Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dracula Legend started in Romania

Is Halloween season  and Dracula's Legend continues to fascinate people from all over the world, remaining one of the best entertainment attractions of this period.

Bran Castle aka Dracula's Castle/ Castelul Bran, Romania
Bran Castle aka Dracula's Castle/ Castelul Bran, Romania

Dracula brand was created by the Irish writer Bram Stoker in his 1897 horror novel of the same name and represented a fictional character, perhaps the most famous vampire in fiction. Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally in 1972 wrote "In Search of Dracula" where discussed about the connection between Vlad Tepes and Dracula. Following them, Stoker did find the name Dracula in his reading on Romanian history and has based his story on the historic Wallachian ruler Vlad III, also known as Vlad Tepes , "Vlad the Impaler". Tales of the supernatural had been circulating in Romanian folklore for centuries, and many of them were inspired by real-life characters of national heroes.

Vlad Dracula: The Dragon Prince "Dracula" name is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon . "Dragon" in Romanian is "drac", derived from Latin "draco".   Vlad II Dracul, "son of  the Dragon" Mircea the Old, was admitted to this Order around 1431 because of his bravery. His son inherited his name and was named Vlad III Dracul (Vlad Tepes).  Vlad "The Impaler" (1456– 1462) is a folk hero by Romanians history, brave and military strategist when fighting against invading Turks. Was famous also because was fair and have killed thousands of people for any acts of dishonesty in his attempts to maintain order, mainly  by using the method of impaling them on a sharp pole.

"When a man or lord is strong and powerful he can make peace whichever way he wishes yet, when he is weak, someone stronger will come onto him and submit him to his mercy." Vlad The Impaler's letter to the people of Brasov, on the 10th of September 1456 according to Nicolae Stoicescu in  "Vlad Tepes" book from 1976. 
Poenari Citadel / Cetatea Poienari, Romania
Poenari Citadel / Cetatea Poenari, Romania

The character of Count Dracula has remained popular over the years, the total number of films that include a reference to Dracula may reach few hundreds movies, according to the Internet Movie Database, the most popular being Tod Browning's film "Dracula" from 1931 and Francis Ford Coppola's  film "Dracula" from 1992 featured by 'Lovesong for a Vampire' by Annie Lennox and starring Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder.
Bram Stoker's DraculaLike Frankenstein, Dracula has inspired many literary tributes or parodies and  has been adapted for children's literature and entertainment, serving as the basis for several vampire cartoon characters over the years and few series of video games.

Dracula became the most popular Romanian symbol abroad, and Romanians have accepted with difficulty the connection between Vlad Tepes and the most popular vampire monster, but nowadays there are few touristic sites in Romania that are  associated with his name. In the Sighisoara Town tourists can visit the house in which Vlad was born, now hosting a restaurant and a small museum of medieval weapons.

Castle Dracula: Romania's Vampire Home (Castles, Palaces & Tombs)Bran Castle,  an important Romanian monument, is said that was owned by the Dracula and is promoted as "Dracula's Castle", even Vlad Tepes had only a tangential connection with it.
Bran Castle was built by Braşov Saxons in 1382 and made a role of defender against the Turkish invasion when Vlad Ţepeş was beating a retreat through the Transylvanian countryside but this was not his home, he only may lived for a very short time and only as a guest. Is situated 30 km from Brasov, between the Bucegi Mountains and Piatra Craiului, and this region inspired  "The Carpatian Castle" written by Jules Verne.

The real place where Vlad Tepes has lived is Poenari Citadel (Cetatea Poenari in Romanian) on the Arges River valley, close to the Fagaras Mountains.

Poenari Citadel / Cetatea Poenari, Romania
Poenari Citadel / Cetatea Poenari, Romania
This ruined castle stands on a cliff, on the right side of the Transfagarasan Road which climbs into the Fagaras Mountains. Initial the main citadel of the Basarab rulers from Wallachia,  Poenari Castle was repaired and consolidated by Vlad The Impaler who making it one of his main fortresses. Abandoned and left in ruins, the walls and its towers still stand today and to reach it visitors need to climb 1,500 steps.
Other sites where he lived for a while are The Old Princely Court (Palatul Curtea veche) in Bucharest and Snagov Monastery where, according to legend, his remains were buried.

These beautiful and ancient places where Dracula's Legend was born represent a benchmark of Romanian tourism for visitors from everywhere who intend to take part in it. The mixture between legend and true history are being kept alive by tourist destinations like the Snagov Monastery near Bucharest,  Bran Castle near Brasov, Poenari Citadel on the Arges River Valley or Sighisoara Medieval Town (view next map for details)

View Dracula's Legend started in Romania in a larger map

Friday, September 24, 2010

VanDusen's Dried Flower Sale

 "...At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds."  Rainer Maria Rilke
VanDusen Botanical Garden
This fantastic scenery from VanDusen Garden inspired me to capture the beauty I saw

VanDusen Botanical Garden is located at 5251 Oak Street in Vancouver and was officially opened to the public on August 30, 1975.

