Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy to be back in Kuching

I am back in Kuching and happy to arrive here safely after a nine hours journey by road yesterday. On this trip my four cats joined me to clock their additional 600 km in their attempt to create the Malaysian record for the most travelled cats in Malaysia.
It was a joyful moment when I found after arriving at our residence that the hibiscus plant and the frangipani tree were flowering. My arrival was well greeted by them. I brought them in and immediately placed them inside the vase. For a lovely journey through the length of Sarawak ( almost) I name this composition as...Happy to be back in Kuching.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oriental Rhapsody

Yesterday I did the compositions based on the rose and canna flowers. Today I continue using the same flowers but have placed them in a yellow bamboo culm like so.
Arrangement # 55
Here I have retained some fresh leaves of the bamboo to give that 'Chinese painting' strokes effect to the composition. To accentuate the sense of height to the composition I added four leaves of the variegated ophiopogon (Ophiopogon jaburan variegatum). Landscapers usually use the ophiopogon as a cover plant and typically planted en masse. It is a low perennial turf with pale green/white linear leaves.
Arrangement # 56
In the above composition, I have kept the bamboo culm standing on a banana leaf and placed the fragrant flowers of the White Ginger Lily ( Hedychium coronarium ) at the base to add interest and overall scent to the room. Can't resist to call this composition...Oriental Rhapsody

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Simple But Elegant

Sometime early last month when I was in Kuching, friends of mine gave me a few rooted cuttings of roses ( Rosa ) and a couple of canna rootstocks.I like canna especially the newly hybrid species which have more modern colours.  I have never been a diehard fan of  roses but to my surprise I saw one in full bloom this morning, the very few roses that I have just begun planting . It has a soft pink colour.  Lucky me, next to this tiny rose plant was a canna hybrid with one stalk in full flowers.  With these two flowers in hand the concept I had in mind was' simple yet elegant '.How would I express it with a rose an a canna?
In its simplest form I thought , the presentation above is very economical, minimalist, back to basics, simple and straight. The yellow bamboo culm is used to enhance the uniqueness and stately nature of the flower.
Arrangement # 54
Lastly to add interest to the composition , I threw in three leaves of the begonia plant . I will now leave you to admire the composition while I recite Shakespeare on roses:
Of all flowers ,
Methinks a rose is best
Why gentle madam?
It is the very embleme of a maide
For when the west wind courts her gently,
How modestly she blows, and paints the sun,
With her chaste blushes.

Now methinks, the above composition should be named......Simple But Elegant.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In Memory Of.......

Arrangement # 53
I was walking around my chalet late this afternoon when the fragrance in the air directed me to a pair of flowering White Ginger Lily ( Hedychium coroncarium ). Instinctly I made a cutting of them and looked around for some foliage to match. The colourful young foliage of the Penaga ( Mesua ferrea) or sometimes referred to as Ironwood Tree and the showy Golden Netbush ( Pseuderanthemum reticulatum) crossed my path. Then I thought I needed another colour to add variety and mood. I went to a corner of the garden where I planted bignonia( Bignonia magnifica) and took three flowering stalk. Happy with the collection I rushed in to my study room and made a composition which is difficult to describe in words but in brief represented youth, fragrance, mellow feeling , a feeling of losing someone dear .....I therefore dedicate this composition to.......In Memory Of........

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flower Boat Series ( 1)

Arrangement # 52
Today I decided to make a floral arrangement based on the idea of the 'flower boat '.  This will be the first in the series. Today's arrangement included two types of red and deep orangish flowers and the white gardenias.  They are placed on a young frond of the bird's nest fern ( Asplenium nidus) and some broad leaves of the Red Ti ( Cordyline terminalis) and the banana leaf.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Parrot Flower and Warm Delights

Three types of flowers struck my senses today and they come in various tones and hues of bright yellow, orange, light pink, pale red and blood red.  Such an interesting array of warm colours fill my heart to the brim of joy.  The parrot flower ( Heliconia psittacorum) was my top tier choice , the middle rung was filled with slightly older inflorescences of bleeding hearts ( Clerodendrum thomsoniae) and the foreground was a crowd of hibiscus hybrid.  Would very much like to name the composition....Parrot flower and warm delights.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mistaken Me

