Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Picking my favorite plant...

...is absolutely impossible because I rarely come across a plant I do not like and even sometimes feel bad pulling up weeds. However, Fer over at my little garden in japan is having a Blog Carnival and the idea is to add a link to a post one has written about a plant one really likes. I guess I could have used one of the plant profiles I had already written but I thought it would be better to come up with something new so I tried to think of a plant I grow that is a bit out of the ordinary and about which I have not yet posted very much. I ended up picking a little pink sun rose (Helianthemum 'Rhodanthe Carneum' syn. 'Wisley Pink') which grows in the front border of my garden back in Michigan.

Helianthemum 'Rhodanthe Carneum'

I love sun roses (Helianthemum sp.) because they look almost exactly like their bigger Mediterranean cousins the rock roses (Cistus sp.) but unlike them they are hardy for me and require virtually no care, except for some protection against hungry deer and rabbits in the winter. The plant that produced the flower in the picture happily grew in the front yard of my family's first house in Michigan for several years before being transplanted in the burning heat of summer to the new garden. It looked a bit bedraggled for a while but by the next spring it had completely recovered and put on a beautiful show of flowers as though nothing had happened.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy First Advent Sunday!

Today is the first of four Sundays leading up to Christmas which in Germany are celebrated as part of  Advent. Traditionally, each family decorates a wreath of fir or spruce branches with ornaments much like those hung on the Christmas tree as well as four thick candles. This wreath is known as the Adventskranz or "Advent wreath", and on the first Advent Sunday one of the candles is lit, on the second two, and so on, until all four are burning by the time Christmas arrives.

My family's Adventskranz

I think this tradition helps to make the joyful anticipation for Christmas even greater. If you want to see the Adventskranz my mom created last year, you can see that post here. Happy holidays everyone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Mom's Green Thumb

Since I have been off to college, my parents have been left to take care of many of my plants for much of the year. Apart from the plants I had acquired during my high school days, I have also been adding another dozen or so new houseplants every spring when I have to vacate my dorm room for the summer. As a result, my dear parents have pothos a-plenty, in addition to a growing collection of orchids, African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha), Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera truncata), aloe (Aloe vera), cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), and numerous other houseplants ranging from rare to common. My mom has been taking great care of all of them; she even uses orchid fertilizer now and despite her aversion to fleshy and/or fuzzy leaves she has kept the African violets happy.  The following are just a few pictures of some of the developments I was most impressed with when I got home:

This little cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) graced the windowsill of my dorm room two years ago and has been flowering on and off ever since

Pale blue flowers of a brown-leaved coleus seedling (Solenostemon scutellarioides)

Emerging inflorescence of parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

Flower buds of olive (Olea europea)

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) from last year setting new flowers

It is great to be able to come back and to see one's plants doing so well. When I return for Christmas break in a couple of weeks and everything outside is grey and frozen, I will still be able to enjoy windows full of greenery...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Here in the US it is Thanksgiving today, and like many I am back home at my parents' house for familial comfort and lots of food.

Celebratory chrysanthemums

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and much to be thankful for this year!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Summer Travels 2010 - Part 18: The Garden of Five Senses in New Delhi, India

Here, finally, is the last of my posts about my garden visits this summer. Back in Delhi on the very last leg of my trip, I made my way to the area known as Saidul Ajaib Village in South Delhi one morning and visited the Garden of Five Senses. This public garden was developed by the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation and inaugurated in 2003 and while that might seem like a rather unromantic beginning, the garden on the whole seems to have turned well. The design is imaginative and unusual, the plantings are well maintained, and even on the scorching summer day of my visit there was a steady trickle of visitors.

Banner at the entrance

 Elephant sculpture near the entrance

View in the entrance area

The garden is divided into various themed areas. I turned first to the Khas Bagh, a modern re-interpretation of the formality of Mughal gardens. It features straight paths lined by hedges composed of various species, pomegranate shrubs (Punica granatum), and desert fan palm (Washingtonia filifera), as well as water features, sculptures, and a semi-circle of elegant stone arches at its far end.

Path in the Khas Bagh

Fountain in the center of the Mughal-inspired garden area

 Double pomegranate blossoms (Punica granatum)

Just beyond the Khas Bagh lies a series of walled enclosures entitled Vriksh Aangan or "plant courts", which are filled with a number of different plant groups, including palms, succulents, and bamboo. Even though largely lacking in flowers, I really liked these somewhat labyrinthine spaces.

One of the principal pathways in the Vriksh Aangan

One of the "plant courts"

An unusual row of arches

On the small hill that rises above the Khas Bagh and the Vriksh Aangan there are a number of serpentine walks, lawns studded with specimen trees, terraced flower beds, sculptures, and a very pretty lily pond arranged around a massive wind chime sculpture.

