After the hubbub of the Chocolate Festival, the Garden is in repose this
|Mottled and twisted seed pods of
Lysiloma latisiliquum, wild
week, enjoying the soft light and quiet of a January afternoon. Visitors meandered in ones or twos yesterday, content with the winding down that’s apparent in the brown edges on leaves, the brown coconut fronds, and the brown coconuts floating in the lakes. There are beautiful turquoise seeds of the Chinese fan palms littering the Bailey Palm Glade along with mottled and twisted pods of the wild tamarind nearby, little works of art that can be found underfoot.
|Unusual fruit of the Pseudophoenix
sargentii, Sergeant's cherry palm.
In the lowlands, a Pseudophoenix sargentii , Sergeant’s cherry palm, is dropping unusual red seeds that are doublets or triplets – with two or three seeds in a single fruit. This salt tolerant native is not far from Center Lake where companionable coots swim in a clump near the shoreline.
A short distance from the tram stop, parrots feed on the Ceiba speciosa pods with more gusto than is seemly in the otherwise subdued day, a day that is played with an unseen foot on the soft pedal.
There are bright spots, of course. Cardinals animate the Madagascar exhibit, which is itself abloom with the red, oranges and golden flowers of aloes and kalanchoes. The flame vine dares the pergola to ignite, and ornamental bananas send up pink flower stalks.
But mostly, it’s a gentle Garden this time of year, taking its sweet time.
|Flame vine on the pergola.|
It's a festival that appeals to the kid in all of us, but authentic kids really love this one. The 5th International Chocolate Festival, featuring Coffee & Tea, opened today with the delectable aroma of chocolate coming from orchids, candies, candles, even from the Garden's festival T-shirt. Ummm.
|Barbara Lalevee shows Ryan
Johnson 9, pulpy chocolate seeds .
You can see the Theobroma cacao trees in the rainforest -- and volunteer Barbara Lalevee will point out the baby pod on one of them that looks like a pepper -- and touch the
|An opened cacao pod.|
pulp-coated seeds. You can buy a chocolate ice cream, a chocolate-covered oreo, a chocolate cupcake, several bars of Ecuadorean chocolate, beautifully decorated fruit-flavored chocolate candies, chocolate fountains. This must be one of the most sensual festivals around! If it all becomes too much you can even take a quick yoga class or have a massage.
|A pink-clad chocokid.|
A culinary tent is sure to fill quickly throughout Saturday and Sunday, as chefs show how to whip up dreamy chocolate recipes. Or, you can learn about the chocolate genome or chocolate secrets of the Maya in the Corbin building lecture series.
|Painting a pretty face.|
Don't forget the face-painters, story-tellers and rescued rabbits in the Learning Garden. There are cooking demonstrations for kids at 11 Saturday and Sunday, even yoga for kids -- if they can sit still after all that chocolate!
The hybrid orchid Oncidium Sharry Baby ‘Sweet Fragrance’ is blooming and
|Onc. Sharry Baby now has many relatives,
some of them quite red in color.
releasing its wonderful chocolate aroma just in time for the Chocolate Festival. An easy orchid to grow, this Oncidium has round pseudobulbs that range in size from three to four inches, and long, strap-shaped leaves that are somewhat leathery. It sends out long spikes of mahogany and cream-colored flowers. You can grow this in a mix of sphagnum moss and bark. During hot weather, the plants do not like to dry out, but watering twice weekly should be sufficient. Some growers like to allow the plants to almost dry between waterings during the winter. Use a water-soluble orchid fertilizer weekly in the growing season, and every two weeks in the winter. Many of the leaves on this orchid are seen with brown spots rather like freckles, which the botany department at the University of Oklahoma says can be reduced or eliminated by growing the plant in lower light. Morning sun is quite acceptable, however.
Since we’ve added coffee and tea to our festival, I’m waiting for someone to come up with an orchid that rewards us with the rich smell of morning coffee.
December’s low temperatures have taken a toll on the garden’s tender plants, especially the (usual suspects) aroids, gingers and heliconias. But many plants have kept right on ticking. Should we keep a basic list of what to plant in the future? Perhaps.
|Modest in size but outstanding in
color is this Billbergia bromeliad.
A small Billbergia (confession: I’ve lost the species name) is sending out a flower spike. Billbergia is a genus of bromeliad from Mexico or Brazil, and I’ve had this for a number of years but it persists despite me. It resides beneath an avocado tree in some mulch and leaves. The inflorescence’s colors are brilliant: hot pink, green, and winter-sky blue.
The Christmas cactuses have been
|Christmas cactus flowers.|
spectacular. Schlumbergera is the genus, and there are a handful of species and umpteen-ump cultivars. Ours have flowers that are fuchsia with light to white centers, and they practically throb with color. I keep one in a south window that is shaded by a Bahamas shutter; a larger plant has its own plant stand on the south side of a porch. I give them a bit of liquid fertilizer in the summer as well as a small amount of Dynamite. To tell when they need water, I pick up the pots. In the fall, as the days are shortening, I let the soil stay dry a little longer. Really dry. Once buds set, I resume the watering.
The Thai crotons didn’t like the cold, nor did the variegated agaves, which have reddened leaves. Martin Motes has reminded recipients of his monthly newsletter that an application of micronutrients will help orchids deal with cold stress, particularly those showing red leaves. Epsom salt mixed with potassium nitrate (1 1/2 tablespoons each in a gallon of water) make a tonic that all our outdoor plants can appreciate. Except for the catasetums, cycnoches, and leafless dendrobiums, keep on a winter schedule of fertilizing (every two weeks) and reduce irrigation.
|A future Monarch butterfly.|
There is some good news: very hungry monarch caterpillars – quite suddenly large – have returned to the milkweeds. I harvested a few milkweed seeds in late November, and they’re beginning to pop up. Walking iris, yesterday-today-tomorrow, Tillandsia bromeliads, even vandas attached to palm trees are blooming like crazy. We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed from now until spring.