Monday, 20 August 2012

Garden flowers & fruit

I've very briefly mentioned in passing our prolific bananas in a previous post, but the annual flowering of the beautiful Cup of Gold Vine, one of my favourite plants (which has just happened within the past few days) encouraged me to share a few photos of our garden. Underneath each photo I've put: Latin name / English name / French or Reunion Creole name.

The Cup of Gold vine is also known as Golden Chalice Vine or Hawaiian Lily, but in Reunion it's called "Fleur coco" because of the coconut smell of the flowers.

Solandra maxima / Cup of Gold Vine / Fleur coco

The plant below doesn't look much but Night-blooming jasmine smells divine in the evening:
Cestrum Nocturnum / Night-blooming jasmine / Jasmin de nuit

The frangipani is another one of my sweet-smelling favourites, although you don't have to wait for nightfall to appreciate it. Different varieties exist but as you can see ours has large white flowers with a small yellow centre. When the flowers fall I sometimes float them in a bowl of a water.

Plumeria / Frangipani / Frangipanier

The Traveller's palm is originally from Madagascar and is not a true palm, but a member of the bird-of-paradise family. The name supposedly comes from the fact that the sheaths of the stems hold rainwater, which theoretically could be used as an emergency water supply for thirsty travellers.

Strelitziaceae / Traveller's palm / Arbre du voyageur ou Ravenala

It's easy to see where the Chinese hat plant gets its name from:

Holmskioldia sanguinea / Chinese hat plant / Chapeau chinois

The Allamanda is also known as Yellow Bell, Golden Trumpet or Buttercup Flower. We have two different varieties in our garden - one with large flowers (see bottom left and right), and one with small flowers (see middle and top left of photo):

Allamanda / Buttercup Flower / Coupe d'Or or Trompette d'Or

The Jungle Geranium is also known as Flame of the Woods (I prefer the latter name). Its latin name, Ixora, derives from that of an Indian deity, from where it originates.

Ixora coccinea / Flame of the Woods / Ixora

Like the traveller's palm, the golden cane palm, areca palm, or butterfly palm is another plant originating from Madagascar.

Dypsis lutescens / Butterfly Palm / Multipliant

We've planted our own mango tree (see first picture below) but it's still young and to be honest the one in our neighbour's garden hanging over the back wall gives us more fruit! In Reunion the fruit are ripe in summer between November and April, depending on the variety. The main cultivars found in Reunion are Carotte, José, Lucie, Auguste, Maison Rouge and Earlygold.

Mangifera indica / Mango / Mangue

neighbour's mango tree

We grew our avocado tree from a pit and it's still quite young. Last year there were lots of flowers but no fruit. This year at the time of writing there are lots of flowers once again - maybe this time we'll have some avocados? (By the way the French word for avocado - avocat - is the French word for a lawyer. I've seen some very funny menu and recipe automatic machine translations on the internet along the lines of "add 100g of chopped lawyer"!).

Persea americana / Avocado / Avocat

Our red hibiscus doesn't flower very often, but when it does I think the flowers are magnificent.

Hibiscus / Hibiscus / Hibiscus

The nastus bamboo is known locally as calumet, and my husband particularly appreciates it as he grew up in a house called "Les Calumets" where there were many in the garden.

Nastus borbonicus / Nastus bamboo / Calumet

Another one of my fragrant favourites, the strong-smelling ylang-ylang is used in perfumery and is grown widely in the Comoros Islands and Mayotte also known as the Perfumed Islands for this reason. The flower is pale yellow and can be seen in the middle of this picture:

Cananga odorata / Ylang-ylang / Ylang-ylang 

This Copperleaf was planted by one of our tenants when we rented our house out for three years while we were in S. Korea.

Acalypha / Copperleaf / Foulard

Bougainvillea are an attractive flowering plant, but beware their thorns!

Bougainvillea / Bougainvillea / Bougainvillier or Bougainvillée

This papaya has been chopped down since I took the photo - neither my husband or I are big fans of papaya and the tree was starting to get in the way. We didn't even plant it - it probably grew from seeds dropped by a bird. Although it looks like a tree it's actually just a big plant - it grows several metres high very quickly and the trunk is hollow.

Carica papaya / Papaya or Pawpaw / Papaye

I think these Amaryllis were planted by our tenants when we lived in South Korea. We just leave them alone and they flower every year.


Finally I thought I'd take you through the various stages of growth of bananas. Here are baby banana plants:

Like papaya, bananas are plants and not trees. They grow to be several metres tall: 

Each plant produces one banana heart:

reddish-purple banana heart

Over a period of several months the bananas develop from this heart:

In the picture below the fruit have all developed, but still have several weeks or even a couple of months before they're ripe. In Reunion the heart, known locally as a baba figue, is sometimes cut and used to make a carri (savoury Creole dish).

We normally cut a stalk when one of the bananas has just turned yellow, or is on the point of doing so. If we don't, the birds will get to them first! (Note that the fruit grow upwards, and not downwards as some supermarkets would have you believe).

freshly-cut stalk

Once the stalk of fruit has been cut the plant dies and we cut it down, however offshoots often develop from the base of the plant and the whole process starts all over again!

ripening stalk 

Believe it or not all the banana photos above were taken on the same day; we always seem to have several stalks on the go in various stages of ripeness. Sometimes we have so many bananas I feel I should be selling them by the side of the road, like this lady I saw in Sri Lanka.

I hope you enjoyed this visit to my garden!

Further reading:

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