Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Christmas Plant.........

Euphorbia pulcherrima

The Poinsettia 

                  is a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 2 to 16 ft.                               
The dark green leavesmeasure 3 to 6 inches in length.                                   
 The colouredleaves, which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream,pink, white or marbled, are named ... bracts.  

The leaves require a period of 12 hours darkness and 12 hours of bright light to produce their vibrant colours.   This occurs naturally here on the coast of Granada in the period before Christmas and Poinsettia shrubs with their flaming bracts are a common sight in gardens.
The tiny flowers are unassuming and grow in the centre of each leaf bunch.

 The Poinsettia was discovered in Southern Mexico by American botanist Joel Joel Poinsett who wa salso the first United States Ambassador to Mexico and who is credited with its introduction into the U.S.A. in 1828.                  

Long before this, the Aztecs who named it "Cuetlaxochitle" which means mortal flower, knew and valued the plant.   To them it was a symbol of purity and a reminder of the blood sacrifice as well as being a valuable red dye and medicine against fever.                                         
 It has been said that in the days of Montezuma, the last king of the Aztecs, large quantities were transported b ycaravan to his mountainous capital because it could not be grown naturally at that altitude.                                
 When the Franciscan priests introduced Christianity into Mexico it was a simple transfer of symbolism from purity and blood sacrifice to its representation of the blood of Christ in their celebration of Christmas.                                     


                What would Joel Poinsett have thought ofthe vivid modern day cultivars?

    The  death of Joel Poinsett is commemorated in America on 12th December as ‘PoinsettiaDay’.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pyrostegia venusta ..... Orange Trumpet Flower

Flowering now.....
                   ....... is a liana, a vigorous, woody climber, that makes a beautiful ornamental plant with cascades of bright orange tubular flowers.
It is commonly grown in tropical and subtropical areas, as well as in mild Mediterranean climates. 
The plants form dense masses, growing up trees, on walls or over rocks, and are covered with flowers in the cool, dry season.


Flame vine          
            .....or flameflower, golden shower, orange creeper, orange trumpet creeper, orange trumpet vine is a member of the Bignonaceae family and climbs up to 6 metres more more. 
The leaves have paired leaflets (5.0–7.5 cm), and a long, central3-branched, twisting tendril. 
The crowded clusters of flowers are formed in the leaf axils on the tips of shoots. 
The capsule is narrowly cylindrical and filled with winged seeds. After the petals fall off, they hang for a day or so by the style before dropping. In the wild, P. venusta is pollinated by hummingbirds.


Although a dazzling spectacle when in full flower, in some parts of the world it has become naturalised and a weed.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Colletia paradoxa ..... Jet-Plane plant

 Anchor Plant

                Awickedly interesting, spreading, deciduous, nearly leafless shrub from Uruguay, western Argentina and southern Brazil that grows slowly to 6 to 9 feet tall with oppositely arranged flattened 2 inch wide triangular spine tipped gray-green photosynthetic stems, called cladodes, that resemble a ships anchor and small creamy white lightly fragrant flowers, said to smell like almonds, at the stem joints in late summeror autumn.

 New growth has small leaves that are present only briefly. 
Plant in ful lsun in a light to medium well-drained soil where it is drought tolerant. Can tolerate temperatures down to at least 20° F and some claim to as low as 0° Fso long as the soil is kept dry. Prune occasionally to keep dense or contain size. 
Though it is best to plant this plant well away from pathway where onmight find it dangerous, it is an unusually attractive and impressive barrier plant that nothing would dare go through. 
The genus name honors French botanistPhilibert Collet (1643-1718). 
This species is synonymous with Colletia cruciata. Other common names include Crucifixion Thorn,  Thorn of the Cross and Jet-Plane Plant. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Euphorbia tirucalli ...... Pencil Cactus


   pencil cactus or aveloz

               a dioecious succulent, cactus-like milky shrub eventually becoming a large tree, devoid of spines, to 10 m tall,  indigenous to Eastern & Southern Africa and used as a hedge in Brazil.  

