Saturday, February 25, 2012

The First Crocus

One day this week while walking home from campus I spotted this precocious little crocus flowering at the edge of a front yard:

There were also a few snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) flowering nearby but unfortunately I could not manage to get even a halfway decent shot of them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interesting Plant-Related Science News

Here is an article from The New York Times on the apparent success of a team of Russian researchers in propagating and flowering a small wildflower called narrow-leafed campion (Silene stenophylla) from cells that had been frozen in Siberian permafrost soil for 32,000 years:

Dead for 32,000 Years, an Arctic Flower is Revived

For those who can read German, here is a somewhat shorter article on the same topic from the website of the German public television news program Tagesschau:

Forscher lassen 30.000 Jahre alte Blume erblühen

Before this I had read about really old seeds being germinated successfully - like the Masada date palm referenced in The New York Times article - but this regeneration of new plants from preserved tissue seems like it could open up much greater research opportunities.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I did not have any recent pictures of roses or any other traditional plant paraphernalia of romance...

... but I thought the passionate red of the flowers of this coral tree (Erythrina sp.) was rather appropriate to the occasion.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Winter Travels - Part 5: Sidewalk Garden, Singapore

I got to visit a number of interesting parks and gardens while in Singapore - more on those at a later  date - but there was also the occasional planting by the wayside that caught my eye. There were lots of potted plants in many places but I my favorite collection by far was the down-to-earth arrangement below:

Whoever assembled these plants and tends to them is definitely very good at creating something lovely with simple means.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

(Very) Tentative Signs of Spring

Largely as a sort of experiment, I planted a few small spring-flowering bulbs - a mixture of Crocus species, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa siehei), and Dutch iris (Iris sp.) - in the pots of the small collection of Sempervivum and Sedum cultivars I accumulated on my outside window sill during the late summer and fall. In recent days, the first sprouts have begun to emerge.

The first sprouts of Dutch iris and glory-of-the-snow

There are a few bulbs in every pot, so if they all come through - fingers crossed - I should have speckling of early-spring blue, purple, and yellow all along the window sill.

Houseplant Update

My houseplants here in my apartment have largely been humming along for the past two months without doing anything too exciting, not surprising perhaps considering the less-than-ideal conditions of low light and rather too high temperatures produced by an overly effective and impossible to regulate heating system. However, some of my coleus plants (Solenostemon scutellarioides) have grown considerably and I also recently picked up two Rieger begonias (Begonia x hiemalis) at Trader Joe's, so I thought it might be time to post a few pictures again.

One of my bedroom window, overtaken by plants

 Orange-flowered Rieger begonia (Begonia x hiemalis)

Young cutting of a coleus variety with chartreuse, heavily serrated leaves; they are normally speckled crimson but in the low light of winter that patterning has largely disappeared

Since the begonias in particular prefer somewhat cooler temperatures I am keeping them in the bedroom, which only has a small radiator and is therefore not quite as warm, although that window sill is already quite crowded. So far they seem to be doing well.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Underground Park?

Here is a piece about a rather futuristic proposal for an underground park to be developed in an empty underground trolley terminal in New York City:

An Underground Park in NY?

Personally, I have a hard time imagining what this would - or will - look like, even with the computer-generated mock-ups. If it succeeds, however, it might be able to upstage even the phenomenal High Line.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Winter Travels - Part 4: Temple, Palace, and Museum Gardens, Bangkok, Thailand

In addition to Malaysia, I also got to go to Thailand and Singapore for a few days. Both places offered much horticultural interest but while in Singapore this consisted mainly of a number of different parks and gardens, in Bangkok I was more taken with the details of intriguing details of garden design and use of ornamental plants that one can encounter throughout the grounds of many well-known temples, palaces, and museums. Rather than doing a bunch of different posts I therefore decided to simply compile some of the interesting things I saw in a number of places around the Thai capital, none of them primarily famous for their gardens.

One noticeable feature virtually everywhere was the the use of large containers with tropical waterlily cultivars (Nymphaea sp.) sporting blue, purple, or pink flowers or lotuses (Nelumbo nucifera). Moreover, the latter is ubiquitous not just as an ornamental plant but also as a cut flower used as an offering during Buddhist prayers.

In the Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha that forms part of the Grand Palace Complex

Another Example from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

A blue waterlily flowering in a large pot in the grounds of Wat Arun

Rows of containers with flowering waterlilies at Wat Arun

A double lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), also flowering in a container at Wat Arun

Other potted plants commonly seen include desert roses (Adenium obesum) in different shades of pink and red and many evergreens trimmed into bonsai-like topiaries.

An Adenium obesum cultivar with reddish flowers at Wat Arun

A potted topiary tree at Wat Phra Kaew

Another one from the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Topiary trees, however, seem to play a central role not just as container plants but also as the dominant feature of in-the-ground plantings:

Flower beds at Wat Phra Kaew

More from Wat Phra Kaew...

...And  a bit more of a close-up

In front of the Grand Palace

In the Wat Arun compound

Aside from neatly trimmed formality there were also some less formal spaces I liked, however, particularly at The Jim Thompson House and the Suan Pakkad Palace:

At Suan Pakkad Palace

The entrance court of The Jim Thompson House

A Spirit House at The Jim Thompson House

Shady walk

A creeper on a brick wall

All of these gardens are relatively small and are probably often overlooked next to the major architectural and other cultural attractions and religious sites they are meant to adorn and yet I think they are quite rich in interesting detail and potential inspiration. I for one would love to have a row of containerized waterlilies like those at Wat Arun...

Wordless Wednesday