A Mum Extravaganza at the Floral Showhouse

The Chrysanthemum Show at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is a feast for the eyes!

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Admission to the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is $5.00 for adults and $3.75 for children (6-12 years) + tax. The Floral Showhouse at 7145 Niagara Parkway (just south of the Falls) is in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada and is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily. Eight floral shows throughout the year. http://www.niagaraparks.com/niagara-falls-attractions/floral-showhouse.html
Call 905-356-2241 for more information.

A Floral Tribute to the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games at Niagara Parks

One day to go until the opening ceremonies of the Pan Am Games begin in Toronto! With 40 countries and territories of the Americas participating in the Pan Am Games, Canada is a proud host once again (Winnipeg hosted games back in 1967 and 1999). The 2015 Games are predicted to be the largest multi-sport event to be held in Canada (double the size of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver). Fifteen host cities from Welland to Hamilton, Oshawa and Minden across Southern Ontario will welcome teams and athletes in addition to the major events being held in Toronto.

In the Niagara Region, the Royal Canadian Henley Rowing Course in St. Catharines, Ontario will host the rowing competition and the Flatwater Centre in Welland will house the Sprint Canoeing competitions.  Nearby at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse, a floral tribute to the Pan Am and Parapan Am games has been created to recognize the importance of the event and show support for all the athletes, coaches, families and fans.

The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is located just south of the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada

The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is located just south of the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.

To acknowledge the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games rowing events that will be taking place in St. Catharines, the Floral Showhouse included real oars in their summer floral display.

To acknowledge the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games rowing events that will be taking place in nearby St. Catharines, Ontario, the Floral Showhouse included real oars in their summer floral display.

The Men's and Women's Football/Soccer competition for the Pan Am Games is recognized at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse with balls ready for goal scoring among the tropical plants.

The men’s and women’s Football/Soccer competition for the Pan Am Games is recognized at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse with balls ready for goal scoring among the tropical plants.

A surprise greets visitors to the Floral Showhouse when they see a real pommel horse on display among the tropical plants.

A surprise greets visitors at the Floral Showhouse when they see a real pommel horse on display among the tropical plants. The Pan Am Games gymnastic events start on July 11th.

A Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse tribute to the Pan Am Cycling competitions which include BMX, Mountain Biking, Road and Track.

The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse tribute to the Pan Am Cycling competitions which include BMX, Mountain Biking, Road and Track categories.

Admission to the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is $5.00 for adults and $3.75 for children (6-12 years) + tax. The Floral Showhouse is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily. The Pan Am and Parapan Am tribute and Summer Show runs through mid-August.

Titan Arum Blooms Again At Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse

Clive is blooming! Again!
The flower started to open about 7:00 pm on Saturday, June 20th with the spathe unfurling to reveal a beautiful maroon colour inside. After watching the bud grow taller and swell expectantly for over a month, the opening was a bit of a surprise because it happened so fast.  Looking at the live webcam at first didn’t seem like it could be happening. But it was true. Clive, one of the largest Titan Arums at the Floral Showhouse was blooming again. Arriving at the Floral Showhouse would first reveal an olfactory assault – more confirmation that Clive was indeed blooming. And second, there was visual proof!

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Titan Arum Clive as the spathe is unfurling on opening night.

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Clive in full bloom on Sunday, June 21, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was 2012 when Clive bloomed last. The final height at blooming today was recorded at 84 inches (2.13 m). And yes, the Corpse Flower name really does apply to this flower. As Clive opened, the putrid smell of decaying flesh got more intense – especially when climbing a ladder to get a top down photo!

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Wayne Hoeschle, Titan Arum curator cross pollinating Clive on opening night.

 

 

The female flowers can be seen when peeking through a cut out window of the Titan Arum blooming at Niagara Parks. Male pollen from Ohio State's Titan Arum was used to cross pollinate the flower.

The female flowers can be seen through a cut out window of the Titan Arum bloom at Niagara Parks. Male pollen from McMaster’s Titan Arum that bloomed June 3, 2015 was used to cross pollinate the flower this morning in the hopes the Clive will produce seed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plant, Amorphophallus titanum, called the Titan Arum or Corpse Plant, is one of six dormant corms donated to Niagara Parks by Louis Ricciardiello of Gilford, New Hampshire, in December 2011. Titan Arum specimen #1, nicknamed “Morph,” bloomed for the first time at Niagara Parks on May 4th, 2012. At blooming the flower was an incredible height of 244 cm (96 inches). After the Titan Arums bloom,  they go dormant for months, and then send up a huge leaf that measures 6 m (20 feet) tall. That leaf soaks up the sun for a year or more and, with the copious amounts of water and fertilizer, puts nutrients back into the underground corm to hopefully return it to blooming size. A blooming size corm weighs an impressive 80 kg (175 lbs) and is about 70 cm (27 inches) in diameter.

For the latest news on the Titan Arum bloom visit the Niagara Parks Facebook Page or the Niagara Parks Blog.

Take a look at the Titan Arum live webcam on the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse website for the latest flower view.

Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) provides nectar and food for many pollinators, moths, butterflies and aphids in the sustainable landscape.

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) provides nectar and food for many pollinators, moths, butterflies and aphids in the sustainable landscape.

Creating and looking at landscapes in a sustainable way is coming to the forefront much the same way that organic foods, farmers’ markets and eating locally sourced foods have gained traction with the general public over the last ten years. Albeit, the idea of sustainable landscapes has a long way to go before it is has any degree of acceptance like the previously mentioned buzzwords in the minds of today’s consumers. Chiefly to be accepted, the idea of sustainable landscapes needs to have a common definition and a broad enough scope that it can be applied to many different types of gardens on a wide range of scales from home garden to municipal parks. Sustainable landscapes, if they are thought of in a “do no harm, repair previous harm” way, can be created by most (if not all) gardeners. This expansion of the definition in a broader and more encompassing way makes sustainable landscaping approachable for many more gardeners (who hopefully will become staunch supporters of the idea).
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has stepped up and created a definition of sustainable landscaping that is broad and encompassing, and makes sense. On their website they say, “Sustainable landscapes are responsive to the environment, re-generative, and can actively contribute to the development of healthy communities. Sustainable landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and create value through significant economic, social and, environmental benefits.” Nothing in this ASLA definition of sustainable landscapes precludes even the smallest garden.
With that definition, many gardeners can now champion the idea that sustainable landscapes are regenerative, restore healthy communities, and create value. But how do we evaluate sustainable landscapes, certify that it is being done, and reward those who are doing it? This is where the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) comes in. This program was developed by the United States Botanic Garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the ASLA. The SITES definition of a sustainable site includes the following: “Like green buildings, sustainable sites use less energy, water and natural resources; generate less waste; and minimize the impact on land compared to conventional design, construction and maintenance techniques. Yet unlike buildings, sustainable sites can give back by cleaning air and water, sequestering carbon, reducing pollution, restoring habitat and biodiversity – all while providing significant social and economic benefits to the immediate site and surrounding region.”

Certified Sustainable Landscapes

As of December, 2014, 34 landscape projects have been SITES certified with a rating of one to four stars, based on their sustainable features and practices. A four-star rating was granted to Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), in Pittsburgh, PA.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

A 4,000 square foot lagoon holds stormwater and uses plants to filter the runoff at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Marsh plants provide a habitat for wildlife and act as filters for the stormwater runoff at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh is the first four star (top rated) SITES certified project.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge Pea), planted in masses at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, is an annual legume native to eastern United States. It is a good cover to prevent erosion, produces nectar for bees and adds nitrogen to the soil.

