "beads and bikini" costumes. I believe there is a different form of protest and expression of liberation taking place in these bands. Women of all shapes and sizes can tranform themselves for two days and take to the streets without fear of judgment. It allows each female masquerader to feel uniquely beautiful with their glitter and their beads. There will be beautiful bodies certainly (a la Brazil) but on the streets you will also find older women, large women, women who may not have worn a bathing suit for years - but they will come out for Carnival. As a firend of mine said in a FB post - we've earned our bodies.
So "bikini and beads" make not be making the social or political case that many of the older tradtionial art forms have made for the last century, but it is serving another cause. Woman power!
It is refreshing to see the traditional characters returning to the streets. Sailors, bats, bady-dolls, red indians and dame lorraines (to name a few, there are many more) all tell a story of the social history of Trinidad. Which is important, because we are not a people to work it out on paper.
Traumatic events tend to re-enacted on the streets or find their outlets via any artistic form but the written one.

Trinidad's Carnival is complicated on so many levels - but it is an example of a nation healing wounds with annual precision.
In this way we are unique.
It may explain why visitors often describe the transformation of the country as extraordinary or magical. A sense of entering something otherworldly.
Happy Carnival everyone.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Xeric Plants

Xeric is not a word that I come across often.
I can add it to my word hoard. I didn't know what it meant until I began looking for the common demonimator of all these plants. They all grow in Xeric environments.
Xeric means relating or adapted to an extremely dry habitat. Succulents such as cacti, aloes, and agaves are xeric plants,

Adenium obesum, commonly known as Desert Rose is one of these plants.I'm thinking of Xeric environments tonight for several reasons. Normally we are a humid, tropical, rainy island. We are currently at the beginning of an uncharacteristically dry season. We are on water rations already.
All of these plants have been grown here and they are probably breathing a sigh of relief and welcoming the hot, dry air. Good riddance to the wet, humid jungle.
Like people, plants that grow in extreme conditions, sometimes develop characteristics such as beauty or toxicity. Often the package is combined. The Desert Rose is highly toxic and cacti make no secret of their armory.
That plants emerging from water-starved, difficult environments survive using beauty and poison is interesting in a Darwinian kind of way.
Not so very different from people after all.
Xeric plants.

Monday, 8 February 2010

My Old Garden

Some parts of my garden still remain. A few of these are old photographs but many of the plants are still in the garden struggling along. Miniature pineapple is one that I have managed to leave there AND I have bought a few with me for security. Particularly at Carnival time, I am always amazed at nature's palette. Who would have thought purple tips? I have seen this colouring on bromeliads native to Trinidad and Tobago. The purple tips must serve some purpose in the rain forest.
Light shows the lacy veins in this new shoot of a staghorn fern. A lovely large mango tree has been an excellent foster mother to my ferns and they are probably healthier now than when I arrived.
I have grown to appreciate the advantages of a shade garden. I remember when I arrived here last year, I was so excited at the prospect of sun. And yes, many plants have thrived and flowered in the sun but the general lack of shade means that I no longer have banks of calladiums.
Of course, the tree is still there with its vibrant ecosystem. It's quite sobering to realise that I can leave and it all still goes on. I am not the epicentre even if it felt that way when I lived in the garden.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Carnival in the Air

Jump and wave.
Or raise up your knees.

Happy Valentine's Day said the Jellyfish

I think that what we have in our waters is the Rhopilema verrilli or"Mushroom jellyfish" . According to the site http://dockwatch.disl.org/glossary.htm this jellyfish seems to match the description below.
Clear, translucent or creamy white bell, some reddish-brown pigmentation on bell margin. 48 lappets form bell margin. It does not have tentacles, but does have long, finger-like appendages extending from underneath the bell. Bell size: up to 20 inches in diameter. Mild to no sting
We know it as tennis ball jellyfish because we'd throw them at each other a la tennis ball when we were teenagers down the islands. This is the time of year that the waters in the Gulf of Paria are full of these pulsating little creatures. Unlike the venomous Portuguese Man-of-War that plagues the East Coast beaches, this jellyfish is very benign.
And very pretty. Who would have known that it is ringed with red hearts. Nature's Valentine's wish and she even chose one with little to no sting.
Happy early Valentine's Day from the Mushroom jellyfish.
P.S. - We threw him back in.
And if anyone know that he is not a mushroom jellyfish, can you let me know what he is?