Monday, February 28, 2011

Snowdrops, Crocus, Iris and Primulas

Having only few days of winter left, I've almost forgotten how beautiful snow can be, because in downtown Vancouver, snow is such a rare seeing. The winter has returned this weekend and some of the spring blossoms, scented or not, with vivid or pale colors,  look just gorgeous covered by snow, don't you think?

How could somebody resist not to take photos to an amazing carpet of Snowdrops / Galanthus flowers covered by snow?! They are perennial plants in Amaryllis family which are growing in clusters from bulbs and now they are in full bloom.

Although they are native to Europe, this herbaceous plants are naturalised in all Canada, some of them like - Common Snowdrops aka Galanthus Nivalis (nivalis means "on the snow") being most spread all over the world. I love their white flowers with greenish-yellow markings on the surface. Over the years many cultivars appeared which differ in size, shape or the period of flowering, single -flowered or double-flowered, with pure white, yellow or green flowers, but the common snowdrops remain the most widespread. Is said that their flowers contain an active substance called galantamine very helpful in Alzheimer's disease. (I'll keep that in mind!)

The Iris Reticulata plants (from the Iridaceae family, Hermodactylus genus) have vivid and showy flowers with blue-violet and yellow tones from a little rainbow, which indeed seems to be painted by a Goddess (Iris was the Greek Goddess of the Rainbow).

From the same Iris family, but classified's in the Crocus Genus, the "Crocus" Vernus Albiflorus with white, yellow or lilac or mauve flowers can be seen in the most of spring garden landscapes or in the meadows on the foothills.

The flowers from Primrose family are perennials native to Northern Hemisphere, which blooming especially in spring, with purple, yellow, res, pink or white flowers. They are considered the first flowers which bloom in spring (the Latin "primus" meaning "first") and I like how "Primula Juliae Wanda" flowers look.

The Common Heather (Calluna Vulgaris from the Ericaceae family, Erica Genus) is also a very popular plant in the Vancouver's parks and public gardens. Many cultivars produce a multitude of white, pink or purple flowers each year and are used in decorative beds.

I consider that all these spring  flowers surrounded  by the pure snow make an interesting mix of color. Which ones do you like more?

Friday, February 25, 2011

From Bridal Veil Falls to Harrison Hot Springs, in one-day trip

 Bridal Veil Falls, British Columbia, Canada, Spring 2010
Bridal Veil Falls, British Columbia, Canada, Spring 2010

Far away, long ago, I learned to respire harmony when admire the snowy grandeur of mountains or the solitude of the forest.  The birds were singing, the wild horses were running on overgrazed pastures hidden under the glowing sky as an ember. My heart used to know that I'm happiest in the middle of nature. We have been spending a little time outside lately and it is so sunny and gorgeous out now...

 Bridal Veil Falls, British Columbia, Canada, 2010

Thinking thus, last weekend we decided to walk around, just two hours from Vancouver, in the Fraser Valley, to see again Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park  and Harrison Hot Springs' landscapes. They are  somehow easy to find:  follow Hwy #1 to the City of Hope, then take right from the Trans Canada highway, on the same exit (#135)  as to the Minter Gardens.

Lush Green Forest at the base of Mount Cheam
Lush Green Forest at the base of Mount Cheam

Lush Green Forest at Harrisson Hot SpringsI almost remember the beauty of the Fraser Canyon in summer, but in the beginning of the spring, when we try to see "green"  anywhere around us... these scenic trees (western red cedar, western hemlock, broadleaf maple still without leaves) decorated with moss, western sword fern and spiny wood ferns, sitting at the base of Mount Cheam, are looking even more stunning.

We intended to walk along them till The Bridal Veil Falls, a 60m high "veil-like" waterfall cascading over rocks - but the Park (situated at 16 km of the City of Chiliwack) was closed due to "hazardous winter conditions" and we postponed our visit.

