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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

World Farm Revisited

20141213_095719b“So what animals do they have?” L asked as we headed in the direction of what was easily the republic’s largest plant centre. I suppose the name ‘World Farm’ is kind of a misnomer.

WF isn’t stocked with farm animals; its sprawling acres boast an impressive catalogue of flowering plants, foliage, ferns, culinary and medicinal herbs, carnivorous plants, bog and aquatic plants, climbers, fruit trees and more.

 

 

 

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What caught our eye first were two big pots of giant citrus. We couldn’t tell what it was exactly as the fruit didn’t really look like a lemon, orange or pomelo. It was intriguing, but I was more fascinated by a couple of other plants.

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First, the pretty fan-shaped Lobelia Blue; a totally unfamiliar plant which reminds me of the Scaevola Aemula but looked more resilient and much easier to handle. Definitely a plant worth checking out.

 

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Then there were the small bio-domes housing juvenile nepenthes Lady Luck with their rosy red pitchers. Ingenius. This may just be the thing to have in an office – before the plant outgrows its dome anyway.

20141228_161248sThese two were lovely, but I was on the lookout for a Petrea; not the more common P. Volubilis but what is supposedly a better variant. Apparently, the racemes of this Petrea are more impressive and its true flowers bigger and a more vivid purple.

Not having much success locating the Petrea, I gave up and approached a helpful and professional WF personnel who pointed me in the right direction and even gave me a ride in a buggy. Many thanks, Mr G! I’d never have found it on my own.

And how is this Petrea different from the P. Volubilis; could it be the Petrea Racemosa? The leaves have the same sandpapery texture of the P. Volubilis but appear to be bigger and have more pointed ends. Unfortunately the plants were not in bloom so I can’t say anything about the inflorescence.

 

Back at the main section of WF, my companions were adding media and other gardening paraphernalia to their purchases; sand, compost, clay beads, stakes …

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We must have spent close to two hours at WF but could not cover everything.  With so much to look at, one should be prepared to allocate half a day … and be prepared with a stuffed wallet and lots of car boot space as well!

 

Point to note: World Farm is also known as Hua Hng.

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Euphorbia Geroldii

20141115_110821sRed, yellow, pink, peach or cream, plain or mottled, Euphorbia Milii blooms are quite outstanding.

But something else stands out as well … the Milii’s tenacious and wicked, inch-long spiny thorns. They didn’t call this euphorbia ‘Crown of Thorns’ for nothing.

I once considered divesting a Milii of its thorns but thought better of it. I had hoped that might trigger its evolvement into a thorn-free plant, but since a thornless variety already exists, I should just keep a lookout for that instead.

Then last week I saw IT.

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Euphorbia Geroldii at the garden centre

It was my aunt’s latest euphorbia purchase. What caught my eye was not presence of its bright red blooms but the significant absence of thorns!

I quizzed my aunt about it and made a beeline for the source.

And now I have it – the thornless Euphorbia Geroldii. For the same price that my aunt paid for her plant, I acquired three much smaller ones.

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The small 4-inch plants are already blooming; glowing red petal-like bracts with bright yellow centres.

Known as the thornless crown of thorns, the Euphorbia Geroldii is considered rare by some circles. It is also deemed to be almost indestructible.

20141102_161819Just as I mentally strike the Euphorbia Geroldii off my gardening wish list, I remember another; the Euphorbia Fulgens. With its arching thornless stems and attractive flowering habit, this is another gem worth acquiring – except that there isn’t the faintest trace of one over here.

Since it may a while before it makes an appearance, I’ll just enjoy the beauty I have and wait for it to fulfil its great potential.

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Care and propagation: Full to partial sun; well-drained soil; water moderately; propagate using cuttings.

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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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