Friday, November 11, 2011

Scilla, unknown species

This is a scilla that I had from a small nursery without any label. Flowering period is now and the inflorescence is complex. I guess Scilla latifolia but I'm not sure. Any ideas?

Post scriptum 22 November 2011: I visited last week the Botanical Garden of Barcellona, and was happy to be able to confirm my species diagnosis. It's Scilla latfolia. It's a nice species growing on Tenerife and Lanzerote.  So it's clear for me that I have an additional potted plant, this species will not survive our winter temperatures: 
Scilla latifolia at Barcelona Botanical Garden, note the previous inflorescences with aboundant seed capsules.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Banksia canei 2

Faded inflorescence.
Unexpected some inflorescences developed seed capsules. I will have to wait at least for a year before the seeds are ripened.

Protea repens white

The name 'repens', meaning 'creeping', is misleading as Protea repens is an upright, branched shrub, which can reach a height of 4.5 m. The botanist Thunberg named the same species Protea mellifera, referring to the sweet nectar produced by the flowers. The abundantly produced nectar was collected in the past to be boiled into a kind of sugary syrup.
Protea repens occurs in the Southern part of South Africa from the flats, coastal forelands to the mountain slopes at altitudes up to 1500 metres. The flowering period varies from winter to summer depending on the origin of the plants. The flower colour also varies from a creamy white to deep red.  
Flower bud
Opening flower
My Protea repens this sommer as the first flowers open. 
I grow Protea repens outside in the garden with a protection from too much rain in Summer and snow in Winter. It's fair winter hardy surviving -6°C without leaves damage. In the winter I additionally protect the plant with nonwoven tissue.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cymbidium tracyanum

This is an epiphytic orchid with 25-50 cm long, linear leaves and ovoid pseudobulbs. Pendant racemes produce numerous, flowers in autumn (October to November ). In my experience the scent is not so strong as usually reported for this species.

Details of the labellum.

Hylocereus undatus 1

This is one of the few species of cactus that produce edible fruits. Accidentally in 1996 visiting Viet Nam I focused on this species eating a lot of refreshing fruits sold at the road borders. To be honest I had no idea about this species and the other relative that produce similar fruits, also called "Dragon Fruit". Returning to Switzerland few weeks later, I had one cutting in my bag.

First time blooming was sever years later and the first attempt to produce fruits was negative. But lucky enough, after that, if I'm able to pollinate the flowers the same night that they open, I can harvest some fruits. The taste, to be honest, is not overwhelming but is still interesting to have some "strange" fruits to show!

This picture shows the flower at 8 p.m. still closed.

Three hours later the flower is fully open and ready to be pollinated.

72 hours after the pollination, the function of the flower is ended. 

Hylocereus undatus 2

24 days after pollination.

46 days after pollination the fruit is ripen.

The faded flower is still attached to the fruit.


Pleione maculata

This is a very interesting autumn blooming Pleione growing in China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Laos, Myanmar, Northern Thailand and Vietnam at elevations from 600 to 2600 meters.

Brassolaeliocattleya King of Taiwan "Ta Hsin #1"

This is the first time that this trigeneric hybrid bloom in my greenhouse. The fragrance is intense. The picture shows the flowers during the opening process, they are still not completely open.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Mutisias from Chile are quite amazing. Several species of the genus are climbing plants, forming small clumps or growing up or down for meters in my garden. The most reliable is Mutisia subulata, in 2-3 from the seeds the plants are blooming from spring to fall (at least end of November). This species need more humidity also in the wintertime than other relatives and it's happy even with -5/-6°C unprotected outside and can take also some snow.  
Some Mutisia species , like M. subulata, need could stratification.

Mutisia subulata in flower.

Mutisia subulata flovers and buds.

Some of the seeds are viable.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Winter is coming?

Usually, Camelia oleifera disclose her flowers later in the season as a pre Christmas gift. This year, possibly due to the unusual weather conditions with alternating warm and could periods in the fall, the biological rhythmus got completely out of the rail.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Cattleya forbesii is one of the most common species in the bifoliate group, and without flowers the plants are indistinguishable from the ones of C. harrisoniana.
Cattleya labiata concolor is a species from Brazil. It's quite easy-growing.
Laelia perrinii is a species from Brazil. In flower, it's easy to identify as the flowers have very distinctive features. The petals are flatter and droopier that usual; their shape is also unusual being wider toward the tips. The lip is the most distinctive part of the flowers. October-November blooming.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gardenia Kleim Hardy

This is a pretty small cultivar of Gardenia jasminoides. The flowers are simple, from a gorgeous white with some cream-brown discoloration after a couple of days. I was looking for this cultivar since a couple of years and I had the chance to find one last weekend visiting a nice exposition in Northern Italy. It is more could resistant that other cultivars, so I guess that I can try outside next year (the cultivar "Walder" it taking well in my garden since 2001, with no lesions even in colder winters with -5/-6°C). Both for any cases I will perform few of cuttings next spring.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April in my garden!

