Thursday 17 January 2008

Feeling Macro

It's been a long time since I've had that groovy macro kind of feeling-
The more I use my 50mm is the more I realize, macro is it.

The flower of a purple leaf costus. If anyone can identify, please do so. Thanks.
The leaf of this costus with its beautiful swirling patterns...Silver Congea or Congea tomentosa. This is just one bloom. The entire shrub becomes covered in long, silver sprays. When the pods in the centre open up.... the seeds are deep a result....the entire plant can take on a subtle lilac hue that overlies the silver.
White begonia or bread and cheese as it is affectionately known throughout the region. These flowers are delicately scented in the early morning. I also have the pink variety. I have seen that the flowers can be eaten in salad and they would make an attractive garnish.
This is early morning light- it shows up the peculiar texture- almost satiny
Cat whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus). It is impossible to say how many times I have moved this plant. It has only just, three years later, found the ideal spot.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

The Bootlace Tree in the President's Grounds

In addition to our large Savannah, one of the oldest public recreation grounds in the Caribbean, we are also extremely fortunate to have a more than reputable Botanical Gardens, and a well maintained President's Gardens.
A walk through the grounds of this lovely old building is a not to be missed experience for any serious gardener. The Botanical Gardens and the President's Grounds have roughly 800 different varieties of trees. Some notables include the the "Bootlace Tree (Esperua falcata) with its very unusual looking flowers. It is usually in bloom at Christmas; appropriately.

An up-close and personal look at the flower.

Closer again.

There is not much information on this tree on-line- I will have to check my Tropica. When I searched for anything so that I could cross-reference and confirm that this was the same tree- All I could find was the sketch below- The dried pods do look like this- rather boomerang shaped.

Click here to go to the source of this picture or click on the picture for the link.The existing is quite interesting but a little beyond from a technical point of view. All that I could gather is that Bootlace Tree is a member of the pea family (note the pinnated leaves) and that it seems to be native to the Guyanas (French and English), Suriname and it is certainly present in Trinidad but I suspect it is not indigenous.
Clearly I need to do some investigative work.

The President's House is a lovely example of old Caribbean Georgian Architecture. It was built by the British in the mid 1800s.

Sunday 13 January 2008

Thursday 10 January 2008

The Exciting World of Heliconias and Gingers

Heliconias have become synonymous with the tropics. They can be found throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America as well as throughout much of the Antipodes area and South East Asia. Did Gauguin include them in his paintings of an Edenic Tahiti? I haven't noticed but most of the species are indigenous to the New World and it's possible that they had not yet made the trek across the Pacific Ocean. I am sure if they were already established, they would be documented in his work. Paul Gauguin is just so heliconia-like.
The beauty of these species (and there a lot of species, maybe 200-300?) lies in the brightly coloured bracts that are mistakenly called the flowers. The actual flower is the tiny little flowers that emerge from the large showy bracts. Because these large, often upright inflorescences hold water and are often very brightly coloured they are a magnet to the avian population. The favour is more than returned as most heliconias are pollinated by hummingbirds and others. Some people will plant heliconias for the attractive, banana leaf foliage that can be very exotic looking.

The picture below is a close up of Heliconia Chartacea or Sexy Red. The seeds are very attractive and are absolutely irresistible to parrots, tanagers and even the wild parakeets that make an appearance several times in the garden.

I like Sexy Red very much because unlike its equally attactive cousin, Sexy Pink, this variety is classified as a "clumping" variety. This means that it stays where it is put and does not walk all over your garden. The bracts are long and spirally and the leaves are quite distinct as they are paddle shaped with a white powder on their underside that looks almost silver in the sun.
This leaf differentiation is important when purchasing plants that are not in bloom. Sexy Pink's leaves are very shredded looking. Attractive in their own way, they are instantly identifiable if you know what you are looking for. Sexy Orange is commonly confused with Sexy Pink but the leaf is larger and not as tattered. The problem with getting a Sexy Orange instead of Sexy Pink is that the orange variety only flowers from maybe June to October and is a much larger plant. Conservatively, it can reach 15 feet easily and it is a major walker.

