Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Peachy future?

Two years ago, to the day, I posted about my peach tree which had gone from being a "flowering peach tree" to something more.  It had begun to produce fruits, albeit very small ones.  I was interested to see whether it was an issue of maturity for the tree or if my tree would never produce edible fruits.

The tree was a gift in 2007, when I was offered my first real job.  At that time it stood about waist high and was covered in little puffs of pink and magenta.  At that point, it was cute.  Today it stands tall and proud, with enough breadth and density to provide shade for our cars in the driveway.

This year I feel like I am closer to having an answer about the likelihood of there being edible fruit in my future.  They aren't there yet, but they are getting larger with a lot more fruit around the seed.

Let's take a look back over the years...

Spring 2008
Spring 2009
Spring 2010
Spring 2010
Late Summer 2010
Skip ahead two years and see the difference:

Summer 2012
Summer 2012
Some of the fruits are getting close to eating size, but none have actually ripened yet.  Everyday there are about 15 fruits on the ground, that I have to pick up and throw away so we don't run over them on the driveway.  I've been taking loads of peaches to the curb on yard waste day.  Some of these peaches and their ground pits will make it back to our garden next year when we go to get a load from the city compost facility.

Summer 2012
If this year is any indication, I think we'll be up to our ears in peaches next year.  We better start looking up recipes!  Mark your calendars: Next September there will be a peach party at my house.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Trip Report: Begonia of the Cloud Forest

I am not an expert when it comes to Begonia.  There are so many species, even more cultivars and hybrids, and since I don't actively collect these plants, there is really no hope of me ever being able to identify more than a handful of them.



I have seen my share of unique, and bizarre Begonia.  The Cloud Forest didn't have anything really bizarre, but they had some really beautiful Begonia.  So, rather than flap my jowls, I'm going to just let you view these pictures in silence.



I promised not to babble too much with this post, but don't you think that many Begonia just have an amazing way of reflecting light?




Aren't these plants awesome?  Such variety of textures and colors.





I have still more photos from the Cloud Forest to come.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Trip Report: Carnivores of the Cloud Forest

At the top of the mountain in the Cloud Forest dome at Gardens by the Bay is a pond surrounded by orchids and carnivorous plants.  I admire carnivores, but I can't identify many of them.  My tour companion, Shawn, grows a lot of Nepenthes and I'm pretty sure he could identify everything we saw.  I had to check with my carnivorous friends to get identifications on most of these plants.

Dense grouping of carnivorous plants
Many people know the Venus Flytrap, but there are many other interesting carnivorous plants. Most terrestrial carnivorous plants grow in bog conditions in poor soil, which is the reason they supplement their "diet" by catching insects through various methods. There are deep pitchers with slippery edges, sticky leaves, and even triggered traps with teeth.

Sundews (Drosera)
Drosera (Sundews) is the largest genus of carnivorous plants with nearly 200 species. They catch their prey on the sticky glands on their leaves.  In the photo above you can see at least two different species.

Butterwort (Pinguicula) flower
You wouldn't necessarily know by looking, but Pinguicula (Butterwort) has sticky leaves that act like flypaper. Insects are eventually digested right there on the leaf surface.  The flowers resemble those of some Gesneriads.

Sarracenia and Heliamphora
Sarracenia are the upright pitcher plants from North America, not to be confused with Nepenthes, the trailing pitcher plants from the Old World tropics (mostly southeast Asia). The primitive South American counterparts to Sarracenia are Heliamphora, the Marsh Pitcher Plants.

Nepenthes pitcher
While Nepenthes usually have symbiotic bacteria living in the pool within their pitchers, there is at one species of Heliamphora that produces its own enzymes to break down its food.

Nepenthes robcantleyi
The top of the Cloud Forest mountain had a lot of different carnivorous plants, but Nepenthes plants were scattered throughout the dome, so I have a lot more photos of those to share.

Nepenthes robcantleyi
Nepenthes robcantleyi
Nepenthes robcantleyi
I did not see any open flowers of Nepenthes, but I did see a flower spike that would be opening soon.

Flower spike on a Nepenthes
Nepenthes ampullaria x sibuyanensis
I love the little jugs of the Nepenthes pictured above and below here.  Aren't they cute?  The big, long pitchers are very impressive and have really neat markings, but the little jugs of these two hybrids were my favorites.

Nepenthes xHookeriana
In the middle of the pond on top of the mountain there was a little island planted entirely with carnivorous plants.  I hope no bug crawls ashore there thinking of taking a vacation.

Carnivore island: Enter at your own risk.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Trip Report: Interesting trees at Gardens by the Bay

Even though much of Gardens by the Bay has just recently been planted, the garden planners went all out to purchase mature trees from all over the world.  For example, check out the size of this Cannonball tree!

Couroupita guianensis, the Cannonball tree
Yes, I have seen a larger one, but it must have been in place for a hundred years or more.  The tree at Gardens by the Bay was just planted!  So, you can see it is just starting to bloom.  Soon it will have cannonballs all over the trunk.

Coccoloba rugosa, the Red-Flowered Sea Grape
In one grove of trees there were a couple of really neat, large leaved trees.  Coccoloba rugosa, the Red-flowered Sea Grape, was a tall skinny tree, with large, round leaves and blooms emerging from the top.

Coccoloba rugosa flowers
Another large-leaved tree is Macaranga grandiflora, the Parasol Leaf tree.

Macaranga grandiflora, Parasol Leaf tree
The Silk Floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) is one that I am familiar with from the Myriad Gardens.  The most prominent feature of this tree (when not in bloom) is the large thorns covering the trunk of the tree.  One area of the gardens is planted with a bunch of Ceiba.  It is curious to me that some trunks are covered in thorns and others are almost entirely smooth.

Grove of Ceiba speciosa (Silk floss) trees
In bloom, this tree has beautiful pink flowers.  After the blooms are pollinated, they produce seed pods that open to reveal some fluffy silk-like threads surrounding the seeds.  This is where it gets its common name.

Ceiba speciosa flower
Another tree with nice flowers was a Jatropha.  Does anyone know what species this is?  It has really neat leaves to accompany the vibrant orange flowers. [Update 2012-09-04: Tom commented that this is probably Jatropha podagrica.  Thanks Tom!]

Jatropha podagrica with orange blooms
Theobroma cacao
The cacao (chocolate) tree, Theobroma cacao, will start blooming and producing fruit at a small size.  That's good news, because this tree is only about 8 feet tall.

Beautiful layered tree, Terminalia mantaly 'Tricolour'
One of my favorite trees in the outdoor gardens was this beautiful tree (Terminalia mantaly 'Tricolour') that naturally grows in layers.  The leaves are patterned in white, green and a touch of pink.

Colorful leaves of the layered tree, Terminalia mantaly 'Tricolour'
From a distance, I thought this next tree was blooming or had hanging fruit.  As I approached, I realized it was just the new emergent leaves that hang down and reflect light with their glossy texture.

Tree with conspicuous emergent leaves
Until my trip to Singapore, I thought Pandanus was a genus only consisting of large, stilt-root trees.  While at the gardens, Shawn pointed out several small plants and shrubs that he said were Pandanus.  One tree that I knew was Pandanus was this large tree.

Pandanus tree
The last "trees" I will show you are not living trees, exactly.  They are the gigantic metal "supertrees" which are visible from anywhere in the gardens.  They are covered with bromeliads and other epiphytes, which will fill in over time.

Under the Supertrees
Due to the overcast sky, I really couldn't get a good photo of these trees, but here are some highly backlit photos anyway.

The Supertrees under a rainy sky