Sunday, August 29, 2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gem of a book

It is a small book,thin and handy. Measuring 12 x 21 cm, staple bounded and printed by Syarikat Yakin Offset Printing Press in Kuching, at a very minimal cost. That book was to inaugurate my first solo art exhibition in 1981 held at the Sarawak Museum ( see inset) . In the book are 7 pages of sketches in pen and ink of the catalogue of paintings that were exhibited during the 3-days art show. I think that the sketches are a real marvel of the book. For many reasons, but principally as indication of the poverty and passion of my days in Kuching in the early eighties. The exorbitant rates for photographic illustration of the paintings absolutely broke my hope for a professional look to the book but somehow I felt images of the paintings on show must be incorporated in the book for guide and posterity. Despite the many late nights before the publication when I heartily drew the sketches the results were well worth it. My shallow pocket was saved the day. However, I am tempted to consider the book a gem because of the inclusion of the painting catalogue rendered in sketches. The exhibition has been one of the memorable adventures in my life. Below are examples:

The book was entitled "Pameran Lukisan dan Puisi MOOD" and can be accessed at the US Library of Congress , National Library of Australia Collection and Yale University Library by just typing the book title in google search . I know not many people will have the chance to grab the book, but thanks to the Internet, I have reproduced the poems and show some of the real paintings depicted by the sketches in another blog called 'my e-poetry book'. The e-book continues my love of English poetry to this day as the online book accommodates newer poems up till 2010.
Indeed the Internet does change the way people communicate. When once dollars and passion were critical in producing a book , it's now just clicks. Today it can be done literally free and you're packaged as editor, printer, publisher, author, photographer, designer ,bookshop and marketer all in one. The Internet has empowered me to grow as a child of the universe and leaving links in cyber space.

The above is the last illustration in the book as a respect to the Sarawak Museum which consented to having me organise the art exhibition in its premise. The art show was a real success but more importantly I now find the sketches a gem of the book.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Colour the garden

Colourful foliage of the Crotons ( Codaeium variegatum) and Coleus (Solenostemon scutelariodes).

The Side Garden - partial view facing the lawn.

This is a partial view of the side garden that is nearby the car porch. The plants specified here are illustrative of colourful foliage and flowers. On the the lower storey are the coleus ( Solenostemon scutellariodes ) and Crotons ( Codiaeum variegatum) and are mixed with heliconias. However at the location above ( foreground) the hot Red Button Ginger ( Costus woodsonii) salutes the garden space . Other species planted around it are the frangipani, ixora and hibiscus. As part of the Malaysian garden concept ( Laman Kambatik) my attempts at the side garden are beautifully rewarded as shown below.
The Blood Banana ( Musa zebrina) grows easily in tropical gardens and being small in size are selected for house gardens. Note the deep red stains on the long oblong leaves resembling blood. The banana is a winner when suggesting the tropical look and in Sarawak there are ubiquitously typical of subsistence garden farms.
The Parrot Flower ( Heliconia pssitacorum )

Heliconia latispatha

Heliconias are a staple for the Laman Kambatik garden. In aesthetic terms, they provide surprises of colour in parrot-like fashion. Their strong palette tones in combinations of rich yellow to pink, orange to red, light green to dark purple are intense blots of exciting colours compared to green wash of leaves. A welcome respite indeed. Secondly, heliconias are targets for sun birds and many other tiny birds that devour its honey thereby beckoning the arrival of wildlife to the garden. Thirdly, heliconias are splendid materials for the floral arrangement.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

As time goes by

The making of a Garden Oasis

Sunset view from the main door.

A view on any day . Note the Drunken Sailor's ability to climb over and creep along the front porch's ceiling.

When we decided to move to Kuching about three years ago I was intent on making the house garden an example of my concept of the Malaysian Garden called " Laman Kambatik". In this post I would like to share how I achieved it at the front porch garden space. In later posts I shall talk about other sections of the house garden .
Over time one or two plants that did not do well were replaced with alternatives but to a large extent the original choice of plants proved suitable. To help me explain the job I have prepared a sketch below that could act as guide in recapitulating the making of the front garden. The front garden will hopefully mature in about a year's time from now when other garden features ( hard landscaping) will be added. At this point of time the focus is on soft landscaping i.e. the cultivation of plants and turves. On this note I would add that the latest feature is the Yellow Bamboo ( shown inset) that took the place of the Murraya paniculata after I noticed it was unable to fend itself from diseases that attack its roots.

In the beginning - date of photo 25 Nov' 2007

The above shows how the site looked like in late 2007. The plant worth noticing is the Carpentaria Palm ( Carpentaria alexanderae) which was just less than a meter high when planted. The broad-leaved Calathea lutea is an important plant in the design for the shape of its leaves. The soil is hard and not fertile and I only managed to top-up the whole area with good topsoil later when I decided to turf the space. All these plants were brought from my garden in Bintulu. I did this to save me time to scout for plants in Kuching besides I can load plenty of plants at the back of my pick-up every time I drive to Kuching.
Progress dated : 7 June 2008.