The Center for Sustainable Landscapes is the first and so far the only project to receive the program’s highest level – a four-star SITES certification for the building and landscape that surrounds it. The 3-acre site was formerly a paved, city public works maintenance yard with low concentrations of hazardous waste in the soil. Challenges on the site included brownfield damaged soils, a steep bluff with erosion issues, and previous dumping areas for construction waste and urban fill. The site now manages sanitary waste, has a LEED Platinum certified green building, has reintroduced 150 native plant species, and has net-zero energy and water use. A 4,000 square foot storm water lagoon, surrounded by a boardwalk, is the focal point of the landscape design and can accommodate up to 3.3 inches of rain in twenty-four hours. Rain gardens, a green roof, and compost tea use have been incorporated in the landscape.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh

Looking down from the rooftop garden at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh at the stormwater lagoon and terraced landscape.

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Challenges that were overcome at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes site included brownfield damaged soils, a steep bluff with erosion issues, and previous dumping areas for construction waste and urban fill.

The achievements at this site, open for public visitation at the Phipps Conservatory, are impressive. They are generating all of their own energy, treating and reusing all water captured on site, just use rainwater for irrigation, have installed permeable paving, have a wetland water treatment system, have Net Zero Energy Building Certification, LEED Platinum Certification, WELL Platinum Pilot Certification (a protocol for measuring human wellness in a building).

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The green roof gardens conserve energy, slow rainwater and attract wildlife. Planting beds on the roof of the building have 8″ of soil depth to allow for optimum plant growth.

 

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The roof of the Center for Sustainable Landscapes houses an energy recovery unit (background) and garden. The green roof retains 85% of the annual rainfall.

 

Phipps Conservatory and the Center for Sustainable Landscapes are open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily (later hours on Fridays). The Conservatory is surrounded by Schenley Park and near the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Museums and the Cathedral of Learning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Phipps Conservatory, One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (412) 622-6914 (phone).

Titan Arum, the World’s Tallest Flower Blooming at Niagara Parks

Update on May 28th.

Morph is blooming!
The flower started to open about 9:00 pm on May 27th with the spathe unfurling to reveal a beautiful maroon colour inside. By the next morning, the full glory of the spathe could be seen.

The Titan Arum in full bloom at 8:00 am on May 28th, 2014 at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse.

The Titan Arum in full bloom at 8:00 am on May 28th, 2014 at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse.

The final height at blooming was recorded at 96 inches (2.4 m). And yes, the Corpse Flower name really does apply to this flower. As Morph opened, the putrid smell of decaying flesh got more intense – especially when climbing a ladder to get a top down photo!

The female flowers can be seen when peeking through a cut out window of the Titan Arum blooming at Niagara Parks. Male pollen from Ohio State's Titan Arum was used to cross pollinate the flower.

The female flowers can be seen through a cut out window of the Titan Arum bloom at Niagara Parks. Male pollen from Ohio State’s Titan Arum was used to cross pollinate the flower this morning in the hopes the Morph will produce seed.

Morph, the Niagara Parks Titan Arum beginning to bloom on May 27th, 2014 at 11:30 pm.

Morph, one of the Niagara Parks’ Titan Arums beginning to bloom on May 27th, 2014 at 11:30 pm.

Update on May 27th.

Morph is now 91 inches tall (2.3 m) and is going to bloom any day now! The outer sheath has fallen away and the frilly spathe can now be clearly seen as well as the “squished French bread” spadix.

The Titan Arum just before it blooms at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse on May 27th, 2014

The Titan Arum just before it blooms at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse on May 27th, 2014

 

Update on May 18th, 2014
One of the Titan Arums at Niagara Parks is about to bloom again.  The plant, Amorphophallus titanum, called the Titan Arum or Corpse Plant, is one of six dormant corms donated to Niagara Parks by Louis Ricciardiello of Gilford, New Hampshire, in December 2011. Titan Arum specimen #1, nicknamed “Morph”, bloomed for the first time at Niagara Parks on May 4th, 2012. At blooming the flower was an incredible height of 244 cm (96 inches). After it bloomed, Morph went dormant for five months, and then in October 2012 it grew a huge leaf that measured 6 m (20 feet) tall. That leaf soaked up the sun for a year and, with the copious amounts of water and fertilizer, put nutrients back into the underground corm to hopefully return it to blooming size. The plant went dormant, and during the winter of 2013-2014 it was repotted. At that time, the corm weighed an impressive 80 kg (175 lbs) and was 68 cm (27 inches) in diameter. Now, in May 2014, after a two year wait the Titan Arum is sending up a beautiful flower bud.

The anticipation is building as Morph’s new shoot gets measured every day by Wayne Hoeschle, its caretaker. The shoot is growing between 3 and 6 inches every day and is expected to bloom in about a week.  As of this morning, May 22nd, 2014 Wayne reports that Morph is 200 cm (79 inches) tall.

The two pictures below were taken May 18th at 65 inches in height.

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For the latest news on the Titan Arum bloom visit the Niagara Parks Facebook Page

Take a look at the Titan Arum live webcam on the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse website for the latest flower bud view.

 

The Hydrangea Show at the Floral Showhouse

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The Hydrangea Show at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse

In May the floral show is all pinks, blues, purple and white in the Floral Showhouse during the Hydrangea Show.

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IMG_2761The Hydrangea Show at the Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse features hydrangeas (naturally), delphiniums, foxgloves and fuchsia. A beautiful combination of calming pinks, blues and white blooms.

The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is just south of the Falls on the Niagara Parkway, in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.  More details are at the Niagara Parks website.

The Easter Show at the Floral Showhouse

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Easter and Spring are centre stage in the Floral Showhouse at Niagara Parks!

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More than just plants, birds and turtles … chicks (and bunnies) too!

The Niagara Parks Floral Showhouse is just south of the Falls on the Niagara Parkway, in Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.  More details are at the Niagara Parks website.

75 Years of Horticultural Excellence in Niagara Falls

The Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture Celebrates 75 Years

Celebrating 75 years in 2011, the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture Lecture Hall and Administration Building

There have been a lot of weeds pulled, roses deadheaded, vegetables harvested and grass mown during seventy-five years of training horticulture students.  But every so often, it’s time to take off the secateurs, put on walking shoes, and take a stroll to really delight in the beauty of a very special garden.  The garden – the home of the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture.

Hundreds of plants skillfully arranged in containers greet visitors at the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture during the summer to celebrate their 75th anniversary in 2011.

This school, unique in Canada sits on 100-acres (40 hectares) along the Niagara Parkway in Niagara Falls, Ontario and has been the living, teaching campus for more than 600 graduates who now are spread out in parks departments, golf courses, greenhouses and nurseries across Canada and around the globe. In August, the largest ever gathering of graduates returned to Niagara to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the School of Horticulture.  A round of golf, school grounds tours, bbq and lots of alumni stories led to many renewed and new acquaintances during the three-day event.

A beautiful waypoint at the Botanical Gardens, the rose garden fountain.

How did the school get started?
July 10, 1935 was a significant day in the birth of what was to become the Niagara Parks Commission Training School for Apprentice Gardeners. This was the day that the Niagara Parks Commission approved engaging Knut Mattias (K.M.) Broman, a Swedish born, trained landscape architect as a landscape gardener for a period of two years.

The Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture student residence as seen in present day, formerly called The Bothy.

It was at that same meeting that it was suggested to make a botanical garden at Queen Victoria Park adjacent to the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls. And in order to have qualified gardeners for this new botanical garden, a school was launched to train young men to become expert gardeners.  It was on May 8th, 1936 that the Niagara Parks Commission set up the following guidelines …
It is the opinion of The Niagara Parks Commission that expert gardeners should be trained under the direction of the Commission as there is no proper Training School in the province… It is agreed by the Commission that a number of apprentices (not to exceed eight for the present) be engaged to work in the park under the supervision of Mr. Broman, who is to lay out a course.
The old stone house at the Niagara Glen owned by the Commission (known as the old Murray House) is to be prepared as a bothy for the boys during the summer season. In the winter season it is suggested that the boys be housed in the Help’s Quarters of the Park Restaurant. Until other plans are arranged the boys are to be fed at the Park Restaurant.

