Tuesday, June 23, 2009

four weddings and a jar of marmalade

Anticipating the whiff of orange blossom and scented orchids as the come-on for weddings and special events, we planted a small citrus orchard beside the orchid igloo.

Our beautiful gardens are intended to pay their own way. And they do in one sense. Peace and calm. Song birds. But what to do with a ton of ripening fruit when the season is full on. Orange navels, ruby grapefruit, Indian lime, Lisbon lemon, and new fangled lemonade. Add in mandarin and blood orange with Buddha's Hand, a pomelo, and native finger limes for good measure. WHAT? to do with the overload of fruit. Most everyone in the district has their own trees.

"Jam. Jam. Make jam," Do I hear you say, "Jam!". We could bottle and label it and give it to wedding guests as a take home memento. Branding at its best. Now there's an idea. Even design special labels. Fruity Affair Marmalade. Just where did we file grandma's old recipes. Oh well, on to the net.

There were 803,000 hits when I Googled 'marmalade jam'. All remarkably the same. "Take two grapefruit; four cups granulated sugar ..." Two to four? Wh-a-a-a-t! 250 grapefruit to 500 cups of sugar! Five hundred cups! Talk about a sugar rush. And we're warned that fizzy drinks are fattening.

'A fruity affair' was fast becoming a fattening affair. Naughty ol' grandma. Also, I'm not that into long engagements and crowded wedding receptions. More a straight party person, that's me. End of jam making. Currently giving away buckets of oranges and recyclable bagsful of pink grapefruit. Come on over while the season lasts.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bottoms UP! Blooming Stanhopea

Now here’s an orchid that could make a maiden blush! The zany subtropical Stanhopea dangles great clusters of blossom from its nether regions, down below the pseudo bulbs and large leafy foliage.

What first seems like a goofy quirk of nature turns out to be one of the magnificent miracles of the plant world. Overwhelming, viewed from Down Under.

It must be marvellous to happen upon these dizzying apparitions in the jungles of South America – where jungle still remains. Reports of pillage and slash-and-burn operations set off alarm bells. That many wild orchids now exist only through the good graces of botanic gardens and dedicated growers is hardly tribute to man’s passage through the kingdom of plants. Therefore it is important to keep a positive picture of these alluring plants swaying in tropical jungle atmosphere when you set about growing them.

Stanhopeas must never be housed in solid-sided pots (how would the flowers break through the terracotta?) and are best grown in wire baskets and viewed hanging high in your garden or fernhouse. Joy of joys, stanhopeas bloom late in the season after most else has given up the ghost. Late spring into early summer, the sturdy stanhopea keeps popping away. And I do mean ‘pop’.

Here are some varieties that grow easily in temperate outdoor conditions. Happy hunting! Stanhopea nigroviolacea, this fellow seems all-male to me. Big, robust, easy growing. Stanhopea inodora, my favourite, this ice green beauty is a hardy grower, but with a delicate countenance. Stanhopea reichenbachiana, porcelain white and spicy sweet perfumed, Stanhopea wardii, a sunny yellow deckled with tiny purplish flecks. Stanhopea graveolens, cool growing (bush houses, glass houses, shaded patios, garden balconies protected from the wind), this golden beauty hails from Mexico and Honduras. ‘Bottoms up!’ and follow the storylines with Friend Connect (top right) or click in to visit my Stanhopea stories for more orchid growing tips.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

visit MaX's home base

all about orchids, entertaining ways, tips for avoiding tourist traps. The highways and byways of Asia, the Pacific, and Down Under. Burma. Outback Aus. China diaries. Pathways to the orchids.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

drawing orchids with a mouse

and here's the finished result

If you can make a
simple line drawing you can start illustrating orchids on the desktop. It takes a certain amount of concentration to coordinate what your eye sees on the screen to what your hand (and mind) do with the mouse but, promise, it does all come together. "Practice makes perfect." Who said that! Notice I added a couple of budding flowers to make a better composition. You may choose to use the recently invented drawing block but, artist from way back, I converted to desktop when only the mouse was alive and well.
Use the pencil tool rather than the brush from the Adobe Illustrator tool selection, and the colour/swatch charts to add the yellows. I tend to mix my own colours in CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and K [denotes] Black). This makes magazine production managers and fine-art printers happy and keeps colour true-to-the-orchid. It is a simple matter to switch to RGB (Red, Green, Blue – the colour system for internet) when the artwork is completed.

