Archive for October, 2009

Eau de Cologne Mint

IMG_0150Grandma would have loved this mint. She used to have bottles of the 4711 Eau de Cologne and would let me splash some on as a treat.

When I first heard of this mint, I thought it had an unusual name. Even when a friend gave me a couple of cuttings, I still had no inkling why it was named so. I was tempted to do a scent-test but could not bear to sacrifice any of the leaves. 

So I waited. When a leaf finally matured and yellowed, I crushed it. Its fragrance was subtly sweet. 

I mollycoddled the mint but its growth was erratic. When the two mint stems dwindled, my heart sank.

IMG_5345Then I bought a pot of un-named mint from a garden centre. The leaves were huge!

After planting it into a small trough and taking the requisite snapshot of this new kid on the block, I let it be.

It was after the arrival of this newcomer that I realized a strange but pleasant phenomenon.

Each time I watered or hosed the herbs, a sweet fragrance would linger in the air. It happened time and time again. I zeroed in on the ‘culprit’. It could only be the mint. And it had to be the Eau de Cologne.

Finally I realised why the plant was given its name. Now, whenever I water the plants in the garden, I approach the Eau de Cologne mint with a sense of anticipation …

Care and propagation: rich, well drained soil; shade to partial sun; water regularly but don’t overwater; propagate using cuttings or runners


Read Full Post »

IMG_8124I love the blues. Well, those in the garden, that is.

There is something irresistible about blue flowers. So as you can imagine, I have been collecting quite a few. But there is one that stands out from the rest – the Otacanthus Caeruleus.

It gives a vivid splash of blue to liven up the floral bed and doesn’t take up much space. Its long stems weave through other plants and appear here and there to show off its blue flowers.

The vibrant blue flowers are two-lipped, with the lower lip sporting a white streak at the throat. The flowers are slightly bigger than a penny, and grow in whorls around the end of the stem.

The flowers are lovely in a vase. Whenever I pick them, the typically sticky leaves emit a pleasant scent. Some people think they smell of pine. I think they smell of camphor.

IMG_8082bThe Otacanthus is tough and relatively pest free. In fact, I can’t think of any. I have not seen any sign of caterpillars, mites or rust … and snails don’t seem to like it either.

You won’t need to fuss over the Otacanthus once you plant it. Leave it to grow at will or give the weak, lanky stems some support if you want a neater shape. Either way, the plant will make a statement in the garden.

I plant the Otacanthus Caeruleus in a mixed bed with the angelonia, pentas, asystacia, plumbago and impatiens. Try mass-planting if you want a drift of blue.

This plant is a favourite with the family. Mum likes its flowers, but she doesn’t like its name. “Can’t remember it,” she says. Maybe I should tell her it’s also called Amazon Blue or Brazilian Snapdragon. She calls it the blue ribbon flower. I don’t think the blooms resemble blue ribbons, but I do think they deserve one.

Care and propagation
: well drained soil, full sun, water moderately; propagate using cuttings


Read Full Post »

Plumbago auriculata

IMG_2189The plumbago brings back memories of the Mediterranean Cote Azur where this plant thrives. Imagine azure coloured blooms adorning the doorways of stone buildings along the French Riviera. Simply charming.

It’s a blessing that the plumbago does well in tropical climes too and is perpetually blooming. Needless to say, it is one of my favorite garden plants.

The plumbago is just the thing if you need a plant to soften the edges of an empty corner. Imagine a rambling loose bush with clusters of sky blue flowers.

The plumbago goes out of its way to please. It’s one of the most accommodating and fuss-free plants I know. It’s a perennial, which mean no replanting is necessary – unless you happen to yank the plant out and regret doing so immediately. LOL.

IMG_8157This is a plant that can be pruned back to maintain a neat shape or left to ramble over the fence or other shrubs. Once pruned, the fast-growing plumbago springs back very quickly to fill the gap.

The plumbago can be left to grow in abandon. It also weaves through hedges and trees much like a vine and peeks out in between.

It can be relied on to fill any empty spaces in the mixed flower bed. It is the perfect border plant and does well in containers too. I could sing the praises of the plumbago all day.

I often pick sprigs of the phlox-like flowers for the vase. It’s like bringing a bit of the blue summer sky indoors. I am quite convinced the flowers turn a shade or two darker then – or is it just my imagination?

Care and propagation:
Free draining soil; full sun, water moderately; propagate using suckers (preferred), cuttings or seeds

Note: plumbago auriculata alba is a white variety


Read Full Post »

Chocolate Mint

IMG_0051I love mints and the fact that there are so many types besides the more familiar spearmint we can get from the wet market.