Arrangement# 50
The composition I do today is entitled ' Mistaken Me'  for a reason. I had this particular parrot flower (Heliconia psittacorum) which I collected a few months ago and today bore its first infloresscene.  It has dull orange bracts and green tipped.  This inflorescence is much smaller than the other two parrot flower varieties that I added in to the display.One having very bright orange colours and the other dark yellow colours. When I discovered the dull orange variety flowering today, my enthusiasm increased and I spent sometime looking for more facts.  I found these interesting facts:
  • The word 'Heliconia' is derived from 'Mount Helicon" which was the Greek Seat of the Muses.
  • Heliconia belongs to the ' Musaceae ' family i.e. the Banana family and though related to the 'Bird of Paradise ' they are not of the same species since the Bird of Paradise' belongs to the Strelitzia.
  • Heliconia psittacorum  have canna like leaves and therefore wrongly referred to as 'Japanese Canna'. For some others, they just call it simply ' False Japanese Canna'
A CU view of bright orange Parrot Flower( Heliconia psittacorum)
A MS view of dark yellow Parrot Flower ( Heliconia psittacorum)
The red fruits from the curry leaves tree are added to suggest the idea that my earlier venture in planting this new heliconia variety at my farm has borne fruits.
Hopefully from now on I will not mistake the heliconia with the strelitzia. Else it's just like getting confused between a 'parrot' with the 'bird of paradise'.
In their silence, they seem to tell me....Don't Mistake Me Again :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Local Maiden

Arrangement# 49
Lest I forget, there is a local beauty this is well, just ordinary,a commoner, mundane and oh! so beautiful.  Today I take pride in composing an arrangement for this special beauty of mine. The flower is large and yellow with pale cream stamens. The seeds pod once split opened reveals red-fleshed seeds that are appetising to the birds. The mature leaves are used as 'throw away plates', young leaves are eaten raw as salad and sometimes used to wrap fermented rice overnight. It is such a useful plant that a lot of people take it for granted.  It is the Shrubby Dillenia ( Dillenia suffruticosa) which the locals in Bintulu call ' Simpoh Air). To know more about this plant please check it out at my other weblog.
After what's said and done,I call the above composition...My Local Maiden.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fragrant Lady

I consider myself lucky today to have stumbled upon this fragrant White Ginger beauty ( Hedychium coronarium ) as I started to start  my daily inspection routine. The one above is just ten meters behind my chalet and without further ado I brought it in to have its scent perfume  the living room.  Observe the green flower spike from which popped out ten white satiny blooms.  Its lush green leaves are charateristic of the species which is prevalent from India right to the South East Asian region , and therefore native even to places like Bintulu. They love semi-shade conditions and rich peaty soil. 
Arrangement # 47
I have endeavoured firstly to make a simple presentation, clean and simple.  Just a flower spike of ten blooms, a heliconia inflorescence with its outer bracts removed and a few petals of yellow allamanda in a glass filled with water to make the blooms last till tonight . Indeed the White Ginger fragrance can last for at least one full day and night long.  Who needs room refresher?  Upon further reflection I feel that something is missing. This first display looks kind of simple , yet elegant. So I call this display simply...White Fragrance. 
Arrangement # 48
I quickly rushed out to get two broad leaves , in order to accentuate the broad-petalled flowers of the hedychium and its deep green flower spike. Some people also name this plant Ginger Lily, probably on account of it being an excellent cut flower.  Anyway, I feel I have achieved what I thought has been missing in the first display. With another stalk of heliconia added the impression of slender dance-like fingers of a young lady is achieved.  By the way, the fragrance is heady strong even while I am typing this post. This White Ginger must be the sweetest of all.  It would be unthinkable if I don't name this composition...Fragrant  Lady.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bright Youthful Days

Arrangement # 46
What arrangement can I do today in ten minutes and still looks , well..good? It has been raining the whole day yesterday ( 21/7) and this morning it continues to shower heavily since dawn. Therefore I decided to do a very quick presentation. Yellow allamandas ( Allamanda cathartica) are in abundance in my farm. With an umbrella ready I went out in the rain and collected a few bunches of trumpet-like yellow allamanda flowers. Rushed back to my chalet ( I call home) and placed them in a nice little vase, next to a clay statue that I did as an art student forty years ago. There you are ! A ten minutes presentation done and a wonderful reminder of my youthful days some forty years ago.
The Allamanda shrub plant are now grown every where in Malaysia and a favourite for landscaped gardens, parks or homes due to its free flowering nature, rich and glossy green leaves and easy maintenenace. They can be easily propagated by cuttings and thus easily obtainable in large quantities if you decide to plant them in long beds to enjoy its masses of yellow colours later.
Wow, it takes more time for me to draft this blog post than make the above composition. Anyhow, I would like to call the above composition.....Bright Youthful Days.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My Mild White Beauty