Next come the leaves and stems (orchid growers refer to them as pseudobulbs). Pencil in first. Find a few greens and grey/browns you like from the palette and complete the leaf section. Paste it behind the orchid. One step at a time gets you there. And, remember the old adage, 'learn by doing' - it's my bible.

and here's the finished result

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Greenwashing the globe. Roll wagons!

Giant red trolleys have mysteriously invaded our district and are being bred in a local supermarket. These 'Big Reds' are a part of a tricky greenwashing con.

How do I know this? Well greenwashing describes the action of charlatans and cheats who 'whitewash' or 'green sheen' their products as environmentally safe and sound. Green sheen companies, traditionally the largest polluters, fib with packs and promotions that signal environmentally friendly images. Grocery store and food chain porkies are way up there with the best of them.

"Where did you get the wagons? And why red?"

"They're biodegradable dear. Biodegradable. You obviously don't shop in big cities. They're everywhere."

Well trained in greenwashing, the aging checkout chick is already a stalwart defender of what has become the district eyesore. About the size of a motor cycle with sidecar, the wagons are bigger than the shoppers who trundle them up and down food aisles.

Giant reds, higgledy piggledy along main street. Push comes to shove down supermarket alleyways. Watch it! Here's one double parked near the wheaties. Road rage as two overtake in food aisles built for slower and gentler times.

Eco-friendly? Biodegradable, indeed! I try one more time.

"But why vicious red?"

"Because we already sell green eco-friendly carry bags. "

It seems pointless to argue that the green bags are also plastic.

Cull kangaroos? I don't think so. Let's start with everything labelled biodegradable and eco-friendly. Shoot the lot. Really come clean. Except some wiseacre will doubtless invent another name for that as well. And the world turns again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Meet two orchid ladies

Far and away in a land Down Under two pretty ladies live in a garden of orchids. One wakes the orchids in the morning, the other puts them to sleep at night.

This permits yours truly to spend happy hours writing at the computer and illustrating exotica on the desktop. The ladies save my bacon because if it was left entirely to me, the poor orchids would not fair that well. I am inclined to leave people and plants to their own devices when the writing bug really hits. Once in the orchid house the reverse applies. It's easy to lose an hour, a week - a lifetime! in the company of seductive
orchis - among the oldest flowering plants on earth.

It's difficult to describe why someone would leave the big smoke after 40 years and go careering back into the tropics just to see his orchids growing in more natural surroundings. The Mac does have a lot to do with it. You are never out of the cycle when the old Apple is ticking away. And nature supplies a never-ending array of subjects for the art files and photo galleries.

Winter does takes its toll. But spring starts the pulses racing and by mid summer (Christmas/New Year in our neck of the woods) the Vandas are up and running as you can see in the shot above. Old bridge timbers stand upright on the edge of a creek gully fronting what remains of a rain forest we are encouraging back to life. I know, I know. Vandas are not indigenous to the area. But don't tell the orchids and no one will be a penny the wiser.
Meantime, please enjoy what's on site.

ps. The orchid umbrella in the pic came from the AOS (American Orchid Society) gift catalogue. We encourage you to join. Their magazine ORCHIDS is a gold mine of storyline and splendid photography. MaX

Gay turkeys

A pair of young male bush turkeys has moved into our garden. They're causing havoc and hiding somewhere down in the gully by Cooroy Creek. The bane of my life because these guys are a protected species and nought can be done to stop their trot.