2010, Bridal Veil Falls, British Columbia, Canada

Last year we saw the waterfall and it really does look like the veil of a bride (you can see it in the pictures taken with my mobile phone). So, we continued our day-trip visiting the ancient village of Popkum. The meaning of the "Popkum" word is "puffballs" - the mushrooms (fungal species "Calvatia gigantea" and "Lycoperdon giganteum") that were an important food source for Popkum First Nation People living in the area in 1700's and later.

trees in Sasquatch Provincial Park
Sasquatch Provincial Park

Although many other attractions like Dinotown Theme Park or Bridal Fall WaterPark were closed to the season, we visited one gift and antiques shop and snapped a few pictures, then we went to the North passing through the picturesque agricultural community of Agassiz, where we took a ride around the Agassiz- Harrison Museum  housed in an old Canadian Pacific Railway Station built in 1893 (which is open only from May to October), then continued further North to Harrison Hot Springs.

Rock Wall near the Road around Harrison Lake
Rock Wall near the Road around Harrison Lake

Harrison Hot Springs, located on the Harrison Lake's shore, amongst The Coastal Mountains of the British Columbia, it is a small community living in a fairy region: waterways, hot springs, mountains, agricultural landscapes. It is considered the "Jewel of the Fraser Valley" or "the SPA-town of Canada" and it is a perfect year-round getaway.

We explored (especially for the kids who were so excited) the rural countryside and discovered the wild beauty hiking in Sasquatch Provincial Park and on the trails around Harrison Hot Springs and its lake.

Harrison Hot Springs in the evening grayish light
Harrison Hot Springs in the evening grayish light

In the evening, the sky became more grayish, and the beauty of landscapes more intense.
Harrison Hot Springs in the eveningOur last stop before returning to Hwy #1 was to the Public Pool centrally located and accessible year-round by all visitors to Harrison Hot Springs (usually open between 9am-8pm). We enjoyed a hot bath (around 40 degrees Celsius) in this delightful mineral hot springs indoor pool, then we came back  to Vancouver.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bonsly, the Pokemon Bonsai

Recently, I was amused to learn about Bonsly, the Pokemon that resembles a small bonsai plant. Although our kids are huge Pokemon's fans, and we spent many hours talking about PokeWorld and playing Pikachu's Adventures in PokePark, we didn't notice the similarities of many Pokemon personages with natural elements until this weekend, when I discovered a new facet of the Pokemons.

Bonsly, the Pokemon Bonsai

Interesting is how fast they learn all features of their Pokemon cards, how and when to use their special powers, what's their genealogy, how they evolve and what are the differences between Pokemon's generations.

The most notable example, which captivated my attention was Bonsly (considered a baby-pokemon) who evolves in Sudowoodo after knowing the move MIMIC (at level 17 !?).

So once I discovered these cards (Bonsly and Sudowoodo), I took this opportunity to talk again with our kids about Bonsai, grass, rocks, trees and forest: they shared us their Pokemon's knowledge and we enhanced their perception using examples from nature. Everybody learned something new that day ... including us.

Bonsly is a brown Pokémon with a round body, 3 leaves on its head with a club shape, short legs and a hole on its rear similar to the draining hole that a flowerpot has. It looks like a Grass Pokemon but it is a Rock-type Pokemon because the leaves on it's head are really rocks, and it's body is coated with stone.
Being a Rock-type, it can get weak if its body contains to much water, so it adjusting its body's fluid levels by eliminating water excess from both sides of its body. Very interesting don't you think ?

Bonsly, the baby - bonsai  produces fake tears to get rid of excess fluids and this makes it appear to be crying.

Bonsly lives usually in Trophy Gardens and was introduced in generation IV.
I bet you didn't know that :-)

In my World, Bonsly could be a great Bonsai ... perhaps with asymmetrical branches and a glazed pot for better contrast. Don't you think? :-)

Bonsly evolves into Sudowoodo, which has brown, log-shaped body, a trimmed branch on top of its head, short legs and green leaves as club-shaped hands. It has a plant-like appearance but it is also closer to a rock than to a plant: it is based on "petrified wood" (fossilized plants over time) more like a Rock Incense!? Aha!