There is a beautiful white bougainvillea plant in front of my chalet that has been flowering about a week ago.  It has been on my mind for quite sometime before to make a composition based on the white bougainvillea( Bougainvillea glabra alba) . First, I would like to introduce one of my favourite bougainvillea species called  Bougainvillea poultinii that have striking dark pink/red bracts as shown  below. I took this picture while on the way to attend Friday prayers at Bintulu's Assyakiriin Mosque sometime ago.

The beauty of the white vaiety can be seen from the picture on the right .  Its colours are almost snow white. For that matter the white variety is normally referred to as ' alba' meaning white. As can be seen here, bogainvilleas are extremely showy on well-drained soil and best planted in the open sun. They can be planted in pots, beds, planter boxes, pergolas, arches and many more places where you think a good display of climbers and colours  is required. Besides white, bougainvilleas appear in colours of red, pink, purple, orange, yellow or in combinations on the same plant.
LaLately it is quite fashionable  to plant bougainvilleas in oversized pots.  It is generally acknowledged that bougainvilleas can thrive in restricted areas like in potty environment since this practice will encourage flowering because pots tend to stress the roots, thus stimulating the plant to flower. 
My choice today is the white bogainvllea that stands pretty in front of my chalet.  Just this morning ( 21/7) I cut a stalk and placed it in a green perforated clay vase.  To keep in tune with the general tones and hues of white and green of the composition, I placed a few variegated white/green leaves of the caladium and polyscias species to give a fresh green wash to the composition. By doing so I thought would render the white brilliance more mild..  thus I call this composition....My Mild White Beauty.
 Arrangement# 45

Plain Beauty

I had an early morning walk with my four cats this morning.  I am trying hard to train them  following my footsteps while climbing the hill.  They have so far managed to do it very well.  After about fifteen minutes of walking them , then food is served.  This routine normally starts around 6.30 am. when the morning light appears and the mosquitoes are still in slumber( think so).  This morning I saw a wild orchid clump flowering next to the oil palm tree.
I have yet to get the actual name for this orchid but I bet it belongs to the Arundina family of which the most common one being the 'Bamboo Orchid' ( Arundina graminfolia) . Don't have the picture of the bamboo orchid yet. Anyway, while the bamboo orchid has small rosy mauve flowers the one in the picture above has white flowers. I guess because it has white flowers and so prevalent here that makes it not worth collecting. The habits of this orchid plant is that it prefers to live in a crowd and resembles tall grass.  The generic name ' Arundo' is derived from Latin meaning reed ( i.e the stem resembling that of a reed).  I took a few cuttings of its flowers and decided to display them in today's composition.
On second thought, since I don't have many of the orchid blooms today, why not add some wild Straits Rhododendron ( Melastoma malabathrium)?  In my eco-farm this free-flowering shrub can be found everywhere in the open and sunny places. The above picture shows the dark pink colours of the Straits Rhododendron flower.  Go zoom in to the picture and you'll notice the oval fruits which are frequented by the butterflies and birds.  The oval fruits when ripe are purplish-black.  I had fond memories of eating these fruits in my childhood days.  In our local dialect we call the plant, 'Senduduk'. Children like to eat the fruits and as a result get their tonques stained black. ( Hence, the name melastoma which in Greek means 'black mouth'.)
Arrangement # 41
Arrangement# 42
Arrangement # 43
Arrangement # 44
The above compositions are based on wild and free-flowering plants, available any moment of the day at the farm.  There are too common and taken for granted. But not for me. I have decided to name the above composition....Plain Beauty. 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hibiscus and High Places

