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20141006_094527sThey are like hundreds of purple bubblegum balls clustered on a stem, only much smaller, and exactly the same colour as the grape-flavoured gum balls I had loved and bought from the school canteen.20140901_080240s

The berries were every bit as inviting as the gum balls but I had to find out if they were edible or toxic before I planted it. I was more than a little suspicious of the enticing, vivid berries.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Callicarpa berries are edible – at least that’s what Google Search and a TV documentary told me.

I finally bought the plant a couple of months ago and couldn’t wait to do a taste test. Would be as delicious as it looked? I picked a small purple sphere and popped it into my mouth.

The verdict? It was dismally flat and insipid. Tastewise, it would never make it to the hall of fame.

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20140920_123502sBut hey, it’s totally off the charts in the looks department. What it lacks in taste, the Callicarpa makes up for it through its aesthetically pleasing berries. Whoever gave the plant its common name chose that name well.

But there is more to the Callicarpa than its gorgeous berries. Even the buds and flowers appeal visually. Neat clusters
of pinhead grey-green buds blush slightly before revealing a delicate froth of pink flowers.

The Callicarpa has bloomed more than a few times so I had expected more berries. But strangely, these have not been forthcoming. Apparently, fruiting is a lot easier when a few shrubs are grown together and there’s cross-pollination.

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So it looks as though I need to get another plant … or two. In the meantime, I’ll get a brush ready and give Nature a helping hand. Who knows, that may just work.

Care and propagation: Full sun, partial shade; well-drained, moist soil; water moderately. Propagate using cuttings or seeds.

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20140902_165118sHe had guilt written all over his face and scampered away faster than I could say Jack Robinson.

The squirrel had been feasting on my red shahtoot! And this was despite wrapping the berries in netting!20140810_083544

The netting may have deterred the birds, these quicksilver creatures just grabbed the berries, netting and all, and sucked them dry.

I held the flimsy netting with the pitiful remains of what had been succulent berries just minutes earlier. All the ripening shahtoots had been eaten.

What’s the big deal, one may ask? After all the shahtoot is just another mulberry and I have lots of that.

20140823_103309But while the other mulberries in the garden are tart, the Morus Macroura is nectar sweet. The tassel-like berries which measure up to four inches long is definitely no ordinary mulberry. The Morus Macroura or red shahtoot is clearly in a league of its own.

The problem is, the birds, squirrels and ants love it too much. Procuring the plant might have been a huge challenge, but guarding the berries is definitely a bigger one.

Care and propagation: Full sun, water moderately, most soils. Propagate by using cuttings (I have not succeeded yet) or by grafting

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20140501_084659sWhile the Salvia Officinalis is the sage most people are familiar with, fewer have heard of Salvia Elegans, the pineapple sage.

In contrast with the grey-green of the regular sage,  the pineapple sage has attractive light-green ovate leaves, pink stalks and square stems.

The leaves have a fresh fruity taste and make what I’d like to think are ‘healthful herb’ fritters.

I’d seen pineapple sage fritters on the Internet and as soon as it was possible, a handful of sage leaves went into the batter and into the hot oil. As my niece would say, I walloped them all.20140501_130204s

But since that fritter episode, the sage has diminished in size and is just teetering in there. I’m giving it a small dose of TLC and am hoping it’ll rebound.

If it does, it wouldn’t be fritters that would top my wish-list this time; it would be the herb’s intensely red edible blooms. I wonder if those taste like pineapple too.

 

Care and propagation: Partial sun, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings

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Plumeria Pudica

20140729_083929sThe petals were so white they could have been bleached. It was only much later that I realised the flowers had yellow centres.

When the Plumeria Pudica first appeared on the scene, I wasn’t even sure if it was a plumeria. Its leaves were unlike those of the regular local variety. And the structure of the tree wasn’t the norm either. Instead of spreading out wide, the Plumeria Pudica just grew vertically and reached for the skies.

But its identity wasn’t really an issue; we were fascinated by its for20140729_083815bm.

Whenever we drove past a Plumeria Pudica in the neighbourhood, we’d slow down as much as we dared to gawk at the statuesque beauty. Since we were not given to coveting our neighbour’s plants, we figured we should get our own.

20140717_174736The initial price of the Plumeria Pudica was predictably high. After waiting for about a year, we bought it at half the price. What’s more, there were two plants in the pot!

