I grew up between the flowerfields near the Keukenhof. My first job was picking flower bulbs to prepare them for export. My mother has worked as a flourist and made many beautiful bouquets. There are so many beautiful flowers and plants, also in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. I grow some of them in my house as well. Many of them are symbols and have a special meaning or background. Here is a small selection of them.
The melati flower symbolizes respect, engagement, compassion as well as life and death. In the Netherlands this flower is the symbol of remembering the loved ones who died during the colonial period in Indonesia. A pin of the Melati flower is worn by many people during the annual ceremony.
This is one of the three national flowers of Indonesia, where it is known as melati putih. The flowers are widely cultivated for its attractive and sweetly fragrant flowers and are used as a fragrant ingredient in perfumes and jasmine tea.
One of my favorite melati flowers grows all around Indonesia and Singapore.
Most roses are originally from Asia, the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa. They are very beautiful and grow all over the world now and brighten up many gardens, living rooms or special occasions such as weddings. Rose hips are high in vitamin C and are edible raw, but they are mosly brewed to be made into jam, tea or rose hip syrup for deserts or drinks such as ‘stroop susu’. Rose water has a very distinctive flavour and is used in South Asian cuisine. Of course they are also used as parfume, because they smell so good.
Rafflesia arnoldii is one of the three national flowers in Indonesia (the other two are the white jasmine and moon orchid). It’s the largest flower is the world and was discovered for the first time near Bengkulu. This flower is very rare and only grows in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. When I was in a national park in West-Java, the guide told me a related Rafflesia grows there as well. I would still like to see this flower when I get the chance.
These tropical pitcher plants, or monkey cups, are carnivorous plants. They mostly consume insects, but some of them also frogs, snails and scorpions. There are about 170 species. The greatest diversity occurs on Borneo, Sumatra, Singapore and the Philippines. This number is increasing, with several new species being described each year. The name “monkey cups” refers to the fact that monkeys were once thought to drink rainwater from the pitchers.
These trees can grow up to 30 metres and become very old. In Yogyakarta are two of them, planted in 1756 inthe middle of the alun alun. The legend of the twin banyan trees is whoever could manage to walk between two banyan trees with their eyes closed, their wishes and desires will come true. Allegedly only those pure of heart will be able to do. Many people say it is harder than one might think and I’ve seen many people end up walking completely into another direction. In 2018 I visited this square and easily walked true somehow, but my wish has not completely come true yet.
More beautiful plants and trees
Purple Shamrock a.k.a. Love Plant (Oxalis Triangularis)
It’s not Asian, but I love this plant, it’s so beautiful. Coincidentally it’s name is Love Plant or Purple Shamrock. I bought one in Paris on the trip there with one of my best friends who was dying from cancer. It always reminds me of him. The plant also has ‘special powers’, because it can revive itself from the dead! If I forget to water it (or when I’m traveling) or the temperature drops too low, everything above the surface will wilt and die back to take refuge in the bulbs below. As soon as good conditions are restored the plant comes back to life incredibly quickly.
Good Luck plant (Oxalis tetraphylla ‘Iron Cross’)
Also not from Asia, but definitely one of my favorites is this Good Luck plant, that has the same ‘special powers’ as the Purple Shamrock. I have several of these at my house and balcony as well.
Some other flowers and plants from my balcony
Some of the flowerfields near my house