Thursday, December 29, 2011

Colors of Christmas in the Garden

As 2011 is about to end I am looking forward to another 2012 gardening year. Since I began to appreciate gardening I’ve learned that it’s not enough to enjoy and cultivate the plants we grow in our homes. For me, it’s about discovering techniques that apply to a certain situation, understanding ways of nature, planting combinations and it’s about bringing out the person’s creativity as well.

Decorating our homes sometimes reflects our own tastes and personality. When I was still a little girl, green and red used to be the main colors of Christmas. Gold, silver, white and blue were added only to keep the color combinations alive. Today, pink, orange, purple and other colors are widely used and accepted as the manner of decorating our homes continues to evolve in time.
Mayana (Coleus)

I like the combination of deep red to purple and green foliage of mayana (Coleus). I once thought I had uprooted all of them because they tend to grow fast and too tall for my little garden so as result, it looked a bit messy and disorganized. I was surprised to find out one morning tiny sprouts of mayana growing in an orderly manner beside the champagne tree that looked okay for me. I guess they liked the shade the champagne tree is giving them.
Christmas Ti Plant

I used to place these Ti plants in shaded areas but their leaves became dull. I got the result I wanted when I moved them where they could get at least 4-6 hours of sun a day. Ti plants are also known as good luck plant. I was told it would bloom but with that colorful, bright foliage, I think it is better without flowers.

I had two sun loving picara plants but I was only left with one. I love the drama of variegated light green and white combination on top of the leaves with deep red underneath. It makes the plant attractive whenever the deep red underneath the leaves is exposed when flipped.

This red-tipped bromeliad (Neoregelia Fireball) is low maintenance, easy to propagate, requires little care and one of my first acquired bromeliads. In spite of the shiny and glossy, bright red leaves, they leave tiny scratches in my arms from the spiny edges of thick leaves whenever I get to touch them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

High 5 Juice!

Cooking and baking, one of the things that keep most of us busy on a holiday like this.  In the Philippines, Christmas is the longest celebrated occasion since as early as September, Christmas lights can be observed in some homes. Christmas parties are popular in the work places, in schools or in any civic or social organizations and on the eve, it is a tradition to almost everybody to spend it with their loved ones. It is also this time of the year when I feel guilty of indulging myself to irresistible foods whenever I get to be invited to attend such. But no, I won’t let those calories I burned for the whole year through exercise put into waste, I can still enjoy those pastries, carbs,  rich, creamy salads without the guilt. After all, we only get to celebrate Christmas once a year. At least thrice a week, I make it a point to drink juiced vegetables and fruits because I believe in the benefits they bring in keeping me healthy. These 5 raw greens have important components that keep us away from illnesses caused by unconscious exposure to toxins and help in boosting our immune system as well. I call it High 5 Juice because they contain high levels of anti-oxidants in protecting our body from carcinogens and harmful ingredients we get either from inhalation of chemicals or from solutions we apply in our skin. I don’t grow them in my garden for now but hopefully I will in time.

Celery is known not only to lower blood pressure, it also helps in fighting forms of cancer and a good blood cleanser. Cucumber especially the skin and green bell pepper are good source of vitamin A and C. Bitter gourd which is abundant in Asia plays an important role in controlling diabetes. The charantin is believed to lower glucose level in blood that causes diabetes. Ampalaya which is commonly called is a favorite ingredient in an Ilocano dish.  Green apples used to cost a bit higher than any other home-grown fruits so I was relieved to know it is already produced locally. Apples which are high in pectin are also known to possess high levels of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

Since these are juiced raw, it is very imperative to wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove pesticides and bacteria unless you grow them in your own backyard. I may not have the best juice extractor but I guess this is better than using the blender. Honestly, the mixture is not as palatable as any other fruit or vegetable juice because of the bitter gourd added on it but I learned to drink it anyway. The cucumber and green apple help in reducing the bitterness. The temporary bitter taste is nothing compared to the health benefits one can get in the long run. It’s also important to know that it's not contraindicated with the regular medications I am into.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Temperate Torenia

Growing ferns, bromeliads became apparent to me when I realized how essential it is to know how much sunlight your garden should get. I thought I could never have a garden in bloom because of the limited sunlight but as I searched, explored the possibilities of having flowers in the garden, I discovered that there are some flowering plants that thrive well in shaded areas. 

I’ve learned that torenia, which is commonly called wishbone flower require part sun to shade. At first glance, I thought of them as weeds, growing wild and quite unsettled. Appealing, I guess is not the right term for them but in gardening, one can always work with nature, enhancing the uniqueness of every growth one can find in the soil.