They breed like rabbits and when one takes up residence, others follow. You can't even catch them in a cat trap and cart them off 10k to an adjoining property – like I said, they're protected. Turkeys always find their way home to the nest. First a dominant male sets up house. Then one, two, three hens follow. A few young males can also stick around to help build the huge nest. thus a commune moves in. Scavenging and rummaging left, right, and centre.

I photographed this current pair but the shot was not up to scratch so decided to draw them on the Mac using the mouse. Here's the result. My sister points out the fact that they are both males. Gay turkeys! What next.

footnote: An average clutch of eggs numbers up to 24 large white eggs, laid September/March. As many as 50 eggs laid by several females may be found in a single mound. Newly hatched chicks dig themselves out of the mound and then look after themselves. Brush-turkey eggs are a favourite food of goannas, snakes, dingoes and dogs and once were staple Aboriginal bush tucker. Goannas often exhibit wounds on their tails –having been pecked by Brush-turkeys who ferociously chase them away from their nests.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Orchids and Anger Management

Whenever I am about to blow a fuse the orchid igloo is the place to head. Watching things grow tends to ease the pace of everyday living.

Orchids are easy things to love and it saddens me to hear them thought of only as status symbols. Worse. The habit of growing plants to merely win show prizes simply amazes. There must be better ways for the public to go see orchids other than packed into badly lit community halls.

Flash! Click! Flash! Lights pop as folk take gad-awful shots of spectacular blossoms. The shots then turn up on the net giving NO idea of the nature of the flower. Hate camera flash. And never use it. Natural light, hand held cameras for me.

Capturing orchids in the right light means early up. Soft light. No bleached out white highlights. No doomsday black shadows. Just lovely soft middle spectrum colour. You're out there before sparrow thingo, of course. And best put the camera away before 9 am in Australia's harsh light. Orchids love warmth and light, but avoid sunburn like the plague. Like people really. Test-and-wait, test-and-wait until the morning light hits perfectly. The gorgeous flower is yours forever.

Massed displays at the Singapore airport are legend, of course. And a morning spent among the orchids in Singapore's Botanic Gardens can sweep away jet lag and travel tension. Time well spent. But back home, it's the old orchid igloo that saves my day.

Mine are pretty much an eclectic lot. Mainly vanda and dendrobium. Epiphytes (air growing) plants that cling to rocks and trees. Massed display is not my thing, rather preferring to have something flowering at different times of the seasons. You may care to see a few samples. Click here and let me know what you think of soft light, no flash photography.

And remember. Orchids and orchid growers are really nice people. But best not approach too close on show days. Exhibitors too stretched out, they're in real need of anger management.

Is heaven helping gurus?

Maybe advice-at-a-price folk get it too easy. Fancy paying a thousand dollars to hear some guy tell us what is staring us in the face. Deep down we already know how to balance the books. Stay in. Eat cheap. Learn "NO!" and in heaven's name stop smokin', drinkin', and payin' for info from get-rich-quick gurus

Penny saved : penny earned (old Western adage) is my get-up-and-go. For information and entertainment let's stick with the cost-less and paperless pastimes of the internet. It gets my goat to see pennies from heaven falling into hands of old hat talk-festers whose meet-and-greet style harks back to the 50s. Conference venues and paid seminars are full of past presidents trying to make a fast buck.

The exception to the rule is TED.

I found TED (stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) through a love of Burma and Amy Tan's fascinating book Saving Fish from Drowning. Googled the author's name and came upon her entertaining and informative speech produced for, well, TED. And there were droves of others. Speakers, that is. Fabulous subjects. Fresh approaches. Free for the taking.

Now. In case you think I'm astroturfing (PRing a flood of artificial blog buzz that's all wind and no skin) forget it. This is real stars-in-my-eye stuff. City born and happy living green scene, there's little time, patience, and wacky hotel charges for attending big city talkfests. Lately it's Stay in. Eat cheap. Hunt through TED. The creative subject matter is what pulls me in. Maybe there's something to catch your attention also. Google TED and let me know.

And may the ancient and assumed Chinese curse to "live in interesting times" better translate as a current blogger's muse –

find out what works for you