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Cosmos Seashells


IMG_0001sGrowing up may have dispelled many charming childhood mysteries, but I can never resist holding a conch to my ear and listening to the sea within. I’d reach for the biggest shell in my collection today just to listen to its muffled roar.IMG_0003s

Quite recently, a friend gave me a handful of floral seashell seeds. These delicate ‘seashells’ couldn’t be further removed from the tough calcium carbonate exoskeletons that I’ve had for years.

But if there’s anything I like better than my collection of seashells, it has to be my plants. So Cosmos Seashells are definitely keepers.

IMG_0016The first batch of seedlings succumbed to the shock of transplanting so I tried again. This time I sowed directly into the trough where they made it past infancy.
IMG_0018sThe delicate juveniles surprised me by budding before they were 8 inches tall. The pinhead bud grew and burgeoned, and the sepals split to reveal a pink Cosmos Seashell. Then came the white and maroon ‘shells’.

Most of the flowers had fluted and conical petals, but not all. Some petals curved and overlapped to form a cone, yet others had regular flat petals.

 

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I’ll sow another lot soon and this time, I’ll sow more and rake in some compost and a dose of fertilizers too.

Why?

Maybe it’s the thought of giant conches and the roar of the sea. Since I’m never going to get a murmur out of these seashells, an auditory treat is out of the question. So I’ll just focus on giving myself an eyeful of them instead.

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Care and propagation: Full sun; well-drained soil; water generously. Propagate using seeds.

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20130908_103111_sI’ve seen Lemon Verbena at the market and supermarket. But the herb, sold loose or bagged, was not what I was looking for. I had little need for the dried leaves; what I wanted was a potted herb.

I searched high and low but it eluded me. I scoured the internet for seeds but if anything, that turned out to be a bigger challenge.

When I finally found the lemon verbena, I was on holiday, thousands of miles from home. If it had been possible to cart one home, I would have done so.


I was transfixed. The lemon verbena shrubs were as tall as I am and were flowering to boot.

I helped myself to a sprig or two of the spent blooms. Surely there would be seeds within the calyxes? But there was none – what a letdown.

a full-grown lemon verbena in Melbourne

a full-grown lemon verbena in Melbourne

flowering lemon verbena in Ballarat

flowering lemon verbena in Ballarat

Before I left for home, I visited a friend. Lo and behold, there was a lemon verbena in her yard! Pat, bless her heart, offered to make me a cup of the herbal tea. Snip, snip, snip. She tore the leaves and stuffed them into a tea strainer. Minutes later, this contented gardener sipped a precious cup of freshly steeped lemon verbena tea.

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Yet, there would be no lemon verbena plant for me – not for a long while.

I tried numerous cuttings, some of which grew and then died. I just couldn’t get it right. Other gardening friends who have tried growing this pernickety plant threw in the towel. “It’s not worth the trouble,” they said.

I may take their advice one day since there are other herbs with a more intense lemon scent. The lemon verbena is a punishing herb if your clime isn’t suitable for it.

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Mine seems to be doing okay … for now. I am just hoping it can grow into a more sizable plant without dying prematurely.

Will it ever bloom? I hope it does; if only to try my hand at pollinating it although I know now that lemon verbena flowers are sterile after all.

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Care and propagation: Dappled to full sun; well drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings.

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Camellia Azalea

20140117_103650_s“Three?! You bought three?” my friend’s voice shot up a few octaves.

No one would have batted an eyelid if it had been the angelonia, pentas or even brunfelsia. But I suppose the Camellia Azalea was a different kettle of fish altogether.

For a start, the Camellia Azalea had cost between SGD200 and SGD500 for a modest plant a little more than a year ago. But no, I didn’t pay a prince’s ransom for mine. I had been advised to wait and so I did. More than a year down the road, I found them at a fraction of the initial price.

IMG_9331sI grabbed one first and then another two … all within an hour.

What’s the fascination? Apparently it’s the only camellia that will bloom in our hothouse conditions.

Our previous camellia plants had never bloomed before, aborting all their buds prematurely. So we gave them away and stopped buying … until the Camellia Azalea came along.

20140117_103257csSo now I have three. But any hope of propagating more plants was dashed even before I could begin. The Camellia Azalea is known for being notoriously difficult to propagate.

All the plants I see in the market have been grafted onto other more resilient camellia rootstock, but they are still relatively rare.

I shall be contented with the trio, the first of which bloomed about ten days ago.

Imagine the scarlet of the camellia against a foil of yellow melampodium. My grandmothers would have loved it; all red and yellow in the days leading up to the lunar new year.

The Camellia Azalea is definitely my plant of choice for the festive season.

Why?

Because it’s red hot; firecracker hot.
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Care and propagation: full sun, well-drained mildly acidic sandy loam; water moderately. Propagation is tricky; grafting recommended.