VanDusen Botanical Garden Orientation Map

Usually the volunteers pick and dry flowers from their more than 7000 varieties of plants from gardens, and make arrangements to sell at the Garden Shop, but two days, September 25-26 in Entrance Pavilion between 10am to 4 pm will be VanDusen's Dried Flower Sale. The centerpieces of dried flowers sale will be Thanksgiving and Autumn wreaths of vibrant fall colors made from materials gathered in the Garden.

The early fall when it’s not as cold and peaceful autumn smell it in the air...This induces me an overwhelming nostalgia of something fragrant. I will try to find some marigold flowers or other flowers that keeps their color if are dried, to bring the smell of autumn in my house, too.
How to make "The smell of Autumn"  potpourri using dried scented pelargonium leaves and dried flowers
    * 3 dried marigold flower heads
    * 1/2 cup cloves
    * 1/2 cup cinnamon chips
    * 1/2 cup Juniper berries
    * 1 cup orange peel cut into pieces
    * 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
    * nutmeg scented pelargonium leaves and flowers (Pelargonium Fragrans,  Snowy Nutmeg)
    * orange scented pelargonium leaves and flowers (Pelargonium Citrosum, Prince of Orange)
    * peppermint scented pelargonium leaves and flowers (Pelargonium Tomentosum, Peppermint Rose)
    * oak scented pelargonium leaves and flowers (Pelargonium Quercifolium, Royal Oak, Almond Geranium)

You can try to do similar potpourri to bring a scent of autumn in your home, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BC Rivers Days and World Rivers Day

"In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time."  Leonardo Da Vinci
We should always respect waters, wildlife and protect nature for us and our descendants. Let's remember about volunteers whom cleaned up a section of Thompson River 30 years ago. Their action was starting a mass-event for celebration of waterways and their natural, cultural and recreational values: "BC Rivers Day"

Thomson River

Mountain HeartThompson River is one of the most beautiful nature scenery along rivers and many hearts are beating with love for these stunning panoramas and picturesque landscapes.

Mountain Heart of Thompson River Valley
In the last years this event has grown in scope and diversity to become the largest of its kind in North America and since 2005, in the last day of September, the entire world begun to celebrate the "World Rivers Day" in order to raise public understanding of rivers and waterways and the many benefits they provide to us. 

Fraser River

This year BC Rivers Day coincides with World Rivers Day and all of us will honor waterways together, on the 26th September, in every corner of the world. Recreational Clubs, Nature Conservation Organizations, Community Groups, Schools Boards or Local Government Institutions from Canada, Europe, United States, Australia, Asia or South Africa will celebrate this event by river clean-ups; fish enhancement projects; community riverside festivals with music and  canoeing, kayaking  rafting and snorkeling competitions; hands-on displays and  informative nature walks in Natural Parks. 
Fraser River valley

For more info read a recent article in National Geographic written by the "World Rivers Day" founder, Mark Angelo, head of the Rivers Institute at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). As Mark Angelo said: "Rivers are the arteries of our planet and yet many waterways continue to be impacted by inappropriate practices and inadequate protection. Water Rivers Day provides a great opportunity for people to get out and enjoy our waterways. At the same time, the event strives to create a greater awareness of the urgent need to better care for our rivers and streams.”

Fraser River valley 2010

Be part of this community minded and eco-friendly event and be involved in creating solutions to keep our water healthy and secure for the future! Wherever you live, bring with you your joy of life and  enjoy water,  the essence of life and remember... "Water is the driving force of all nature".  Leonardo Da Vinci

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lemon Tree is a perfect addition in any garden

Lemon Bonsai  - Bear's Lime variety

 Lemon tree is said that is a heritage of the Roman Empire in Europe, his origin being a mystery: is presumed that first lemons grown in India, Burma and China, and entered in Europe during the time of Ancient Rome. In Americas was introduced by Christopher Columbus who brought lemon seeds to Hispaniola along his voyage. Initial was used as ornamental plant and in medicine, later on being used, also, in cooking and flavoring.

Dwarf Lemon tree  -  Citrus Lemon variety

Several other plants as lemon-scented pelargoniums, lemon-thyme, lemon-grass, lemon-basil or lemon-myrtle have similar flavor and taste, but contain no citric acid. Lemon juice has 5% - 6% citric acid and is a good source of Vitamin C (around 40mg Vitamin C / 100g lemon fruits).  Now are many varieties all over the world: Eureka, Lisbon, Meyer, Ponderosa, Verna, Villafranca, Yuzu, Satsuma, Clementine, Calamondin, variegated white or pink, with classical high or dwarf habit.