School of Horticulture Students are required to tend a vegetable garden plot during their second year. The result is innovation, great horticulture, and lots of creativity!

These are some of the guidelines for the first class of gardeners as they arrived at what is now the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture. And after 600 graduates, 2011 saw an unprecedented gathering of alumni and celebration as the little apprenticeship-style school, along the Niagara Parkway and across from the Niagara Glen, that trained students during a 36 month curriculum turned 75 years old.

The School is run by The Niagara Parks Commission, an Operational Enterprise of the Government of Ontario, that has been charged with managing the land, buildings, and facilities along the Niagara River from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie since 1887 in a completely self-funding manner – without taking any taxpayer dollars.

A living sculpture of a dragon, designed, created and maintained by students at the School of Horticulture greets visitors at the entrance to the rose garden during the summer of 2011.

In the book, Garden School Days, Memoirs from the Early Years (1936-1950) Roland Barnsley and William Snowden, former Superintendents of the School of Horticulture, describe the early thirties in Canada as a time of low morale with a deep economic depression and the somber realization that the great surge of optimism following World War I had shriveled to a very dim and bleak outlook for the country (and world). The need for job creation was a priority. The fortuitous arrival of a chairman (T.B. McQuesten) with enormous vision was a contributing factor to the launching of the School in 1936.

A giant grape vine globe makes a dramatic statement in the entrance garden at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden and School of Horticulture.

The Early Years

Changing a 100-acre derelict farm into a school of gardening almost overnight was a mighty task that started with K.M. Broman’s trip to Holland in 1936 to order virtually every plant that he could find that might survive in Niagara. His source was the great Dutch nursery, F.J. Grootendorst & Sons in Boskoop. The shipment would turn out to be the largest single shipment of nursery stock ever shipped from Holland up to that date.  Most of the plants were dug from the nursery beds in the spring during January to March and then shipped to the east coast of Canada in April of 1937. From there they travelled by train to Niagara Falls in May. Despite a two month journey, most were in good condition and after being inspected were planted in long nursery rows in their new home. Many would stay in this temporary nursery that stretched north and south from the entrance road for the School for another 18 months before permanent locations were provided.
It is the plants in this Grootendorst shipment that still forms the backbone and many of the most cherished plants on the School grounds even after 75 years.  It is the  spruce vista and hornbeam allée, oriental cedar hedge that surrounds the herb garden, beech hedges opposite the student residence and collection of sycamore maples that feature most prominently from this original 1937 planting.

Surrounded by clipped oriental cedar hedges that were part of the 1937 plant shipment from Holland, the herb garden at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden and School of Horticulture is full of fascinating plants to discover.

Hugh McCracken, a graduate in the first class in 1939 recalls, “Our first home was a farmhouse, which still stands as the original part of the School. It was called The Bothy, an English term for an apprentice residence. Workmen we were that first summer – carrying out many manual tasks with the aid of pick and shovel, cultivators, Dutch hoes and manure forks. We were even required to break the proverbial rock with sledgehammer in tow. Exercise and fresh air was not in short supply that first year. I am sure any of the students that were at the School in the early days would agree that most of our training was of a practical nature. The spring of 1937 brought with it a tremendous shipment of nursery stock imported from Holland. When this shipment was added to the existing plant material, the Gardening School began to take on the appearance of a place of learning.”

Celebrating the "blue and gold," the colours of the NPC School of Horticulture, the annual flowers in the rose garden really add a festive spirit to the 75th anniversary celebrations themselves.

Over the years, there have been many changes; the former Murray farmhouse is greatly expanded and not the school residence as well as the addition of a new lecture hall, library and administration building built in 1961, women were first admitted into the program in 1973, and in 1996, North America’s largest butterfly conservatory opened on the grounds. The name became the School of Horticulture (dropping the apprentice gardener’s moniker) in 1959 and the school campus officially became the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens in 1990. Many garden changes have occurred on the 100 acres over 75 years with many more planned as well. Exciting new landscapes have been developed, stone walls and paths built, irrigation systems installed, new ponds and plant collections added – all giving valuable, year-round, “real world” experiences to the first, second and third year students as part of their practical horticulture training.

Located at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden, the Butterfly Conservatory features over 2,000 tropical butterflies flying freely in an enclosed rainforest garden.

The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Conservatory and School of Horticulture are located along the Niagara Parkway, just a 10 minute drive north of the Falls. www.niagaraparks.com/garden-trail/botanical-gardens.html

The Botanical Gardens is free of charge, and open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.  There is a charge for parking and the Butterfly Conservatory.
For information about the curriculum, practical training program and admission policy for the School of Horticulture visit www.niagaraparks.com/school-of-horticulture/index.html
The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture
P.O. Box 150, Niagara Falls, Ontario L2E 6T2
Email:

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden in Rayong

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden
Herb Garden Lotus Pond

After arriving at the Exhibition Hall, the main entrance to the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden leads visitors to the Lotus Pond.

Just off Highway 36 southeast of Bangkok, on the way from Chon Buri to Rayong is a quiet sanctuary of botanical treasures. The HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden is wedge-shaped property with 20,000 herbal plants grouped into 20 sections by their use.  Many of the plants represented on the 24 acres are those used in traditional Thai herbal knowledge. The gardens are designed using an array of meandering walks that gracefully unfold section after section in a pleasing voyage of discovery.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden

The main entrance to the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden.

Clerodendrum paniculatum var. paniculate (Pagoda Flower).

One of many interesting plants in the herb garden, Pagoda Flower (Clerodendrum paniculatum var. paniculata)

This garden was the first herb-themed garden in Thailand, having been planted in 1984 by PTT (Public Company Limited), a Thai state-owned oil and gas company.  The property was the company’s maintenance center and staff residence.  PTT, with an objective to conserve and develop natural resources for future generations, gathered and planted herbs in a garden setting.  One year later, the garden was presented to HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and further development continued.  In honor of the Princess’s 50th birthday in 2006, an exhibition hall was built on the property.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden Tram

A great way to get a preview of the garden for first time visitors is to take the garden tram.

The garden touring bus is a great way to get an overview of the entire garden before heading out on foot to see the plants more intimately.

Make sure to take note of the nutmeg trees that were planted as commemoration of the inauguration of the herb garden on April 18th, 1985. The nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans is important for the two important spices, nutmeg and mace from the seed of the tree, and has been used as the emblem of the garden.  All the plants in the garden are well maintained and situated for optimum viewing and have very informative signage.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden

One of the many intimate views in the Herb Garden.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden

Medicinal succulents like this Euphorbia have much to teach us at the Herb Garden.

The property has an interesting gift shop that sells dried herbs, oils, tinctures and products. A fascinating place to browse or shop.  This is a fantastic place to shop for unusual gifts that bring home a flavor of Thailand. Don’t shortchange yourself on time here (or in the café for a cool drink).

The gardens are open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm every day except Monday. For more information call (66) 0-3891-5213-5.

Exquisite statuary are througout the Herb Garden.

Powderpuff flowers decorate the earth.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden

Exquisite statuary can be found throughout the Herb Garden.

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden

HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herb Garden

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in Chiang Mai

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden entrance

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden entrance, in Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand




In a beautiful location nestled in the foothills of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Mae Rim in Chiang Mai province, in the northeast part of Thailand, Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden is a relative youngster among botanic gardens, having been established in 1993, but the 1,000 hectares has been planned well and shows good diversity even in its teenage years. Thais are proud of this garden, the first one in the country of international standard.


Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden Tram

Loading the tram at the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden entrance




The tram ride from the front gate to the greenhouse complex was a delight (it also saved us an hour uphill walk) as we snaked up the hillside past ornamental gardens, paved walking trails and native woodlands.

The greenhouse complex at Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden

The greenhouse complex at Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden



The glasshouse complex has 12 houses, the biggest one having a tropical rainforest theme. Others of particular note are the arid house with quite respectable specimens of cycads, Euphorbia, cacti and succulents. The foot stool–like barrel cactus were a delight to see. The aquatic house was interesting, not what was expected to see under cover. The water plants, lotus, Victoria water lilies and more, are presented attractively in stacked round pools.  Particularly colorful are the mauve vanda orchids blooming profusely in the orchid and fern house.  The variegated greenhouse was quite interesting as this house contained many exciting variations of everyday plants.  Around the greenhouse are beds of ornamental flowering plants, pools of water plants, a floral clock, large skyrocketing fountain, and outdoor orchid displays decorating the edge of a valley overlook.

Wax rose, Pereskia bleo in bloom

Wax rose, Pereskia bleo in bloom beside the rainforest greenhouse in Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden



Pereskia bleo, the wax rose is a tree that has flowers similar to a brilliant scarlet semi-double hibiscus, but a closer inspection will reveal needle-like spines and that this really is a plant that belongs in the cactus family. Wax rose isn’t a desert cactus, but a leafy one that grows in the shady moist forests of Central America.  It was certainly growing and flowering nicely outside the rainforest greenhouse in the foothills of Chiang Mai.
Barrel cactus in the arid greenhouse at Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden

Barrel cactus in the arid greenhouse at Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden

 

Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden is open daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.  Don’t miss visiting the gift shop for a few seeds, books or QSBG hats for souvenirs.  For more information visit the www.qsbg.org website, email qbg@chmai.loxinfo.co.th or phone 66-53-841-000.


Orgnid display

An orchid display decorates the valley overlook at the greenhouse complex Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden

Gardens and Groves in Central Florida

The Gardens and Citrus Groves of Polk County

Orange blossoms at the UF Citrus Research and Education Center

Orange blossoms at the UF Citrus Research and Education Center

If you set a map of Florida up on a dart board, a seasoned player will easily be able to get a dart to hit right smack on Central Florida and probably will be able to make the bull’s eye, money shot right on Polk County.  Polk County is the quiet, relaxed, laid-back neighbor to the boisterous, bustling, touristy Orlando and Kissimmee (Orange County) areas to the east and northeast .  Close enough for an Orlando fling when the feeling strikes, Polk County is just a 1 hour drive from the Disney resort area.  Polk County has many surprises beyond being an ideal home base or “bedroom community.”  The area does have the ability to steal a little daytime fun away from Orlando too.   

Polk County, Florida was named for Tennessean, James Knox Polk, the 11th president of the USA.  During his 4 year term from 1845-1849 he his lauded for his ambitious accomplishments.  He threatened war with Britain, then backed down and split ownership of the Northwest with Britain.  He was responsible for the second largest expansion of the nation’s territory and successfully led the Mexican-American War.  Polk was the first president to retire after a single term without seeking reelection and died of cholera three months after he stepped down.  He should have come to rest and relax in Polk County Florida!

The major cities in Polk County are Lake Wales, Lakeland, and Winter Haven.  A significant part of Polk County is water – 6.75% of it is under water according to the U.S. Census Bureau and this includes 554 named lakes (one for every day of the year and plenty for two visits on the weekends). 

oranges at Lang Sun Country Groves

Citrus at Lang Sun Country Groves

Historically Polk County has had citrus, cattle and phosphate mining industries.  Close to 100,000 head of beef and dairy cattle still call the county home but are gradually being pushed aside by land developers.  Phosphate mining was a big industry until it has been stalled of late by low prices and weak demand for fertilizers.  Still there are millions of tons mined each year from 5 active mines.  The citrus industry is the most visible of the big three industries with 95,000 acres of commercial citrus groves in cultivation.

 

A rare view looking out of the tower door into Bok Tower Gardens

A rare view looking out of the tower door into Bok Tower Gardens

On the gardening side, Polk County has long been a visitor destination.  It is the home of Bok Tower Gardens, dedicated in 1929 and Cypress Gardens, Florida’s first theme attraction.  More recently Hollis Gardens was developed and opened in Lakeland in 2000, drawing visitors to its tranquil setting on Mirror Lake.

Lakeland, Florida

A real swan at home in Mirror Lake, Lakeland Florida

A real swan at home in Mirror Lake, Lakeland Florida

Lakeland, Florida is the city of swans and whether live or sculpted, these majestic birds are right at home in this city.  There’s an interesting story behind the Lakeland swans.  The white mute swans found on many of today’s Lakelands lakes are descendants from a pair donated by Queen Elizabeth in 1957.  Because of hazards from cars and alligators, the swan population in the early 1950s had dwindled down to 1 from a high of 20 or so birds in the 1930s.  A Lakeland resident living in England wrote to the Queen hoping to buy a pair of the royal swans that were living on the Thames River.  The Queen offered to donate a pair if the cost of transportation was paid for them.  An Englishman who had visited Lakeland donated the $300 to make it happen and a pair was released in Lake Morton in Lakeland in 1957.


Lakeland Swan at the Terrace Hotel

Lakeland Swan at the Terrace Hotel

Swansation Art Project was a public art installation initiated in 2003, where 5-foot tall, life size (or larger) swans were decorated and placed around Lakeland.  62 of the decorated swans were then auctioned off to benefit a Children’s Museum and many still can be seen in the Lakeland area.  One is in the courtyard entrance of the Terrace Hotel.

Hollis Garden

Fountain in the Hollis Garden in Lakeland

Fountains in the Hollis Garden in Lakeland

The Hollis Garden in Lakeland

The Hollis Garden in Lakeland

Hollis Garden is a formal 1.2 acre botanical garden donated by the Hollis Family to the City of Lakeland.  It is located on the banks of Mirror Lake.  Stacy Smith, Park horticulturist was a gracious tour guide and justifiably enthusiastic about the interesting plants and design there.  Of note are the silver bismark palms and popcorn cassia or yellow senna that smells like popcorn when in bloom. 


Shucking the Palm in Hollis Garden

Shucking the Palm in Hollis Garden

Other interesting happenings when I visited the garden was a gardener using chain saws was doing what he called “shucking the palm” by removing the boots.   He was using the chain saw to clean up the trunk of the palm and remove the branch stubs.  


Hollis Garden fountain in Lakeland, Florida

Hollis Garden fountain in Lakeland, Florida

Hollis Garden planter

Hollis Garden planter

Besides the plants and thoughtful garden design, Hollis Garden is impressive because it is free admission for the public (there is a charge to rent the gardens for weddings) and it is operated by the Parks and Recreation Department of Lakeland, Florida.  Good work!


 

Popcorn senna (Senna didymobotrya) blooming in the Hollis Garden

Popcorn senna (Senna didymobotrya) blooming in the Hollis Garden

Silver Bismark Palms in Hollis Garden

Silver Bismark Palms in Hollis Garden




 

Polk’s Nature Discovery Center and Circle Bar B Reserve

Anhinga drying at Polk's Nature Discovery Center

Anhinga drying at Polk's Nature Discovery Center

One of the many wildlife habitats at Polk's Nature Discovery Center at Circle B Bar Reserve

One of the many wildlife habitats at Polk's Nature Discovery Center at Circle B Bar Reserve

Newly opened, the Polk County Nature Discovery Center and Circle Bar B Reserve offers walking and hiking trails that pass under mature trees laden with dangling Spanish moss, and march past marshy areas with white pelicans, anhingas and alligators, around open water that attracts many more birds and other wildlife.   


