Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Little miracles

The beauty in most things lies in the details. Every day, your garden will reward. These little orchids are related to the indigenous "virgin" orchid. They belong to the dendrobium family.
One of my favorite plants- the Iron Cross Rex Begonia. It is well known for its striking foliage but I had never seen it flower. The flower is surprisingly colourful. Which means that this plants takes itself very seriously- it packs a good wallop in visual stimulation- usually with strong foliage, the flower tends to be insignificant. The rich rusty colours perfectly complement the greens and browns of the leaves.

This photo is a bit washed out but it gives an idea of how the flower emerges from the plant.
The miniature pineapple. The tuft on top is actually a new plant and if treated right, will become a strong healthy specimen that will produce its own pineapple.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Fairchild Again

I have posted on some of these before but thought that I would revisit this day. I had shot the descriptions and thought that I would post them.
If you have any reservations about large lizards, I would approach Fairchild with extreme caution- I have never seen so many iguanas. What I find amazing is that they don't eat everything in sight. But according to the information below, this is changing as "our" Caribbean iguana invades. I know what they mean - here in Trinidad, iguanas eat all young shoots, flowers and just about everything else that moves. I love seeing them in the wild but cannot say that I would be happy to meet one of them in the house- I have seen one snap his tail at my dogs with impressive results. Still it is sad to see them caught and trussed up for sale at the side of the road- they are considered a delicacy by many people and the taste has been compared to chicken. I have stopped and bargained to buy them so that I can release them into my garden. Why I do not know as they repay my generosity by eating my orchids. But c'est la vie, I just like seeing them hanging around.
This is the more civilized American iguana. The Caribbean variety are not as large or as orange.

I love this colour combination.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Good Night

Green Thumb Sunday
The garden tucks itself in by gently folding petals into the centre. The hibiscus in particular beds down with an air of relief. Anything to escape the May heat and to welcome the cool night air.
This last yellow is reluctant to go to bed, Not so this double red. He should perk up again by tomorrow morning.
No, this is not a hibiscus. It is a curly lily. I have never seen one like it before and I picked it up at the horticultural market and this is the second blooming of the year. As I write this, the frogs are bellowing from the copper and the cicadas have been screaming for rain all evening. For those that think I may be using purple prose here, this is not hyperbole. There is an incredible racket outside tonight. I love the sounds of our night.
Another more common lily that is locally referred to as an "Easter lily".

Another sleepy one. This is one of my new ones and is a recent import from Miami. I have never seen this particular colour locally. It is a true orange with no hint of red or coral in it.

The flowers of a miniature ixora. The little flowers are exquisite as they open. Each little one perfect in its symmetry.
Good night. Good night frogs, cicadas, crickets. Protect us from the batchacs as we sleep.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Heart of Things

This is a new hibiscus that is really lovely. I don't know the name of it but it is a red double with splashes of yellow. Thank you Wendy Lee Yuen, who sold it to me. It was in bud when I brought it home so I was waiting with bated breath for the flower to open. And ta-da. I am thrilled. I don't have tremendous experience with hibiscus because the mealy-bug epidemic wiped out most on the island. The hybrids were especially hard hit so I am pleased to see that they are making a come back. This is my common orange that I grew from a piece taken from a bush in Brasso Seco (Northern Trinidad mountain range).
The brave new world. The stamen from my large, single pink.
New growth on my staghorn fern. The network of veins illuminated by the rising sun really struck me. So much life-veins and capillaries rushing to carry precious nutrients for growth. Just like us.

This is a croton. No it's not brightly coloured but it is, nevertheless, a croton. Albeit a ridiculously slow growing one. And the shot below is an example of a grumbling calladium. He is beginning to burn because the sun has changed direction and he's getting too hot. If I can keep him hydrated and relatively happy, this too shall pass but I must be careful not to ignore his signs of distress.

