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Archive for December, 2009

I love pistachio biscotti and I wanted to make some. This was something I’d never baked before but since my sister had, I asked her for a recipe. She gave me two.

I followed the recipe which used egg whites as that promised to be lighter. Then I added cocoa, cranberries and extra nuts. 

……… I wish I could say I had picked the macadamia nuts from the plant in the garden, but I can’t. All I’ve ever gotten from it are holly-like leaves. I had some nuts in the fridge so I tossed those into the mixture.

I paid for my greed. The additional nuts made cutting the biscotti an even bigger challenge than it was supposed to be.

No wonder someone had broken the handle of her knife in the process. I had used a cleaver but I can’t say it was a piece of cake. I had a blister on my hand to show for my effort.

But when I bite into a piece of the crispy, nutty biscotti, it makes all the effort and the blister seem worthwhile.

 

The recipe:

A
4 egg whites
110 gm castor sugar
pinch of salt

B
120 g plain flour
30g rice flour
1 ½ tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

C
100 gm macadamia nuts
100 gm pistachios
50 gm dried cranberries
1 tbsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven at approx 350 deg F (175 deg C).
  2. Whisk A until stiff.
  3. Sift B. Add B to A and blend well.
  4. Add C and mix well.
  5. Pour into greased and lined loaf tins. Make 2 loaves.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Leave to cool. Wrap and freeze for at least 6 hours.
  8. Cut into 2mm thick slices and bake at 300 deg F (150 deg C) for 15 min.
  9. Cool and store in an airtight container.

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Platycerium ridleyii

 

The platycerium ridleyii is a prima donna. My first two didn’t even last a year.

Then recently I decided to give it another go.

I bought two small ones together with a holtumi and an elephantotis. One of the ridleyii only lasted  three months.

Then I found two weeks ago that a friend’s full-grown ridleyii had died. My heart sank.

The ridleyii had looked perfectly healthy and was simply gorgeous.

If that beautiful specimen can suddenly fade away, then maybe this is one plant I shouldn’t try to grow.

So I declared that I wasn’t going to get anymore.

Famous last words. Yesterday, I saw a lovely platycerium ridleyii going for a song and my resolution flew right out of the window.

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My hunt for the mysore raspberry was instigated by Richard, a fellow gardening forumer.

Logically, he first looked for it in Mysore, India. After a long fruitless search, he realized it could be found right here! “You’ve got to get it,” he said.

But I’d never seen it at garden centres. An aunt, who is also a keen gardener, gave me a few raspberry cuttings. “Try these. They’re thornless and sweet,” she said.

I planted them but I continued to look for the elusive rubus niveus. Then someone pointed us in the right direction!

I was wondering where I should start looking when I was up in the highlands and couldn’t believe my eyes when I chanced upon it. A few of the raspberries were ripe too.

But it was a challenge to pick the berries without being snagged by the pesky thorns. I must be a glutton for punishment. Or maybe it’s just gluttony!   😛

The berries are mildly sweet and have many tiny seeds.

Having tasted the berries right off the bush, I went on to try the delicious jam, made and sold by the local residents.

The mysore raspberry is said to be rich in vitamin C, protein and other minerals. It is also said to be great for juicing and desserts.

After stumbling on that first mysore raspberry bush, I saw more and more.  Now to see if the mysore raspberry will bloom and fruit in the lowlands. 

The thing is, almost everyone here seems to call them blackberries. But I suppose a rose by any other name …    🙂

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Sundews and byblis are mesmerizing to look at.

Each time I lift a pot of drosera or byblis up against the sunlight, I still marvel at the miracle it is.

The sundew and byblis are even more beautiful when they are in bloom.

Each miniature flower is a tiny gem in the softest pastel colour.

Right now, most of my byblis are flowering. Imagine the beauty of the flower multiplied a few times over.

Unfortunately, the delicate flowers last for less than a day, and I didn’t get to  see the blooms of my Drosera Lake Badgerup. When I realized what I had missed, I nearly kicked myself.

Fortunately though, I visited a forumer friend and caught his Lake Carbarup in bloom. These blooms reminded me of sakura flowers. Ed, these beauties are yours.

Next time, I’d better keep a close watch on my own.

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Trying to grow fennel

 “Would you like a couple of fennel seedlings?” a friend asked.

I’d never grown fennel before but I suppose there’s always a first time for everything.

The seedlings in the bag looked extremely fragile and I hoped I wouldn’t fail them. 

One of the seedlings didn’t make it very far, so I took a closer look at the second. 

This survivor looked a little sad, so I moved the pot to another position hoping that it would be happier.

I didn’t even transplant it lest I disturbed it too much. I sat its 2.5 inch pot in the aloe vera trough and hoped it would prefer its new home.

It grew very slowly.

But somehow, being in a 2.5 inch pot hasn’t cramped its style too much. Its roots have found its way into the trough and it seems to be happy enough. It now stands at about 24 inches tall.

I suppose I like its ferny leaves more than anything. Even if the fennel wasn’t a herb, it would be worthwhile to grow the fennel just for its lovely leaves. If only the base of my fennel was bulbous …

Its ornamental value aside, I should really focus on the fennel’s true calling. Perhaps I should start looking up a good recipe and put the herb to good use.

 

Care and cultivation: well-drained rich soil, semi to full sun, water moderately, propagate using seeds

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Pedilanthus bracteatus

Wild horses couldn’t pull me away from the crowd that was growing at the plant stall. What was the fuss all about?

“Birds,” I heard. “Green birds.” If the first remark sounded odd, the second sounded even more bizarre.

