Flaming Torch Blooming in Our Garden

Flaming Torch is called Billbergia pyramidalis of Foolproof plant, Summer Torch is again in bloom. This is a type of bromeliad native to Central, South America and Carribean countries.

This is commonly sold in many garden center and had been planted either on ground or as epiphytes in many parts of the country.


Flaming Torch or Billbergia pyramidalis

Billbrgia pyramidalis in some large garden estates and farms, This had become almost naturalized. We purchase our first Billbergia pyramidalis in the early 1990’s.

We were able to haggle the price from Php20.00 per pup to just Php 10.00 since we bought 10 pieces at the Green and Grow Plant stall within Manila Seedling Bank ,EDSA corner Quezon Avenue in Quezon City.

Flaming Torch

The popular name for this bromeliad is “Flaming Torch” because the orange flower bracts and reddish purple flowers resembles a torch.

Backyard gardeners usually know them as flaming torch , red torch ,summer torch , red flame, queen tears, foolproof plant, billbergia,bubble gum blossom,candy blossom , hurricane bromeliad, among others….

We normally would plant the flaming torch in terracotta pots with rich humus, coco coir dust and some charcoal. We divide the offset at least once a year. Some neighbors who have planted their flaming torch on their garden soon realized that it would spread and would ruin the landscape.

This is an old time cultivar which is again slowly making a come back. Minimal care and maintenance is needed. We gave several dozen pots to friends, relatives and neighbors for the past decade or so.

There were at least a dozen known cultivar varieties grown all over the world. There is also a variegated form for sale in some garden centers.


The species is not native or indigenous to the Philippines. They were introduced to the Philippines from the United States probably just after the second world war ( mid- 1940’s). or even much earlier.

Water and Fertilization

Billbergia do not require much water, but they do like high humidity. The potting medium should feel dry when touched between each watering. You can also add water to the central tank. Use distilled water or rain water to avoid mineral buildup on the leaves. The tanks should also be regularly flushed and rinsed to avoid stagnate water. Stagnate water can result in pests and diseases.

We normally apply water soluble 20N-20P-20K in their tanks after watering them heavily , once or twice a month – water soluble fertilizers can be bought in any home and garden outlets. Dilute them to 1/4 or 1/2 the strength recommended dosage.


One can divide Billbergia pyramidalis after it blooms or when pups are several months with small adventitious roots , keep them on partial shade area and moving them gradually to  partial sunlight. Since there are no natural pollinators which occur in the Philippines, It seldom sets seeds . Propagation is usually separating the suckers/ pups when they have small roots and are large enough to be individually potted.

Economic Uses

Billbergas are highly ornamental plants ,During its blooming season, potted plants with flowers can be a centerpiece in living room or focal point in one’s garden. The inflorescence or bracts carry several violet flowers which can last between 5 to 7 days in prefect condition .

Sometimes, there are available plants for sale at the Centris Sunday market, garden centers.

Bibliography, Sources and References:

López, L. C. S., Alves, R. R. D. N., & Ríos, R. I. (2009). Micro-environmental factors and the endemism of bromeliad aquatic fauna. Hydrobiología, 625(1), 151-156.

Steiner, Mona Lisa Dr., McCullough Printing Company (1960) Philippine Ornamental Plants And Their Care, page 56 Billbergia

Bromeliad Society International


Timely Bloom of Tillandsia capitata “Yellow” in Almost Three Years

It had been a while since the last recorded bloom of our Tillandsia capitata “Yellow” variety in our garden.

I got three varieties of Tillandsia capitata, ( one bought at the Manila Seedling Bank sale) another variety bought from Mrs. Doreen Dofitas the last type was from a seller from Davao.  This particular Tillandsia species tend to survive in almost neglected state with minimal watering during the rainy season and fertilization.


Tillandsia capitata ” Yellow”

It is only during the dry months from November to early May that we tend to water heavily at least twice a week.

A lot of the lush growth had some die back due to the infestation of squirrels few years ago, making nest out of the lush growth. It is good that the invasive Finalyson’s squirrels were killed using sling shots by the neighborhood children when they ate their ripening indian mangoes and bananas growing at their backyard.

It is good that there was still a couple of Tillandsia capitata left in our Cavite home. We reintroduced them and remounted them in our Manila Palm.