There is something alluring about names like eu de cologne mint, ginger mint, variegated apple mint, chocolate mint, swiss mint, old fashioned mint … but they remained out of reach. Until recently, I only had spearmint in the garden.

And then a lovely friend sent me some cuttings of some of her mints. And the garden centres started to bring in some new mints too. I had a gala time.

My collection grew slowly and not without some hiccups as a few mints refused to live up to their reputation of being as rampant as a weed.

IMG_7554Then recently my aunt offered me some of her chocolate mint runners. I was ecstatic and almost drooled over them.  Never have a bunch of roots been so precious.

I planted the mint in a trough beneath a mulberry bush and hoped it would be happy. I watched over it carefully … so far, so good. The runners have been throwing out shoots and the mint has been growing steadily.

I picked a leaf the other day just to see if what they say about the chocolate mint is true. They say it tastes like After Eights mint chocolate. Mmm …. to be frank, I’d pick a pot of chocolate mint over a tray of mint chocolate any time.   


Read Full Post »

Clitoria ternatea

IMG_0023aClitoria ternatea or butterfly pea brings to mind the yummy nyonya blue glutinous rice cakes one of my aunts  make.

Hers is speckled with vividly dyed royal blue rice grains and served with an equally delicious homemade egg-coconut jam. Ahhh, food … but I’m getting side-tracked.

The clitoria ternatea vine will grow and bloom happily as long as it gets full sunshine and something to climb on to.

P1070584Clitoria ternatea come in a few colours; blue, pale blue (some may say purple) and white. However, the Clitoria ternatea is mainly grown for its edible royal blue dye.

As such, most gardeners plant the blue variety. We pick the flowers when they are in full bloom and dry them. I have never tasted the seed pods before, but apparently they are edible too.

IMG_0025 Sow mature seeds to get the next generation of plants and remove the older plants once they get straggly and unkempt. Clitoria ternatea is a perennial, but is usually grown as a biennial.

We used to grow the single-petalled variety until we discovered the Clitoria ternatea var. peniflora. The double-petalled flowers are gorgeous and we grow it mostly to enjoy its glorious blue beauty.

 Care and propagation: Not fussy with soil, full sun, water moderately; propagate using seeds or cuttings


Read Full Post »

IMG_0091I love it when the Grand Duke of Tuscany blooms. The perfume is just incredible and I can’t get enough of it.

So when it flowers, I either look like a besotted idiot or a hopeless flower addict.

The first jasminum I planted was the one gran had – the single-petalled variety which yielded lots of flowers every day. We’d pick the blossoms off the bush and transfer its perfume indoors.

But the fully double-petalled bloom of the Grand Duke of Tuscany is extra special. It is unlike other jasmines; almost an aristocrat in its ivory perfection. And each bloom measures about two inches across.

IMG_3839When I first saw the Grand Duke of Tuscany, I knew I had to get a plant. But I settled for a cutting instead. Fortunately, jasmine cuttings root easily and grow fast too.

Before long the plant bloomed and its branches needed a pruning.

Now we have more than a couple of Dukes tucked here and there in the garden.

Every now and then, we’d find a few plump ivory buds waiting to unfurl and spill their sweet perfume…




Care and propagation: well drained soil; water moderately; full sun; propagate using cuttings


Read Full Post »

Gomphrena globosa



Gomphrena globosa, globe amaranth, bachelor’s buttons.

I like the last of those names best but while I understand where ‘buttons’ come from, I can’t figure out the ‘bachelor’s’ bit.




The gomphrena was one of the first plants I could grow successfully as a kid, and I’ve never grown tired of its button-like flowers all these years.

Gomphrenas come in purple, pink and white. All three are lovely and grown together, they are even more so.



I can’t decide which I prefer; the vividness of the purple, the subtley of the pink or the purity of the white. 

When in doubt, I’d plant all three.  😀


And then some time ago, I found strawberry colored ones. ‘Strawberry Fields’ comes in a delicious strawberry tone, just as its name suggests.

The flowers are sparser than their more robust siblings, but they look good enough to eat.

But I’m glad the other three just bloom their heads off. I could cut handfuls of their cheery flower heads and still have lots to spare.

Gomphrena flower heads are added to teas and is said to cleanse and detoxify, stop coughing, relieve tension and stress, and nourish the skin too.