Lemon tree in april 2008  - Bear's Lime_variety
Two years ago, in spring, like every year, I went to VanDusen Plant Sale. In this day, admission to the VanDusen Botanical Garden is free and you can choose from thousands of plants for sale. After we walked through herbs, cacti and succulents, perennials, vines, tropicals, roses, trees, orchids, geraniums and pelargoniums, shade plants and berry bushes, we decided to buy a two-three years old Citrus Aurantifolia - "Bear's lime" with an amazing fragrant blooming and a very interesting trunk that seemed to be a perfect addition in our scented plants collection.

Lemon tree leaves - Bear's Lime variety

 Lemon trees are easy to grow and this variety has large limes, fragrant flowers when blooming  and its glossy evergreen leaves are used in cooking year round. Is better to purchase a fruiting plant if you want to eat fresh lemon fruits from your garden.

Lemon trees can stay indoor year round or in a cool-greenhouse with bright light. But the plants will thrive outdoors after spring frosts have ended – none can tolerate more than a touch of frost. We discovered this last spring (2009) when our lemon tree was in preparation for the outdoor move. One day, even was a sunny day, the temperature was too low and its defoliation was really bad. New leaves and branches appeared  long time after this misfortune, and  it was necessary to trim it drastically. This spring (2010) we tried to transformed it into a nice lemon bonsai and we re-potted it into a small and nice brown pot. 

Lemon Bonsai, fall 2010  - Bear's Lime_variety

This summer the sun was generous with his foliage, and now looks really handsome.

Dwarf lemon tree leavesIn spring we decided to purchase another one, and after we have been looking locally, we found one dwarf lemon tree "Citrus Lemon". Dwarf specimens reach only 4 - 10 feet, while  standard varieties reach 20 - 30 feet to maturity. His leaves are different, less shiny, more rounded and with ribbed edges. We trimmed it also and left him in a large pot to be sure that will grow quickly with powerful branches and will make many fruits. We are not decided yet if will transform it into a lemon bonsai or not. Will see after this winter what shape will find suitable for its branches.

Dwarf lemon tree, fall 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Homemade Bourbon Essential Oil

Rose scented pelargonium essential oils (geranium oils) are wellness scents that evoke calm and tranquility and is used more than any other in aromatherapy and spa-therapy. The essential oils in scented pelargonium leaves (very used being Pelargonium Graveolens cultivars) has similar constituents as the rose oil: citronellol, geraniol, linalol, but the basic rose scent has a range of tones from sweet eucalyptus or cloves to lemon or minty-green and are used also in cosmetics and perfumes industries.

 homemade bourbon essential oil One type of geranium oil, known as Bourbon Oil, has established itself as a premium perfume oil , his consistency being thin and color ranges between golden brown and emerald green.  This greenish-olive liquid with a rosy-sweet, minty scent, blend a wide array of aromas: lavender, patchouli, clove, jasmine, juniper, basil, bay, citronella, cedarwood, sandalwood, grapefruit, lime, orange, rosemary, bergamot and citrus oils. Is renowned for its actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-hemorrhagic, antiseptic, astringent, cicatrising, deodorant, antidepressant, fungicidal and tonic and is used in: skin care: acne, congested skin, dermatitis, eczema; in ulcer and wounds treatments; in poor circulation and cellulite improvement; in respiratory problems as expectorant; in aromatherapy as a promoter of balance and stability.

    Homemade Bourbon Essential Oil ingredientsHomemade Bourbon Essential Oil recipe:
    1 cup of rose-scented pelargonium leaves
    1/2 cup olive oil
    2 tsp cloves
    2 tsp fresh lavender flowers
    2 tsp fresh basil leaves
    2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
    10 leaves of sweet bay
    2 tsp citronella lemon-scented pelargonium leaves
    1 tsp orange peel

    How to prepare Bourbon Essential Oil:
    In a bowl mix well lavender flowers, basil leaves rosemary leaves and scented pelargonium leaves finely crushed, then cloves, small cubes of orange peel and sweet bay leaves. Pack a wide-mouth jar with this mixture.

    Auroma Geranium Bourbon Reunion Essential Oil 3.33 oz oil  Add olive oil to cover the plant material, mix gently and check to make sure the oil really penetrates and covers all of the leaves in the jar. Label the jar with the day you started the infusion process, and set it in a pan in a sunny, warm spot for at least two-three weeks. Strain the oil into a bowl through cheesecloth then pour it into clean, dry bottles. Label the bottles with their contents and bottling date, and keep out of direct sunlight.
    The strained mixture can be also used to make bath sachets. Place two tablespoons of strained mixture into muslin bags, then seal the bags with rubber band or ribbon. Hang one bag of herbs around the faucet—just make sure that is under the stream of water—then fill the tub with hot water. You can also place the sachet into a bathtub as it is filling and soaking in an herbal bath for at least 20 minutes. Freeze the sachets for long-lasting usage. The herbs used in recipe will stimulate your senses and leave you feeling delightfully refreshed, relaxed, and invigorated. Also the oil will soothe your skin, relax your muscles and stimulate the circulation.
    You can make your own Bourbon Oil with plants organically grown by yourself,  then you can use  it for few months as a massage oil or in bathwater and aromatherapy diffuser.
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    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Indoor Plant Sale at UBC Botanical Garden

    Photo update: 20 September 2010

    Indeed, I found there a wide selection of indoor plants with prices between $2-$10.

