Local Heart, Global Soul

February 19, 2014

Living Almost Literally On Pure Air…

Filed under: Commercial Grower Visit,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are about to leave the Dutch commercial grower that we were visiting, but first our guide is showing us something else that was totally new to Family Kiwidutch.  Our visiting Singaporean friend “Velvetine”  is however very knowledgeable  because she grows some of these herself: “air plants” or by their proper names: “Epiphytes”

Wikipedia tells me:

An epiphyte is a plant that grows non-parasitically upon another plant (such as a tree), and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it instead of the structure it is fastened to.

An epiphytic bromeliad: The term epiphytic derives from the Greek epi- (meaning ‘upon’) and phyton (meaning ‘plant’). Epiphytic plants are sometimes called “air plants” because they do not root in soil.

However, there are many aquatic species of algae, including seaweeds, that are epiphytes on other aquatic plants (seaweeds or aquatic angiosperms).

The best-known epiphytic plants include mosses, orchids, and bromeliads such as Spanish moss (of the genus Tillandsia), but epiphytes may be found in every major group of the plant kingdom. 89% of epiphyte species (about 24,000) are flowering plants.

Epiphytic plants use photosynthesis for energy and (where non-aquatic) obtain moisture from the air or from dampness (rain and cloud moisture) on the surface of their hosts. Roots may develop primarily for attachment, and specialized structures (for example, cups and scales) may be used to collect or hold moisture.

This is one of the longest photographic posts I have ever made… but I found all of the photos fascinating and wanted them all in one post. Some of these little plants are tiny, in fact they looked at first like mould on the wall, most of them too are very very slow growing, one of the longer specimens we are shows is over 40 years old. Air plants need very clean air in which to grow, and since they collect nutrients via minuscule amounts of moisture rather than by being parasitic on a “host” plant, they are often difficult to grow. One thing is for certain, these amazing plants must be having an increasing struggle for survival, as mankind pollutes the world’s air more and more.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epiphyte

February 18, 2014

A Final Set Of Bromeliad Beauties…

Filed under: Commercial Grower Visit,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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Today’s post is the last in my photographic series on Bromeliads as they are grown commercially in The Netherlands….  Once again the “parent” plants that are used to propagate the seedlings for export are amazing in their form, colour and intensity. From soft to spiky, from smooth to textural,  they all are a total education to me as a complete botanical novice.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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February 17, 2014

Beauty In Form And Detail, On A Scale I Never Could Have Imagined…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following yesterday and the previous few posts, Family Kiwidutch got the opportunity in the summer of 2012 to visit a commercial seedling operation here in the Netherlands.

We are here because our visiting friend “Velvetine”  is active in the specialised  Bromeliad horticultural society, and has helped host International conferences in Singapore for the same,  thus earning herself a very special invitation from another Bromeliad specialist here in the Netherlands.

Rarely open to the public, Family Kiwidutch as Velvetine’s hosts and friends, also scored this privileged opportunity to look “behind the scenes” at this very unique industry. One thing is for certain, I totally underestimated the scale of this sort of industry, there are literally millions of plants here.

Located a short distance from Schipol airport, there are are series of glasshouses, each one the size of several football pitches. Inside, “parent”  plants, mostly Bromeliads, are grown so that their seeds can be harvested and turned into thousands of tiny seedlings, which are then in turn exported around the world to nurseries, research institutions and various organisations. I know that Velvetine knows many of the “proper” names of  many of these Bromeliad flowers, but I am just trying to do their beautiful forms justice with my camera… the colours are often beyond intense, their structures delicate and stunning!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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February 16, 2014

I Can’t Break The Botanical Code, But I Can Appreciate The Beauty Of It…

Filed under: Commercial Grower Visit,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following yesterday’s post Family Kiwidutch are getting an insider look at commercial plant and seeding growing in The Netherlands. It’s not in our usual sphere of knowledge or interest but is a speciality of our visiting Singaporean friend “Velvetine” as member of some specialist horticultural societies back in Singapore.

She has in the past helped out with International conferences there and naturally made contacts through them, which resulted in her invitation to this place today. Our family happened to  be the happy hangers-on who were also welcomed since we are her friends and hosts whilst she is in the Netherlands.

I learn a new word: “bromeliad“, and that most of them originate from South America. I read the Wikipedia article (link below) but was already lost at the first sentance:  “The Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) are a family of monocot flowering plants“… Monocot?  No clue what that is.  I looked that up too (link also below) and discover that these gardening types appear to write in code, indecipherable to people like me who do not sport green thumbs.