Looking closely, the dark blue to violet velvety petals with yellow and white at the center of torenia amuses me. They also come in fuchsia and pink. They make good ground covers to hold the soil or placed hanging in balcony. I just can't resist taking a closer shot at these temperate diminutive blooms!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making of a Dish Garden

It was nearly dusk when we arrived at our destination, where setting was by far more rural than ours. With the cool breeze and serene ambiance, simple living is a way of life; uncomplicated, undisturbed and close to nature. On the contrary, our trip in quest for a container for dish garden was not quite that simple. We almost lost our way along hectares of tall sugarcane plantation but I did enjoy the agricultural scenery especially the sunset moment.

We were accompanied by some ordinary folks and led us to "darapilan" as it is called or local crushers where juices from sugarcanes are extracted. Sugarcane juice is then cooked in these huge containers to produce molasses and made into candy bars, or mixed with native rice cakes. Interestingly, it is not very common to have this kind of large vat nowadays so locals command a high price for it. There it was, almost 4 feet in diameter, 40 kg of cast iron for my container garden. Excited and awed by just looking at it, I was already wondering on how and where to begin with the landscape considering I only had a hand on fish bowls  for my terrariums.




dish garden
Utilizing the available resources, I used white and seven-color pebbles, white stones, some garden decors for the landscape, planted some ferns, combined with sansevieria, prayer plants (maranta), variegated ornamental grass (versicolor), juniper and some little succulents. I had fun in making a dish garden.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Garden Thoughts

Alright. I've changed my blog name. I changed it simply because I am spending more time in the garden when at home. Everyday, I get to see interesting growth sprouting, popping up from stems and branches, developing into mature evergreen foliage. Tending the garden gives me the opportunity to observe closely the ways of nature under blue skies and fresh air. For me, I find it therapeutic in a way and I enjoy the  aesthetic effects it brings to our humble home.

Fascinated by these young fronds with lanugos covering them, grabbing the camera was the next thing I thought of. Just like any newborn babies or mammals, giving utmost care is always essential thing to do. I thought the term lanugo was only used for newborn babies but the term can be applied in young leaves as well. Since I live in a humid climate, misting them daily keeps their moisture but never let them stand in water nor in direct sunlight. 

I had a hard time deciding for the right spot since the foliage are long, almost 4 feet in length and 2 feet wide. They all started out relatively small and I had no idea at first that they could grow that wide. Backyard is not spacious enough with concrete landscape, so container garden and a little wall garden worked best for the area. Almost all plants were propagated in big and small clay pots, fancy containers and plant boxes. Problem arises when the soil starts caking if left unattended for some time. On the other hand, water tends to overflow, washing away the soil from containers so adding garden soil is done every now and then.

Day 1 - I'm....

Day 3 - coming...

Day 5 - out....!

Day 7 - I'm coming out! I want the world to know!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Song of A Bee

Dancing with the wind to and fro
Wings flapping high and low.
Under the sun and into the yellow
Flower bush I hover, I dangle
I flutter, flitter and flicker.

Sweet efflorescence
Enchantingly quiet.
So elegant with petals so delicate
I wonder where your dainty colors come from?
Is it from the fronds?
Is it from the sepals that hold
Your heads up high?

Pardon me
You caught my assiduity.
Your scent kept me captivated.
Lingering paradise in the cloverleaf
I am enthralled by your simplicity.
Bestow upon me  
The magic you bring
This is why I can prance and sing!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

One Stormy Morning

The grounds were soaking wet, trees were swaying high and low as the wind howled, wailed concomitantly with the heavy downpour across the region. It's not the best time of the year because typhoons occur and will last until the month of November. So much crops and produce are wasted, desolated by intense storms and extreme weather conditions.

Startled by the call of my son one stormy morning in the garden, quickly I rushed to him to find out what was it all about. Unexpectedly, there in the garden, we found  litter of tiny baby hamsters, so pink and bald in Koko's bedding box! She was pregnant after all. Shocked and excited at the sight of the little cute creatures, capturing the moment was the next thing I did. I thought there were only two of them but Koko had four in all. Hang on, little friends, mommy Koko's gonna protect you from this monster storm...Congratulations, Koko! Say cheese...

I have no plans of breeding hamsters so I guess I'll leave that to my son with his guinea pigs and african love birds aside from his other pets I mentioned from my previous post.

