Gardening with Georgia

Archive - October 2011

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Bandhavgarh, India

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 at 03:20:03 PM

Bandhavgarh,India-- We have one more chance to see a tiger this afternoon. So far we have come up dry--although we have seen an abundance of wildlife in Bandhargarh National Park.

We head out at 5:45 a.m.  The que for the park must wait for all papers to be authenticated before we can enter. In this part of the park there are specific routes that the guides must follow and they must carry papers attesting to their assigned routes.

Half way through the morning's outing, we have to stop and have the papers reauthenticated.

So far, we have seen boars that look just like wart hogs in Africa, spotted deer and samba deer, langurs, jackals, and several wonderful birds. This morning we heard a female tiger roar several times, but she didn't like the sound of jeeps and she stayed hidden with her two four-month-old cubs.

The forest is primarily bamboo and sal trees. Lots of Vanda and Ascocentrum orchids in the sal trees. And since it is the dry season, we return from our jeep safaris covered with dust. A small price for the adventure!


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The Burmese National Botanic Garden

Sat, Oct 29, 2011 at 11:32:02 AM

Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar-- An enormous conifer, Araucaria columnaris, towers over the Burmese National Botanic Garden at a refreshingly cool altitude of 3,500 feet. Once a hill station to which the British retreated from Mandalay's heat, the garden was begun in 1915. It took us nearly 3 hours to reach it from the steamy plains of Mandalay, following enormous trucks around hairpin curves of the Burma Road on their way to China, only 350 miles away.  

Once at the little town of Pyin Oo Lwin, we squeezed into a tiny cart, shaped like a stage coach and painted in pastels, to be pulled by a little horse to the garden. British tradition, you know. Begun by Alex Rogers, a forestry researcher, the garden was helped by Otway Wheeler Cuffee and his wife Charlotte Wheeler Cuffee, offering advice on the layout and plant collections. The Cuffees, says our Burmese guide Kenneth, were from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  

Maymyo Botanical Garden (also called Kandawgyi) is organized around a man-made lake on 436 acres. Low beds of annuals provide the color around the lake, where families come to picnic and listen to a rock band on the weekends. Black and mute swans keep their distance from each other.  

Now privately maintained, the garden has several large collections, including bamboo, conifers, orchids, and crotons. We headed to the orchids collection through the pines.  

There are 42 endemic orchid species housed here, neatly grown in clay pots. In flower for us were Paphiopedilum wardii, pictured at left, Paph. spicerianum and many gorgeous cymbidiums. Alas, no labels. Onc. Sharry Baby surprised our local guide Joe with its chocolate perfume.  

In the large aviary, hornbills eyed us and white peacocks ignored us. Perhaps most splendid is the butterfly museum, with all the butterflies of Myanmar, South America, and Asia. Photos not allowed.  

It was a glorious afternoon, and took only 1 1/2 hours to descend back into the city and the heat and the motorbikes of Mandalay.


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The Toddy Palm

Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 01:56:34 PM

Borassus flabellifer is called the toddy palm. Toddy, or a potent wine, is made from the inflorescences of the palm. Climbers ascend bamboo ladders that are attached to the tall trunks, cut a section of inflorescence, and attach bowls to catch the draining juice. The palms are harvested of toddy from the age of 25 to 45, after which they can "retire."

 The toddy is OK for women and children in the morning, but by afternoon if has become a potent drink of 5 to 7 percent alcohol. 

A sugary candy called jaggery is made from the maple-syrup like palm juice, and when combined with tapioca, it makes a lovely dessert.


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Floating Tomato Islands

Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 11:36:26 AM

Inle Lake, Myanmar―This vast lake, which is 14 miles long in the center ofMyanmar, is home to 80,000 people, half of whom live in the lake itself. They fish, farm and go to school, living in stilt houses and getting around by canoe. Tomatoes are their main crop.

To grow them, they scoop up mud from the lake bottom and mix it with seaweed to create floating islands. Then they insert long slender poles into the islands and train the tomatoes to grow between them.

Floating tomato islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many small communities are have temples. There's even a monastery here with trained cats called the Jumping Cat Monastery. Many years ago, the monks trained a few cats to jump through a hoop. That tradition continues. For the price of a piece of shrimp, cats will leap through a small ring. 

Shades of sundown inKey West!

 


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Inle Lake, Myanmar

Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 10:14:37 AM

Inle Lake, Myanmar-- The lotus in both Burma and India is a sacred flower, associated with purity. In Burma, the fragrant lotus legend is that Buddha was offered a set of monk's robes by a Brahma who had found them in a lotus blossom. 

