Monday, April 23, 2012

Saving For Rainy Days

As Mr. Sun continues to cast its sweltering, glowing rays to the earth's surface, a parade of ants of different kinds are common sight in the garden. I thought the kids might be leaving crumbs of food since they often eat in the yard that was why ants kept coming back, I made it a point to keep the grounds clean. Always. But these tiny workers and soldiers alike just love to march along the ground. Puzzled, I asked our helper why such minute creatures never get tired of walking, traversing the ground the whole day, everyday.  I always get the same answer: since it is summer time, those ants are just "saving for rainy days," as the saying goes.

 fire ant workers
marching little red ants
So, are these ants good or bad in the garden? First, bad because of what I hated most about them. These tenacious little creatures called fire ants have vicious sting that is painful and can be dangerous enough to cause some allergic reactions or something close to that effect. Unknowingly, they would be creeping, crawling fast to my feet and up towards the extremities and bite then the next thing I knew I was stamping them away like crazy. Oh, how those burning, piercing stings itch afterwards!
 fire ant up close
Ants can loosen the soil in young plants, causing them to die. I've noticed that ants are always present when aphids thrive in plants. Spraying a mixture of water and detergent helps in getting rid of them both. Attacking my son's newborn hamsters was the worst thing they ever did. Like the carnivorous piranhas, fire ants devoured all nine baby hamsters in just a day. Horrible!

baby hamsters
So much for the gory part. On the positive side, these little social insects can improve air circulation in the soil, improving water drainage with their burrows. In short stories, ants are always perceived to be hardworking, helpful and industrious creatures. Aside from being such, they seem to be brave soldiers, ready to defend their queen and their kingdom come hell or high waters. Anything that causes disturbance in their turf means war. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Simple Treats

School has ended and that means taking a break from helping the kids out in completing their school assignments, accomplishing projects in every subjects and reviewing for their final exams as well. While the kids can call it a day from their daily school activities and the start of their playful summer vacation, I guess I deserve a simple treat for myself: more time in the garden and blogging (which includes updating my profile), visiting some of my favorite plant shops and go buy some few plants.

My eyes feasted at the sight of Platyceriums and Aspleniums upon visiting my favorite plant store. Compared to Asplenium, Platycerium such as P. Coronarium is by far quite costly. When I started appreciating ferns, I can only afford to purchase the not-so-expensive ones, thinking they might not be able to survive in my own care. With some happy and a few heartbreaking moments and with lots of trial and error experimentation, little by little I came to accept the fact that gardening is not only learning how to plant. It includes determining the peculiarities of the weather conditions, knowing some facts about the soil and discovering the uniqueness of one's own home that will someday be called the new habitat of plants. I came to learn the art of suppressing sentimental  attachments if an infested plant has no hope of survival. A terminally ill plant will only threaten the well-being of other plants so I might as well get rid of it. Although gardening may seem an extravagant claim, the excitement and experiencing the wonders of every new growth is always magical and just  as rewarding to me.

Plant store with different kinds of ferns and garden blooms
In my attempt to grow a Heliconia Rostrata, I find it challenging as I am faced with some garden pests. Since it thrives in almost wet and moist soil most of the time, slugs and snails are common problem. This false bird of paradise to me is like the inflorescence of the Vriesea bromeliad, one of the first bromeliads I have. Although totally different from each other, I find the red and yellow-tipped blooms of both plants colorful and eye-catching in the garden.
Heliconia Rostrata or Lobster's claw
Vriesea bromeliad or flaming sword
Along with the H. Rostrata, I also purchased a few plants with berry-like drupes and tiny blooms that come in white and cherry red.
Medenilla with cherry red berry drupes
Medenilla with white berry drupes

After transplanting these newcomers into their new abode, an unexpected intruder came along....waiting to be kissed to be with his princess...
 Toad, Anura Bufonidae

These Hands