A bed of pink rain lilies (Zephyranthes grandiflora)

A bed of Plumbago auriculata

 I really liked this combination of chartreuse sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) with pink rain lilies (Zephyranthes grandiflora)

Terraced walks and flower beds

The wind chime tree by the Kamal Kund or "lily pond"

Pale blue water lilies (Nymphaea caerulea)

Another blue water lily, probably Nymphaea nouchali

Finally, the complex also includes a somewhat less landscaped hill with an amphitheater of sorts, various trails, and good views of the nearby Mehrauli Heritage Site with its famous Qutb Minar. On the whole, it is a pleasant place to spend a bit of time and definitely one of the most unusual public gardens I have visited in India or anywhere.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Interesting Article from El País

For those who read Spanish, here is a link to an article on the website of the Spanish newspaper El País about a new exhibition highlighting the importance of gardens for the development of impressionist painting:

La Fundación Thyssen expone el colorido salvaje de los jardines impresionistas

I like the idea behind this exhibition - the connection it makes between gardens and other realms of human creative expression.

Happy Eid ul-Adha!

Today is Eid ul-Adha (عيد الأضحى), also known in English as the "Festival of Sacrifice". One of the most important holidays in Islam, it commemorates Abraham/Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael/Isma'il at the command of God and also represents an important stage of the Hajj (حج‎), the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Front of the Jamia Masjid in Delhi, India

Apart from prayer, the most important way of celebrating holiday consists in slaughtering cow, goat, sheep, or other such animal, with part of the meat traditionally distributed among the poor and needy. For me, the most direct effect of the holiday this year is that my professor canceled today's Arabic class...

Last year's Eid ul-Adha post may be found here.

Highlight from a Weekend Outing: The Palm House at Allan Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Two of my friends and I went to Toronto for the weekend and one of the sights that we visited - at my insistence - was the conservatory in the downtown park known as Allan Gardens. Built in 1910, it is called the Palm House and contains a number of different plant collections and displays. One enters through the central dome of the palm house proper and immediately finds oneself under a canopy of bananas (Musa x paradisiaca) and various species of palm. From here, a long greenhouse filled with tropical flowers and foliage plants branches off to the right, while a temperate house filled with Mediterranean species and seasonal floral displays lies to the left.

Outside view of the central dome of the Palm House

Sign explaining the history of the Toronto Horticultural Society and the park

Inside view towards the ceiling of the dome

We turned right first and traversed the warm house planted with a variety of tropical plants, including many common houseplants as well as some more unusual species. There were several stunning varieties of hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), a nice specimen of flaming glory bower (Clerodendron speciosissimum), taro plants (Colocasia esculenta), Senna alata, bougainvilleas (Bougainvillea sp.), and much more. Philodendron hederaceum trailed from large hanging baskets in various spots and some of the border were dotted with the delicate blossoms of Gladiolus callianthus.

View along one of the paths in the tropical house to the right of the central dome

Flowers of flaming glory bower (Clerodendron speciosissimum)

A pink double hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

A particularly large-flowered single variety of hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

A double yellow hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

A deep velvety red hibiscus cultivar (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Senna alata

 Flowers of shoals spider lily (Hymenocallis coronaria)

Another view along the central path; I really like how the various foliage plants, like Maranta leuconeura, look as groundcovers

At the end of this tropical house lies the arid house, filled with a nice collection of cacti, agaves, and other succulents arranged in a pretty manner.

 One of the borders in the arid house

 A large-flowered cultivar of crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia milii)

 A view along the central path of the arid house

From the arid house we had to go back through the tropical house and through the central palm house dome to continue our tour in the temperate house. Here,by far my favorite element was the seasonal display of old-fashioned giant chrysanthemums.

 View along one of the paths in the temperate house

 One of the chrysanthemum displays

 An orange chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum sp.)

 The water feature in the temperate house

 Some more chrysanthemums

At the end of the temperate house we entered another warm greenhouse dedicated to tropical plants. Among the highlights of this tropical house were a collection of orchids, several beautiful Abutilon cultivars, a white mandevilla vine (Mandevilla boliviensis), a skyflower (Duranta erecta) with brilliant blue flowers edged in white, Ipomoea indica, and a vast array of tropical foliage plants.

 View along one of the three paths in the second tropical house

 A light pink Abutilon cultivar (Abutilon x hybridum)

 A deep red cultivar of Abutilon x hybridum

 Flowers of Mandevilla boliviensis

 A Cattleya hybrid

 A bright blue, white-edged variety of Duranta erecta with  Codiaeum variegatum 

 Ipomoea indica, a large tropical morning glory

 Flowers of Allamanda cathartica

 View along one of the side paths

On the whole, one of the things that most impressed me about the Allan Park Palm House is just how meticulously planted and tended all the displays were - and that too in a greenhouse open to the public free of any charge! Other than that it might not be a terribly unusual place as far as conservatories go but it is definitely a lovely spot to escape from the chilly fall weather for a bit and soak in some tropical color and warmth.