I am still not over from my hibiscus infatuation.  Tell you the truth, the red hibiscus flowers do really steal my attention. Keeps me wondering what is that special quality that makes  it so lovely? Hibiscus flowers do not last long when cut, a full day is just about it. Though it is a common practice here that if you cut it early in the morning, you need to keep it in the refrigerator without water  so that they can be used in the evening.  Probably the reason why I fall in love with the red hibiscus flower is that it is available anytime of the day for the picking since they are free flowering.  Secondly, in Malaysia it is the national flower and therefore has achieved a queenly status. This 'queen' of flowers in Malaysia is called "Bunga Raya"( Bunga means flower and Raya connotes the idea that it is found every where in  Malaysia, in gardens ( private, public and palaces) in towns, villages and cities. In pots, beds and in flower arrangement..... like below
Arrangement # 41
I would like to name the above composition ... My Everyday Love.
 Arrangement # 42

Now, while the hibiscus has its queenly status, the Pagoda Flower ( Clerodendrum paniculatum) has flowers on tiers and therefore reminds me of high places. I shall call the above display...In High Places.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Merry Hibiscus Flower Boat

This morning I had an early morning walk with my cats.  We climbed the Vegetation Island No.1 Hill and later they followed me to the east valley area of the farm where I planted beds of hibiscus plants.  The red hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia and Hawaii as well.  Next to the hibiscus collection was this flowering yellow palm tree ( Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), shown below.  From this plant I took a branch of its half-ripe green fruits which seeemed a likely candidate for today's display.
A few meters away from the yellow palm was this beautiful agave plant.  On closer examination, I discovered that the leavs are somewhat cupped and I thought they looked much like a boat.  Immediately the idea of a 'flower boat' composition filled the air. In the wink of an eye,my attention was re-directed to the hibiscus beds and in a blink, the concept that whirled in my mind was...hibiscus flower boat.
When I was thinking what are the other plants that can be loaded into the flower boat, a butterly flew past me and I followed it to its pit stop. Lucky me , the butterfly was sucking honey at a nearby pagoda flower plant ( Clerondendrum paniculatum) . Well, think no more. The huge panicles of small salmon pink flowers of the pagoda flower would resonate well with the red hibiscus flowers.
Thus within minutes ( I think about ten minutes , no more or else the cats will disappear from sight ) the morning's composition was determined.
Firstly, to provide content or load to the flower boat I placed the yellow palm fruits at the base of the agave leaf . The red hibiscus filled up the middle and top end of the leaf.,like so.
Ok, it looks good so far. I have placed the agave leaf on an upturned banana leaf to obtain the  effect of waves in motion.
Then I saw on my way back to the chalet a cluster of dwarf yellow allamanda flowers ( Allamanda cathartica).While the red hibiscus petals are single and funnel-shaped, the yellow allamanda flowers have awhorled-leaf arrangement.
Arrangement # 39
Finally, to add merry making and a  mood of festivity to the occassion, I placed the pagoda flowers in between the red hibiscus and yellow allamanda flowers.Satisfied with the composition.. I named it..a Merry Hibiscus Flower boat.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Explosive Desires

I have more time this afternoon to walk around the garden. To my excitement I saw a rounded shrub of Jungle Geranium (Ixora coccinea) flowering . Thought I," Hmm..How to show its rich orange colour, so condensed and exuberant?". Then I stumbled upon an area where I planted the silhouette plants ( Dracaena marginata tricolour), with its dagger-like leaves shooting into space and in multi -colours too.While I cut the tip of its young colourful foliage the idea of 'explosion, reaching out and indeed bursting of energy, desires and passion ' zoomed passed my head. In a nick of time I was busy composing " Explosive Desires" for that's what I thought the concept of the presentation ought to be.
Arrangement # 38
The idea of explosive desires kept me thinking, "What if you are feeling on top of the world and feeling its heaven up there? What about the reality? One cannot be too confident and therefore I thought the composition needed grounding on reality. Therefore I chose the heliconia bracts that are strong orange in colour to provide balance , resemblance and a much needed 'reality check'. Then again I thought if the show has to go on, Why not share the sweet sucess with the fragrant gardenias?. They aren't in the composition to steal the show but sharing the excitement of the moment.
Arrangement # 39
The above is the final result of the my eagerness to have the explosive desires in check and sharing the sweet success as in the sweet perfumes of the gardenia.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Wings of Passion

Continuing with my infatuation on the lilac coloured bracts of the wild banana, I have today decided to accentuate the uprightness of the terminal spike by combining it with the long straight leaves of the fragrant 'pandan' ( Pandanus amaryllifolius). For many Malay ladies the leaves of the fragrant pandan are used in flavourings and also placed in some corners of the kitchen to get rid of unpleasant smell.