This is Heliconia orthotricha "She" (Heliconiaceae). I'm not sure who named her but they got it so right. "She" is truly beautiful. Covered in velvet-y white hairs, this heliconia has an unusual texture to touch. Soft and feminine. Her bright pink bracts are edged with lime green. This beauty is just coming into bloom in my garden and "She" is right on schedule as her time is December to July. An erect flower, I am not sure if this puts her in the Bihai bracket. It may.

Classic red ginger or alpinia purpurata. A standard in any Caribbean garden. This photo was taken early in the morning as the sun was coming up.

Wednesday 9 January 2008


Jen, over at Living Dominica, posted on the beauty of our universe. Both the immensity and the sheer unbelievableness of our (sic) universe should be sobering reminders of our realistic place in the overall scheme of life. Thank you Jen for this.........

Recently, astronauts voted on the top photographs taken by Hubble, in its 16-year journey so far. Remarking in the article from the Daily Mail, reporter Michael Hanlon says the photos "illustrate that our universe is not only deeply strange, but also almost impossibly beautiful."

How lucky we are to have the technology to see what was once only conceivable in the realms of magic and mystery. True magic lies in our ability to look at the face of an unborn child on an ultrasound screen and, simulataneously, watch the images of the infinite universe unfold before us. That is true voodoo.

Friday 4 January 2008

Our Architectural Vernacular

Where does the nostalgia for these houses come from? I grew up in the 1970s in a standard suburban Caribbean home, so it's not to say that I have childhood memories of this architecture.
Perhaps it is that these remarkable houses are so representative of our diversity. These old houses call to mind slower days, days when each house had to be crafted to catch the dying breezes of the rainy season, channeling them through wooden louvres and demerara windows. The steep gables give an indication of the high ceilings of most interiors, an integral part of keeping the house cool. The much beloved gallery was a place to relax, look out upon the happening of the world and entertain visitors.

Trinidad was a Spanish colony for far longer than many of the other English speaking islands. But being so close to the coveted mainland we were often bypassed in the busy traffic that was hurrying to get the plunder fresh off the Lama trails and across the Atlantic.
What does this have to do with our houses in Trinidad? Quite a bit. Our history was very different to most of the region and by extension, so is our architectural heritage. Never a French colony, yet very French in both custom and style. Many of the gingerbread trimmings such as fretwork bear a strong similarity to period houses out of Louisiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe; a reflection of the influence of the French cocoa planters that came to the then Spanish colony to plant cocoa, develop estates and escape political unrest in the French islands.
A visit to other islands throws up similarities, but Trinidad cannot be pinned down as being primarily Georgian like most British colonies, neither are we classically Spanish like much of the mainland and the Spanish islands such as Puerto Rico.
Strange because we were in fact only colonized by these two countries.
Our national architecture was influenced by many immigrants- East Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Syrian/Lebanese. and others.
Throw the weather into the mix and things really get interesting. The heavy humidity and rainfall during the long rainy season dictated practical aspects such as long useful verandahs, often adorned with breadfruit fern baskets to provide shade and the beautiful demerara windows that have just begun to make a resurgence. Many of the older houses had lovely fretwork built into the sides of the windows. These windows are ideally suited to the climate and were often found in the kitchens as the served the dual purpose of letting in breeze and providing shade at the same time.
The building below is one of the Magnificent Seven that are found around the Savannah.
Roomor, as it is now known, was once known as "Mr.Ambard"s House".

According to "Searching for SugarMills. An Architectural Guide to the Eastern Caribbean" by Suzanne Gordon and Ann Hersh, the house was built by Lucien. F.Ambard, a prominent cocoa proprietor, after a Parisian chateau of the Second Empire where he had lived with his family. It is sometimes called the "Queen of Architecture". Towers, pinnacles, dormers and cupolas accentuate the roofline and the galleries. The house had Renaissance-style ironwork made in Scotland.
The Queen is a bit down on her luck these days. Privately owned, she is suffering from the ravages of a hot, humid climate, her glory days behind her.