Despite the stormy weather, my little garden never fails to give me simple joys I will keep. Thank you, garden.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


My son's passion for pets gave me the idea on how to start with terrariums. His gold fish, fighting fish, gecko, redeared slider turtle and even super worms used to live in those fish bowls when all they needed was a little room for their sizes. But as their sizes increased and some grew in numbers,  bigger rooms were needed for them so there went the fish bowls, set aside in the corner, waiting, wondering what's gonna happen to them next.

Terrarium was started by Dr. Nathaniel Ward in the 1800s. His experiments with indoor plants led him to discover how plants can grow well in closed containers. Bell jars were commonly used as containers for terrariums but any glass container will do. A dish garden is even simpler by creating a miniature garden and landscapes. Delighted by the thought of having my own terrarium, I made use of the fish bowls as containers.

So there went those fish bowls, now my miniature garden. Misting the plants would make the plants moist because too much water would ruin them. I used pebbles, gravel and sand at the bottom topped with moist soil before planting. After several attempts of planting, choosing what type of plants that would be suitable in the container, I settled for white grass, fern and two other plants I have yet to identify. Ceramic shells, decorative stones were added for interest.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Little Garden Guests

Starting out with gardening was quite fun but as I went on appreciating, discovering and learning the ropes of the new found hobby, I began to encounter several visitors that made me frown, some of them not that friendly to my plants. Frustrated and annoyed by their presence, I began to understand how nature works in my own little yard. Slowly, my attitude towards these unwanted visitors changed as I call to mind  "planting a little extra for the bugs."

Rainy season keeps the soil moist most of the time so with that I am spared from watering the plants. Even with enough drainage, soil gets muddy, surroundings damp. I panic everytime I see snails and slugs crawling, leaving iridescent trail on the walls and feeding holes on the leaves. Getting rid of them is by simply sprinkling them with salt causing their bodies to dry up and shrink. Crushing them would be too messy. During dry season, they bury themselves in moist ground, under barks of trees or stones. I usually encounter them early in the morning.
Gastropods Mollusks

Other visitors during rainy days are the millipedes. Though friendlier and harmless than the terrifying centipedes, I make it a point to get rid of them as they tend to multiply fast if ignored. They are friendlier in such a way that they don't bite, and they go for decaying and dead plants for their nourishment. Millipedes protect themselves from predators by rolling into a ball. They love to stay in cracks of  damp walls or concrete floors so during excessive rains, they tend to go out and look for a safer, and moist place but not wet. Maintaining the place dry which is impossible during rainy days is the only way to decrease millipedes so I try to sweep the water off from the concrete floors and secondly, I get rid of them by my hands. Nothing to worry about because they don't hurt and they move slowly. They emit a stinky odor when crushed.  


Whiteflies are in a way related to aphids. The stick under leaves, stems and even in the petals. They are more difficult to eradicate and a real garden pests, they just keep on coming back. Using pesticide would not be an option because kids love to play in the yard so I go for milder and safer ones which is spraying them with soap and water.

Dragonflies are frequent and favorite guests of all. I find them rather useful than any other insects that can be found in the yard because they eat insects particularly mosquitoes (another very unwanted visitors) that can cause hemorrhagic disease which is considered to be endemic in the area. Dragonflies are commonly found near ponds and lakes because young dragonflies are aquatic. One of my favorite things to do when I was in grade school was catching dragonflies, and then letting them go, watching them fly from one plant to another. For me they look like tiny soundless choppers, flying low, with their own different and distinctive colors. I just love to see a dragonfly on top of a water plant in a pond, too bad I don't have one in the yard.

It is quite amazing to discover how plants, insects and pests are interrelated and somehow influenced by each other. Nature has its own way of maintaining the garden ecosystem and it's up to the gardener how to manage and control these pests and diseases.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Fukien Tea Ball

Good thing I was able to plant new fukien tea balls in my garden a couple of days ago or else typhoon  Falcon would not allow me to tend my garden have I waited for this weekend to come. I had uprooted several old mayanas in exchange for fukien tea balls and I'm quite satisfied with it. Honestly, I had no idea what the name of that plant was until I asked manong where I bought several of them. Knowing how to maintain Fukien tea balls is basically an advantage so one can keep its rounded form. So it's called a Fukien Tea Ball, apparently it resembles a dragon tea ball used during Chinese New Year that's why it's called as such.  

I left some empty spaces along those fukien tea balls as I'm still figuring out what plants are best beside them. I decided to retain some mayanas so there would be variations in colors.

Perhaps growing a Mother-in-law's tongue or devil's tongue, also known as Sansevieria with its elongated leaves bearing yellow and green stripes would be suitable enough in contrast to the shapes of fukien tea balls. Benefits of Sansevieria are believed to have pollution-buster effects so I make it a point to have at least a couple of them in pots anywhere in the yard. The latter tend to grow by division so propagating them is not a problem although they tend to grow faster than other plants.