IMG_6956I’ve never tried using those from the garden for this purpose but with all those health benefits, maybe I should try making a gomphrena infusion too.

And maybe it’s not just the flowers that can be used. The birds help themselves each time the flowers set seed, having what seems like a raucous seed party. I wonder if that means the seeds are edible for us too?   😉


Care and propagation: not fussy about soil; full sun; water moderately; propagate using seeds (self-seeds easily)


Read Full Post »

IMG_7554“My raspberries are sweet and thornless,” my aunt said. “Do you want try planting some?” No prizes for guessing my response.

Before long, I was looking at some root cuttings. I filled two pots with mixed soil and perlite, planted the cuttings and hoped for the best.


I watched over them like a mother hen and checked their progress twice a day.

IMG_8160After a few days, I saw green! It emerged from one cutting and then the other. The shoots were green and sturdy.

Soon, I saw more and more trifoliate leaves forming on 3 of the 4 cuttings. Each new leaf was a step forward.

I dare not say what they’ll be like in a month’s time. I can only hope that they will acclimatize well to the tropical heat and humidity.

Imagine how lovely it would be if they could grow into mature plants. Imagine how fantastic it would be if they could flower and fruit too. Let’s wait and see …


Read Full Post »

IMG_4988My friends were getting some drosera pygmy gemmae and asked me if I wanted a share. “Gemmae? What’s that?” I wondered aloud. This word wasn’t in my vocabulary then.

“A gemma isn’t a seed, but acts like one,” they explained to this new kid on the block. “It pops off from the crown of the pygmy and grows into a new plant.” That sounded alien – like some extra-terrestrial life form. I couldn’t wait.

Finally the gemmae arrived. I opened the pad of damp cotton wool and saw them for the first time. Good thing I was advised to get tweezers. These things were tinier than I had expected.

IMG_6147_dros pygmy lake badgerup_aAs advised I planted the gemmae in a pot with a mixed media of sphagnum peat moss, washed sand and perlite. I did this gingerly as I didn’t want to crush the miniscule gemmae.

I planted about 25 green gemmae plus the brown ones as well. I discarded the black gemmae. “Mist and cover the pot with clear plastic,” my friends advised.

I removed the cover on Day 3. After a week, I could see some progress and after 3 weeks, I could see the form of the drosera pygmies’ pink traps!

IMG_7443I counted them every day – first ten, then fifteen, twenty… I was amazed when the number surpassed 25, which means even the brown gemmae were viable.

Now I wonder if I should have planted the black ones as well!


The drosera pygmy Lake Badgerup grew into beauties. I now have thirty; each a masterpiece in miniature.


Read Full Post »

Venus fly traps

IMG_5390_VFT regular form

typical form

“See, don’t touch!” I read the terse notice. “What a killjoy. What antisocial behavior,” I thought. That was during my pre-carnivorous plant days. Now I am tempted to stick a similar notice for my VFTs.

When I read that a Dionaea muscipula (VFT) trap turns black once it’s closed 3 or 4 times, I paled. Have I ever jabbed at a VFT trap just for the thrill of seeing it snap shut? Has my curiosity ever killed a VFT? I hope not.

I thought of getting a plant but I didn’t want to spend hard-earned money on what looked like a huge challenge with a slim chance of survival. My friend bought a VFT one summer but it didn’t last through autumn, much less winter.

But when my first few droseras survived, I felt I could take on Goliath. “Am I ready? Am I?” I asked the CP experts eagerly. I was asked to wait awhile. Now I know why patience is said to be a virtue.

And finally, it happened. Christmas came early this year when I was given a pot of Dionaea muscipula ‘regular form’. Oh, joy!


And then another kind soul gave me a barerooted VFT red dragon. It was a beauty. “But what do I do with this?” I wondered. It was like being handed a newborn baby but seriously, I’d be more confident dealing with that.

I planted it in long fibre sphagnum, placed it in a shallow dish of water and hoped for the best. It seems to be quite contented with its lot and now has more than twice the original number of leaves and traps.

IMG_6278dionaea muscipulaBut something wasn’t quite right. It didn’t look well. The red dragon was turning green at the gills despite getting 5 hours of sun daily.

“Give it more sunlight,” I was told. I made space for it in the dish reserved for my sarracenias.

The daily dose of full sunshine did the trick and the rich maroon colour returned once more.

Like all CPs, VFTs are highly addictive. I went on to get another Dionaea muscipula with rosy traps, a VFT pink venus and some juvenile royal reds.

I wonder what’s next?


pink venus

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »