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.

29 March 2012

Jade Vine

Nothing is more alluring than the extraordinary Philippine jewel: the Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys). Magnificently hanging from its otherwise plain-looking vine are these blue-green and purple flowers that look like chandeliers just like the Lady's Slipper Vine but this rare local plant is far more mesmerizing, if only because of its turquoise hue. In fact,I am now in the midst of designing a new trellis just to showcase its cascading flowers even better.

27 March 2012


These last weeks, a colony of honeybees have been buzzing around the gardens; another live science class happening literally on my front yard! Admittedly, I don't know anything about them except that they make honey on a honeycomb. Apparently, this colony is making its honeycomb on an upside-down terra-cotta pot amidst some bromeliads.

Where did they come from? Why do they show up now? Where are they the rest of the year? Still so many things to learn...

22 March 2012

The Puppy Gym Extension

Some weeks back, I wrote about the Puppy Gym that Bukíng constructed for the two-month old pups. But now, in just a short time, they've outgrown it so he expanded and expanded and expanded...

... that by now, it has become a quarter-oval track with ramps, slaloms, and even a skyway! It's made entirely of bamboo that just grows in the farm, 100% recyclable though I have yet to apply for LEED certification :) We should be selling these!

20 March 2012

Chenille Plant

Although I have written at length about Acalyphas just yesterday, I purposely withheld one variety which I feel should be singled out, if only for its sheer outlandishness: it has plain looking leaves unlike its other cousins but makes it up by producing bizarre, tail-like inflorescences (in vivid red, at that) that hang from its branches! Some authoritative references call it the Chenille plant (Acalypha hispida, French for caterpillar, but actually alludes to chenille fabric) though I also have come across the common name Cat's Tail Acalypha. Either way, it cannot be helped that it be noticed in any garden where they produce the red thingy practically all year round.

19 March 2012


Any tropical garden can use some Acalypha plants to create contrast among its otherwise green foliage, what with the striking colors, leaves, and patterns of this unusual family. Some, like the A. wilkesiana cultivar above and below left, have ruffled, serrated leaves with randomly-stripes and peach-colored margins. Another cultivar (below right and further below) has predominantly-red shades with bronze specks but no margins.

A. wilkesiana "Copperleaf" with Golden Miagos (Osmoxylon geelvinkianum)
Another cultivar we have looks just the same as the one above but colored in a complementing palette of green, yellow, and white (below). This cultivar's leaves look like it's not as big as the copper-colored variety and apparently does not grow as tall when trained as an informal hedge. Further below is yet another cultivar with narrower leaves.

17 March 2012

Free-Range Chickens

So far, we've had a steady supply of farm-fresh, chemical-free eggs since we maintained our own free-range chickens. They are so organic to the farm that we hardly do any work in keeping them. There is so much space for them to roam and feed themselves, and just after some weeks, they have gotten used to coming home to us even if they periodically cross-over to the neighbors.

Free-range chickens look, feel, and taste far more natural than commercially-

raised varieties that are stuffed with processed foods and medication (which we will ingest, in turn). They are cooped in cages all their short lives where their movement is virtually impeded and there is no opportunity for them to move and flex themselves.

And commercially-raised chicken is almost always the white leghorn type! Free-range ones, condescendingly labeled "native," actually look better and more appropriate to our local surroundings.

11 March 2012

Lady's Slipper Vine

A "pair" of Lady's Slippers in detail
Only a few months in a year do I have the pleasure of showering amidst the blooms of the Lady's Slipper Vine (Thunbergia mysorensis), now mesmerizing me as I wash myself after a long day of gardening. The morning sun side of the toilet & shower area is partly open to the elements so oen can easily see the assorted plants we grow outside it. We have trained the vine to climb a wooden trellis bordering the enclosure and now that it's flowering season, they are lined up in different stages of bloom, pendulously hanging like small tropical chandeliers.

07 March 2012

Fire Orchid

Still in bloom for some weeks now is the Fire Orchid (Renanthera philippinensis), an indigenous bloom with an arrestingly-red color. Native to our forests, Renantheras come in varied colors and patterns elsewhere but it's only here in the country that it blushes this vividly.

The numerous blooms just before it opens
Renanthera detail

05 March 2012


One of the first seedlings we planted is guayabáno (soursop, Annona muricata), another favorite of our family. It must have only been knee-high then and in just a span of three years, it is now fruiting! Three years may sound like a long time to some, especially cityfolk, but consider that for a tree to take root, get itself stable, acclimatize, grow, mature until it gets into a reproductive state, all of these take TIME. In the greater scheme of things, three years is nothing considering the tree's productivity from then on.

Guayabanos are very refreshing, succulently filled with juice that you can make into a refreshing smoothie or shake. Although some people mistake it to be related to the jackfruit and the duriăn, it is actually a cousin of the anónas and átis.  Both the anonas and atis taste similar to the guayabano but are quite pasty in texture and not at all juicy.

In my family, we eat it fresh, slightly-chilled, with all its milky juice dripping between our fingers... this simply means summer's just around the corner!

03 March 2012

March Bird of the Month

One of my most favorite birds is the majestic Láwin (Brahminy Kite), still a fairly visible raptor pretty much lording the skies all over the archipelago. I guess it requires a big area of land and forest to thrive as they are more often visible in the bigger islands like Luzón. In our area in the Malaráyat foothills, it flies high up in the air with its wide and distinct wingspan clearly visible from below, surveying the land below with its keen eyesight (thus, we allude in Tagálog with the metaphor matang láwin).

On some clear days, we can all the more distinguish it because of its distinct chocolate brown feathers. More often than not, it is a solitary bird and is most active in the mid-mornings.

Photographed at the Wildlife Rescue Center, Quezon City