The Plumeria Pudica proved to be a fast grower, although not quite in the same league as Jack’s legendary beanstalk. It’s barely a year since we bought it and the plant is already towering over me. I had to stand on a garden chair to get a shot of the yellow centres.

Will it have to be a ladder next? I think not.

The clusters are actually best viewed from below, each framed by the blue sky or a darker foil of a tree; which was exactly what captivated our attention in the first place.

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Care and propagation: Full sun, well-drained soil. Water moderately. Propagate using cuttings.

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IMG_6084Anredera cordifolia - then chut_sThe Anredera Cordifolia is regarded as nothing short of a nuisance in some parts of the world. Growing relentlessly, it has been known to smother trees and shrubs that are superior in both size and volume.

But the puny climber in my neighbour’s garden bore no resemblance to the marauding monster I saw on the Internet. It was just a metre in length; a long way off from reaching the end of its bamboo support. I guess the intense heat of the tropical lowlands stunts its growth.

However, I saw what the Anredera Cordifolia was capable of when I was up in the hills. Assuming a different persona under more favourable and cooler conditions, the brash climber grew in abandon, rambling unchecked over beams, fences and shrubs.

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seen up in the hills

IMG_6091sNot content with twining over anything in its path, Anredera Cordifolia scions grew where swollen aerial tubers had dropped onto the soft moist ground.

This was a lot more like the menace that was depicted on the net. It’s no wonder then that the spread of the Anredera Cordifolia has to be curbed in some countries. Left unchecked, it is likely to colonise the world.

So we confronted the lush mass of Anredera Cordifolia before us … armed not with machetes or poison but with baskets and bowls.

IMG_8469bWe spent more than an hour filling our receptacles with fleshy jade green heart-shaped leaves, a portion of which went straight into the frying pan after a quick rinse. We demolished a plateful in the blink of an eye.

I doubt if I’d ever have an issue with overgrown Anredera Cordifolia in my garden. If anything, mine needs a growth booster shot right now.

But if I ever had to control this climber, I’d probably just chomp my way through it.

 

 

Care and propagation: Partial sun, moist fertile soil, water generously; propagate using aerial tubers

 

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The bat may look like a cuddly fur ball to some, but its association with vampires and Transylvania freaks me out.

A couple of years ago however, I adopted a few. They were the flightless Tacca Chantrieri which is vegetative; definitely not the gothic mammal I have an aversion to.

However, all the Tacca Chantrieri seedlings, bar one, succumbed to root rot.

IMG_0122bThe lone survivor bore a flower, but that first bat was a miniature. The greenish-grey bloom was no bigger than my thumb nail but had the requisite trademark bat shape and whiskers.

I moved the Tacca from the confines of its pot into a trough. And, yeaaay! Subsequent flowers had longer whisker-like bracts and larger sootier ‘wings’.
IMG_0176sThese showy bracts overshadow the buds that hang in umbels from the centre. The buds bloom in turn and the reflexed petals of the small black flowers cup the reproductive organs.

20140405_143840sSo far, however, my Tacca Chantrieri has not produced any seed pods. I’ll try pollinating the flowers when they bloom next and see if I can get some seeds.

Do I really want more plants? Well, why not?

The Tacca Chantrieri may not win any prizes for being a conventional beauty, but this bat flower can hold its own with its unique and intriguing form.

 

Care and propagation:

Semi-shade to full sun; light, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using seeds or rhizomes.

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20140426_140753sWe were in for another electric tropical storm. The rain pounded away as the thunder and lightning continued their cacophonous medley.

IMG_5356sA couple of oceans away, it’s spring. Where, the rain drizzles lightly and where tulips and daffodils are the flavours of month. But nope, we’re not getting any of these gloriously coloured jaw-dropping floral carpets.

But there is a silver lining in our storm clouds; storm or rain lilies are popping up, even out of cracks – fluted pink and chalice-shaped yellow zephyranthes.

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I prefer the bright yellow ones; splashes of unadulterated sunshine that come after a storm.

When not in bloom, however, the Zephyranthes Sulphurea is about as exciting as grass. The uninspiring straps of foliage blend right in with the green surrounds. But just when you have forgotten about its  existence, the plant awakens.

And that’s what’s appealing about it. Unlike the tulip which blooms like clockwork every year, you can never tell when the zephyranthes will spring its surprise.

 

Care and propagation: Full sun; garden soil, water moderately. Propagate using bulbs or seeds

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