The panorama on the sunrise side: an awesome view of Malarayat

The quiet panorama on the sunrise side of the farm: an awesome view of Mount Malaráyat and the river below the gap.

31 December 2011


Flowering profusely now is the Firespike Plant (Odontonema strictum), looking gorgeously-red this Christmastime. Its flowers which are on its terminal spikes, have a nectar attractive particularly to sunbirds (leftmost part of the bush in the above image) and have been delightfully keeping me occupied photographing them, both the pompous bush and the perky birds.

When i started having this plant propagated, my head gardener Edwin looked baffled, wondering what beauty I find in this plant which they consider more of a roadside weed than an ornamental. But I insisted we grow it and cultivate it as a hedge, and now I'm vindicated :)

27 December 2011


Practically everyone I know has some childhood recollection or even a favorite story about Arátiles (Muntingia calabura, also known as Dátiles or Sarésa, from the Spanish Ceréza [cherry]). Every visitor who comes and sees it waxes romantic and chuckles at some memory of simpler days from yore, with dreamy eyes and a silly smile and soon, they'll be pulling the end-branches to pick the reddest fruits and nibble on them straight from the tree!

Though it sounds omnipresent in Philippine culture and heritage, it is not a local tree but instead, was transplanted from the Americas via the Galleon Trade (thus explaining the Hispanic-sounding local names). It grows very fast; in my experience, a seedling with enough sunlight grew tall and started fruiting in just around twelve to fourteen months. Though the leaves are light-colored and the crown does not look dense, it is an excellent shade tree especially for young gardens where your hardwoods and other fruit-bearing trees will take ages to cover half-sun ornamentals.

The fruits are a bird's favorite, though the seeds which they drop can sometimes be a nuisance once it starts germinating where you don't want them to.

19 December 2011


Hoya incrassata
Another Philippine jewel from the local rainforests is Hoya, a group of vines and plants from the Asclepias family with small flowers arranged like starbursts and fireworks. Among them is a somewhat popular plant abroad called Shooting Stars (below, Hoya multiflorum, sometimes labeled as Centrostema). Mine came along with some epiphytic ferns and I was delighted to find them one morning, indeed looking like shooting stars. I think they flower all year round, and require practically no maintenance, given that it is planted under the right conditions.

Hoya multiflorum (a.k.a. Centrostema multiflorum)
Ironically, it is more known in other countries than here in its native islands. I myself admittedly did not know about this group of plants until that fortuitous morning I saw it among the ferns. On the other hand, I have come across a zealous native plant collector who has dazzled me with his extensive Hoya collection, with flowers ranging from fuschia to black! So far, I have started sourcing and planting other colors but only the cream-colored flowers are mature enough.

Although it is jewel-like, its name has nothing to do with the Spanish translation for pearl, but instead, named after for an English gardener named Thomas Hoy.

18 December 2011


One beautiful plant about to flower now is a true Philippine native, the Bagáwak (Clerodendrum quadriloculare). It has green leaves on the top side but deep purple underneath, with attractive pink and purple flowers that start to emerge at this time of the year. Strangely, it is not common to find these in local gardens despite the fact that it should grow and flower here easily. 

December 2009
 If you leave it untended, it will naturally assume the shape of a small tree. However, from our pilot specimen that produced a multitude of seedlings, we gathered some and clustered them altogether, trying out its ornamental viability as a hedge or a screen. So far, it has taken root but I have yet to see how it will eventually look like, though I imagine it will have to be big and tall, owing to its thick stems and large leaves. It is also only when it is elevated that you will appreciate the leaves' purple underside. 

The experimental hedge will still take some months to define its shape, but in the meantime I am posting photos here of previous seasons' flowers for you to see how uniquely beautiful the flowers are.

January 2010

11 December 2011

Puto Lanson

No, it's not fried rice! It's called púto lansón; I couldn't photograph it any better, but I wish I could make you taste through this blog. It's another Ilónggo delicacy made by my caretaker, Bukíng and his wife, Cristina. They made it earlier; giniling na kamóteng káhoy (ground cassava) with gatâ (coconut cream), butter, and toasted coconut. It's also got toasted coconut in between, pretty much like a donut filling.

It's yummy! And I didn't know this before; I don't recall ever coming across this native steamed cake. I'm intrigued what else they can cook from our available produce in the farm?

06 December 2011

From My Library: Tropical Garden Plants

I've had this book for years, I remember buying it in the old free-standing, kiosk-like Bibliarch store outside Power Plant in Rockwell, way before it was Fully Booked. It's a reliable reference to help identify plants and has surprisingly accurate and handy growing tips how to care and propagate. So far, this book has been the most helpful aid to make me understand tropical plants better.

The articles can be quite generic and the photographs tend to illustrate more common ones, but what's impressive is it reads like a well-researched reference guide without sounding scientifically-difficult and still laid-out looking like a simple and casual coffee-table book.

It is also gardener- and landscaper-friendly; the plants are grouped according to its function and blocking in a garden. All flowering trees are on the first section, followed by shrubs and hedges. A chapter is devoted to foliage plants, then ground covers are grouped together later, just as vines.

There is a big section on palms that show the immense variety not just in Southeast Asia but in tropical countries elsewhere, from Egypt to the Caribbean.

This may be out of print already by now; I searched on but couldn't find even a used copy. But the author, William Warren came up with a new title in 2006 called Tropical Plants for Home & Garden, still with photographs by Luca Tettoni. It may be just as good.

05 December 2011

December Bird of the Month

The Brown Shrike, commonly called Tarăt but in our area, it is known as Pákiskis. It has become more visible and audible lately; a rowdy and noisy bird, and can be quite aggressive. We like it though, since it eats a lot of the insects, even the large ones that are scattered in the farm and the gardens. It's usually conspicuous because of its chatter, especially when there's a group of them late mornings or just when we're about to have our afternoon siesta when they break the quiet, laid-back mood.

04 December 2011

Must-Have Pots

I don't know about you but that's how I feel when I source pottery for my use, and lately, for friends. They're not the usual pots you find in roadside stores or garden centers, but instead the types of terra-cotta pots you find in coffee-table books on gardening, tropical design, and Southeast Asian architecture.

We use them in the gardens and sell them as well; sturdy and beautifully-designed pottery that are visually appealing by themselves
and at the same time, complements tropical plants that match certain shapes and sizes. A chunk of my weekend time is spent assigning the right plant to the right pot, and it is totally satisfying to see that both the plant and the pot set each other off as a singular, natural work of art.

But all these begin with the right pot. Terra-cotta literally means "baked earth," so the vessel containing your plants simulate similar natural conditions, just like how it is if it is planted on the ground.

Some are ribbed (topmost), some have geometric relief (second from top) that are hand-made one by one. One of my favorite designs are stamped patterns, in this case on the rim with leaves (right) or circles (below).

Sizes vary from tabletop to jars that can fit you and me inside. The biggest I've bought, for a resort project recently took the entire space of the pick-up's bed; that was all I could take one time. After all, they're breakable and cannot be stacked.

You'll see the stocks when you come and visit, or I'll periodically upload the more interesting designs here in the blog. We can also deliver, as these require special handling and a considerable space.