On the other hand, this is about as happy as a calladium gets. She is in a basket under the mango tree. She's cool, has good drainage and filtered light. It doesn't get much better for a calladium.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Tobago the Extraordinary

Tobago is a different space. Really, I do not say this lightly. For years the cuisine chat coming out of Tobago has focused on the Store Bay stalwarts such as crab and dumpling and the legendary blue food that is so tied into the cultural traditions of Tobago. But growing steadily alongside this "blue food" tradition is a unique Euro/Caribbean street food that I have not seen anywhere else in the region. Artists, chefs and other wanderers have captured a niche in Tobago Usually it's people seeking to escape the global hamsterwheel and an interesting artistic/culinary culture is beginning to take shape. The evolution of both the art form and cuisine coming out of Tobago is almost impossible to imagine in Trinidad.
There is a naivety to Tobago that permits this expression. It is an interesting anomaly in a region that has become largely dominated by corporate tourism. I suspect in years to come, these will be referred to as the "golden days" before the world "discovered" Tobago.
The day after the Jazz festival, we decided to do a bit of exploring and stumbled upon two very unique experiences. The first was heaven sent. My hangovers call for protein so a tenderloin tartare was just what the doctor ordered. But really what are the chances of stumbling upon such an offering on an idle midday walk? La Cantina is run by a charming young couple- Trinidadian Kisha Monti met her Italian husband in the Bahamas and the rest is history. They raise their two girls in Tobago and run an authentic Italian pizzeria (complete with roaring wooden oven) and offer fabulous fare (see the board below).
I was able to get in behind the scenes to see the pizza dough being rolled and slung into shape. This was the type of expereince that I always anticipated having in New York or Italy but never Tobago.
With lightning speed, it was flung, dressed and shovelled into the roaring mouth of the fiery oven.
Ross said it was great and my tartare was just what the doctor ordered.

Don't panic at the prices. Our exchange rate is roughly $6.00 to $1.00US.
If you get to Tobago, pass the Coco Reef entrance and turn into the Royal Bank compound on the left. There you will find La Cantina and bizarrely, this space is shared with a bona fide Cuban cigar roller? Is that what they are called? There he was rolling his cigars and listening to a Venezuelan radio station on his short wave radio. Language was a bit of a problem so I couldn't pin down a whole lot of history but like his Italian counterpart, he was the real thing.
These tobacco leaves are brought in from Cuba but Tobago once grew her own tobacco and, if I am not mistaken, this is where the word Tobago originated. Correct me if I am wrong, but I remember reading this years ago.

So in one weekend I was able to see Rod Stewart, Shakira and Whitney Houston live and close up in concert. Swim and lime in some pretty spectacular water, eat some great tartare, watch the pizza dough fly through the air AND see some cigars being rolled. A good weekend.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Smelling the Parrots

Every now and then I lose my rhythm. It is so insiduous that it may be days before I realize I'm off kilter. Something in my centre blurs and I have to consciously realign.

Tonight while searching for batchacs with a torch and watering my desert dry garden, I smelled the parrots. They have a distinct fruity smell and when I pick it up on the night air, I know they are nesting in nearby trees.
These photos tonight are from my sister-in-law Joy's garden. I have three sisters-in-law and two of them are excellent gardeners (the third lives a very glam life as a lawyer currently posted in Mumbia).
My post tonight is dedicated to Jackie and Joy who have taught me so much about having a garden.

I am happy that I live in a place that allows me these beautiful moments. Trinidad is no utopia. In fact, it can be a brutal and devastating place and any any random Google of Trinidad will turn up the bad with the good.
But it is also one of the most beautiful places on Earth and those of us born here carry our nationalism in our bones.
I have so much to post on- a recent short course in Greenhouse horticulture, a weeklong course in landscape management and a flamboyant tree that is waiting, waiting, waiting..... to burst into its annual scarlet show- but for tonight- I'm just glad to be back on track and happy to smell the parrots.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Rod Stewart in Tobago

Rod Stewart. What a privilige to see him close up. Make no bones about it, this 62 (?) year old still has a lot of life in him. He was by far the best performer at the recent Plymouth, Tobago Jazz Festival.
Kudos to his back up singers who were electric. And the saxaphonist. What an amazing job to have. Rod Stewart understands the mechanics of putting on a good show. Entertainment. He was able to completely captivate the crowd for a little over an hour with a series of costumes changes and by giving each of his band their time at the front line. And he won the hearts of all of us by starting off with ......"I am liking this feeling". Yes Rod, so were we.
Sad that this dynamic act only made poor Whitney Houston look even more frail. And note to Whitney's publicist- we who live hear are not interested in hearing how big our mosquitoes are on this side of the world. I think Tobago should collectively adopt Whitney and grow her back to health. It's so sad to see talent like that flailing.

So that you Rod et al., you are welcome back here anytime.