Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Minute Garden Dwellers

My newly planted hoyas are planted in pots hanging on a tube in between two fruit trees in the garden. I saw that spider webs easily appear on the hanging wires, much much faster than any hoya's growth.

I was checking and tending to the hoyas when i accidentally touched the underside of a leaf. I flipped the leaf and saw these scattered frenzy. I thought they are just eggs bursting from the egg mass, but wait, they are actually moving.

Suddenly, a string of white dusts seem to appear moving down along the webs down to another hoya leaf. When i scrutinized it and observed closely, they are very very small spider hatchlings. They suddenly travelled along the webs for fear of their lives. I observed closer, and they are so cute baby spiders!

They are queueing through the provided way of scape, the spider threads.  I guess the spiderlings went down on its own because of the insipient danger, my intrusion, or probably the mother instructed them to run for their lives. 

 They are almost invisible against space, just become obvious when they had this green leaf background.

The mother did not leave its position in the mass of webs supposedly its house under the leaf, clutching the egg mass with its very long legs. 

I've photographed the mother several times, and it didn't try to leave the nest at all,  guarding that mass i suppose is still an egg mass. I wonder why many hatchlings are already out, but still the mother guards this egg shell with its life! If not for the egg mass, it would have suddenly escaped with my constant movement and flipping of the leaf to take its photo. The head is almost transparent, as well as the legs. But the abdomen is horizontally lined and has black thorns. The full length of the mother's body is only about 5 mm, yes that short. The egg mass obviously is bigger than the mother. I don't even know yet what this spider is called, and i will study its habits later. I love being informed of the so many interesting residents in my garden world. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Year-end GBBD!

December is the month when our short-day plants bloom. It is December when the sun is closest to the earth so we get short days, and December 21 is what the earth calls the winter solstice. These plants whose flowering are affected by daylength are called photoperiodic plants. When i was in college I have a little confusion about these plants, because short-day plants are actually those that needed long nights. It is the long nights that trigger them to start flowering and not the short days. So why they are called short-day plants is still a mystery to me. Many commercial plant nurseries take advantage of this capacity to respond to daylength for flowering and treat their plants en masse. This is exemplified by the chrysanthemums, I will not include poinsettias because the mechanism for poinsettias are different.

December daylength doesn't mean the rest of our plants stop blooming during these period. However, the non-photoperiodic ones have been blooming since the start of the rainy season, so they are already mature this time, and some are already preparing for the end of the rainy season, that means start of the dry season. These plants are not anymore at the peak of their flowering beauty. So here they are parading before you, judge them as you please!

These are spray chrysanthemums we just allow growing as a hedge

Chrysanthemum is the only photoperiodic plants we have.

 red roses flower continuously during the rainy season, not photoperiodic

a Justicia hybrid whose identity still eludes me

 Chrysothemis pulchelia, flowers dwindle already starting to fruit

Odontonema strictum or firespike, also prolific these colder days

a dainty lily whose leaves are variegated,  Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata'

Asystasia intrusa

marigolds and Impatiens balsamina

continuously flowering blue Duranta erecta, regardless or season and photoperiod

Alternanthera, white variegated

 Alternanthera hybrid

Sanchezia speciosa, fully vegetative during the rainy months, flower at the dry season

Coleus blumei with Marantha at the back

Hoya diversifolia first flowering but with many simultaneous umbels

 Hoya crassicaulis first bloom, promising a big umbel

Hoya diversifolia, 2nd plant's first flowering

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Scented White Butterflies

A few years ago when my work still demands me to periodically visit far regions in the country, i got some tubers of Hedychium coronarium from a roadside in Bohol. We call it kamya/kamia/camia, known for its subtle fragrance. I remember planting its tubers at the side of the garden with a little bit elevated land. I know the soil there is not as fertile as the rest of the garden, so thought it will lessen the height of these plants, if ever they will survive the dry season. Last year it produced a few dwindling flowers, maybe 2-3 blooms, but i didn't notice the scent that time. Then i forgot all about it. I didn't even check if they are still there behind profuse growth of the Hippeastrum hedge. 

Yes they survived the last year's drought, and last weekend i was at home its presence was surely noticed. The sweet scent permeates the garden and mingled with us while we converged at the terrace.  It was nicely situated on top of other plants with the whites visibly dangling like moths against the green background. That was a very delightful sight. I can forgive its invasiveness, promise! 

 It has already been blooming for several days when i came home.  I checked the spikes and there are still young flower shoots waiting to grow. I think there will still be blooms and perfumed air for this whole week.

They really look like white butterflies, sweetly flying subtley with the wind. I am sure many of you are familiar with this plant. Do you agree with me?

Hedychium coronarium is both an ornamenta and medicinal plant of the ginger family. The young flower buds and flowers are reported to be eaten as food, while all the other parts of the plants are medicinal. It was said that it also has very high antioxidant properties. For some summary of the uses here is one of the references: http://www.stuartxchange.org/Kamia.html

Monday, December 2, 2013

Our Common Hedges

Crotons or Codiaeum variegatum has been here in the country 'since time began', as is commonly said. In my mind it is a native species. However, my search shows it originated from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and western Pacific Ocean islands. That means it is a naturalized species in the Philippines. They grow favorably well here with us, and i love their many varieties and variations of leaves within a variety. Wikipedia said there are several hundred cultivars already bred in crotons. I even found a variety named 'Andreanum', oh maybe i should be planting that one. I hope to convince my neighbors that it is named after me! LOL.

 We have a few of them near the side of the street, serving also as hedge. I noticed that this one plant shows a very distinct brightly orange leaves, with very less green patches like the rest of them. When pruning time comes i hesitate to do that in this special plant. It is at the leftmost part in the photo below.

A clump of them aesthetically grows shorter than the heliconias, so provided a good growth and leaf color contrast. But my special plant at the left-most portion stands out with its bright lighter hues. This clumps of growths also conceal an area in the property which i intentionally hide from the street. And when the heliconias bloom simultaneously, it also provides a good show to the passersby. But not many know that croton's sap is very toxic to humans! Don't be scared, i haven't heard of someone's death caused by croton poisoning.

Another perennial presence with us is the candle flower, Pachystachys lutea.  The top left photo lives up to its name as candle flower, those golden structures are actually the bracts. The real flowers include the white protrusions shown at the right photo. 

The above hedge is the continuation of our hedge next to the crotons and heliconia. It is planted on a sharp slope because of the street below. On top of the hedge are tall fruit trees like santol, duhat and citrus. Further down the candleflowers is a long queue of Dracaena fragrans, which we already cut because they are already very tall and might bend to the passersby during typhoons.

At the other side of the street opposite the crotons are also Dracaena fragrans, which we commonly call fortune plants. The name maybe came from its very seldom flowering habit. But we have been very "fortunate" as we get blooms every year! Some of you who fairly know how the flowers smell like, you decide if the owner is really fortunate at all. When the spikes bloom at the same time, you will not think twice in putting the axe on them, as in you will unhesitatingly guillotine them!

This is the last photo of this dracaena hedge, before my mother and sister decided to cut all of them to just a meter high. With that, flowering will be curtailed this year!