 

Spanish moss at Polk's Nature Discovery Center

Spanish moss at Polk's Nature Discovery Center


The nature reserve, that includes an interactive orientation center featuring a large banyan tree replica with  both a canopy and underground root observation areas for children to experience.  Imagine the fun of joining kids in a secret underground area by crawling into a gopher size hole under the tree.  There’s a great photo op spot as the underground explorers pop their head up through a hole at the base of the tree several feet away.  The property covers more than 1,200 acres of wildlife habitat that guarantees plenty to discover.

 

Bok Tower Gardens

Swan in Bok Tower gardens

Swan in Bok Tower gardens

A long time favorite destination during azalea blooming season is the Bok Tower Gardens – a national Historic Landmark.  Today, the interactive visitor center, new garden additions, Pinewood Estate house and tempting gift shop make Bok Tower an interesting place to visit any time of the year. 

Sculpture just inside the entrance of Bok Tower Gardens

Sculpture just inside the entrance of Bok Tower Gardens

Edward Bok was born in the Netherlands in 1863 and immigrated to Brooklyn when he was six years old.  He worked for Western Union Telegraph Company and Charles Scribner’s Sons before moving to Philadelphia to become editor of Ladies’ Home Journal for 30 years.  He was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography, “The Americanization of Edward Bok”.  A noted philanthropist, in his 60s he created The American Foundation which would later be known as the Bok Tower Gardens Foundation to create his legacy garden near his winter home.  It was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1929 less than one year before he passed away – within sight of his beloved tower.  





A view of the gardens and surrounding citrus groves from the top of Bok Tower

A view of the gardens and surrounding citrus groves from the top of Bok Tower

The gardens are designed with meandering paths under canopied trees with hundreds of azalea shrubs at eye level covering many of the 47 landscaped acres.  They were designed by famed American garden designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, who works include garden parks in Buffalo, Montreal, Boston, New York City, Chicago, Louisville and Ashville.  Splashes of color from the azaleas, magnolias and camellias fill the shady respite under the oaks, pines and palms from October through May.  Then the roses and crape myrtle take over the blooming chores.  A 700 acre buffer zone of citrus surrounds the gardens.

 

Bok Tower Gardens Tillandsia in the entrance garden

Bok Tower Gardens Tillandsia in the entrance garden

Bok Tower Gardens pond

Bok Tower Gardens pond

Camellia at Bok Tower Gardens

Camellia at Bok Tower Gardens


The impressive entrance building and visitor centre has fountains, sunlight, innovative plant displays and creative artwork.

Edward Bok’s Singing Tower

Bok's Singing Tower

Bok's Singing Tower

A look upward at the biggest bells in Bok Tower

A look upward at the biggest bells in Bok Tower

Bok Tower is a 205 foot art deco tower  (as demonstrated by the tile grills at the top of the tower) that is the centerpiece of the gardens.  The tile grills depict birds and plants and other Florida wildlife representing the balance in nature and were designed by H. Dulles Allen.  The tower was designed by Milton B. Medary and created by Lee Lawrie, stone sculptor extraordinaire.  Inside the tower are 60 bells in a 40 foot by 30 foot chamber that form one of the world’s finest Carillons. 


The Carillon clavier in Bok Tower

The Carillon clavier in Bok Tower

The tile grill at the top of Bok Tower

The tile grill at the top of Bok Tower

Daily live concerts are held at 1 pm and 3 pm.  The job of carillonneur is an honored position and if past history is examined, it is a job almost for life. There have only been three carillonneurs at Bok Singing Tower since 1928. The playing room inside the bell chamber housing the clavier or keyboard in a somewhat soundproof room.  Good thing because a mid-afternoon hourly chime played when I was standing right underneath the largest of the big bells.  


 

Calliandra in the Bok Tower Garden

Calliandra in the Bok Tower Garden





Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.”    Edward W. Bok

The Mansion

Flowering maple (Abutilon) at the Bok Tower Gardens entrance pavillion

Flowering maple (Abutilon) at the Bok Tower Gardens entrance pavillion

Jardinere in the Bok Tower Mansion

Jardinere in the Bok Tower Mansion

Bok Tower Gardens now includes an historic 1930s Mediterranean-style mansion that was the winter home of C. Austin Buck, vice president of Bethlehem Steel.  The house, called Pinewood was designed by a member of Frederick Law Olmsted’s staff and is situated so that the entire house has views of the surrounding pine trees.  Pinewood was acquired by Bok Tower Gardens in 1970 and restored to its original design by staff and volunteers.


Tillandsia display at the Bok Tower Gardens entrance

Tillandsia display at the Bok Tower Gardens entrance





For more details visit www.boktowergardens.org

Lang Sun Country Groves

Mexican Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta) at Taste of Florida Cafe

Mexican Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta) at Taste of Florida Cafe

Outside the Lang Sun Country Groves and Florida Café is a spectacular vine the color of oranges and grapefruits that is growing about three stories up an electrical pole.  Covered in orangish-yellow blooms the vine is a traffic stopper and a landmark as much as the building and family behind it.  The vine is a Florida (or Mexican depending on where it is growing) Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta) and is originally from Brazil. It grows well in zone 9 and flowers in profusion when it is kept above freezing. From the look of the vine, it might have been planted by Mary Lang over 55 years ago when she shipped her first box of fresh citrus. 

 For more information and some of Mary’s citrus recipes visit www.langsuncountry.com.


Grapefruits at Lang Sun Country Groves

Grapefruits at Lang Sun Country Groves

Honeybells at Lang Sun Contry Groves

Honeybells at Lang Sun Contry Groves

After admiring the stunning flowering vine during my visit, the next stop was to order a piece of grapefruit pie. Never imagining that it would taste so good, I was hooked on it from the first bite.  Consisting of ripe grapefruit sections, strawberry jello, a graham cracker crust and a dollop of whipped cream, it was yummy.  


Just picked citrus at Lang Sun Country Groves

Just picked citrus at Lang Sun Country Groves

Three years ago, bad weather forced a strawberry festival indoor into the packing area and a new feature was born. The Taste of Florida Café and grapefruit pie!   Langs Honeybell Tangelos , which are available only in January are a treasure.  Sweet, juicy and oh so tasty.  They are worth a special trip just to get some to take home. Other citrus include navel oranges (known for their sweetness), tangerines and grapefruit.  These are available in season from November through May.


 

Florida’s Natural Growers

Florida's Natural Grower's Grove House orange

Florida's Natural Grower's Grove House orange

Florida’s Natural Grower’s have built an attractive citrus information building across the road from one of their main plants.  The Grove House in Lake Wales houses a video presentation room, citrus tasting bar and gift shop all surrounded by live citrus groves.  A great photo spot for the obligatory “standing in a citrus grove” souvenir pictures – without worrying about trespassing.  Florida’s Natural Growers grows only juice citrus and is a 1000 grower coop spanning 50 thousand acres.  And here’s a little citrus trivia, the first orange seeds were brought by Ponce de Leon , Navaez and De Soto in the early 1500 from Spain.  

 For more information visit www.floridasnatural.com.

Citrus Research and Education Center

University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida is  a 90 year old establishment for research, teaching and extension responsibilities.  Their current major citrus research is on introduced pests; Citrus leaf miner, Diaprepes Root Weevil, and Asian Citrus psyllid, an aphid-like insect that is the carrier of a bacterium that is the real threat to the citrus industry in Florida.  The resulting disease called “citrus greening” first arrived in Florida in 1998 and at present there’s no cure.  Citrus greening is a serious challenge for Dr. Wendy Meyer and many others at the Citrus Research Center.

For more information visit www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu.