    Hawaiian Botanicals and Water Gardens plantsHawaiian Botanicals and Water Gardens plants

    The Havaiian Botanicals and Water Gardens impressed me with few amazing plants like Sarracenia Leucophylla "Tarnok" and 2 types of Venus Flytrap: Dionaea "Big Jaws" and Dionaea "Muscipula Red".

    Dionaea Big JawsDionaea Muscipula Red

    West Coast Floral had a large selection of succulent plants as: Sedum"Lineare Sea Urchine" and Sedum "New Salsa Verde" and Crassula "Princess Pine"sedum new salsa verde

    sedum lineare sea urchine
     opuntia variegated

    I liked also the whole collection of Opuntia "Variegated".

    The UBC Botanical Garden  is  situated to the South-West corner of UBC campus on Stadium Rd. and Marine Drive. The Garden is open to the public for general admission and also is used as a research facility center for plant research,  official department of the UBC Faculty of Agricultural Sciences since 1985.
    UBC Botanical Garden has more then 44 hectares where can spend hours of fun exploring tematic gardens: Alpine, Asian, Food, Native, Physic, Winter, Arbour and Contemporary Gardens with plants from all over the world.

     UBC Botanical Garden sign

    There is a the place to visit year round, but in 16th and 17th September between 11am to 5pm, the Friends of the garden  host the 33rd Annual Indoor Plant Sale.  The indoor plants enthusiasts can find near the entrance of the garden a large selection of indoor plants: tropicals, aromatic herbs, cacti and other succulents, hanging and climbing plants, flowering pot plants or orchids at student-friendly prices, and all funds generated from the sale will support the research and educational activities at UBC Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant Research.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Scented pelargoniums seeds collected from my garden

    Pelargoniums are closely related to true Geraniums. Most of the cultivated Scented Pelargoniums have their origins in South Africa and usually are commercialized like "Scented Geranium", their early on adopted name.

    Scented pelargonium seeds flowers and leaves

    Vancouver has a moderate oceanic climate  and I grown my pelargoniums outdoor in pots in the late spring, summer and early fall and brought indoors to avoid freezing temperatures in late autumn, winter and early spring,  even though this area has relatively mild winters with little snow. Pelargoniums are easy to care and they need a well-drained soil,  full sun - some shade and require very little water. Recommended is to plant them in  clay pots because prevent accumulation of excess humidity. You can remove them periodically from pots, but if you want to bloom and to make seeds, avoid re-poting them in summer. Pelargoniums can be propagated from stem cuttings, root division or seeds, the preferred propagation method being from cuttings.

    Scented pelargoniums seeds flowers and leaves

    My lovely pelargonium plants made a lot of clusters of flowers this summer, each flower having five petals arranged with two upper petals often larger and more richly colored and three lower.
    Just few varieties of pelargonium made small curly-tailed brownish seeds:

    - Pelargonium quercifolium, Fair Ellen, Oakleaf

    Pelargonium quercifolium, Fair Ellen, Oakleaf

    - Pelargonium grossularioides: Coconut scented

     Pelargonium grossularioides: Coconut, Pelargonium parriflorum

    - Pelargonium crispum: Frensham Lemon variety

    Pelargonium crispum: Frensham Lemon variety

     - Pelargonium x citrosum: Citrosa and Prince of Orange varieties

     Pelargonium Citrosum, Citrosa
    Pelargonium Citrosum, Prince of Orange

     - Pelargonium Capitatum, Attar of Roses, Drusaim, Wildemalva.

     Pelargonium Capitatum, Attar of Roses, Drusaim, Wildemalva

    - Pelargonium Graveolens:  Lady Plymouth and Rober's Lemon-Rose varieties

     Pelargonium Graveolens: Lady Plymouth
    Pelargonium Graveolens: Rober's Lemon-Rose

    I do not know yet if  from these seeds collected from my garden will grow same varieties of plants or I will obtain new hybrids if cross-pollination process happened in my garden. I will see this next growing season.

    If anyone wants to buy or trade (aromatic plants only) scented pelargonium  (geranium) seeds, just email me.

    Scented Pelargoniums  leaves, seeds and flowers


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