Archive for January, 2010

We were tending to the stephanotis vine in the garden when a passerby asked if he could have  some stephanotis flowers.

The stephanotis? Ooo, tough one, I thought.  It was that precious. Then came the punchline. “It’s for my daughter’s wedding bouquet. She loves stephanotis,” the stranger added.

How could we say no to that? And so we arranged for him to pick up some waxy blooms that weekend. That was one happy man who walked away with his bounty that day.

Like this stranger’ s daughter, my mother too had stephanotis in her bridal bouquet (decades ago) and so did Lady Di as well as millions of other brides.

So when it flowered for my sister’s wedding, I added arranged some in her bouquet;  at least I think I did, lol.

There is a purity about the ivory coloured, star-shaped flowers that make them highly sought after for weddings. The beautiful waxy flowers are also fragrant and long-lasting.

We used to have a few vines which scrambled all over our fence. There were large seed pods too, much like mangoes.

Then one day, a couple of months ago, my mother gave them a hard pruning, a really hard pruning. The stephanotis failed to recover from that and dwindled into nothingness. There’s no point crying over spilt milk but I was sorely tempted to.

Thankfully, a very good friend came to the rescue by sending me a bunch of fresh seeds. And joy,  o joy, all the seeds germinated.

I know it’ll be a while before I can touch their blooms and sniff their perfume, but then the stephanotis is something well worth waiting for.



Care and propagation: Partial to full sun, rich well drained soil, water moderately; propagate using seeds and cuttings. 

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Sarracenia Juthatip Soper

the juthatip when i bought it

I had only just started on CPs for few months and already had some droseras, vfts and three pots of sarracenias. Some would say those are plenty for a newbie but I wanted more.

Then a friend asked if I wanted to buy any CPs and gave me a list of the plants available. I came across an unfamiliar name – Sarracenia Juthatip Soper. It sounded exotic and quite unlike the other sarracenias.

“Juthatip Soper?” I asked. “Do you know what it looks like?” My CP friend didn’t have a clue.

I did a Google search and saw pictures of a sarracenia with Mitchelliana parentage in gorgeous shades of pink and red, and attractive broad, wavy hoods. It was a no-brainer. I had to get one of course.

And so in July last year, JS and I became acquainted for the first time. JS had just over a dozen pitchers of varying sizes then but I loved everything about it. It was gorgeous. And I was smitten.

Having been moved from a cooler clime to warm humid conditions, JS had to acclimatize slowly.

I gradually moved it from bright light to morning sun to the sun’s full intensity. Thankfully, JS responded positively.

Unlike its more prolific neighbor, the Stevensii, JS does not seem to be in a hurry to flower. It’s just putting out pitchers at this point and when pitchers are as gorgeous as JS’s, I’m not about to complain.

The young pitchers of the Juthatip Soper are a sweet pink with delicate veins. As the pitchers mature, the rosy blush deepen into a rich wine red. The stems remain a refreshing apple green.

young pitcher

in between

mature pitcher



I love the Juthatip Soper and wouldn’t mind another. In fact, I confess I’m guilty of playing favourites sometimes, feeding it with choice grubs and insects.

the throat

looking down the throat

say, "aaahhhh...."

 It came as no surprise to find that the plant (not mine) won an RHS Award of Merit in the UK – a well deserved accolade.

If you’re into sarracenias, and even if you’re not, the Juthatip Soper is a beauty well worth getting. It’s a bouquet worthy of being a centerpiece, anywhere.

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Squeeze bottle for CPs

I was using a syringe to squirt water into my sarracenias. The syringe was as big as clinical syringes go, but it sure wasn’t big enough for me. I gave up that painstaking exercise when the novelty wore off.

There had to be more than one way to skin a cat. I just had to figure it out.

For a while the sarracenias placed on the rack under the eaves had to bear with parched throats unless I had a housefly for them. That’s because a snack always comes with a drink. That’s the standard CP set meal.

And then I saw the squeeze bottle in the gardening section of a budget store. At RM5, it was a steal.  