The above is view of the site in slightly less than a year. The tiny lawn has been turved. The Ixora coccinea is flowering beautifully with orangish blooms. The Blood Banana in the far background is seen higher than the Carpentaria Palm. The Sea Cycas ( Cycas rumphii) and Calathea are doing well evidenced by the dark green colour of their leaves.
Progress dated : 14 June 2008.
The Sea Cycas was also brought from Bintulu. Around the base of the Cycas tree are variegated rhoe plants. The lawn is planted with " Pearl Grass". A line of 'Mother-in-law's tongue' ( Sanseivera trifaciata) is seen planted along the concrete edge.
Progress dated : 4 December 2008.
In a year's time the Carpentaria Palm has risen 5 feet tall. To the left of the picture is Murraya paniculata which produces tiny white flowers that are strongly scented.

Unfortunately the Murraya plant did not perform well and last month I replaced it with the Yellow Bamboo.
In the design of the front garden the role of scented plants is emphasised. Another species included is the " Sepenuh" -Proiphys amboinensis

Inset to the left : Close-up of the tiny and scented white flowers of the " Kemuning" in Malay. It's scientific name is Murraya paniculata.
Progress dated : 25 Jan 2009.

Progress dated : 6 August 2009

Progress dated : 6 Oct' 2009.

Highly scented white flowers.

Dark pink colours of the Hybrid Canna.

Progress dated : 16 October 2009

Progress dated : 4 June 2009

Progress dated : 4 June 2009

The Drunken Sailor ( Quisqualis indica) grows luxuriantly and crept unnoticedly along the fence and then over to the front post post.

A new generation of young fronds thrust itself into the garden space. I chose this plant for the main reason that it is native to this part of the world and exudes a primitive look, a species that appeared to be taken from the age of dinosaurs.
Many people in Sarawak cook the young fronds as vegetables.

Progress dated : 4 Feb' 2010.

After about slightly more than 2 years the garden is shaping up according to plan. For more bright colours the Yellow Croton (Codiaeum variegated) is added. At the lower storey ( not seen) many numbers of Iresine plants ( Iresine herbstii) are planted for its deep red colours. The feather-leaved palm behind the Sea Cycas is the Yellow Cane Palm ( Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) which is a small-sized palm.
Progress dated : 4 June 2010
Whooopi !! the Carpentaria palms have grown 15 feet in three years.
Three years in contemporary age of the Internet is virtually unfelt. It has whisked by like the fallen frangipani petals at the front garden. Kept by a busy schedule of travel from Bintulu to Kuching and back on an almost monthly basis I have not wasted the window of opportunity to create a much needed urban oasis a step out of the house. I will of course add a little bit of smaller plants to hug on the lawn floor in future but this will have to be thought judiciously especially on the maintenance aspect because we're not everyday in Kuching. Unlike trees, smaller plants require more intensive care. After all we're always rewarded by the basics first and pretties are added bonuses.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Orchids in a tropical garden

DBKU Orchid Garden , Kuching, Sarawak.

Orchids produce flowers that can last for weeks and even for a whole month. For that reason they are being loved the world over. In a tropical climate like Sarawak where there are no distinct seasons, orchids can be grown the whole year round. They can be very prolific and vigorous provided the necessary conditions are observed when one indulge in cultivating them for home gardens. How would you display them so that you and friends enjoy its showy, exotic and lasting flowers? Imagination, love and thoughtfulness about their habits and character are essential to have them proove their attractiveness.

Orchids have many uses apart from giving us much aesthetic pleasure. Orchids are grown for medicinal and culinary reasons. The well -known Vanilla Orchid ( Vanilla planifolia) produces vanillin used to flavour chocolate, ice-cream and cakes. The bulb of Arethusa bulbosa, a Japanese orchid is a good remedy for toothache. In many countries the orchid nurseries and gardens are important places to visit for tourists and orchid enthusiasts who come from far away destinations. Orchids arrangement make delightful table pieces, bouquet, corsage or 'bridal guard'. It is a thing of beauty that always brings us joy. ( Inset: Laeliocattleya 'Dorset Gold')

An orchid garden display setting at the DBKU Orchid Garden, Kuching.

Displaying orchids in towns or residential areas require a little bit of understanding on the requirements of these unique plants. Generally, species collected from cool altitudes do not grow well in hot lowland regions. Thus the environment may need to be modified by locating them in shaded or cooler areas of the garden. Other species can be displayed in a rockery concept as shown above and below. The Spathoglottis species are terrestrial or ground orchids and growing in limestone hills they are suitable specimens for garden rockeries. The most common of the Spathoglottis species is the Spathoglottis plicata and since they have been in cultivation for quite sometime, they are now available in colours of yellow, pink, purple or mauve and white and also combinations of yellow, orange and purple.

Spathoglottis plicata in various hues - yellow and purple, placed amidst rocks and an artificial stream for its modified environment.

Cut tree trunk acts as supporting structure for the orchids to get attached .

Heavy flowering of the "Golden Shower" (Oncidium 'Goldiana' ) on a 'dummy tree'.

Orchids can de displayed on a 'dummy tree' which is constituted of a few 'branches' made from hardwood species like our local "Belian" timber which is the hardest wood in Sarawak. The belian is not subject to rot despite being exposed to full sun or embedded in earth and could last many generations.

