Thursday, October 30, 2008

Watching the Banana Inflorescence

In my eco-farm, I have about 12 varieties of bananas that produce fine edible fruits of various tastes and texture. I hope to get more better fruiting varieties in future.  Lately, I have been watching the flowering stages of one particular banana 'tree'.  I type 'tree' to differentiate the banana from other kind of trees.  The mature banana 'trunk' consists of concentric tubular leaf-sheaths. What appears as the banana stem is actually the bases of the leaves fitting closely together.  Newer large leaves are formed, each with a longer sheath than the last, until the full length of the plant is reached.
Below are the exciting moments.
From the very end of the stem the flowering spike thrusts upwards.
The terminal spike is enclosed by large overlapping purplish bracts, now bends over.
One bract opens out from the terminal spike to expose the first female flowers.
The female flowers producing the fruits appear in stages and are arranged in a hand-like formation.  After successive groups of female flowers have appeared, the remaining terminal spike consisting of closely fit bracts contain only male flowers.  The pendulous male tip of the inflorescence is called the 'jantung' in Malay.  The jantung is edible and many eat it as salad or cook them as vegetables with coconut milk.
A CU view of the female flowers. Note one free petal ( white in colour) and a gap between it and stamens above.  At the base of the stamens nectar is produced oozing a sour-sweet smell, attractive to the bats which lick them normally in the evening hours.( Of course with their claws stuck to the bracts,hanging upside down)
To cut the short story short, I move over to the next tree and to show kind folks around how a bunch of the banana fruits looks in mid air.
Enjoy your bananas.
P.S. In cultivated species, the pollination of female flowers are unnecessary because they acquired the habit of developing without pollination. Anyway, bananas have no seeds except their wild cousins.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Most travelled cats story continues...

Inul ( in grey) and Daisy( white, yellow and black) enjoying their meal at Bintulu (10th trip)

The record attempt to become the most travelled cats in Malaysia continues with Daisy and Inul. Daisy has always been in the record making travel because since day one she always accompanied her kittens when they started the adventure. However on the 10 th trip to Bintulu this time around, two of the gang viz Einstein and Macy Grey were left in Kuching ( on their own accord). Previous trips have been told by Macy Grey, the eldest kitten then. So its Inul narrating the story now......join them here.

The Bamboo Orchids of Sarawak, Borneo

Ever wondered how a bamboo orchid look like? Like a bamboo! Which is a tall grass.  Which is a reed. That's how the name came about. In Latin arundo means reed.  Because the stem of this wayside orchid is akin to that of the reed, it came to be known as the Bamboo Orchid.
Driving back to Bintulu from Kuching, a distance of 600 km last week and many many moons before that, I realise that the stretch between Sibu and Bintulu is the best area to find these orchids growing wild along the Sarawak highway.  I find them most endemic from Bintulu to Tatau where they grow in groups or clusters. The bamboo orchids are native to this part of the world but I understand that they are not found in the Philippines. 
Upon closer observation , I find that the flowers are much like the cattelya orchid though much smaller in size, mainly because the lip of its flowers are broad and the outer edge frilled..  The inflorescence is terminal and the flowers open in succession, one or two at a time. I find at many a gardens where they are grown in beds or clustered which is the best way to display its beauty. Best if you incorporate them in a rockery.  Requiring full sun and well drained friable soil there are plants that need little maintenence in our tropical garden. For this reason I choose this species as one of my kambatik garden plant favourite. Unfortunately the flowers do not last long, 3-4 days at the most. Other names of which this plant is called are: Arundinia speciosa, A. chinensis, A. densiflora and A. affinis.

Back to Cut Flowers

Today I am back with my secateurs and wandering around my garden here in Bintulu.  My blog on floral arrangement  done on daily basis has passed its 100th posting.  And I intend to let the show go on...and on..

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blooming bougainvilleas at Satok, Kuching.

This picture I took while in Kuching last week.  Today I am in Bintulu and enjoying the fresh air, country peace and nature at my eco-farm.
The above shot shows two cars entering the Satok Road, which is a very popular shopping and banking area in Kuching.  At night there are hundreds of stalls open for eating out early or late.  The flyovers caught my sight with their blooming bougainvilleas.  I am pretty sure this variety is the bougainvillea poultinii species which is generally the preferred choice due to its pink colours , free flowering and  dwarf characteristcs like in this case even though it is dense it is not straggling. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Best Verandah with a View

At my chalet in Bintulu there is a verandah. It is what the local Melanaus here call 'Abak" ( pronounce with a soft 'k').  It is extension of the house which is multi-functional in use.  Here I read newspapers, novel or any books for that matter.  Have my morning breafast or afternoon cup of tea. Surrounded by trees on all sides and above, you wash plates, do any miscellaneous work under shade even in the hot afternoon sun . For instance you can turn it into a barber corner anytime. But my most favourite activity here is taking shower .  For that matter my shower room has no walls instead I have the whole garden view . This is what I mean my country living. It's so open, free,natural and without any pretense.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Which Angel's Trumpet?