The weekly-weakly regimen of fertilization of water soluble fertilizer of 1/4 strength or 1/4 teaspoon per gallon, with 20-N20-P20-K alternately switching to 2 or 3 fertilizer brands, apply trace elements, micro nutrients such as epsom salt and calcium in small quantity. After every other week. We would also flush the entire plant with running water once a week, This is to remove excess salts and fertilizer residues.

Since it is mounted on a living palm, withered leaves from plants , palm flowers, dried palm fruits , bird dropping would accumulate at the base of the tillandsia , Hence adding natural compost . It is also a beehive of activities where black ants, millepedes and tree frogs hiding at the base of the leaves.

It is good to see that our Tillandsia capitata again showed sign of blooming and glad  to enjoy its blooms for at least a month. This is one of my favorite Tillandsia along with Tillandsia fasiculata , Tillandsia xerographica, Tillandsia ionantha,Tillandsia schiedeana, Tillandsia intermedia and Tillandsia funckiana.

The impending closure of Manila Seedling Bank Foundation

Manila Seedling Bank Foundation compound, EDSA corner Agham Road, Quezon City- Philippines

Manila Seedling Bank Foundation office

My dad loves growing fruit trees .  My mom loves growing vegetables, flowering plants  like hibiscus ( gumamela ) , gardenia ( rosal) , ixora ( santan ) , dama de noche , frangipani ( kalachuchi ) and orchid hybrids  .  My younger sibling like to grow herbs, indoor plants ,  I would grow orchids, ferns, hoyas , tillandsias, bromeliads  ,   flowering vines and native plants,  While a distant relative likes to grow aquatic plants and small indoor plants. We always go to MSBF compound whenever we can find time .

vegetable corner near the MSBF office

Some of my fondest recollection on how this institution had help a lot of budding environmentalists , hobbyists , plant lovers nurture their love and passion  for plants and the environment.

MSBF Greenhouse #2

Almost all the people that we met at the MSBF compound are very sad  and teary- eyed . Metro Manila’s premiere garden and environmental center will be taken over by the Quezon City-hall management and eventually becoming part of the Quezon City business district…. This big chunk of land will soon rival Bonifacio Global City ( BGC), Ortigas Center, Makati , Ayala-Alabang in the south.

spider plants and five fingers – these ordinary plants can be grown in vertical gardens .

The entire compound  about 7 to 8 hectares  is just part of about 30 hectares  lot owned by the National Housing Authority (NHA), which was reserved for the use of the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation, Inc. (MSBFI) under Presidential Proclamation 1670 issued by President Ferdinand Marcos.

MSBF Greenhouse # 3

I have written several articles before about MSBF   from printed glossy magazines and online journals. The center had earned its reputation not only here in the Philippines but served as a model for its environmental advocates and food security for the country.

rare ornamental and orchid collection of Ms. Vangie Go

The Quezon City government –Business Permits and Licensing Office cited violations of the QC Revenue Code and the National Building Code, early this month ( December 2013 again )  supposedly for failing to secure the necessary mayor’s and building permits. If i can recall , the MSBF was also ordered closed for a couple of days last year.

EDSA Garden House of  Mrs. Adela Ang is having their big sale before moving to the Quezon Memorial Circle

The local government also took control of the lot last year for MSBFI’s non-payment of real property taxes from 2001 to 2011.

Despite the NHA’s ownership of the land, the local government said Manila Seedling Bank was not exempted from paying taxes.

Philippine Horticultural Society Incorporated office at the MSBF compound – The Secretariat temporarily moved to  1019 San Marcelino Street, Ermita – Manila ( near Adamson University )

The beehive of activities and fond memories of the garden societies lectures, meetings , social gatherings and school children doing their researches at the Philippine Horticultural Society Inc. ( PHS)  office (They have a mini-library with all kinds of books about plants  ) are just a memories of an era where nature and environment projects are given priority by both the local government and the national government.

some of the stalls facing Quezon Avenue side were being dismantled

MSBF compound was also the home of the Philippine Horticultural Society ( PHSI ) a society that was founded in 1976.  Now , Their office had transferred in Ermita,  Manila near Adamson University .

MSBF  fruit trees selling area with tarpaulin posters

I also recall  plant societies like Philippine Orchid Society garden and plant shows were staged at Greenhouse # 2 , Philippine Bonsai Society’s bonsai shows among others.

KOI Haven with the proprietor, According to the owners – They had already relocated at the Araneta Garden Center in Cubao

Land-line 668-75-92, 475-95-20 Cellphone : 0917- 8017246

There are estimated between 200 to 400 tenants ranging from small flower vendors, pebble and rock traders, carinderia owners to big companies like  the ones being managed by Puentespina , King Louis , Bulacan Garden, MEGA Orchids, Purificacion Orchids and Ornamental  , Ms. Vangie Go, Mrs. Soledad Agbayani– Console Farm, EDSA Garden House of Mrs. Adela Ang among others.

Mr. Andres ” Jun ” Golamco  store is also having their BIG Sale

According to some tenants, They are constantly being harassed, intimidated and to some extent even received death threats from the Higher-UPS and BIG People!

Everich Agriculture  Supplies -according to the saleslady, they will be relocating to a much smaller space at the Quezon Memorial Circle

Police Incidence

Manila Seedling Garden Owners Association (MSGOA) is an association of about 200 tenants within the compound . According to the members of the association,   There was a traumatic  incident last December 9 , 2013  night time where  police arrived at the Manila Seedling Bank compound , with their leader supposedly brandishing his gun and ordering his men to pick up (damputin ) everyone there. The tenants scampered to safety, but 13 were hauled off and brought to jail. It was even worst than Martial Law !

water lilies- day blooming varieties and kiyapo

Some of the tenants , will still have to face the daunting task of fighting for their livelihoods.

In the quest for industrialization and modernization, Let us not forget the environment in which we are all inter-connected , converting and selling  the 7 or 8 hectare piece of property is not the answer to the problem of corporate greed and insensitivity by the local government compared  to the the invaluable services that this institution had been doing for almost 37 years.  The original objectives of the foundation is to reforest the denuded forest lands, reforest LA MESA watershed , provide food to the masses by propagating ,  selling quality tree seedlings, vegetables , fruit trees and endemic trees all over the country.

In fact , some garden centers in other countries like Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan , Guam,  Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia  got some technical expertise  using the MSBF as a role model for their country’s greening projects and urban renewal projects.

Mabolo / Kamagong tree planted by President Corazon C. Aquino on October 25, 1990

The MSBF is also home to more than 400 species of trees, both native, exotic , endemic and even trees that were planted by former first lady Imelda Marcos, President Corazon Aquino , former first lady Amelita ” Ming ” Ramos . The area is also home to countless of butterflies, fireflies , insects ,  birds and Palawan Cherry trees too!

commemorative marker

( I hope that the new management will not chop this tree planted by the former president)

In some countries  ( like  Singapore)  is very active with their urban re-greening projects and  looking for solutions to their environmental problems. Here it is quite different. We neglect our natural heritage and environmental institution that had help so many………..

As I do not want to dampen everyone’s mood, We just recall our fond memories of the place that i must say was my second home…………. BYE for now and the fight for more green spaces and environmental institution in METRO Manila continues…….

NOTE: Almost all tenants will be having their LAST DAY SALE by Tomorrow -December 31, 2013.  Some of them have relocated at the nearby Quezon Memorial Circle , Cubao- Araneta Garden Center, Fairview Garden Center, Lagro area.

Some tenants will eventually find a way to sell their plants in some weekend markets, bazaars . Some will return to Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna , Quezon , Rizal , Benguet , Pampanga where they have garden spaces and plots of land.

The Cityhall will allow the tenants to dismantle all their structure until past April 2014.

Manila Seedling Bank Foundation: http://msbfi.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/msbfi

Philippine Orchid Society- Christmas get together

Purificacion Orchid Haus, Manila Seedling Bank compound, Quezon City-Philippines

Mrs. Luz Santa Ana

 Philippine Orchid Society’s board of directors and members decided to donate the Christmas party funds to the  Philippine National Red Cross -Quezon City chapter to help the Typhoon Haiyan  (local name :  Yolanda) . In lieu of what happened , some members decided to contribute home cooked meals , home-made specialties ,  regional specialties and have a more meaningful Christmas . The  simple get together was attended by about 40 members and some special invited guests.

 Philippine Orchid Society members

The simple get-together started at around past 6:00PM. I arrived at around past 8:30 pm at the venue area after the disappointing  Neon Invasion Fun Run ( December 7, 2013) held nearby Quezon Memorial Circle  .  Almost everyone had already finished their meals except for 1 or 2 guests.

