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Figs

20150418_125202sFigs are a highly rated fruit, valued for their nutritional benefits as well as unique and luscious sweetness.

But it was the fig leaves that first caught our forefather’s attention and made fashion headlines some two thousand years ago when they were the basis of what was the haute couture of the day.

My first fig encounter with the Ficus Auriculata was when I was only six. The Ficus took on mythic proportions, with its massive leaves and fruit which grew from the trunk, branches and roots.

Figs have since become a lot less mysterious and a lot more appealing, especially when I realized that there 20150418_125311sare innumerable varieties of figs I can plant. Taking the local gardening scene by storm, figs have grabbed the attention of more than a few enthusiasts. Many have been buying fig cuttings and scions, enticed by the range of figs available in various colours of the spectrum; green, yellow, blush, red, purple, black and even striped ones.

20150726_105527_BlackGenoa_sMushrooming fig nurseries and websites have brought many exotic varieties of fig plants and cuttings right to the doorstep of the home gardener.

Buoyed by the tide of enthusiasm, I came back down to earth quickly when I realized how costly the plants were. The rarer varieties were way out of my budget and the more common ones were not cheap either.

My first fig was a rooted Black Mission cutting given by a school friend. Then came the Masui Dauphine and Brown Turkey a few months later. The Brown Turkey has yielded a few figs, but there hasn’t been sign of fruit on the Masui Dauphine. The Black Mission, unfortunately, didn’t make it.

my inspiration

my inspiration

A fellow gardener, on the other hand, has been enjoying great success with his figs. His plants, unlike mine, have been fruiting their heads off.

I’ve recently acquired the Conadria, Black Genoa and Taiwan Golden Fig and am emulating what my friend is doing, hoping that it’ll make a difference and that the plants will swing into high gear.

And, what do you know! Little nubs of fruit are already forming on the plants; little burgeoning figs that should plump out and ripen over the next few weeks. I just can’t wait!

Care and propagation:  Full sun; light, well drained soil; water moderately; propagate using cuttings     20150221_083621b

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Agapanthus

20150620_104242s “They’re a nuisance. I’ve pulled out a heap of it.”

Did I hear right?20150531_173505s My friends were getting rid of their Agapanthus; and here I am trying my darndest just to get one bulb to grow. I had planted my first Agapanthus in semi-shade so that it would be partially shielded from the afternoon heat. I thought it would grow better that way; obviously I thought wrong as it just dwindled away. 20150604_072116s Some time after that, I picked up a discarded bulb when I was up in the hills on the erroneous assumption that was an Agapanthus. The bulb grew vigorously but alas, it turned out to be the common, albeit beautiful, Hymenocallis instead.

Then about a month ago I saw (and bought) the Agapanthus again. With more than one plant in the pot and a bud to boot, it seemed like a great bargain. Even if it met the same fate as my first Agapanthus, at the very least, I convinced myself, I should be able to see that bud bloom.  20150615_172632s

This time, I left the potted plant in one of the sunniest spots of the garden. That way, I could still move it around if it couldn’t tolerate the scorching heat of the afternoon sun.

The bud swelled over the next two weeks and bloomed! How does a big cluster of fluted blue flowers sound like to you? I thought it looked heavenly, but then maybe it’s only because I have a predilection for blue flowers.

It really looks like the Agapanthus, which favours cooler temps, can take quite a beating. The straps of leaves are still green and fresh despite being baked under the hot sun. Now I’m waiting to see if it’ll bloom again. Now, THAT would be really be fantastic.

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Care and propagation: Full sun, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using seeds or by dividing clumps 20150614_100529b 20150614_134815b 20150620_104221b 20150620_104242b

20150501_100106s2‘The seeds fell on rocky places… and sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow,’ … so it goes in the parable.

Which was precisely what happened to the neighbour’s Basella seeds; these dropped into cracks on our side of the wall and quickly took root in the shallow soil.

The fleshy Basella leaves make a good soup so we nurtured the
plants as best we could. Before the plants faded away, they 20150524_092202sproduced plump purple berries which we planted in compost-rich medium.

The seeds responded to the more favourable conditions and germinated readily. They grew upwards, and twined all over the neighbouring plants.


20150524_092407bI rigged up a simple support using stakes and a nylon garden trellis, untangled the mess and trained the purplish Basella vines. The Basella now grows in some semblance of order and yields enough for a pot of soup every fortnight.

A common vegetable in tropical Asia, the Basella thrives with minimal care in the backyard and grows easily either from stems or from seed.20150509_082821_s

But despite feeding them regularly with fertilisers, our Basella can’t hold a candle to those sold in the market. The latter are such whoppers I suspect they’re on steroids. Sour grapes? Sigh … I guess you could say that.

 

Care and propagation: Partial shade to full sun, humus rich garden soil; water generously. Plant using seeds or stem cuttings.

 

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20150330_091234sAren’t berries supposed to be plump, juicy and inviting?

