Orchid Expo: Alajuela

One of José Luis’s orchids at Xandari.

From Friday the 24rd of October to Sunday the 26th, Alajuela had their annual orchid exposition, which includes displays and awards as well as a few lectures on growing orchids and a section for sale or auction. As James and I have written before, Xandari has a wonderful collection of this family of flowers in addition to the general gardens thanks to the industrious efforts of our head gardener, José Luis Ballestero. He has a little greenhouse near Xandari’s restaurant with about a hundred plants that are often in varying stages of development, depending on how much time he has to prune them.

The three photos above are examples of some of the orchids on display in Xandari’s common area, like the reception, lobby, and restaurant room. At the expo this weekend, there were dozens of species and hundreds of individual plants, including hybrids, miniature flowers, and some fantastically strange Continue reading

Plumeria – Temple Tree

Plumeria, native to Mexico and Central America, is a large shrub or a medium-sized tree widely growing in tropical and sub-tropical climates around the world. In Kerala these plants are commonly found near temples, cemeteries, gardens and parks. Also called Frangipani, the sweet fragrance of plumeria flowers are reminded of a blend of jasmine, rose and honey suckle. Although without nectar, the flowers are used for making scents and perfumes.

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Painted Nettle (Coleus blumei)

Painted Nettle is native to Southeast Asia and is commonly found in the nurseries and gardens of the high ranges of Kerala. The smooth leaves are brightly colored with green edges and splotches of color ranging from blood-red to brown. In medicine it is used to treat stomach pain, digestive problems, dysentery and even elephantiasis.

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Heliconia Caribaea

Heliconia caribaea is tropical plant naturalized in the Western Ghats of India. In Kerala, it is commonly popular for its beautifully colorful flowering bracts. It is often grown as a decorative flower for bouquets as it can last for 6-7 days. The flowers are highly modified into a shellfish claw shape and only the sunbirds feed off their nectar. Continue reading

Musa Laterita Plant

Musa Laterita is a plant that resembles the banana plant naturalized in Kerala for its fibre cultivation. The leaf stem of the plant is cut and left to wilt, then soaked in water and crushed to separate the very strong fibres. These fibres are woven into rope or cord and can be even made into paper.  The fibre is prized due to its strength, flexibility and water resistance even to salt water and hence it used for marine ropes, well-drilling cables, etc. Continue reading

Railway Glory (Ipomoea cairica)

Railway Glory is a tropical, perennial climbing vine with tuberous roots, spreading extensively in the hills of India’s Western Ghats up to 1000m. The plant blooms throughout the year, growing aggressively over fences, shrubs and trees. The attractive flowers are purple, pink or rarely pinkish white. In Kerala it is commonly planted in gardens and around houses for insulation against the summer heat. It is also known by the names Cairo Morning Glory and Coastal Morning Glory. Continue reading