Something extraordinary happened today. I have planted this small shrub for eight years now. Have moved it in-ground,then inside pots, in-ground again at so many places that I just lose count. But I never gave up hope to see its flowers whenever it will be.
Today, is the day. I saw for the first time in eight years the trumpet-like ,white and pendulous flower of this shrub.
Could it be a datura,brugmansia or a randia?
My closest guess right now is that it is a species of the randia.
I'll try my best to find out more about this beauty. It is fragrant ,by the way.
There is another bud forming and am waiting anxiously to see others.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Durian fruits at Satok sidewalk

Can't resist the temptation.'s the durians that drove me crazy today.
This 'King of Fruits' as many claimed it to be is back in town.  At Satok, makeshift stalls appear on sidewalk cashing on the durian fever. I notice the prices are reasonable and decided to buy a few.
For some the smell of the durians is pungent and offensive and make them dash 100 meters for cover. I am among those who stick to its super label - the smell of a thousand perfumes.
This is what makes travelling 30 kilometers to Satok worthwhile. Say your prayers.  This is a heavenly gift.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

I went to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre to witness the 'orang utan' ( Pongo pygmaeus) literally to mean ' man of the forest' in Malay. The centre is part of a big nature reserve that let orang utans forage freely in the jungle there. At the centre you can see the orang utans emerge from the jungle to have their meals served on feeding platforms . Today the visitors were lucky when 8 of the orang utans, adults and babies came out to enjoy their meals .
Twice daily ( 9 am and 3 pm) the park rangers serve food consisting of the coconut, papaya, sugar cane, banana, tapioca etc on a raised platform.
At the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, the orang utans are rehabilitated to prepare them to join the rest in the wilderness after they are sufficiently weaned out at the centre.
Tourists took this opportunity to take their photographs of a lifetime. Entrance fees to the centre is RM 3 per adult. For more pictures of the orang utans who came to town today, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scenes around the Sarawak Museum Garden

Today I went to see the Sarawak Museum grounds.  The Sarawak Museum building has stood the test of time since it was built in 1891 by Charles Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak.
This is the view of the garden area of the Sarawak Museum seen from the back of the building. The Sarawak Museum building is in the middle ground of the picture. The tall building in the background is the Merdeka Palace, a 5-star hotel within walking distance of the museum.
The road sign indicates other buildings located close by the museum ground. This is the gradual climb  leading to the front of the museum building.
Walking up the small hill on which the museum is situated I met a line of the tropical and native palm of Sarawak called the  sealing wax palm ( Cyrtostachys renda) having orange sheaths. This variety is unique because normally the prevalent variety is the red coloured ones.
An interesting garden feature within the museum garden grounds. There are plenty of blooms that caught my attention today like the official flower of Malaysia called the hibiscus ( Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) or the shoe flower grown by the many colours and varieties as shown below.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Trip to Buntal Village

Kampung Buntal or the village of Buntal is a half - way on the road to Santubong beach. Stopping by the small village road we checked at the roadside stalls for some goodies. We bought a couple of pickled fruits packed in plastic. The fruits pickled are mainly of the 'cermai' ( Phyllanthus acidus L.Skeels. ) ,the 'kedondong' ( a species of the canarium family) and the sourish 'asam paya'.
At another stall we met across grilled fish wrapped in 'nipah palm ' leaves, a common feather-leaved palm found in low-lying mangroove swamp areas through out Sarawak. Each piece costs RM 1 and contained two small fishes. and fresh from the grille ,tastes good and wants some more!

Buntal village is about half an hour drive from Kuching city and people as well as tourists from Kuching frequent the sea food restaurants here in the evening to savour the many varieties of reasonably priced fresh seafood available in abundance.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Drunken Sailor in Kuching

It beats me why this beautiful creeper is hilariously called  'The Drunken Sailor'.  My best guess is that its flowers first appear as white then gradually changes to red as it stays older.  It's a hardy climber and can reach pergolas, fences and roofs of building in quick time.
A CU View the 'Rangoon Creeper' flowers on a Kuching wall.
The flowers are fragrant indeed and due to that is referred to also as 'red jasmine' on account of its jasmine-like petals and strong scent. Otherwise it is commonly known too as the 'Rangoon Creeper'(Quisqualis indica) which probably indicates its tropical origins i.e. Rangoon ( Myanmar, previously Burma)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Red frangipani flowers

While shopping at Gambier Street in down town Kuching, I stopped by the jetty to watch the serenity of the Sarawak River and the rustic and historical 'Astana' on the opposite riverbank. The Astana is the official residence of the Governor of Sarawak now. I was taken aback by the blood red colours of the above frangipani species planted in planter boxes in front of the shophouses area. I have often seen pink or a mixture of pink and orange colours but pure red colours are hard to come by.

Traditional shadow play figures

Went shopping at the Boulevard Shopping Mall today. Located at Mile 4, Kuching -Serian Road this shopping mall is the latest addition in town. The mall has I think the biggest hypermarket in Kuching city.
What interests me today is the decorations put up in the atrium's space. The unconventional use of shadow play figures on the lanterns gives the traditional puppets images a modern appeal.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sarawak River boat cruise

Today is the 7th day of the Hari Raya in Kuching. I took a few hours this afternoon to check out any interesting happenings at the water front area. Closeby the water edge I saw groups of tourists boarding a river cruise boat to enjoy a two hours journey looking at the sunset, the river scenes, local food and drinks served together with cultural performances for the tourists on board the double-decker boat. I was informed that the cost per pax for the enchanting experience is RM 48. The boat leaves around 5.00 pm to enable the tourists catch the setting sun normally seen around 6.30 pm onwards around the Kuching vicinity.

Conical shapes at Kuching water front

I am attracted at the use of conical shape for both the bronze sculpture in the foreground and a mammoth building under construction in the background.
Close up view of the bronze sculpture. The bird silhouette resembles that of the 'kenyalang bird' otherwise called the rhinocerous hornbill. Sarawak is also officially known as ' The Land of the Hornbills'.