I supposed you either get it or you don’t.  I recognise my strengths and weaknesses and think it wiser to stick to detail of the artistic rather than the horticultural variety. I do though appreciate the beauty of the plants…the stunning colours and beautiful shapes, these “mama’s and papa’s” being breed to produce future generations of beautiful plants, they are gorgeously stunning in their beauty.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromeliaceae
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monocot

February 15, 2014

So Little Seedling, Smile For Your Photograph To Make The Grade…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In the summer of 2012 our Singaporean visitor “Velvetine” used her international contacts in her specialist horticultural circle and was invited to visit a specialist plant and seedling nursery in The Netherlands during her stay with us.

Family Kiwidutch got to go along for the ride, and even though I have to confess to having almost zero horticultural knowledge, I totally enjoyed this inside look into an industry that is usually closed to public view.

The company rises and exports seedlings and plants, but the vast majority of the plants here are breed entirely for the next generation of seedlings, which are then shipped world wide.

We get to see some of the operational side of the industry (there were other rooms where workers were busy with plants which we were not permitted to enter or photograph, so naturally those areas are not covered here).

The five of us get a personalised tour, and shown a conveyor belt where tiny seedlings in their individual pellets are deposited into little holders that spin at speed along the machinery racks and into an x-ray machine where a computer also photographs each seedling from the top and the side and detects if the seeding is defective in any way.

It all appears to take nano seconds and reject plants are spun off to a different area, whilst the ones who’s mug shots have been approved spin off to the end where the machine lines them up and packs them in neat rows on large trays.  It’s amazing what technology can do.

We learn that it’s cheaper and easier to export seedlings this size rather than fully grown plants, they will have plenty of time to grow to maturity at their destination, which can be almost any country you care to name, but that said the bulk go to Asia, and the countries of North and South America.

They will eventually be found in places like plant nurseries,  zoos,  commercial premises , botanical gardens, or plant research facilities.   I don’t know what plants each tray contains, but Velvetine pointed out a tray of  baby Venus Fly Trap plants with their tiny leaves about  five millimetres long.

The entire building we are in is heated, and  carefully temperature controlled so even though the weather is inclement outside, it’s totally tropical inside and Velvetine is feeling right at home in more ways than one. We follow our guide though to one of many massive glass-house “rooms”, also tropically heated and I’m amazed to see green trays of tiny seedling almost as far as the eye can see. The plants may be tiny, this the scale of this industry most certainly is not.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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February 14, 2014

Our Visitor Introduces Us To Something New, In Our Own Back Yard…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Usually when you  have an international visitor to stay, they rely on your intimate local  knowledge  of your own country as you show them new sights and experiences.

Once in a while the visitor gets to spring a surprise on the local and this is exactly what happened back in the summer of 2012.

Himself and I, understandably know a lot about The Netherlands, but visiting friend “Velvetine” is not just a foodie, but an accomplished horticulturist and a dedicated plant lover.

I mean I love plants, but on a scale of one to ten I rank about ” minus one” as a gardener… I’m interested in growing edible stuff but my flower knowledge is limited, and I mean severely limited. In other words I am botanically stupid challenged.

Velvetine on the other hand knows entire botanical names for all  kinds of stuff and lost me about one sentence into each explanation of what was what. My excuse is that I come from a family of gardeners and growing up my sole job was weeding, which the rest of the family didn’t  like doing and I didn’t mind, so I learned better how to  get rid of stuff than to grow it. I’m not totally inept, I know the difference between a rose and a tulip, but I have to admit that when the Dutch family expound opinions on their favourite flowers I am generally left with a nervous  fixed smile and the look of a rabbit in the headlights as I hope the subject changes before I am expected to contribute.

I frequently confuse one bloom for another and confess to afterwards looking up Google Images sometimes to see what on earth people around me have been enthusing about. It’s probably why I suck at flower photography:  herbs, fruit and veggies have interest and purpose, flowers on the other hand are labelled in my brain as “pretty red things, pretty white ones, cute green what’s-it, gorgeous yellow thingy etc”  I love their form and beauty, but I love them more or less in total ignorance of detail.

Velvetine on the other hand has not only knowledge, but also contacts via specialised plant societies that she is a member of in Singapore  and via her we are getting to take a tour that is not usually open to public view. This is the world of the commercial plant grower, the International exporter of rare and specialised plants, and it’s a behind-the-scenes look at “gardening” on an industrial scale. This is how Family Kiwidutch find ourselves driving north to a location around the back of Schipol airport and discovering a facet of the Netherlands that we never knew existed before…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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