Most are, but not the white shahtoot. What I have looked more like big anaemic caterpillars. However, instead of being gobblers, these end up being gobbled by others. Squirrels, birds and ants compete with me for the shahtoot and more often than not, I end up being the loser.20150307_081755s

The shahtoots are nectar-sweet and are not as widely grown or as prolific as the regular morus alba. So I’m not about to concede without a fight. I’ve resorted to tying a double layer of netting around the white shahtoot; anything to deter my competition.

20140916_180101s Is it working?

So far neither the squirrels nor the birds have spotted the berries. Once the squirrels do, they’d gnaw right through the netting and the berries wouldn’t stand a chance. Neither would I … so I’d better enjoy them while I can.

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Care and propagation: Full sun, water moderately, most soils. Propagate by using cuttings (I’ve not succeeded yet) or by grafting   20150322_180802b 20150328_083443b 20140921_111354b

20140417_175731sWhile we are baking in the sun, elsewhere the earth is warming up slowly. Crocuses and snowdrops are popping up, heralding the coming of spring. Soon, gardens, parks and the countryside will be dominated by daffodils, tulips and other spring flowering bulbs.

I have a few types of bulbs, but none of the temperate ones above. This same time last year, the bud of a tropical bulb pushed its way out of the soil in my little corner of the world.

I’d never seen an orange hippeastrum with curved double petals so when I came across this unusual form, I bought two – one extra for insurance.20140419_084313s

The orange petals had a paler base and its form was quite unlike the other hippeastrums I have. While the rest are reminiscent of trumpets, this looked more like a delicately petalled skirt.

But this hippeastrum is tougher than it looks. It is planted right under the scorching sun, and as far as I can tell, it can take a real bashing. While other lilies suffer and get burnt, the hippeastrum takes it all in its stride.

But I’m keeping an eye on the Hippeastrum puniceum all the same. If I remember correctly, it bloomed on the last day of March last year – a day that has come to be a significant one for me. Would it do likewise this year and appear like clockwork just as all spring flowers do?

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Care and propagation: Dappled shade to full sun, garden soil, water moderately. Propagate by dividing bulblets, chipping the bulb or by using seeds.

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IMG_9091_Orange Double Flowered Amaryllis,Hippeastrum puniceum

20140809_102621sMy head snapped back at unfamiliar lemon yellow blooms as I drove past.

“What was that?!”

Had I been alone, I’d have doubled back for a closer look.page1

A few months later I saw more of the same. The lemony puff balls on the as-yet-unidentified-tree were a traffic-stopper. There were masses of them.

Now I know it’s the Xanthostemon Chrysanthus or Golden Penda, an Australian native of the Myrtaceae family.

The flowers resemble clusters of Syzygium Aqueum blooms with their fine filaments of stamens and styles.

But much as I’d love to have a Golden Penda, this handsome specimen with its attractive dark green foliage is too big for my little plot.

20140803_181847sBut I didn’t have to lament for too long – I found potted dwarf varieties; not yellow, but orange and pink ones. I bought the latter; an affordable pocket-sized beauty at only 8 inches tall.20140817_100311b

If I had admired the plant for its flowers before, I am now equally enamored by its berry-like buds and cup-shaped calyxes.

Is it a plant worth getting? For sure. And if I had the space for it, I’d go for gold as well.

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Care and propagation: Full sun, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using seeds or cuttings (I have not tried either)

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Grevillea superb

20150112_174131sA dozen rainbow lorikeets caused a commotion as they chattered noisily and competed for nectar. My host told me it was a Grevillea. Lovely tree, I thought, but much too big for the garden.

Those days, I didn’t rely on Google for answers. If I had, I’d have known that there were smaller variants.

Then a little more recently, I saw some potted Grevillea Superb plants which were barely knee high. What amazed me was that they were already in bloom with bright orange spidery flowers.IMG_6726s

Then I saw the price tag! I should have guessed it would be daunting since these Australian native plants from the Proteaceae family had been imported. IMG_6720sThen they told me they had smaller 8-inch ones at a more affordable price.

Question was, would these bloom, and if so, when? But I figured that if the plant never bloomed, I could still take consolation in its handsome foliage.

That was mid 2013. 20150101_085715-horz_s

Less than three weeks ago, I found buds forming on my (now more than knee-high) plant. What lovelier surprise could I have asked for on New Year’s Day?

The raceme of lightly furred buds split to reveal a pastel shade beneath. The soft colour deepened as the flower morphed into its distinctive spidery form with slender curved pistils. Some call this the ‘spider flower’. 20150112_173048b

Can spiders be lovely? I’m not an arachnid fan, so I’d have to say nay. But you can give me the Grevillea … anytime.

Care and propagation: full sun; well-drained soil; water moderately. Propagate using cuttings (which I have yet to try)   20150111_113701b 20150112_174131b 20150104_140609b 20150111_190122b 20150112_173409b

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