I put it to the test eagerly. The squeeze bottle worked like a dream. I was happy, but I bet my sarracenias are probably happier since they get a good drink at least once a week now.

I just fill the bottle, position the spout at the mouths of the pitchers and squeeze. It’s child’s play.



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Grasshoppers, anyone?

The cluster of grasshoppers on my thunbergia erecta didn’t know what hit them. First, they were surveying my plants and wondering what to munch and devour first. Next, I turned the tables on them.

I bagged the lot. There were 83. Imagine how much havoc these little critters would have wrecked in the garden. Imagine leaves and plants munched to the ground …

What can one do with so many grasshoppers? I love fried grasshopper snacks but I didn’t think I’d be allowed to fry these in our kitchen.

But I knew who else would love to have these snacks. My carnivorous plants!

But feeding the venus flytraps live grasshoppers proved to be challenging. I almost let all the grasshoppers escape a couple of times as I tried to hang onto too many things all at once. After struggling with the first 7 live snacks, I was ready to surrender.

Alvin, a forumer friend gave me a great idea. Put the grasshoppers in the fridge for a while, he said. They’ll go off to sleep and won’t jump all over then.

I went one step further and left them in the freezer for a few minutes. I think I sent them to sleep permanently but at least they were a lot easier to handle now.

The venus flytraps closed too quickly on a couple of occasions and I had to prise the traps open to push the grasshoppers in. 

          (Feeding the pink venus)

        (Feeding the shark’s teeth)

Feeding the VFTs was fun, but I knew I had to restrain myself from going overboard.

The sarracenias were a lot easier to feed. Their cavernous mouths were not about to close on the pincers. In fact I could have tipped the whole bag of grasshoppers down their throats and they would have room for more. But 83 grasshoppers don’t go a long way when you have so many traps and pitchers to feed.

As I dropped one last grasshopper down the throat of a Juthatip Soper, I could almost hear it saying, “Thanks for the snack. Now how about a drink to wash it down?”

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Drosera Paradoxa


First it was the drosera brumanii, then the spatulata.  … the binata, capillaris, filiformis, intermedia, tokendensis, indica, pygmy and capensis followed hot on their heels. But something was missing.

The paradoxa.

The more I saw the plant, the more I wanted it. Was that the paradox, I wondered.

The red rosettes of long thin tentacles and round pads of luscious sticky dew beckoned. I was lured – a willing victim.

When I finally bought one, it was a small specimen.

Happily, a friend who had more than a few and kindly gave me another. This grew quickly superceding the first in size.

And then the same friend taught me how to propagate the plant.





Here’s how:

1. Put some sphagnum peat moss in a clear plastic container. Moisten the peat moss.

2. Holding firmly to the paradoxa, pull a leaf or two towards the base, keeping the stipules intact.

3. Lay these flat on the moistened peat moss. Cover the stipule with a bit of moist peat.

4. Close the lid to maintain the humidity.

5. Check after a couple of weeks. There should be tiny paradoxa growing from the ends of the stems.

6. Remove the baby paradoxa if they are about ½ to ¾ cm tall.

7. Transfer the juvenile plants carefully using a pincer.

8. Plant into pots of long fibre spagnum or a mix of peat:sand:perlite (1:1:1) topped with LFS.

9. After a few weeks …

Ta da!! I see the makings of a paradoxa forest – well, ish!

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The craze for the GAC fruit started when someone started a thread on it in the Green Culture Singapore plant forum. This super fruit is said to have more antioxidants than any other known fruit or vegetable.

Soon nearly everyone wanted the seed, the fruit or the plant – preferably, all three.

But there were a few obstacles. The fruit is a native of Vietnam and it is not easily found due to the high demand for the fruit.

And then Karen from GCS managed to get a GAC fruit.

The red flesh of the huge fruit tastes like the avocado, they said. I didn’t get to sample it but Karen very generously offered to send me some seeds.

The seeds were big and reminded me of carved wooden amulets. I planted all six in Sept ’08.


A month later, the first seed germinated, and a month after that, the second one sprouted. By December, I had five plants.