After years waiting for this, my Telopea speciosissima finally shows her beauty! And this flower was forming during last winter with minimum of -6°C.

Banksia blechniifolia is an australian relative to proteas, this is a creeping species from southern Western Australia.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Theobroma cacao

I sown the first beans April 2001 and I was happy enough to be effective. My Theobroma cacao is now 10 years old and procuces cacao fruits since three years. The crop of the first "harvests" was used to procude additional plantlets and to be honest I was so prud about my tree that the fruits were hanging for mounths. Opening the fruits, the majority of the seeds were already germinated, so no way to try to transform the beans into chocolate!

There are three main cultivars of cacao. The most prized, rare, and expensive is the Criollo, the cocoa bean used by the Maya. Only 10% of chocolate is made from Criollo, which is less bitter and more aromatic than the other beans. Approximately 80% of the chocolate is made using beans of the Forastero cacao. Forastero trees are significantly hardier than Criollo. Trinitario, a hybrid of Criollo and Forastero, is used in about 10% of the chocolate.

If my tree is a Criollo or a Forastero or a Trinitario, I don't know. The fruits are like Criollo but the cotyledons are not white (they have a violet discoloration like in Forastero beans).

The flowers are produced in clusters directly on the trunk and older branches; they are quite small. Cacao flowers are pollinated by tiny flies, so in a conservatory only few flower are pollinated and some even they will develop to small fruits, they then stop to grow up and die. The fruit, a pod, is ovoid, in cultivation reaches 15–30 cm long and 8–10 cm wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighs about 500 g when ripe. The pod contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called "beans", embedded in a white pulp. My tree being in a large container that limits their growth, produces usually 6 to 8 pods 15-20 cm long.

Harvest 2011.
The seeds are the main ingredient of chocolate, while the pulp is used in some countries to prepare a refreshing juice. I can confirm that the pulp is very sweet.
For the further processing, the pod placenta should be removed.

Beans are clean and ready to go through the next step: fermentation.

Fermentation of the seeds is an absolute requirement for the full development of chocolate flavor precursors. In the countries of origin controlled fermentation is perform in wood boxes or in banana leaves allowing the mass to reach 50 degrees Celsius. The fermentation take 4 to 7 days. An adequate aeration of the fermenting cacao seed mass is very important.

Well, I had just a small amount of beans and our outdoor temperature is not enough to induce fermentation. So I adopted an old strategy putting a small plastic box with my beans on a radiator. After 2 days the temperature in the mass reached 50 degrees Celsius. I aerated the mass every other day and I removed the excess of fluids. After 7 days all the pulp was disappeared and the beans were only covered by a small layer of whitish material.
After fermentation, the beans must been allowed to dry out to avoid fungus formation at the surface. Usually the beans are put in the sun for several days. Being February, and trying to do this in the Northern Hemisphere, this step is quite difficult. But I managed to have at least 3 days of sun. After that, the beans are to be roasted. I used the hot air function of my oven. To produce the roasted beans, you need for cocoa powder 95 to 125 degrees Celsius for about an hour, for chocolate the beans are roasted for a somewhat shorter time at a slightly lower temperature.

After the roasting procedures the beans are crushed to remove the very tiny inner shell (the picture shows the naked beans and the fragments of the inner shell).

Well, now I have my beans roasted so I just need some more time for the further steps. But before I have to decide: what I want to do whit my cocoa?

Friday, January 28, 2011

First signs of Springtime

Well, despite what happen in several part of the earth, in my microclimate we experience quite higher temperature than in normal January periods. Last week the temperatures didn't fall in the night above 0°C and several trees and bushes showed first signs of starting in a new growing season. Even my European pound turtles (Emys orbicularis) have enough from hibernation and appreciate basking. Usually first the young ones that are more sensitive to temperature changes.

Juvenile Emys orbicularis, 2 years old.

Adult Emys orbicularis, male. These turtle are still a little active during the wintertime but remain under water and they are able to gain the few amounts of oxygen needed through the mucosa of the mouth and the cloacae.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Some Winterblooming from the South

Rosmarinus x mendizabali an hybrid between R. tomentosus and R. officinalis

A beautiful specimen of a Serruria hybrid

Gazania krebsiana (outside!)

A still non-identified beauty. Probably from Gran Canaria.