Philippine Orchid Society members

The pot luck meal  is still very impressive, almost everyone brought something to share , ube , mocha cake and egg pie by Mr. Frandel Recto, Lechon by Ms. Vangie Go, Pancit Canton , Pancit Malabon, Spaghetti, Traditional Ham, Tanigue , soft-drinks , coffee,  beer, candies , barbecue, local fruits and desserts ! It was more than what  everyone was expecting ! FOOD Fiesta Galore !!!!

Ms. Vangie Go – President of the Philippine Orchid Society

There were some parlor games and karaoke at the site. i was too busy eating and chatting with some of the members and invited guests that i forgot to join their parlor games !!!!

Ms. Nena Covey

Ms. Nena Covey is one of the 5 winners of ” Early BIRD ” she arrived at the venue before 6:00PM.

Ms. Vangie Go and Ms. Sol Pagcatipunan – exchange gift

Then there was the attendance raffle , early bird gifts  , exchange gifts , chit chats with fellow orchid and plant enthusiasts . 2014 promise to be BIG and preparations for the 2015 Flora Filipina International Exposition will set a bar higher in the Philippine horticulture industry.

Ms. Jenny F. Rivera ( office secretary)  hand over the check to Philippine National Red Cross -Quezon City chapter last December 11, 2013 .

Note: I must say that i am proud to be a lifetime member of this society. A society who knows how to care and share whatever small “things” that we can muster to save in our own little way. I hope that every legitimate NGO group can also help our society and in nation building !

Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society Christmas Party 2011

It was hot and humid afternoon on December 3,2011 when the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society Inc. or simply PNPCSI hold its annual Christmas party at the home of Mr. Reg Yuson a new member , His home is  located in Scout Chuatoco street  Quezon City.

Arundina graminifolia or bamboo orchid planted in one section of the property

The author arrived past 4 :00PM and saw Mr. Micheal Agbayani Calamaro  ( PNPCSI) board member for year 2011 to 2012 . He came all the way from Ilocos Norte just to attend this event.

various kinds of ferns

I was warmly welcome by the host and had a few conversation with Mr. Reg Yuson . The house and lot if about 1, 100 square meters and sits on prime location.

Ms. Regielene Soriano -Gonzales, Mr. Ronald Achacoso and Mr. Reg Yuson

Mr. Yuson is an artist and had several sculpture projects in  Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig , an avid plant collector and he also customizes car.

Photo caption : Patrick Gozon, Noel Malacad, Mr. Reg Yuson, Edwin Tadiosa, Ronald Achacoso, Rommel Arriola and Micheal Agbayani Calamaro

One by one the member arrived , at past 6:00pm the party started by a short prayer and introduction of each member . A short power point presentation was shown to the attendees .

Dr. Antonio Manila speaking before the members and invited guests

The presentation highlights was the participation of the society to several events like annual Philippine Horticultural Society show held in 2011 and the First Leonardo Co’s International Symposium held at the Tambunting Hall of the National Museum for the Filipino People  ( formerly  known as Finance Building) last November 2011 and the various horticultural walks that was conducted by the members of the society.

Mr. Ivan Serenas a new member of the society partake at the evening buffet

Mr. Ivan Serenas is a bird watcher, photographer and travel guide. He is also a member of various environmental and bird watching clubs.  Sarenas has traveled the Philippines extensively and exhaustively as photographer of the prestigious Philippines Yearbook, as well as for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Greenpeace, Conservational International, National Geographic Productions, and the BBC. His  art photographs have been exhibited at Pinto Gallery and the Ayala Museum in Makati and in the International photography exhibition such as in Tokyo, Japan and Paris  France.

Among the popular tours are the UP Diliman’s Tree Walk conducted by Architect Patrick Gozon and UP Los Banos  Heritage Tree Trek .

Ms. Veronica Peralejo received the certificate of appreciation from Dr. Antonio Manila and Mr. Anthony Arbias for her artistic contribution of the club’s logo

The food was prepared by Chef Eugene Catipon  and Mr.  Rico Quimbo .

Mrs. Elisa Montecastro an active member of various horticultural societies invited members to come and visit her resort in Subic , Zambales on January 2012.

Chef Eugene

I had to leave the place at past 7:00 pm together with Mrs. Elisa Montecastro who dropped me near Manila Seedling Bank where another party is being hosted by Philippine Orchid Society.

The Christmas party extended until past 12 midnight and was dubbed by some members as PNPCSI Marathon Christmas party.

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