Sunday, March 28, 2010

Planting Seeds

While it might not make much sense since I am living in a dorm and will be leaving for the summer in mid-May, today I simply could not resist my spring instincts and so I began planting some seeds in pots on my windowsill.
Among the seeds I planted were some of sweet violet (Viola odorata), Greek bush basil (Ocimum basilicum), and Chabaud carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus). For the latter I planted seeds from two different brands - a mix from a Taiwanese seed company apparently called K-Jay International bought in a grocery store in the Boston Chinatown and a single-color pink batch from an Italian seed company named Galassi Sementi. All in hopes of one day growing a carnation as sturdy and large-flowered as those which grace so many balconies in Portugal, happily flourishing in small terracotta pots in lofty heights...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Boston Flower & Garden Show 2010

This afternoon I took some time off homework and studying to visit the Boston Flower & Garden Show. At $20, the price of admission was a bit steep and I had been contemplating for a few days whether I should go but I finally decided that I should not miss this event, if only to know what it is like. Besides, I have long been meaning to get off campus more and to take advantage of all the great things this region has to offer. The Flower & Garden Show includes display gardens put up by local nurseries and landscape architecture firms, horticultural lectures and demonstrations, a fair with vendors selling plants, gardening supplies, and garden-related arts and crafts, a cake exhibit, and Blooms!, a show within the show put together by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and featuring amateur plant displays, floral arrangements, and an amateur horticulture competition.
The most impressive part of the show are probably the professional display gardens, temporarily put together in the hall of the convention center, often with plants artificially coaxed into growth or flowering at this time of the year:

The amateur plant displays were nevertheless very interesting as well, and often included much more unusual and interesting plants:

Various orchid displays were a further highlight, though unfortunately I was only able to take a few adequate pictures of these:

I had similar issues with my picture-taking abilities at the pretty Bonsai display:

Aside from the Bonsai, Japanese floral art was also represented in a small exhibit of flower arrangements put together according to the principles of Ikebana, or Japanese flower-arranging:

Western flower-arranging was represented as well, both with traditional pieces and with some rather unusual ones:

Finally, the Amateur Horticulture Competition was also quite charming, if only because so much attention is lavished on individual plants, often very small, and they are judged in a surprisingly elaborate system:

The Boston Flower Show runs until tomorrow, March 28th, so if you are in the area and want to see it you still have a chance. It is held at the Seaport World Trade Center just south of Downtown Boston and easily reached by public transportation. For more information, you can check out the following websites:

Spring Break Travels - Part 1: Portuguese Wild Flowers

Spring in Portugal is generally beautiful since the winter rains feed a lush vegetation that covers the countryside with a thick carpet of emerald green dotted with brightly colored flowers, the air fragrant with the scent of rockroses, rosemary, and orange blossom. This year the land was particularly verdant since over the past couple of months Portugal has experienced its wettest winter in recorded history. During my week there I took a few walks over fields, pastures, and through marshland. Here are some of the wonderful things I saw:

Paperwhite narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus)

Desert hyacinth (Cistanche tubulosa)

Spanish nut (Gynandriris sisyrinchium)

Small stream filled with pond water crowfoot (Ranunculus peltatus)

Crown daisy (Chrysanthemum coronarium)

A meadow full of weedy dog fennel (Chamaemelum mixtum) and Bermuda buttercups (Oxalis pes-caprae)

Century plant (Agave americana)

Iberian milk-vetch (Erophaca baetica)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Wild gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus)

Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae)

Double form of the Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae)

Yellow winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

Pipe vine (Aristolochia baetica)

Asphodel (Asphodelus ramosus)

Dwarf periwinkle (Vinca minor)

 Crimson spot rockrose (Cistus ladanifer)

Tree mallow (Lavatera arborea)

Interestingly and perhaps a bit disturbingly by far the most common plant out of this set, the Bermuda buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae), which despite its name is not a buttercup but a type of sorrel, is not actually native to Portugal but originates in South Africa. Apparently it has become a highly invasive weed not only in Portugal but in most areas with a similar climate, such as California and Israel. Nevertheless, its silky sulphur-yellow flowers are very pretty and have certainly become a very distinctive feature of the Portuguese spring landscape. The century plant (Agave americana), too, is a foreign important, originating as it does in Mexico, though it does not appear to spread quite as aggressively.

Source Used for Some Plant Identifications: Flickr Group Flora do Algarve