The only thing is that I just hope there would be no more headlong rains, understandably it's rainy season. Advantages are: tipid sa sa tubig pandilig, tipid sa aircon. Disadvantages are: floods, landslides, suspension of classes, possible power interruptions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bird's Nest

I started acquiring ornamental plants in the yard just to occupy the empty spaces outside our home. It was only 5 years ago when I started propagating  and growing rainforest plants. Choosing rainforest plants was my option because of the limited sunlight we have in our yard. I don't know what's with rainforest plants but I am always fascinated how wild they grow like the asplenium species in particular or also known as the bird's nest. It was named as such because the center of the plant resembles a bird's nest.  I tried taking care of orchids but unfortunately none of them survived under my care so I ended up taking care of brohmeliads and ferns. Perhaps it's because these are low-maintenance unlike orchids, you have to give full time in propagating and caring for them which I practically cannot deliver because of my work. I love to see the drama of naturally growing ferns in trees,  as indoor plants or in greenhouses as well.

5-year old bird's nest
I also found out that bird's nest don't thrive well in direct sunlight, only in morning sun, so I made it a point to grow my bird's nests where the only morning sun is possible. Keeping the soil moist at all times is the key to a healthy bird's nest. Make sure you drain the soil well enough though. Because of extreme heat in our place, I try to water them two to three times a day.

3-year old fern

I was able to grow these ferns this big when I started transplanting them in larger containers. The larger the containers are, the bigger they would grow. What's nice about these plants is that its roots are relatively small for their large fronds. Wiping the fronds using a cotton cloth with plain clean water maintain the glossy appearance of the foliage. When I was just starting the hobby, I attempted to wipe them with egg white to sustain their shine but unluckily it didn't work out well. The fronds began to turn brown and eventually burned the leaves. Little did I know that with just wiping them from tip to bottom with clean damp cloth will do the trick.

unfurled fronds

I always look forward in seeing new unfurled fronds at the center. I think it would only take weeks before they would unfold so click, click, I took the shots of my babies!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

National Artist

One of the most unforgettable trips we had last summer was when we got to meet a National Artist, Ben Cabrera, also known as BenCab in his museum up north in Baguio City. Art savvy I'm not, but well, based from the hemispheres of the brain, which we call the right brain and the left brain, I guess my right side of the brain which is associated with creativity and artistic side of a person is more dominant than my left brain. While the left brain deals with the analytical and logical thinking, it is understood that it is associated more with numbers or arithmetic and problem-solving. After all, nursing is an art, too so I guess that explains it all.

We almost lost our way to the museum if not for the several signs of  "this way to BenCab Museum" mounted along the long and winding Asin Road. Since it was our first time to drop in, reaching our destination seemed to take a little longer than going back home. Eventually our journey that appeared to be endless paid off when I saw "the Master" (as what my BFF called him) in person!

with the "Master"
Fortunately, I was able to have this shot with the Master (with my hubby who took the shot) while he was busy signing for autographs. Apparently he was introduced to us by a friend who happens to be a bonsai enthusiast like him (BenCab) so I requested for this photo. He is such a cool, levelheaded man!

BenCab Gallery
Me and my little girl
Some of his famous paintings can be seen in the BenCab Gallery. His museum consist of several galleries where various kinds of art works are exhibited. Since I'm talking about art, you might want to visit one of his galleries with "interesting" artworks where kids are not allowed to enter, if you know what I mean. My kids, curious as ever were able to snoop around while papa and mama where enjoying having the pictorial. 

My kids with a collection of carvings of bul-ol or Ifugao rice gods 
Some of BenCab's collection done by different distinguished artists as well

Impressive garden and a gazebo surrounded by a lake

His vast plantation of vegetables, corns, palay,  fruits, an added attraction 
I noticed that there were several photographers around taking photos of the scenery and  the sunset. I wonder what magnolia skies they are talking about. If you have an idea, please don't hesitate to comment what that means, thanks!

Entrance fee is 100.00. Not bad considering you'll get to meet a renowned artist in person and catch a glimpse of his acclaimed various works of art:  from paintings, sculptures, wood carvings,  photography, even gardens and landscapes. The location of the museum was conscientiously built away from the bustling city where one can oversee and appreciate the spectacular sunrise, sunset and the splendid scenery of nature. Souvenirs such as shirts, hats, caps, bul-ol carvings to name a few can also be acquired in the museum at a very reasonable price. 

These Hands