The leaves are small and slender, up to 12 x 1.5 mm, rarely seen, as they fall very early.

The bracts are yellow and the flowers tiny,inconspicuous, and carried in clusters at the apex of the short branches or inthe angles of branches.

It has a a rangy, open growth habit, and is more valued for its novelty than the beauty of its foliage.

Pencil cactus can be trimmed back if they become too large, but be careful to  prevent irritation from the milky sap.
It can easily grow into a 6 foot specimen planted in a large pot. 

As with all succulents, it’s better to let it dry out rather than risk over watering and rot.

Cortijo Azahar has a small pot grown specimen from a cutting taken not much more than a year ago. 

The family name Euphorbiaceae and genus name Euphorbia were named in honour of a Linnaean hero namely Euphorbus, first century physician to King Juba of Mauritania. He is believed to have used plants of this genus as medicine.

The species name tirucalli was given by Linnaeus in 1753 as this was the name used by the natives of Malabar, a region of southern India.

The rubber-hedge has been so widely cultivated that it is now difficult to say where it occurs naturally and where it has been introduced.

Early traders and sailors carried plants from South Africa to India and the Far East, and the fact that these have all flourished, gives us some idea of the incredible resilience of the plant.
 This is a stunning variety named 'Firesticks' which we have not yet been able to locate. 

 It lacks the chlorophyl of it's parent. The best colour is produced in winter.                      

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chorisia insignis ..... Cream Silk Floss Tree

   cream/yellow/white silk flloss tree     

                         Flowering now in the garden is this lovely, young, drought tolerant tree originating from Southern Brazil and Argentina.  It begins flowering here in November  and continues until mid winter when the temperature falls too low and the leaves begin to drop.
The palmate leaves re-emerge in April.

Prominent spines cover the green/grey branches and trunk.

 The tree below is a large Chorisia Insignis that is located close to the "Plaza de la Marina" in Malaga,Spain.  At the base, this tree measures more than one meter in diameter.

 They are fairly common in the South of Spain along the Mediterranean coast, especially in Málaga. 
The reason that there are large specimens of tropical trees in Malaga is that there were several wealthy families in the city who owned shipping companies.
About 150-200 years ago, interest in Botany began to increase and these families had many different plants and trees brought back by their ships from tropical regions.
Most of these large family estates are now Public Parks and Gardens in Malaga.
Nearer to home, the 'Majeulo Garden' inAlmuñecar, just a twenty minute drive west of Motril, is known for its hundreds of palms and exotic trees that were brought here from all over the world. 
Each tree has an identifying name plate with it's species and originating country.        

Monday, November 21, 2011

Punica granatum ...... Pomegranate


 The Pomegranate native to the region of Persia and the western Himalayan range, and has been cultivated in Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India, Russia, and the Mediterranean region for several millennia.

 The ancient city of Granada in Spain was renamed after the fruit
 during the Moorish period.

Illustration by Otto Wilhelm Thomé, 1885

Scientist, Professor Michael Aviram in Israel has shown that drinking a daily glass of the fruit's juice can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
"Pomegranate juice contains the highest antioxidant capacity compared to other juices, red wine and green tea".     Brimming with vitamins A, C, E and iron, the pomegranate has been cultivated since pre-historic times.

The Pomegranate is the Symbol of Granada and these symbols are found everywhere in Granada.

Learn a brilliant tip for keeping your fingers and countertop clean while getting out every last pomegranate seed.

How to easily de-seed a Pomegranate

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Euphorbia milii...... Crown of Thorns

  Crown of Thorns 

Flowering now,  but actually almost never out of flower, this  beautiful succulent is an asset to any garden.
From the family Euphorbiaceae, originally from Madagascar, it's popularity has seen it growing as a house plant in less favourable climates.

