Tag Archives: flower power

Travel theme: blossom

Flowers, for me, are very evocative things.  They can take me back to a special place, or a special moment every time I see them again, smell them again. So with Ailsa’s travel theme this week being ‘blossom’, it really got me thinking about past travel adventures, and the flowers that are linked inextricably with them in my mind.  My travel tales are growing in number, and I am one of those people who could take photographs of flowers all day.  So there were a lot of contenders!!

One of the weirder ones that came to mind is the blossom from the Cannonball tree. I saw it in a park in Singapore, but it wasn’t actually the blossom that first drew my attention.  It was the sight of a towering deciduous tree trunk, with huge brown spherical growths on it…yes, the fruit do indeed look like cannonballs! But the flowers themselves were beautiful (and much more interesting to photograph than cannonball shaped fruit!).  They are the size of your palm, and smell heavenly.  And because the tree puts out these enormous flowers on thin little twig-like branches up and down the length of its otherwise fairly bare trunk, they are also pretty striking.  The blossoms are often used by Buddhists and Hindus in offerings.  Partly because of their beauty and scent, partly because the tree is considered sacred by both religions.  A really interesting travel find and something I look for every time I’m back in Singapore.

Cannonball tree in flower

The blooms on a Cannonball tree, Singapore.

Another one with a lot of travel memories attached to it?  The beautiful papery blossom bouquets of the bougainvillea.  I have seen these on my travels around Greece, France, Egypt, even Cape Verde.  In vine, bush or tree form – this is one well-travelled plant! And it is a real beauty. These blossoms come in so many different colours, and their hot vibrancy really does make you feel in full summery holiday mode when you see them.

 I’d always thought of these as a holiday flower, but bougainvillea is everywhere here in Brunei.  Looking out of my office window right now, I am watching the birds hopping in and out of the tangled stems of one of our own bougainvillea vines.  So it is becoming a plant that now brings me happiness at home as well as on my travels.  Which is really lovely.  A little piece of holiday heaven in my own back garden.

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea in bloom, Brunei.

Nature knows best – cold cures, the natural way.

Normal service has been suspended in this household for the past ten days because baby girl has her first cold.  And it is proving to be a real doozy!  At nine months old, she isn’t old enough to tell me which bits hurt, or even blow her nose yet. And her choice of conventional medication extends only as far as calpol, infant vapour rub and nasal saline spray.  It has been pretty miserable for her.  Although we seem to have dodged the cold – so far! – it hasn’t been much fun for the grown ups either, watching her struggle.

I am not averse to pharmaceutical medications when they are appropriate, but I also think that natural remedies and good nutrition can play a valuable role in health and wellbeing. Nature is incredibly powerful so why ignore what it has to offer?  And it is amazing the number of everyday medicines that warn against being taken by nursing mothers and infants. So partly through choice, partly through necessity, we are definitely making natural and alternative options a key line of defence these days!

Shop bought hot lemon sachets are one of the medicines that are off limits, as is honey for babies under one year old, so I have been making a South East Asian alternative cold relief drink. Iced calamansi lime and ginger tea. Calamansi lime trees are indigenous to Borneo, and I’d never seen anything like them in the UK.  The fruits are tiny but pack a mighty punch on the fragrance and flavour front, and release their oils with the slightest touch to their skins. Inside they are a beautiful orange colour, but are just as sour as their green-fleshed cousins. The juice is reputed to be a powerful expectorant and cough cure.   So combined with the widely regarded alternative medicinal properties of ginger, which is known to be excellent at tackling colds and fever, this is a keeper as a family friendly cold-remedy. And unlike hot lemon sachets it is delicious…although I’ll admit that it does taste better with a little added honey for sweetness!

Who needs hot lemon?

Who needs hot lemon?

We have been making great use of my supply of essential oils to create baby-safe vaporiser blends and massage oils.  A warming, soothing combination of mandarin, sandalwood and lemon in the vaporiser is helping her congestion and sore throat, while also making the whole house smell amazing.  I am also giving our little girl a pre-sleep massage with a diluted mild blend of lavender and peppermint essential oils. She enjoys the relaxing contact and hopefully it is helping move the cold along, given lavender’s analgesic, antiseptic and expectorant strengths and peppermint’s general cold and flu fighting super-powers.

