Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gratifying Greenery

I tend to post a lot of pictures of showy flowers, but there is also a lot of satisfaction in observing the vegetative growth of plants and the swelling of fruit and setting of seeds. This is especially true, of course, of useful plants like herbs, spices, and grains. Here are a few that are doing well for me right now:

Tulsi or holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

A baby pandan plant (Pandanus amaryllifolius)

Curry leaf (Murraya koenigii)

'India Jvala' hot pepper (Capsicum annuum 'India Jvala')

'M-101' rice (Oryza sativa 'M-101'), a modern Californian variety that is doing very well this year

The 'Duborskian' rice has been harvested, though due to very hot and dry weather while it was flowering and we were away in Malaysia, its yield is quite poor this year, with lots of blanks on almost every stalk. 'M-101', which was blooming just as we got back three weeks ago and is starting to ripen now appears to be doing much better. 'Hmong Sticky' is just about to begin heading, as are a few plants which I think are yet another variety - though I have lost track of whether those particular ones were 'Koshihikari', 'Carolina Gold', or 'Charleston Gold'. Hopefully at least a few heads will have a chance to develop properly, in which case it should be easy to tell the variety by the shape and color of the grains.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer Travels 2015 - Part 3: Bang Pa-In, Ayutthaya, Thailand

This is another long overdue post, as I never seem to get around to posting about the places we see while traveling after we get back home and the routines of daily life set in again. On our way back from Malaysia some weeks back, we spent a few days in Bangkok. We were there primarily to attend a wedding but we also took a day trip to Ayutthaya, a town about an hour north of Bangkok that used to be the Thai capital before being sacked by the Burmese army in 1767, prompting the court to move to present-day Bangkok the following year. There are plenty of temple ruins from that period, but Bang Pa-In as it stands today actually dates to the late 19th century, when the Thai royal family developed it as a sort of sumptuous country place with an eclectic mix of buildings reflecting Thai, Chinese, and European styles.

Looking along one of the canals at Bang Pa-In

The Aisawan Thiphya Art Pavilion in the middle of a lake - the water was teeming with fish, which visitors were feeding with sweet bread sold by a vendor right at the edge of the water

A gazebo covered in climbers

The distinctive "Sages' Lookout"

Part of a memorial to a queen who drowned in a boating accident on her way to Bang Pa-In - note the beds of double tuberoses (Polianthes tuberosa 'The Pearl') lining the path

A side building of the Chinese Pavilion

A beautiful potted waterlily (Nymphaea cv.)

The whole complex at Bang Pa-In was impeccably maintained and certainly pretty and interesting as a part of Thailand's modern history. However, in purely horticultural terms, much of the lavish gardening one sees just about anywhere by the wayside in Thailand - in front yards, in temple courtyards, on the edges of fields and canals - is significantly more intriguing and impressive. One plant in the park that was quite interesting, though, as well as completely new to me, was the flowering tree Gustavia augusta. Unfortunately, any open flowers were too high up in the tree to get a decent picture.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Climbers

Many other things might be declining or finished, but late summer and early fall are high season around here for many climbing annuals of tropical origins. The moonflowers (Ipomoea alba) do not really get going until July and are only now beginning to set flower buds, but regular morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea cv.), cypress vinea (Ipomoea quamoclit), and black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) are already in full bloom.

Cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit), with its hard-to-capture shade of red

Common pink morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea cv.)

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata)

Maybe next year I should add some more such annual creepers - butterfly peas (Clitoria ternatea) would be lovely, though the seeds are hard to come by here, and I have also never tried cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens)...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Rain Lilies, Part Two

After the pink rain lilies (Zephyranthes grandiflora) that I have been tending for over a year finally bloomed a few days ago, the yellow rain lilies (Zephyranthes citrina) that I only bought and planted this spring suddenly had to outdo them, producing not one but two flowers. Like their pale pink relatives, these developed rapidly - the buds appeared breaking through the ground one afternoon, and two days later the flowers opened.

Yellow rain lilies (Zephyranthes citrina)

I know to those of you who garden in climates where these are hardy this is not particularly exciting, as these can be quite self-reliant and prolific. For me, however, getting two species of rain lilies to bloom so unexpectedly and within little more than a week of another is quite a success.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Summer Travels 2015 - Part 2: Kuan Yin Temple, Klang, Selangor, Malaysia

We had passed by this Chinese temple a few minutes from the best of significant others' parents' house countless times, but somehow had never actually visited. Also called Kwan Imm Ting, its beginnings date to 1892 and it is dedicated, as the names indicate, to Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy derived at least in part from the Mahāyāna Buddhist Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. While not occupying a huge amount of land, the complex is very impressive, both because of the height of the main buildings and because of the intense ornamentation that covers almost every surface. As in most Chinese temples, there is a bit of gardening interest as well, in the form of numerous potted plants.

View into the temple from the entrance gate

 In the courtyard, looking towards the main temple building

A view from the main hall back towards the entrance

The main altar

Koi in the pond

A painting on the wall of one of the side buildings

Another painting - note the potted arrangement of bamboo and a decorative tai hu style rock next to the book

All in all a very cool place, and I am glad we finally went in instead of just driving by.