Arrangement# 36

Arrangement # 37

Next, I added two monstera leaves and three species of heliconia bracts with the lilac coloured spike. I like to name this composition.......On Wings of Passion. ( on account of the wing-like shape of the monstera leaves)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Exotic Lilac Spike

This is how beautiful the exotic lilac coloured bracts of
the wild banana plant looked this morning before
I decided to make a cutting of it.
I thought firstly to create a minimalist display of it.
I took the pink terminal spike and inserted it into this beautiful piece of well seasoned wood.
Arrangement # 34
To make a more classy presentation, I placed it inside a drinking glass and filled it with the fruits of the sea grapes. Then I filled the glass with rose syrup water to create appeal and excitement to the composition.
Arrangement # 35
Finally I took the glass outside and displayed it against a rough concrete wall to add texture and feel to the display.From all the above composition, I could think of only one name.....Exotic Lilac Spike

Something Different, Something Great!

I wasn't able to post for about two days recently due to a minor hiccup in my computer system. As at today(14/7) things are normalising. There is however something great happening at the farm. I had planted one species of the wild banana(Musa violascens) about a year ago at the farm. Towards the end of last week I noticed a remarkable show. The wild banana tree ( note that this wild species will only attain a maximum of 6 feet) has started to flower. Below is the banana plant which I collected a year ago from the Bintulu Water Catchment area. So far I have only two stands of this species. This one is at the outer section of the Heliconia Valley Project area and planted next to a big tree stump for micro-climatic reasons. True to the banana family, they need the sun to flower. At this location it receives the afternoon and evening sun at its optimum.

Below is how it look today in close up. Typical of wild bananas, the inflorescence are upright., unlike the common banana that has purple bracts and pendulous, the wild banana here has lilac( i.e. pale-pinkish violet bracts). Wild bananas need to be pollinated, some say by bats, others say by birds and a few others say by bees. Nothing so conclusive. Because nobody bothers to really study them in the jungle!!!

Anyway, the bats, birds and bees are always attracted to the flower due to its colour, sour-sweet smell and nectar. Its peculiar colour and dwarf status makes it a popular choice of landscapers for its curiosity value and architecture.

Truly such a magnificent show at the beginning stage( taken a few days earlier) keeps me excited at composing a display soon.....Hopefully by tomorrow.

Monsterous Passion


This arrangement is a variation from the previous one. A fresh spray of bleeding hearts flowers , four buds of Bignonia , a wild pineapple fruit and the very young bracts of the banana taken from its core are served on the leaf of the Monstera species. It appears that since the composition is served on the monstera leaf... I am tempted to call this display....a Monsterous Passion.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Passionately Wild

Arrangement #32

A miniature fruit of a dwarf wild pineapple species is placed in the center of four white bracts from the core of a banana flower spike. A tiny spray of bleeding hearts flowers is added to invoke passion. Served on an exotic leaf, the tip of a red bract is introduced to accentuate the exquisiteness of the composition. A rare show of passion gone wild...gets me obsessed with naming the composition......Passionately Wild.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sassy White Flower Boat.

Arrangement # 31
You have to take this presentation in stride. First, an earlier presentation was based on the minimalistic notion. ( See Arrangement #30 below). Pure and basic purple bracts and white flowers of the heliconia, served on a banana leaf.

The above is the final arrangement, minus minimalism. Here I combine the virtues or goodness of sassy pink with gardenia. Thus I call this arrangement...Sassy White Flower Boat. Sometimes I feel minimalism has its place. When the idea is economy, then scarcity , basic needs and of course budgetary concern are of prime importance. It is good lifestyle for a change. That's why I thought the arrangement below is a complete piece by itself. But sometimes we need to spice our life ( a little bit) , then the concept of minimalism will no longer applies. Other concerns come into focus - e.g chaotic gaiety,
Arrangement # 30

I still love the above composition for its simplicity and economy .

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sassy Flower Boat

Arrangement# 29

Still on the minimalist streak. I peeled of the pink bracts of the heliconia 'sassy pink' to expose the young buds. Had two of them placed inside the banana bracts, and then reflected... Oh! want a decisive statement. The title of the composition is naturally.....Sassy Flower Boat.