Bright-green leaves grow along its thick, thorny stems. Lower leaves naturally fall off as the plant ages. If your plant gets too tall and leggy, you can prune it back by half its size in spring. This will cause it to branch out. New stems will grow from below where the pruning cuts were made, making this succulent bushy and full.
Its flowers are actually bracts that last for several weeks and are available in bright pink, red, white or yellow. Today's hybrids produce more -- even bigger -- flowers than ever before.
Crown of Thorns flower dependably when they get enough light. They're easy to grow and drought-tolerant, prefering slightly dry, sandy soil. This succulent stores water in its thick stems just like a cactus, so it can be watered less frequently than other house plants. If its leaves turn yellow and fall off, cut back on the watering.

Sunny, mild & still, today's temperature reached 23º. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stapelia gigantea .... Carrion or Toad Plant

Flowering now is this curious succulent producing spectacularly large, unusual, unpleasant smelling flowers covered in fine, short, silky hairs. Stapelia gigantea, family asclepiadaceae.
Not surprisingly, the flowers are pollinated by flies.

               commonly known as the Carrion or Toad Plant although the name Carrion Plant can also refer to Stapelia grandiflora.
Stapelia gigantea sometimes also goes by the name of Stapelia nobilis and Stapelia marlothii.

Carrion flowers are native to S. Africa.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Crinum asiaticum ..... Perfumed Poisen Lily

 Flowering now at Cortijo Azahar.....


Belonging to the family Amaryllidacaea, Crinums are impressive plants which can reach 5 to 6 feet tall in their natural habitat, Tropical Asia.
There is a rare variety which has red petals and all are fragrant, releasing their perfume at dusk.
A common name is 'Poisen Lily' or 'Poisen Bulb'.
A single bulb can weigh up to twenty pounds and the seeds can be as much as 3 inches across.      


Flowering at Keanae Arboretum, Maui,  the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands.

Friday, September 23, 2011

No rain forecast today........

          Clouds,  yes and a high of 26º but rain?   no of course not but....

... it has been raining since around 4 pm.   Not heavy mind but showing no signs of stopping.

Our first rain since early May!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Allamanda cathartica ..... Golden Trumpet Vine


Native to South and Central America, this fast growing shrub likes the sun and plenty of moisture.
It was given to the garden by a grateful 'paying guest' last summer as a thank you and is now flowering away in it's second year.

The golden trumpet from the Apocynaceae family is a vine that requires a trellis or a fence to support it.  Growing best in full sunshine, and well drained soil It does not twine, nor does it have tendrils or aerial roots.
This vine could also be pruned so that it grows as a shrub. If not pruned, it could rapidly grow to a height of 20 feet.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Carissa macrocarpa ...... Natal Plum


The flowers which are produced throughout the year are sweetly perfumed and the berries, rich in Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, are tart but edible.   
The plant has vicious thorns and is often planted as a security hedge.

Native to South Africa from the Apocynaceae family and growing in coastal bush, coastal forests and on sand dunes, from Humansdorp northwards through Kwazulu-Natal to Mozambique, this shrub makes a good garden hedge and attracts birds and butterflies to the garden.
The fruits can be eaten raw or made into delicious jams or jellies.

A Fat Tree Frog.........

            Whilst doing some essential pruning this morning,  a young tree frog landed on my shoulder.  He didn't stay long. Don't know who was the more surprised.....him or me.

       I was lucky enough to find this older tree frog hiding in a rose whilst watering early one summer morning.   Did I say hiding?                        

The pruning had become essential because 'himself' had been complaining that he could no longer navigate the path to the water tank in safety.  The Carissa, with it's nasty thorns, kept attacking him he said.   I could see his point.                             

Phaseolus caracalla ..... Corkscrew or Snail Vine


Snail vine or Cork screw vine 

This very fragrant vine from the family Fabaceae  originating in tropical South and Central America was planted here in early Spring and has just begun to open it's flowers. 


Monday, September 5, 2011

Tibouchina urvilleana ...... Glory Bush

This lovely tropical shrub,  a favourite from our time spent in Kenya,  has been flowering in our Costa Tropical garden since early July. 

Coming from the rainforests of Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, especially Brazil,  it  needs a sunny sheltered spot over the winter.  

Family name is  Melastomataceae.