Nearly a century ago in a fishing village in Inle Lake, a woman experimented with the fibers she gently pulled from a lotus stem, forming them into thread and weaving thread into lotus items, such as scarves and robes. 

 

Cloth woven from lotus thread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no other place where this tradition of lotus fiber weaving occurs. The scarves have a nubby feel and an off-white color.  But few of us who grow lotus in South Florida would have the patience required to weave lotus fiber. Or would we?


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Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 03:26:01 PM

Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar--  An enormous conifer, Araucaria columnaris, towers over the Burmese National Botanic Garden at a refreshingly cool altitude of 3,500 feet. Once a hill station to which the British retreated from Mandalay's heat, the garden was begun in 1915. It took us nearly 3 hours to reach it from the steamy plains of Mandalay, following enormous trucks around hairpin curves of theBurma Road on their way toChina, only 350 miles away. 

Once at the little town of Pyin Oo Lwin, we squeezed into a tiny cart, shaped like a stage coach and painted in pastels, to be pulled by a little horse to the garden. British tradition, you know.  

Begun by Alex Rogers, a forestry researcher, the garden was helped by Otway Wheeler Cuffee and his wife Charlotte Wheeler Cuffee, offering advice on the layout and plant collections. The Cuffees, says our Burmese guide Kenneth, were from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  

Maymyo Botanical Garden (also called Kandawgyi) is organized around a man-made lake on 436 acres. Low beds of annuals provide the color around the lake, where families come to picnic and listen to a rock band on the weekends. Black and mute swans keep their distance from each other.  

Now privately maintained, the garden has several large collections, including bamboo, conifers, orchids, and crotons. We headed to the orchids collection through the pines.  

There are 42 endemic orchid species housed here, neatly grown in clay pots. In flower for us were Paphiopedilum wardii, pictured at left, Paph. spicerianum and many gorgeous cymbidiums. Alas, no labels. Onc. Sharry Baby surprised our local guide Joe with its chocolate perfume.  

In the large aviary, hornbills eyed us and white peacocks ignored us. Perhaps most splendid is the butterfly museum, with all the butterflies of Myanmar, South America, and Asia. Photos not allowed.  

It was a glorious afternoon, and took only 1 1/2 hours to descend back into the city and the heat and the motorbikes of Mandalay.


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Yangon, Myanmar

Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 03:15:22 PM

Yangon, Myanmar-- Smack in the middle of the most holy of Buddhist shrines, the Shwedagon Pagoda (seen below), is a toddy palm, Borassus flabillifer. It is the on the leaves of this palm that the Burmese developed an alphabet and writing.  

The letters, confusingly small circles, were developed to stay within the narrow segments of the palmate leaves and the writing continues to be plump to this day.  

Shwedagon itself is to Buddhists as Meccais to Muslims, and the enormous bell-shaped central part of the shrine is coated with 24-caret gold to a depth of 21 as a sign of reverence.  

The top of the shrine reaches 99.98 meters and the circumference is 125 meters. Around it are small shrines where worshippers can make offerings and pray. 

Bare feet take pilgrims clockwise around the structure. It is a spectacular sight, where monks finger their worry beads and children play, where tourists mingle with the devout.  

There are 58 million people living in this country, which was known asBurmauntil 1990. Eighty percent of the people are Buddhists, 7 percent Christians, 6 percent Muslims and 2 percent Hindus. No matter what one's belief, the fabulous stupa is a draw for everyone. (A stupa, also called a pagoda, is a shrine that is solid and requires you to walk around the exterior while a temple is a shrine you may enter for worship.) Stupas are everywhere here. Building a stupa is a way for Buddhists to earn merit on the road to Nirvana, and kings often built many of them.  

Just as spectacular is Yangon's reclining Buddha. An androgynous figure lies on his side in the teaching pose, supporting his head with one hand, and stretches his legs some 60 meters. Originally this statue was built outdoors in 1905, but a natural disaster caused it to crumble 20 years later. This version of the reclining Buddha was rebuilt of brick and stucco and given a steel shed by the British. The day we visited, monks were suspended from ropes cleaning his face!


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Traveling in Asia

Sun, Oct 23, 2011 at 02:03:49 PM

Yangon, Myanmar -- For the next six weeks, I will be exploring Asia, beginning with Myanmar and proceeding to India, Bhutan and Nepal, hoping to share new worlds and natural places increasingly under threat. I will visit botanic gardens, preserves and Parks, looking for plants and their indigenous uses and meanings in these cultures.  

I have been taking lots of notes and photographs, and I hope you enjoy them!

 


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