In Poke-world, Sudowoodo lives in southern forests and it is a strong rock-type Pokemon that has an aversion to battle and hates water - usually stands along paths but it hides from rain and camouflages itself as a tree in a forest in order to avoid to be attacked. What a nice description for a petrified wood.
In my World ... the more I look at Sudowoodo ... the more I am inclined to "air-layer" his branches to create two new bonsai :-)

If you are parents, grandparents, aunts our uncles - you know how magic the word "Pokemon" is for your kids. Over the years, a huge industry developed under this brand - cards, games, movies, video-games, Wii games, toys ... and almost every kid has a "Pokemon period".
Go now and impress your kids with your knowledge about "Bonsly the Pokemon Bonsai."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Picea Pungens Globosa Bonsai

Another favorite bonsai of mine is a Dwarf Globe Spruce - Picea Pungens "Globosa" variety.

Picea Pungens Globosa Bonsai - January 2011
Picea Pungens Globosa Bonsai - January 2011

This "fat guy" has more than 20 years old. It is a Picea Pungens Cultivar with green  and very sharply pointed needles (nor blue, nor silvery), more appropriate with the original "Glauca Compacta", plant with a great value because is considered the oldest cultivar of Picea pungens. I'm happy because new shoots are visible of the branches.

Picea Pungens Globosa green noodles with new shoots
Picea Pungens "Globosa"  - new shoots
Picea Pungens Globosa green foliage
Dwarf Picea Pungens "Globosa" green foliage

I give it time to mature and fill out into its full shape - meantime it was wired / re-wired and "determined" to became a Tachiki bonsai as it looks today.   I'm very enthusiast about how evaluated over the years. The dimensions are: its trunk has more than 10 cm wide (as you can see in next picture) and its high is almost 60 cm. The pot used last spring when was re-potted, is unglazed and has 8 cm high and 40 cm width.

Picea Pungens Globosa bonsai - trunk measure

Most varieties of Dwarf Picea Pungens (Compacta, Globosa, Hunnewelliana, Moll, Donna’s Rainbow, Gloria, Saint Mary...)  have rounded / mound shape  with densely branches that looks good as bonsai or in miniature landscaping / rock gardens because of their short height. They are highly tolerant of urban pollution (Similar with Picea Glauca Conica varieties), more drought tolerant than other picea varieties (but remember never let your bonsai go totally dry) and will even thrive in city environments. Most of them grow at a slow rate: at the maturity if left untrimmed, growing around 8 feet tall. Usually they are multi-stemmed shrubs with a short period of life (around 60 years) comparing with other conifers.

Picea Pungens Globosa bonsai in fall of 2010
Picea Pungens Globosa bonsai in fall of 2010

Hmm... Maybe its short period of life is a small inconvenience for a bonsai tree, but we still have many years to spend together ;-)

Monday, February 7, 2011


What do you think, a Ficus tree can do a better job than some of the people who actually get elected?

Well ... apparently... one American Ficus Neriifolia plant, 25 years old, US citizen,  resident of New Jersey...  has ran for Congress in 2000.

Image with Ficus - candidate for Congress in 2000, from Michael Moore movie
Image with FICUS - the candidate for Congress in 2000,   from Michael Moore's movie
Willow leaf Fig - Ficus neriifolia, 25 years old 

Michael Moore, a very ingenuous satirist and filmmaker, made an awesome documentary - part of  "The Awful Truth (TV Series)" - , "Ficus for Congress", when enlisted his Ficus Plant to run as candidate in "24 American Congressional Race" in  the state of New Jersey. Later, Ficus plants were enlisted also in  Alabama, Arkansas, California, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming.

According to his political campaign, the potted ficus is a good choice in our world; the campaign slogans in New Jersey were "Because a Potted Plant Can Do No Harm." and "Because we deserve better!";-)

Indeed, was an interesting modality to allow the voters to indicate disapproval of all of the candidates (None of the Above / NOTA or against all listed as a ballot choice during elections) and was a nice fight for Change.