I gave away four and kept one. This grew and clung onto thin wires that I had rigged up on a wall.

In Oct 2009, the last seed which I had given up on, decided that it was time to show itself. This slow grower took its time, while the other plant grew at a faster rate.

Meanwhile the other forumers who had grown their seeds were making fast progress. Some of the plants flowered and are said to be male.

The question is, is my plant male or female?

Finally today, the GAC flowered.

I wasn’t sure if I was looking at a male or a female flower. I was just happy to see it bloom.

   and then I saw the small swollen bulge at the base of the flower.

Guess what? It’s a girl!!!   😀

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I did my first leaf-pull when I found a distorted leaf with a blackened trap.

Since it wasn’t looking its best it didn’t seem too much of a sacrifice to experiment with it.

After a few weeks, I saw a nub forming at the base of the leaf. This soon became a baby dionaea muscipula pink venus with its own miniature traps.

It was my first! I was thrilled and I knew I was going to try again.    

Today I found 2 more leaves with blackened traps. More leaf-pull material! I loathe using perfect leaves with good traps.   😛

Here’s how I did the leaf-pull:

1. Isolate the leaf.

2. Tug the leaf carefully at a downward angle away from the plant so that you get the whole leaf right down to its white base.

3. Lay the leaf on a bed of moistened long fibre sphagnum. Cut off the trap if it is black.

4. Cover a bit of the base with some of the sphagnum moss.

5. Sit this in a shallow dish of water in bright light but away from full sun.

6. Wait for signs of growth and move to a position in full sun.


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Melampodium Peludosum

What’s there not to love about the melampodium pedulosum? It’s a pretty annual that grows easily from seed, and it self-seeds well too.

The melampodium is an exceptionally neat plant – picture a bouquet of small yellow daisies sitting on a mound of apple green leaves.

The melampodium grows vigorously and is not fussy. Toss a few seeds into the flower bed and let nature take over.

Before long you will get healthy stout plants which can’t wait to start flowering.

Each plant branches evenly and neatly, giving you more blooms along the way.

The melampodium looks good on its own or in a mixed bed. The yellow blooms brightens the garden and is the perfect foil for other flowering plants like the otacanthus caeruleus, angelonia, torenia or balsam.

I prefer it when the plant matures and some of the leaves fall off. It is then that the blooms seem to stand out more prominently.

When the flowers fade and petals fall off, look for the seeds that sit in the calyx.

Birds love them so be sure to get these before they do. If you ever hear birds chirping noisily in the general direction of your melampodium plants, chances are that they are having a feast.


Care and propagation: full sun; well drained soil; water moderately. Propagate using seeds.

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Sarracenia Leucophylla


A gardening friend gave me my first two sarracenias – a couple of plump purpureas.

They looked happy and when I realized they weren’t dying in my care, I set my sights on the stately sarracenia leucophylla.

I loved its structure and the trademark purity of its white-topped pitchers. And I meant to get a pot.


I found them.

But I had to settle for a hybrid instead. I can’t complain; the price was more than reasonable, it was a mature specimen and the pitchers packed the pot.

They were so packed that the air circulation was affected when the plant was in transit.


I had an initial problem with mildew. I trimmed off the marred pitchers, which left it looking a bit sparse.

But the leuco rebounded easily and is now a compact clump again.

The leucophylla towers over my other sarracenias. It also blooms more readily. Each time it does, I give nature a hand with the pollination but have yet to reap the dividends.


While waiting to see if my experiment with pollination works, I received a fast-forward in the form of some stratified leucophylla seeds from a kind forumer.

I sowed these.

Before long, the seedlings emerged. First the cotyledons then the miniature pitchers – my first batch of sarracenia seedlings.

I know I sound like a proud mother hen, but then they are special. And if they turn out to be the lycophylla species – the real mc coy – I’d be more than chuffed.

Care and propagation: plant on LFS or a mix of sphagnum peat moss, sand and perlite (2:1:1), stand in dish of water, semi to full sun. Divide during dormancy or propagate using seeds.

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