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Camellia Azalea at Gardens by the Bay

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the ever-blooming Camellia Azalea at GBB

20131130_094654sI wonder who named this plant; am curious since the plant is nothing like its names suggest.

The Rondeletia odorata or Fragrant Rondeletia, also known as the Panama Rose is definitely not scented and the flower does not bear any resemblance to a rose.

20131130_094654closeBut I’m not complaining. Its yellow-centred orange flowers may be small but they are bright and vivid. The fact that they come in clusters make them even more eye-catching.

When I first saw the Rondeletia odorata I thought it was a variant of the lantana. But it wasn’t.

I have never come across the plant before, but the lady at the garden centre assured me that it’s local. I wonder if that’s really so – Wiki says it’s native to Cuba and Panama. But why waste time splitting hairs. All that matters is that one has found its way to my garden!   ;)

IMG_9218szApparently the Rondeletia odorata can grow up to 10 feet tall; a little hard to believe when I look at the small potted specimens and their even tinier blooms.

But this diminutive beauty came with a big price. Should I or should I not? I debated for no more than 10 minutes before making the obvious decision.

Any regrets? Not at all; especially when the buds burst into clusters of vibrant candy coloured hues. They may not be edible, but they sure look a treat!

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Care and propagation : Full sun; garden soil, water moderately; propagate using semi-hard wood cuttings (will be a while before I get to try this)

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20130930_180811sI rarely buy a plant for its foliage, so it was quite out of character for me to get this.

The gardenia is known for its lovely waxy, ivory blooms and the Gardenia Jasminoides Variegata is no different.

Yet it was the green and ivory variegated leaves that caught my eye first; a gorgeous blend of greens and ivory; each leaf a unique monochromatic artwork.

Surprisingly, the plant was inexpensive.

The Gardenia Jasminoides Variegata has great potential as a focal plant, so I removed a waterlily tub in the centre of the garden and planted the gardenia in its place.

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20131003_072412sThe gardenia grew for close to half a year before anything happened. In fact, I didn’t even know that the gardenia was budding and almost missed its first bloom until I saw a flash of white amidst the leaves.

And then I noticed swirls of buds; much like the top of a Cornetto ice cream. And like the ice cream, it was irresistible. I took multiple photos of the buds – I just couldn’t get enough of its unique swirls

If anyone asked me which has the x-factor, I’d say it’s a close fight between the variegated leaf and the bud.

But what about the flower? … I think in this case, it may just be a little outclassed.

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Care and propagation – full sun; garden soil; water generously. Propagate using cuttings.

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We never planted the cucumber, but there it was, in a bed covered with stones and pebbles.

20130925_181639sWe thought it wouldn’t survive, but it did. The gangly thing grew stronger and then surprise, surprise … it flowered!

The flowers were spots of sunshine in the otherwise colorless corner. Pretty, yes. But productive? Mmmm …20130921_133254s

What doubting Thomases we were. We didn’t expect the gangly vine to produce anything for the dining table.

But it did and proved us more than once.

The unassuming vine yielded cucumbers for salad and stir fries. And when we let the last cucumber age, we even had a lovely golden hued cucumber for soup.

It’s amazing how quickly the cucumber grows.

A tiny one-inch cucumber could grow to its full length within four to five days. Even the aged old cucumber didn’t take very long.

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The vine was short lived and expired soon after we harvested the last old cucumber.

But I’ve a hunch that that cucumber plant is the precursor of many more to come.

Care and propagation: full sun, garden loam or compost soil, water generously; propagate using seeds.

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Fuchsia

IMG_0778sI have two grouses about one of the world’s most beautiful and popular plants. One, I always stumble over its spelling, and two, they always die on me.

The fuchsia and I have had several fleeting acquaintances in the past. I’ve always hoped that the fuchsia would take up permanent residency in our garden, but this wishful thinking never came to pass.

IMG_9074sMaybe I should be realistic and grow things with a better chance of survival in hot and humid conditions. But, that’s not me; I’m a glutton for punishment.

I bought yet another two fuchsias a couple of months ago. Why? There’s something about the fuchsia’s skirts, frills and flounces that I can’t resist.

But just which fuchsias did I get? I googled to check and saw an amazing line up of ballerinas, can-can and flamenco dancers. The myriad of pendulous forms and colours had me in a tizzy.  I couldn’t find the proper names for them, but no matter – as long as they survived.

I was advised to water the fuchsias well and to give them good air-circulation. Apparently these pernickety plants do not like wet feet; nor do they like the media to dry out.

For the moment, they are still alive; but for how long?

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These past few days have been real scorchers, so things don’t look too rosy for my friends. I wonder if they have what it takes to pull through this acid test. I sure hope so.

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Care and propagation: shade to bright light away from intense heat; compost; water generously; propagate using cuttings or seeds

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