Most (95%) of the commercial citrus raised Florida is used mainly for juice.  With that much being squeezed, there is a lot of byproducts left over.  The rind and pulp is not wasted and is used for cattle (another important Polk County industry).

For more information about Polk County visit the Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau at Polk Outpost 27 in Davenport, Florida or visit www.visitcentralflorida.org.

The Tropical Gardens of Malaysia – Part One

Malaysia  is a kaleidoscope of flowers, wildlife, tropical fruits, exotic food and nature.

From the bustling, metropolis of Kuala Lumpur, the Capital of Malaysia, to the quiet beaches and exquisite beauty of Langkawi, Malaysia has plenty of interesting culture, natural environments and foods to discover and enjoy.

 Selamat Datang (Welcome) to the heart of southeast Asia, to Kuala Lumpur and the Petronas Twin Towers, a signature of the KL skyline and a symbol of the prosperity, growth, culture and shopping found in this cosmopolitan city of 1.5 million.

The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur
The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur

The tallest twin buildings in the world, the Petronas Towers were designed by Argentinian-American Cesar Pelli and completed in 1998. The 88-floor towers are constructed of concrete with a steel and glass front. The “stainless steel” look gives the building a shiny new appearance, even 10 years or more after it was built.  Petronas, the national petroleum corporation have their corporate headquarters in Tower One. A skybridge, the highest 2-story bridge in the world, which was shown in the movie “Entrapment” with Sean Connery and Catherine Zita-Jones joins the two towers on floors 41 and 42. Free ticketed public access is available on the skybridge for a limited number of visitors each day. Get there early to pick up tickets and avoid my disappointment of not getting one of the 1700 tickets available per day.

 

The gardens of Merdeka Square (Dakaran Merdeka)

The gardens of Merdeka Square (Dakaran Merdeka)

Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur is the site where the Malayan flag was raised at midnight on August 31, 1957 atop a 100 metre high flagpole to signify the country’s independence from Great Britain. 


The view through Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building beyond

The view through Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building beyond

Immaculate gardens and an expansive cricket pitch and are a frame for the historic buildings that surround it.


 The Kuala Lumpur Tower, completed in 1994 houses communication equipment and features an antenna 431 metres tall making it the fifth tallest freestanding tower in the world. A public observation deck offers an impressive panoramic view of the city. Having been atop the CN tower in Toronto, the height of the KL Tower wasn’t what was impressive, it was the view of the city that radiated out in all directions that I liked the most.

A birds-eye view from the KL Tower of Kuala Lumpur

A birds-eye view from the KL Tower of Kuala Lumpur

The view from the Kuala Lumpur Tower of the capital city below.



Kuala Lumpur features plenty of gardens to fill several days of touring. A good area to visit is the KL Lake Garden Park which has a Hibiscus Garden, Orchid Garden and Bird Park.

Hibiscus flowering in the Hibiscus Garden in Kuala LumpurHibiscus flowering in the Hibiscus Garden in Kuala Lumpur
Hibiscus schizopetalus in the Kuala Lumpur Hibiscus GardenHibiscus schizopetalus in the Kuala Lumpur Hibiscus Garden

The Kuala Lumpur Hibiscus Garden "Hibiscus Fountain"

The Kuala Lumpur Hibiscus Garden "Hibiscus Fountain"




 Malaysia’s national flower (Bunga Raya), the hibiscus has a garden dedicated just to it. With over 2,200 varieties from singles to doubles in all colors.

Orchids blooming outdoors in the Kuala Lumpur Orchid GardenOrchids blooming outdoors in the Kuala Lumpur Orchid Garden

Orchids in the Orchid Garden

Outdoor Orchids in the Orchid Garden in KL




Right next door from the Hibiscus Garden is the KL Orchid garden and next to that is the KL Bird Park. Plan a half a day and visit them all.

The gardens of the King's Palace (Istana Negara)The gardens of the King’s Palace (Istana Negara)
The King's Palace gate in Kuala LumpurThe King’s Palace gate in Kuala Lumpur
Istana Negara, the Royal Palace public gardens

Istana Negara, the Royal Palace public gardens



KL is also home to one of the King’s Palaces (Istana Negara) with its massive expanse of park-like lawn, formal gates and considerate garden areas in the public parking area. Even though the gate and much photographed Royal Guard on his horse are the only close-up attractions, a corner of the palace can be viewed with a long driveway from the gate and some nice gardens can be admired in the public parking lot area.

Garden sculpture in the Thean Ho Buddhist TempleGarden sculpture in the Thean Ho Buddhist Temple



Many temples are available for worship or visiting in Kuala Lumpur. One, the Thean Hou Buddhist Temple is a six-tiered Chinese temple nestled on a hillside and having impressive architecture. It is thought to be one of the most picturesque in KL. Visit early in the day before the sun gets too hot.

Many gardens throughout Malaysia featured a highly showy vine with brilliant orangey-red blooms.

The showy Red-Trailing Bauhinia vineThe showy Red-Trailing Bauhinia vine

Red Trailing Bauhinia is a dramatic native, woody vine in Malaysia that is grown as an ornamental on arbors and posts.  Botanically known as Bauhinia coccinea (B. kockiana), with vine blooms year round. The blooms change from red to orange to yellow as they age.


Heliconia in Kuala Lumpur

Heliconia in Kuala LumpurThe Sealing Wax Palm in KLA silver palm in KL

Silver Palm in KL

Silver Palm in KL

The Sealing Wax Palm growing in KL

The Sealing Wax Palm growing in KL


 


The Tropical Gardens of Malaysia – Part Two

 Malaysia is a different world when visitors travel outside of Kuala Lumpur. Leaving the city, is always a pleasure after a few days for me. So a trip from KL to Cameron Highlands was a welcome relief to escape the city life and also the heat and humidity. A favorite stopping place for many on the way to Cameron Highlands is Lata Iskandar Waterfalls. The narrow two lane road takes a “U” turn right at the base of the waterfalls and a small collection of roadside stands has sprung up to tempt those that stop for a rest.

Lata Iskandar Waterfall

Lata Iskandar Waterfall

Local bananas for sale at the Lata Iskandar waterfall

Local bananas for sale at the Lata Iskandar waterfall

The base of the waterfall is a favorite splash party play area for kids and adults seem to naturally migrate to the roadside stalls for a local Malaysian snack, fresh fruit or handicraft purchase.

 

Armed and ready for a blow dart demonstration in the Cameron Highlands

Armed and ready for a blow dart demonstration in the Cameron Highlands

Not far from the Lata Iskandar waterfall was a roadside house of a native Malay who demonstrated the art of blowing darts for our little group of tourists.

Cameron Highlands

Strawberries for sale in the Cameron Highlands

Strawberries for sale in the Cameron Highlands

At 5,000 ft above sea level, this area of Malaysia enjoys breezy, cool temperatures, rarely above 25 deg. C. and is ideal for strawberry, rose, vegetable gardening and tea plantations. The mountainous and sparsely settled area is full of interesting things to do and see. After the exceptional strawberries and tea have been sampled, there are the butterfly farm and insect display, honeybee exhibit, cactus nursery, roadside vegetable stand and several rainforest trekking tours are also available.  

 

 

 

BOH tea plantation in Cameron Highlands

BOH tea plantation in Cameron Highlands

Trimmed tea plants at the Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation

Trimmed tea plants at the Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation

One of my favorites is the BOH Tea Plantation. BOH (for Best of the Highlands) is the largest tea plantation in Malaysia and produces amazingly smooth, mellow tea. The best I have ever tasted!  BOH has a great visitor center with a tea shop and seating area that overlooks a beautiful valley full of tea plants. The tea growing areas are not terraced and often have to be picked by hand if the 2-person hedge trimmers can’t be used. The tea plants are kept to knee height and trimmed with hedge shears.  They are harvested year round whenever they have 2 new leaves of growth. The tea “shrubs” are from 30-60 years old and have thick woody trunks.  The plants can produce harvestable tea for over 100 years. All the BOH plants are from Assam, India.

