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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

All Grown Up

You might remember the picture of a tiny praying mantis that I posted earlier this summer. There have been many other sightings since, maybe of the same mantis, maybe of others. They grew slowly at first, then faster. Now they are big.

A grown Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis), looking all inquisitive

I trust this beauty is gobbling up lots of pests and guarding my plants. Though even if she does not, she is always welcome to just hang out in the foliage and enjoy the summer sun.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Success at Last

I first noticed pink rain lilies (Zephyranthes grandiflora), and rain lilies in general, on trips to India. They are common there and seem to thrive with little care, bursting into abundant bloom during the rains of the monsoon season to produce pictures like this:

At The Garden of Five Senses in Delhi

At the Red Fort in Delhi

At a park in Chandigarh

So of course I had to try to grow them as well. I ordered some bulbs of Zephyranthes grandiflora in the spring of last year, potted them up, put the pot in the hottest, sunniest spot I could find, watered moderately, and fertilized once a week. A few of the thin, strappy leaves appeared but nothing else happened all summer. In late fall I put the pot on the unheated back landing along with the pots of tuberoses and left it there, dry and dark, until late April. Then I brought it out again and gave it some water. Again, scanty leaves appeared and for much of the summer so far it seemed as though nothing else was going to happen. Yet lo and behold, over the last few weeks all of a sudden lots more leaves appeared and then, two days ago, a fat pink bud suddenly popped up. Only a day later and it is in glorious bloom:

My first pink rain lily (Zephyranthes grandiflora) flowering in the Massachusetts garden

So perhaps rain lilies do just take a lot of time to get established. The heat we have been having might have also helped. In any case, I do hope there will be lots more rain lily blossoms in the future.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August 2015

There have been spells of very hot, dry weather here during the past couple of weeks, and even though we have since had some good rains the effects of heat and drought still show in the garden. There is a lot of browned or yellowing foliage, and some plants that were flowering exuberantly a month ago, like the petunias or the roses on the balcony, have all but stopped blooming. The most heat-averse annuals, such as the sweet peas and various poppies, are finally done for good and have been cleared out after collecting seed for next season. That being said, there are a few pretty things:

Epiphyllum strictum flowering once again, and setting lots more buds

Abyssinian gladiolus (Gladiolus murielae

Hosta lancifolia

China aster (Callistephus chinensis cv.)

Dahlia 'Mrs. I. de Ver Warner' - from Old House Gardens, this variety is supposed to be quite cold-hardy

Amish heirloom cockscomb (Celosia cristata cv.)

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Agastache rupestris - this is one of my favorite summer perennials, and I have been growing it from seed collected in the Michigan garden for the garden here in Massachusetts. Quite a few of the slow-growing little plants were lost in our crowded little lot here over the course of the spring and summer, but the ones that made it are finally beginning to bloom and bulk up.

Leopard lily (Belamcanda chinensis/Iris domestica)

The current state of the garden made me realize that I should try to add more plants that come into bloom around this time of the year, to fill in the lull between the perennials of early and high summer and the declining annuals on the one hand and the various plants that either come into bloom for the first time or perk back up in the cooler days of fall on the other. Apart from having continuous bloom, the anticipation and excitement of new things developing and blossoming in every season is for me one of the greatest pleasure of gardening. Right now, for instance, the flower stalks of the tuberoses (Polianthes tuberosa) are beginning to emerge from their messy rosettes of greyish leaves and while they may not be very pretty in their own right, their promise of beautiful flowers and delicious fragrance in a few weeks' time makes them very pleasing to watch nonetheless.

To see what is currently blooming in other bloggers' gardens, you can visit Carol's blog at May Dreams Gardens.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Malaysian Marvels - Part III

At the Kuan Yin Temple (Kwan Imm Ting) in Klang

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Malaysian Marvels - Part II

A pink night-blooming waterlily in a friend's garden

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Malaysian Marvels - Part I

I came across these stunning flowers on a small, pretty tree in a front yard a few streets over from the best of significant others' parents' house in Klang, Malaysia:

The flowers are massive - about the size of a chicken egg - and a beautiful shade of dark red streaked with creamy white, even prettier in real life than in the picture. Does anyone know what plant this is?