I squeezed my way through the crowd and saw it. It was mostly stems, as well as a few leaves and bracts. Nothing great, I thought. Nothing that warranted that much attention anyway.

And then I saw them. Tiny green birds between the bracts. And they did look like birds too, except that these didn’t have feathers and would never take flight.

The prices were a setback though. So we gave ourselves a cooling off period of a few weeks but the interest grew stronger instead.

Finally, we succumbed to the temptation and bought two small seedlings.

Then I saw a bigger plant which was flowering. And it was going for a song. What a bargain, I thought. That opened the floodgates.

We bought another two plants within the week. And then I sowed some pedilanthus seeds.

At the last count, we have about 9 seedlings and 3 mature plants.   😀

But, why the craze?

The proprietor at a garden centre waxed lyrical about it. She went into a lengthy explanation about the significance of its name, the eggs the bird laid, etc.

However, most of it was lost on me. What I did gather was that the plant brings luck, hence the princely prices it commands. But I don’t subscribe to all that hullabaloo.

It’s obvious that the person who is happier and who is better off financially after the sale of a pedilanthus is the proprietor himself. He’d probably be laughing all the way to the bank.

I suppose people buy the pedilanthus for all sorts of reasons. For me, it’s all boils down to the tiny green birds.

But did I stop with the pedilanthus bracteatus? Oh, no.  I wanted the Pedilanthus tithymaloides and its pink birds too. I was almost cooing when my aunt gave me a couple of cuttings.

Imagine what will happen if the two plants cross-pollinated. Imagine the coloration of the birds. Will these be mutilcolored like lorikeets? There I go again, off on another flight of fancy …

Care and propagation:  well-drained soil, semi to full sun, water moderately; propagate using seeds or cuttings

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There’s no doubt about it. The Carphalea Kirondron clearly deserves its other name – the Flaming Beauty.

This plant has been lauded as a traffic-stopper. In the past, I too have been guilty of slowing down to a crawl to admire this flamboyant beauty.

Imagine a plant smothered with masses of brilliant red flowers.

That what the Carphalea Kirondron appears to be like; except for the fact that the flowers are actually inconspicuous amd white while the calyxes steal the show with their blaze of red.

These clusters of calyxes often measure up to 25 cm across. But it’s not the colour or the size of the clusters that amazes me. It’s the fact that the clusters seem to last for months on the plant and never seem to fall off.

Those of us who have swept up the fallen blooms of the bougainvillea or quisqualis indica will appreciate the fact that the Carphalea Kirondron doesn’t believe in messing up the lawn.

After a few months on the plants, the spent clusters turn a dull red, then brown. It’s then that we snip the cluster off. No mess. No stress.

The inimitable Carphalea Kirondron is good for any garden which has ample sunshine, warmth and humidity. Thankfully our garden seems to suit it fine.

Mum bought three small plants a few years ago. For the past couple of years, these perennial plants have been the garden’s crowning glory and have been faithfully providing a vivid splash of red.

The next time you spot a flash of red as you drive past a garden, take another look. It might just be a Flaming Beauty.

 

Care and cultivation: well-drained soil; full sun; water moderately; Propagate using cuttings (tricky)

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Bidens alba

I love white daisies; Shasta daisies in particular.

So I was devastated when I found out that the Shasta daisy no longer grows in Cameron Highlands.

They say the nights are no longer cool enough.

True enough, I have not seen any there recently until I chanced upon a lone plant near Robinson Falls a couple of weeks ago.

It was a sad specimen but a Shasta daisy nonetheless, so I whipped out the camera and captured a shot for posterity.

But if Shasta daisies refuse to grow in the highlands, there’s just no way I can get them to grow for me in the hot and humid lowlands.

Then I saw the bidens alba at a friend’s place.

Both plants have flowers with pure white petals radiating from a yellow centre, but that’s where the similarity ends.

While the Shasta daisy has gorgeous blooms 3-4 inches across, the bidens alba has button-sized flowers a modest 1 inch across.

I collected some seeds, envisioning the lovely miniature flowers in the garden.

The bidens alba grew quickly reaching for the sky, and before I knew it, I had clusters of little white daisies.

Just the other day, I gathered some blooms for the vase. And surprise, surprise – they make great cut flowers for an English country arrangement.


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

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What’s for lunch … a housefly, a fruit fly, a mosquito or a spider?

It seems a little sadistic to be fascinated by what my droseras have trapped for their meal, but they seem to do this so well.

If I were an insect, I too would be drawn to the titillating drops of dew on the droseras. The poor things never had a chance.

I’m fascinated by the drosera capensis leaf that curls slowly around its hapless prey. It’s much like wrapping a sushi, but long before we figured out how to do so, Nature had already perfected the art.      

The paradoxa behaves likewise.

When its poor victim fails to tear itself from its gluey trap, the small paddle-like leaf closes tightly around it.

Each closed leaf resembles a tiny clenched fist.

Even the alicaea, the new kid on the block, had gotten into the thick of things and snared a light snack for itself.

Further down the rack, a housefly had fallen victim to the brumanii. When I saw the size of the fly, I wondered if the brumanii had bitten off more than it could chew. Let’s hope it doesn’t get indigestion.

Imagine sitting still, waiting for a meal to fall onto your lap. One has to be really patient. Much like the spider lying in wait for a fly ….

 

Care and cultivation: media is a mix of sphagnum peat moss, sand and perlite 1:1:1; sit pot in a waterdish; semi to full sun; shield from rain; propagate using seed or leaf cuttings.

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