Lavender essential oil - scent super powers

Lavender essential oil – scent super powers

I’m also spending a lot more time in the kitchen with the blender on the go!  Up to this point our little one was becoming pretty independent on the feeding front, and these days she usually prefers finger foods that she can pick up herself and chew rather than spoon-fed mush.  But being so full of congestion and cold is stopping her being able to chew, swallow and still do the all important job of breathing! So I am back to blitzing and pureeing for the moment.

Obviously her little body needs to keep strong and healthy to fight the cold off, but her appetite has dropped right off, so I am trying to think of foods that will give her variety, will be soothing and easy to eat, but that will quickly load her up with calories and nutrients. Lots of immune-boosting, good energy foods, bursting with vitamin C and anti-viral properties. Cue porridge, sweet potato, kiwi, blueberries, cinnamon apple compote, cheesy chicken and mash… My husband quite often jokingly complains that more thought and effort go into meals for her than for us.  At the moment he might have a point!  Although at least we do now have a full freezer, stacked with pots and pots of a whole variety of baby purees, so that should keep things simple for a while!

Being typical first-time parents we took our daughter to the doctor yesterday, just to be sure it wasn’t turning into anything more serious. In the hot, humid tropics it can be very easy for simple things to turn bad in infants quite quickly, so it is worth checking.  But there is no chest infection and the doctor didn’t seem worried, which is always a good sign.  So we will just keep doing what we are doing and wait for her cold to run its course…and keep our fingers crossed that we don’t catch it in the meanwhile!

Orchid obsession.

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Yellow dendrobium orchid

Orchids hold a very special place in my heart.  Stunning crimson centred, white Phalaenopsis orchids featured heavily in my wedding bouquet.  As a popular symbol of beauty and refinement, orchids are a natural choice for a bridal bouquet.  I also like them for their less commonly known symbolic qualities of charm and thoughtfulness.  But it is not only the flower, but also its colour which is important when conveying meaning.  We gave buttery yellow orchids as gifts to family to mark the birth of our daughter, as yellow orchids represent new beginnings, which seemed a perfect choice.  Not that Ian had any idea about the depth of thought behind the plant and the colour when I suggested it! I also think that it is interesting how the language of flowers changes across the globe.  For instance, a Chinese friend tells me that in China, orchids are popular gifts for expectant parents as they are a token of fertility and successfully having many children.  So perhaps taking the Chinese approach we should have been receiving rather than giving orchids when our daughter was born?!

I find the hidden symbolism attached to flowers very interesting.  Immensely popular in Victorian England, but also commonly used in other parts of the world such as Japan and America, the language of flowers enabled friends and lovers to express their emotions in a society and time when it was highly unacceptable to say them out loud.  Modern British social culture enables far more freedom of expression than during the Victorian heyday of the language of flowers.  But there is something that still resonates for me in the careful, considered construction of a message through flowers.  So there was very deliberate planning behind my wedding flower choices.  Roses, pink stargazer lilies and orchids, with foliage including rosemary and bells of Ireland.  Beautiful, and with a loving message behind them. Perfect.

Living in South East Asia enables me to continue to indulge my passion for orchids.  Out here, cut flowers are pretty expensive, but you can find the most beautiful and unusual orchid plants for sale at the local markets for just a few Bruneian dollars. Long lasting, and far cheaper than an orchid back home.  Far cheaper than a bunch of flowers from the supermarket, come to that!

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Phalaenopsis orchid growing outdoors.

But as much as I love my growing collection of orchids, I prefer seeing them growing wild, or planted up in the trees in a more natural arrangement.  I am always struck by the incongruity.  So fragile and elegant looking, and yet tough as old boots, clinging on to tree trunks, taking everything they need from their host tree and the air around them.  I didn’t make it to the orchid garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on the way through, but seeing the wild orchids growing here in Bali reminds me how much I love them.  So perhaps it should be on the priority list for the return stop-over.  As the Singapore national flower is actually an orchid, the stunning Vanda Miss Joaquim, it would certainly seem fitting.