The Gardens outside the BOH tea factory in Cameron Highlands

The Gardens outside the BOH tea factory in Cameron Highlands

The tea tasting room at BOH Tea Plantation

The tea tasting room at BOH Tea Plantation

Tea plants if left uncut form large trees. The high elevation of Cameron Highlands, the better the tea. The increased UV levels increases the tannins and produces the quality tea. “Lowland tea tastes like grass,” commented a local tea drinker.  “The perfect cup of Cameron Highlands tea is brewed 2 minutes (1 minute if you like light tea).


 

Pluck your Own Strawberries in Cameron Highlands

Pluck your Own Strawberries in Cameron Highlands

Strawberry growing is a big feature of the Cameron Highlands. Many “Pluck your own” opportunities exist and some “Do not pluck your own” nurseries too. The strawberries are grown hydroponically on raised benches under small greenhouses. The cool temperatures in the Highlands are perfect for strawberry growing and they can grow four crops throughout the year.


 

Roadside native bamboo orchids (Arundina graminifolia) in Cameron Highlands

Roadside native bamboo orchids (Arundina graminifolia) in Cameron Highlands

Native pitcher plants blooming in the rain forest of Cameron Highlands

Native pitcher plants blooming in the rain forest of Cameron Highlands

 The Cameron Highlands also offers plenty of nature tours to explore the wilder rain forest parts of the region. Over 150 types of ferns, the showy pink, bamboo orchid (Arundina graminifolia), native rhododendrons, tree ferns, wild cinnamon, and many wonderful Nepenthes (pitcher plants) grow in the quartz soils and spongy humus soils in the Cameron Highland hillsides. 


 

Baby orang utan in the Orang Utan Island Nursery

Baby orang utan in the Orang Utan Island Nursery

An orang utan baby in the nursery of Orang Utan Island

An orang utan baby in the nursery of Orang Utan Island

On the way to Penang island from Cameron Highlands is a unique private sanctuary for rehabilitating Orang utans called Orang Utan Island and EcoPark. Here adult orang utans roam freely on a 35 acre island and young babies are nursed back to health in a care facility. The facility is part of the Bukit Merah Laketown Resort and houses about 20 orang utans. Built to provide safe accommodation for the animals and human visitors, the nursery for example has big glass windows for visitors to interact with the babies.


 

Penang

Penang Island just off the Northwest coast of Malaysia is reached by bridge from the mainland. But be prepare for lots of congestion and slow moving traffic when traveling to the island.

An artist painting the Cannonball tree at Penang Botanical Garden

An artist painting the Cannonball tree at Penang Botanical Garden

Flowers of the Cannonball Tree at Penang Botanical Garden

Flowers of the Cannonball Tree at Penang Botanical Garden

Fruit of the Cannonball tree at Penang Botanical Garden

Fruit of the Cannonball tree at Penang Botanical Garden

 

Just outside of Georgetown, on the island of Penang is the Penang Botanical Garden. The gardens have been operating since 1884 and were known as the Waterfall Gardens.  The very tall waterfall still exists but it is out of bounds to the public as it is on water utility land.  The downstream portion is very visible through the gardens though.  The botanical garden was built on the site of an old granite quarry and the resultant bowl shape topography is still present. Today the gardens cover 72 acres.

One of the signature plants in the garden are the cannonball trees, and there are several planted in the main garden area. The cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis) is native to tropical South America (the northern part) and the southern parts of the Caribbean. The attractive, fragrant, orange-pink flowers bloom on 3 metre long dangling branches close to the trunk. When pollinated by bees or bats, these form large, brown, woody fruits the size and shape of cannonballs. Often the flowers and fruit are on the tree at the same time. The cannonballs are also found on thick stems that grow from the trunk of the tree. Once the fruit is ripe, it falls from the tree and cracks open exposing up to 300 seeds. A word of warning… don’t stand under the cannonball tree.  The fruit has been used for medicinal purposes for its antibiotic, antiseptic, and analgesic properties. [Do not self medicate without consulting a professional.] It is hardy to zone 9b.

 

Cactus and succulent sollection in the Sun Rockery garden at the Penang Botanical Garden

Cactus and succulent collection in the Sun Rockery garden at the Penang Botanical Garden

The tools of a gardener's trade at Penang Botanical Garden - an umbrella, wheelbarrow and a homemade broom

The tools of a gardener's trade at Penang Botanical Garden - an umbrella, wheelbarrow and a homemade broom

Long-Tailed Macaques at Penang Botanical Garden

Long-Tailed Macaques at Penang Botanical Garden

 

Many rare cacti and succulents can be enjoyed in the Sun Rockery at the Penang Botanical Garden. The gardens have long been the home to several troops of Long-tailed macaque monkeys, which fascinate and can scare some visitors. The botanical gardens brochures warn against feeding the monkeys, walking while eating or staring down the dominant male – always good advice when avoiding a confrontation. 

 

Carrying the bell at the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddist Temple on Penang Island

Carrying the bell at the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple on Penang Island

Dhammikarama Burmese Buddist Temple Penang

Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple Penang

Penang is home to many very beautiful temples and mosques. Beautiful in their architecture and homage to various Deities, whether Muslim, Buddhist or Hindi, these sacred places are fascinating to visit.  Two noted ones are the Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram, a Buddhist temple built in 1845 with Thai, Myanmarese and Chinese architecture. It houses a 33 meter long gold-plated reclining Buddha. Across the street the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple, founded in 1803, offers a different feeling and reflects the look and feel of Burma (Myanmar).  The Monk on duty is readily available to offer advice and prayers.

Selling Dragon Fruit at the Tropical Fruit Farm in Teluk Bahang

Selling Dragon Fruit at the Tropical Fruit Farm in Teluk Bahang

Up on the hillside, 800 ft from sea level in Teluk Bahang is the 25 acres Tropical Fruit Farm. With an orchard as varied as any in the world, the harvest for sale in the shop run the gamut of shapes, colors and sizes.

It was fascinating to discover that Dragon Fruit, the round pink fruit with white fleshy interior and black seeds are from a vine-like, epiphytic cactus called Hylocereus.  Dragon fruit is usually eaten raw and is served quartered with the outer flesh attached.

 

 

Durian fruit for sale (bottom left) at the Tropical Fruit Farm

Durian fruit for sale (bottom left) at the Tropical Fruit Farm

Dragon Fruit and red bananas at the Tropical Fruit Farm on Penang Island

Dragon Fruit and red bananas at the Tropical Fruit Farm on Penang Island

Not so fascinating was the discovery that ripe Durian fruit tastes like nothing that I would ever want to put into my mouth again. It is definitely an acquired taste that you have to grow up with, as our tour guide said. Yuck, bleah! To me, the large, lumpy spiky fruit, native to Malaysia, fully deserves the signs banning it from many hotel properties where we stayed. Even in the husk, the distinctive odor of the “King of Fruit” can be had.

Tropical Spice Garden samplings

Tropical Spice Garden samplings

Nutmeg and red mace at the Spice Garden

Nutmeg and red mace at the Spice Garden

The Tropical Spice Garden on the island of Penang is an excellent destination for the plant lover. Covering over 8 acres, with more than 500 varieties of exotic plants, the garden has three trails with excellent signage for visitors to explore. Well worth the uphill hike, or tram ride, is the spice museum, gift shop and cafe, located strategically away from the main entrance to entice visitors through the gardens first.  The shaded garden trails meander up and down the stream valley and offer an up close view of many great useful plants.