Phalaenopsis cornu-cervi with healthy roots.

Beautifully grown light purple Dendrobium orchid on a 'dummy tree' of belian wood wrapped with coarse coconut husks.

Suspended 'Belian' posts are useful when we need to move the orchids often to various locations around the house or garden. Like planting on dummy trees, the roots are attached to coconut husks or flattened stems of tree ferns and best fastened using nylon strings. Avoid using wires for tying because they rust and could be harmful to the roots and pseudobulbs. Select suitable orchid species that are epiphytic as they have roots that are well modified to enable them to hang in the air like the Oncidium species above. Oncidiums have flowers in a spray and it is the tiny golden 'dancing ladies' that make them attractive. Now Oncidiums are hybrided and come out in many new colours of rosy pink and purple from the familiar yellow.In Sarawak the most commonly grown hybrid is the Oncidium 'Goldiana' or "Golden Shower". There are also miniature oncidiums in the market. Oncidiums perform better in bright environment and some can take to full sunlight.

Big clay jars are ideal for large- sized orchids, above and below set in an orchid enclosure. The shelter is usually lined with netting to prevent the plants being scorched by direct sun rays.

Phius tankerville
Phaius orchids have large and attractively coloured fragrant flowers. They have large plicate leaves. From its thick and erect spike which arise from the pseudobulb are a series of 10-20 flowers. Note the shady and cool environment in which it thrives. Having them in large pots make re-potting less frequent.
Once caught in the fever and depending on one's interests and willingness to be challenged, orchid growing can be life-long hobby. Through trial and error, much money and ingenuity one can very slowly become an 'expert' on cultivating them. The interest can blossom into a semi-hobby or semi-commercial pastime because you can sell orchids and perhaps the income can self-sustain the maintenace expenditure and the purchase of more orchid types.

" A thing of beauty is a joy for ever;

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing."

( John Keats)

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Bintulu Golf Course - early beginnings

The view above was taken in 1988 when the course was partly open for play. In the background is seen clearing works for the first nine hole which is basically an inland route.

There is only one public golf course in Bintulu and is called the 'Bintulu Golf Course'. It exudes many scenic and attractive natural features that makes it a truly challenging and memorable course built to competition standards. It combines a links course ( back nine/second nine) and an inland course (front nine/first nine). I am in the mood to reminisce on my role in the development of the course in today's post.
I was one of those lucky guys in town to have practical experience in developing this modern and international standard course. However a caveat is in place. The course was the result of a dedicated team of officers who saw the challenge of a lifetime to build a course for a booming Bintulu township of the eighties. Financially the course was sponsored by the BDA ( Bintulu Development Authority) a local statutory agency tasked with the planning, development and maintenance of Bintulu as a new industrial city for Sarawak. When on board the team in 1986, I was responsible for the turfing of the second nine course, landscaping and daily course maintenance. As was considered feasible at that time, it was decided to construct the second nine first due to its easier working terrain and fantastic views of the South China Sea. Thus an area of about 75 acres was selectively cleared, bulldozed and reserved for fairways, tees and greens etc., to follow a detailed plan developed by one of the JOVC ( Japanese Overseas Volunteers Corporation) volunteers attached to BDA by the name of Fumiaki Izumida. I could well remember how we preserved whatever stands of the " Tongkat Ali " for posterity during the jungle clearing operations.
Before - intensive earthworks to Hole 12, with plenty of original vegetation preserved.

After - the turfing of fairways, slopes and greens done to Hole 12, with the South China Sea in the far background ( circa early 1988).
The Hole 18 green planted with Tiff Dwarf grass. Note the fairways in the far background are not yet planted .
I was totally in charge of the landscaping of the course which meant tree planting, turfing and its maintenance. For the greens I had to go to Sentosa Island Golf and Country Club in Singapore to bring in a half-kilo of Tifton Dwarf ( Tiff Dwarf) stolons ( scientific name : Cynodon dactylon and commonly known as Bermuda hybrid grass) which we propagated at our Sg. Plan Nursery and became the primal source of all the greens in the 9-hole course. For fairways and slopes the grass species used was Axonopus compressus or commonly referred to as 'Cow Grass' which was available locally in Bintulu and collected initially from Kampung Jepak village roads.
Bird's Eye View of the Clubhouse under construction with the Hole 18 Green fully turved in the background.
For a start I was responsible to develop specifications for the cutting of the turves and many other daily maintenance works ( hollow tining, fertilisation, weeds and pests control, top dressing etc.,) . However after about 6 months later, the job was contracted out and the practice of contracting out the maintenance of the course continued for many years later.
For the three full years of 1986-1988, my time was intensively engaged in one of the most memorable moments in my life as I had to learn fast on various subjects relating to golf course design and maintenance. All the tough work remains one of the adventurous chapters of my life. The course was officially opened for play in 1989 and having given some meaningful service to the Club, I was bestowed a " Life Member " of the Bintulu Golf Club. Now, 20 years later it surprises me why nobody or any other parties aren't scratching their heads to build another golf course for Bintulu.