Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blessed with the Midas touch

This bougainvillea cultivar is truly blessed with the Midas' touch. The blooms start off as burnt orange and as the petals mature, it turns bright yellow before fading to pale yellow.
This sun worshipper climbs tall and blooms non-stop to our greatest delight. Most of the foliage is converted into golden bracts in some sort of perpetual celebration of the fertility of Mother Earth.

Roof top view, from the first floor.

It straddles the edge of this rainwater gutter. My only misgiving is that the blooms are rather ephemeral. The petals are shed as readily as it replenishes them. This messy trait means that there is quite a fair amount of sweeping up to do. In exasperation, I have often toyed with the idea of chopping it down but just as often, the sight of the dazzling blooms prevented me from doing so.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Grasshopper and the Ants

The Ant and the Grasshopper (Project Gutenberg etext 19994)

The fable of The Ant and the Grasshopper, is attributed to Aesop. The grasshopper frolicked and had much merriment all summer while the ants kept busy preparing for winter. The moral of the story is diligence and preparation. On the other hand it has often being quoted that “Some folks are so busy laying up for a rainy day that they cannot enjoy good weather”.

This grasshopper was an unexpected guest. He landed on the computer table right in front of me, basking in the limelight (the colourful light is from the monitor) instead of working. Tsk, tsk ... But as Mark Twain famously said, “Diligence is a good thing, but taking things easy is much more restful”

He was a teeny weeny thingy but has a big apetite for city lights and stayed motionless in the same spot, a perfect model for my shutterbugging. This vainglory trait in him proved to be his undoing as he finally ended up as a delightful mid-nite snack for Pickles the hedgehog. Pickles was extremely pleased to have this delicacy which was such a welcome change from her usual sanitised diet of hedgy or canine food pellets.
A tinge of guilt crossed me as I tossed him into Pickles 's food platter but then I rationalised that in the big scheme of things, the law of the jungle, "survival of the fittest" rules. To survive he should have the gumption to get out of the predicament. There was a big window of opportunity since at the time Pickles was still catching up on her beauty sleep.

Tabernaemontana orientalis

On the other hand, the ants were busy gathering and storing in preparation for a rainy day. A simple lesson but yet so insightful. The Gen Y born with silver spoons in their mouths should heed this. I observe that most of them live like they is no tomorrow. As the Greek Philosopher Aristotle observed way back in 300 BC, and still very relevant today, "The young have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things—and that means having exalted notions."

Some like the nectar and pollen of the whites while others prefer the reds (I can't identify this flower) Whatever their choice there is plenty for them in my little garden of Eden.

Aechmea Chantinii (Bromeliad)
Bigger, darker and aggressive-looking ants tend to seek out the more flamboyant blooms of the bromeliad to hoard up on their food supplies. These showy flowers last for months and always bring a bright spot of colour to the garden. The variegated leaves are thick but edged with viscious thorns, I suppose as a form of protection for its precious bounty. Propagation is simple enough; I started off with one but now there is a huge bunch of them.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tristellateia australasiae

These trusses of bright buttery yellow flowers bloom non-stop throughout the year
. It's a haven for small bees and hurrying ants. I have this planted as a standard and have no qualms about allowing it to scramble over the wall to the neighbour's side which happens to be my parents' house.

This plant is a must-have to the most horticulturally-challenged ever as they exhibit vigorous, uninhibited growth.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quisqualis indica - Tropical August Blooms

Here it is hot throughout the year. At times we wilt with the heat and get exasperated with the high tropical humidity but the plants I planted thrive and flourish with splendour. The sight of showy blooms was like balm to the spirit and their heady fragrance more than made up for all the discomfort.

Quisqualis indica (Single petal) aka Rangoon Creeper, Drunken Sailor

What amazes me about this plant is the bunches of flowers which starts of as white, turning to shades of blushing pink and finally maturing to a flamming red. Fortuitously, as they mature at different times, all three hues can be found on the same cluster. It's a robust plant needing very little care and is easily propagated by runners. The fragrance is particularly stronger at night and is delicate.
This was planted as a standard to keep it tidy and structured. The branches were only allowed to sprawled at the top of the balcony. When the flowers fade, the branches are pruned down hard, up to a third to encourage the next crop of vigorous new growth.
Quisqualis indica (double petal), Bauhenia Kockiana and Bougainvilla Mrs Eva
All three plants clamour for a piece of vertical territory and solar radiance. Long vegetative limbs stretched out languorously and got blisfully entangled in their quest for the energy-boosting sunshine.

Quisqualis indica (double petal)
The double petal variety is lovely and blooms profusely. Branches are heavily laden with clusters. However they are not so easily propagated as they hardly throw out runners. Their fragrance is not as delicate as the single petal ones.

They happily colonised the rain water gutter and stand out as emblems of a cheery floral welcome to all who dropped by.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Crouching Spider Unsuspecting Ant

Crouching Spider Unsuspecting Ant
Costus Woodsonii (Dwarf French Kiss)
This predator, a small species of spider with interesting markings got the whole congregation of ants running helter skelter. I would thought that the whole pack with their sharp mouth-pieces could easily make mince meat out of this arachnid.
Sending the smoke signals to flee

Running helter skelter in a mad scramble to safety
Keeping the family together

This arachnid was later found under a palm frond indulging on his latest largesse - a fly. This eight-legged fella took some time to finish his meal. He ran all over the the frond with his precious meal when I try to photo-shoot him in his murderous act.

He devoured his unfortunate victim with much relish

When the first group of ants have their fill of nectar (around 1 week), another tribe of ants; darker, more stout and with shorter legs took over.

This group of black ants are not complaining of getting left-over food.

These ants appear more communal and keep close to each other, sort of in the same latitude


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