 

The view into the Tropical Spice Garden on Penang Island

The view into the Tropical Spice Garden on Penang Island

Silver Joey Palm (Johannesteijsmannia magnifica) at the Tropical Spice Garden

Silver Joey Palm (Johannesteijsmannia magnifica) at the Tropical Spice Garden

The Water Garden at the Tropical Spice Garden

The Water Garden at the Tropical Spice Garden




 

Destination Langkawi, a group of islands off the northwest coast of Malaysia

A birdwatching hut in Langkawi
A birdwatching hut in Langkawi
Composting in old bathtubs in Langkawi

Composting in old bathtubs at a resort in Langkawi

Spider Lilies in Langkawi

Spider Lilies in Langkawi

 

 

With so much nature and wildlife around, we found a bird watching hut erected at the Frangipani Langkawi Resort that was made of bamboo walls and a palm roof.  The resort has taken significant steps to be eco-friendly, including making their own compost in recycled bathtubs. The compost decomposes in 3-4 months with this method.

 

Bougainvillea flowers after the rain in Langkawi

Bougainvillea flowers after the rain in Langkawi

Bougainvillea in Langkawi

Bougainvillea in Langkawi

Bougainvillea, with their long-lasting colorful bracts after a daily mid-afternoon rain in Langkawi.
White, dwarf Mussaenda, also known as white wing (Mussaenda luteola), with its silly single white bract was a shrub growing in the hotel gardens. Hardy to zone 8.

 

 

 

 

Fragrant Frangipani at sunset in Langkawi

Fragrant Frangipani at sunset in Langkawi

Frangipani at Langkawi

Frangipani at Langkawi

Frangipani (Plumeria sp.) is a gangly shrub or small tree when not in bloom and wouldn’t rate a second glance. The fragrant, vivid flowers though are definitely a sight to behold.

 

 

 

 

 

Three week old rice paddies at Laman Padi in Langkawi

Three week old rice paddies at Laman Padi in Langkawi

Gardeners at work in the Rice Museum (Laman Padi) in Langkawi

Gardeners at work in the Rice Museum (Laman Padi) in Langkawi

A unique and very informative destination on Langkawi is the Laman Padi, The Rice Museum. The self-guided museum features the history and development of the Malaysian rice growing industry.  The museum also offers an elevated view of the padi fields from their rooftop. 

 

 

 

 

Coconut seeds at Laman Padi in Langkawi

Coconut seeds at Laman Padi in Langkawi

Coconut sprouting at Laman Padi in Langkawi

Coconut sprouting at Laman Padi in Langkawi

Screwping (Pandanas) on the beach in Lamgkawi

Screwpine (Pandanas) on the beach in Lamgkawi

 An interesting herb and edible garden lies between the museum and the rice fields. 

 

Water Buffalo in Langkawi beside the Rice Museum - Laman Padi

Water Buffalo in Langkawi beside the Rice Museum - Laman Padi

Dwarf White Mussaenda in Langkawi

Dwarf White Mussaenda in Langkawi

 

 

 

 Picturesque and authentic water buffalos reside in the nearby rice fields. 

 

 

 

Heliconia in Langkawi

Heliconia in Langkawi

Ixora in Langkawi

Ixora in Langkawi

Wooly Morning Glory (Argyreia nervosa) in Langkawi

Wooly Morning Glory (Argyreia nervosa) in Langkawi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset on the beach in Langkawi

Sunset on the beach in Langkawi

 

Putrajaya – An intelligent Garden City

Putra Mosque from Putrajaya Lake in Putrajaya

Putra Mosque from Putrajaya Lake in Putrajaya

 Putrajaya, a city of the 21st century is Malaysia’s designated Federal Government Administrative Center. The city was started in 1993 and is expected to be completed by 2012. At the heart of the city is a 400-hectare man-made lake that can be traversed in a wooden traditional Malay perahu boat. The boat cruise is the best way to see the impressive landmarks that border the lake. These include the Putra Mosque, large enough to accommodate 15,000 worshipers, the palace (Istana Melawati) of the King and Queen, the Taman Botani (Putrajaya Botanical Gardens), the office and residence of the Prime Minister and the palace of the Sultan of Selangor.

 

 

Putrajaya Botanical Garden visitor's center

Putrajaya Botanical Garden visitor's center

Canna blooms at Putrajaya Botanial Garden

Canna blooms at Putrajaya Botanial Garden

 

Taman Botani Putrajaya Botanical Garden
This relatively new botanical garden has “matured” nicely during the 10 years that it has been open and now is a fitting landscape for the new city of Putrajaya “City in the Garden”.
Most of the plants are well labeled and the garden is laid out well to lead the visitor from one section to another in a meandering pleasant way. A modernistic visitor center adds a dramatic flare to the garden entrance and a focal point to the garden.

 

Local Ladies waiting for a tour of Putrajaya Botanical Garden

Local Ladies waiting for a tour of Putrajaya Botanical Garden

From the visitor center, the first views of the garden are from the canopy bridge, suspended 170 metres across the valley and culminating at palm hill. The canna collection and vine garden were two additional highlights.

Handkerchief Tree at Putrajaya Botanical Garden

Handkerchief Tree at Putrajaya Botanical Garden

Handkerchief trees (Maniltoa browneoides) provide visitor interest from the parking lot to the visitor center.

 

 

 

 

 

Maiden's Jealousy in Putrajaya Botanical garden

Maiden's Jealousy in Putrajaya Botanical garden

One evergreen vine that caught my eye inside the botanical garden was Maiden’s Jealousy. This fragrant, native, yellow blooming vine blooms year round and is called Tristellateia australasiae.
 

Carnation of India Tabernaemontana at the Shangri-La Putrajaya hotel gardens

Carnation of India Tabernaemontana at the Shangri-La Putrajaya hotel gardens

The Shangri-La Putrajaya Resort gardens and the neighboring city park provided great floral attractions during a couple of short walking tours at the start and finish of a busy day of touring. One interesting plant was the Carnation of India (Tabernaemontana divaricata) which reminded me of gardenia with its fragrant white flowers.

 

 

 

 

Turnera in Putrajaya city garden

Turnera in Putrajaya city garden

Adjacent to the Shangri-La is a city garden Putrajaya Taman Putra Perdana with many additional interesting plants and a panoramic view of Lake Putrajaya.

Daylilies at Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin, Texas

Flowering Treasures at Zilker Botanical Garden

Rising extra early morning on Sunday gave me time to capture some flowers blooming at Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas before the sun got too fierce.   The daylilies (Hemerocallis) were particularly beautiful.


 

An aptly named Daylily - 'So Many Stars'

An aptly named Daylily - 'So Many Stars'

The Daylily  beds just west of the main entrance were spectacular in the early morning light. Each flower a perfect bloom to embrace the new day.
 

Daylily 'Velvet Gem' Daylily ‘Velvet Gem’

With the birds adding an audible chorus to the morning air, the daylilies were bursting into glorious bloom with all their might.  While one lone photographer walked the 50 feet from the parking lot to get up close and really appreciate all their beauty – at the same time hoping that others in the autos speeding by at 45 mph would slow down to take a notice too.   

Eye Yi Yi edited The stunning ‘Eye Yi-Yi’ Daylily at Zilker Botanical Garden

Zilker Botanical Garden is a 30 acre garden in the heart of Austin, Texas ajoining Zilker Park, a large recreation area treasured by the residents of the capital city.  The gardens are free and open daily from 7 am to 7 pm (or 5:30 pm in the winter). Parking fees apply during the spring and summer month weekends.  For more information call 512-477-8672 or visit www.zilkergarden.org. Zilker Botanical Garden is a collaboration of the City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department and the Austin Area Garden Council.

The beautiful 'Little Rich' Daylily at Zilker Botanical Garden

The beautiful 'Little Rich' Daylily at Zilker Botanical Garden