Go FICUS, Go! 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Welcome to the 2011 Chinese New Year

Welcome to the New Lunar New Year that will start on February 3, 2011. This date is the most important and festive of the traditional Chinese holidays. The 2011 Chinese New Year is the year of the Metal Rabbit. The Rabbit is known as one of the luckiest and diplomat animal sign, so this year will bring more calm, prudence, wealth and peace - a beneficial period after Global Crisis problems.

Although the Rabbit is said that is shine and timid, the Metal influences will bring strength and forceful energy.
The first day of  New Chinese Year starts on second new moon after the winter solstice (the New Moon is in Aquarius), so, the date varies being based on the lunar and solar calendars, but always falls in late January and mid February. The Chinese New Year Eve is called "Chu Xi  除夕"  which means "discard the old" (Chu 除 means discard, removal;  Xi 夕 means night).
In China and in other big cities  with significant Chinese populations from other countries, as usual, will begin the "Festival of Spring 春联" named also " Festival of New Beginning" - a celebration of change, when people welcome spring and welcome the new year with new prosperity.

 "Welcome Spring and the Good Fortune / ying chun jie fu  / 迎春接福 "

People will assist/ participate to cheerful parades with colorful costumes, dancing lions and dragons puppets, bamboo and orange-red paper or silk decorations and of course amazing fireworks.
The Chinese tradition is every family cleans and decorates their homes to sweep away the old and ill-fortune and make way for success and good luck with blooming plants (to symbolize rebirth and new growth), orange fruitful trees, or red paper cut-outs with "happiness" and "prosperity" themes, and listen traditional Chinese music:

During the Chinese Song and Yuan Dynasties and later during the Qing Dynasty bulb bowls (or bulb pots) were used as containers for flower bulbs, such as narcissus. Narcissus blooms symbolize prosperity and were popular in China around the time of the lunar New Year (late January - February) when the Chinese celebrate the coming of Spring.

Double-coin symbol painted in relief on old Chinese bulb pot
Double-coin symbol painted in relief
I have one of these bulb / bonsai pots in my collection. It is an old Chinese Porcelain pot, made manually,  having on two sides the "double coin symbol" (good fortune) and traditional Chinese wishes with blooming flowers on other two sides. (the inscriptions, cherry branch, rose and narcissus flowers are painted in relief on the flower pot)

恭喜发财 gong xi fa cai symbols painted in relief
Gong  Xi Fa Cai inscription painted in relief

恭喜发财  / gong xi fa cai = Congratulations and Be Prosperous / Happy Chinese New Year

恭喜发财 gong xi fa cai symbols on old porcelain bulb pot 
The meaning of each word is:
恭 = gong = respectful
喜 = xi = enjoy, love
发 = fa= issue, dispatch
财 = cai = wealth, prosperity

迎春接福 / ying chun jie fu = Welcome Spring and the Good Fortune 

迎春接福 / ying chun jie fu inscription on old Chinese bulb pot

The meaning of each word is:
迎 = ying = receive, welcome
春 = chun = spring
接 = jie = continue
福 = fu =  good fortune

Chinese New Year is not a traditional holiday to me, but we all can learn from this ancient civilization and I see no reason why we cannot celebrate this Spring event as well.

迎春接福 / ying chun jie fu / welcome spring and good fortune inscription on old Chinese flower pot
This year I potted in my cherry like color pot some traditional Narcissus (Daffodils) and miniature roses "Rosa Parade"  with red flowers.  Talking about flowers symbolism, red roses stand for hope, respect and courage and  red and yellow blends stand for jovial and happy feelings. I used also some Sempervivum "Hens and Chicks" , moss, Akadama, rocks and one small white lantern to decorate the pot.   I used cold resistant plants which survive and flourish during winter and could be kept indoor / outdoor  (in Vancouver area are mild temperatures).

Let's celebrate the last year's achievements (like old Chinese farmers) and pray for good luck and prosperity during the 2011, Year of the Rabbit!

 Narcissus and Mini roses potted in cherry Chinese porcelain pot


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