Archive for August, 2010

Have you met anyone who would plant something just because they liked the sound of its name? Well, look no further – here’s one.

So when someone offered me some salad burnet seeds, I was thrilled. I didn’t know what the herb was for, but I reckoned it would be good just going by its name.

I mean, how can anything with a name like ‘salad burnet’ be anything but nice? I envisioned a fresh tasty salad as I planted the seeds.

And soon I had a clump of the Mediterranean herb. Strange that I could be so proud of a clump of herbs, but I was. I loved how it looked; a handsome rosette with gently arching stems of small serrated leaves.

I couldn’t even bear to use it in salads or sandwiches but picked a leaf every now and then just to get its fresh cucumber taste.

I should have put the herb to good use, because I lost the plant about a year later. Maybe the herb felt underutilized. That was more than five years ago but there was no use crying over it. I never found a replacement – until three weeks ago.

This typical gardener almost blubbered with joy at the sight of a pot of salad burnet at a garden centre. It beckoned … and all rational thought left me. I even forgot its name for a while. There was only one amidst all the other herbs.

I bought a bunch of other herbs as well, but they paled beside the salad burnet. Since then I have already used it in my sauces and salads – I’m not about to make the same mistake again.

And while we’re on the subject of herbs, don’t you think that the name ‘summer savory’ has a nice ring to it?


Culinary herb: Young leaves can be added to dips, salads and sandwiches for a fresh cucumber taste; a parsley substitute

Herbal qualities: used to cure diarrhoea; aids digestion; tones and refines the skin; rich in vitamins

Care and propagation: Partial to full sun, well drained soil, water moderately. To propagate, divide clump or sow seeds.

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These ground-hugging squat pitchers look like nature’s tea-cups or shot glasses. Except that I wouldn’t want to take a sip of its slimy cocktail of drowned insects.

But ampullaria pitchers are lovely with their wide lips and narrow lids. There are two sorts of pitchers; aerial pitchers and basal ones. The aerial pitchers are cute enough, but the basal pitchers have the X factor.

Basal pitchers grow underground near the stem base. Tiny pudgy babies push their way through the carpet of moss when you least expect them to.

They are like nice surprises; like an unexpected gift under the Christmas tree.

I used to think there were just two forms of ampullaria; the green and the red. And I started off buying the green one; not out of choice but because it was the only one available then.

It didn’t last long; I killed my first few plants by watering them with water from my fish tank.

Then I realized that CPs were unlike regular garden plants. What other plants thrive on spell disaster to them.

My next ampu was also a green one; and the third as well.

Then someone gave me a pot of ampullaria hot lips! It doesn’t take much of an imagination to conjure a pair of pouting scarlet lips.

...getting a piggyback

Then I discovered how myopic I had been.


There were other ampullaria – red pitchers with pink lips, red with yellow lips, green with red lips, speckled with red lips, red with striped lips…

There were also ampullarias that had three colours, ampullarias which were a pink blush, those which were heavily blotched with rich dark colours …

The list goes on.

Of these, the Singapore Gardentech is perhaps the most outstanding with its startling red pitchers but then it isn’t a pure ampullaria having been crossed with the nepenthes ventricosa.

I would love to have a name for each of my ampullaria, but it’s also all right if I never found out.




Care and cultivation: mix of peat moss, pine bark, sand and perlite; moss topping; bright light, slightly shielded from the hot afternoon sun; water generously; take extra care when transplanting as there could be basal pitchers beneath the surface

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Why is the Evodia Suaveolens such a rarity?

I searched long and hard, but could not find what was touted to be the ultimate mosquito repellant plant. I even searched the internet but strangely, there wasn’t much information posted on the plant.

I sniffed and touched every plant which looked remotely like the Evodia Suaveolens. I was even fooled into thinking that the Evodia Ridleyi was the real deal and bought a few. But it wasn’t, and I gave all four plants away. The structurally similar Ridleyi simply lacks the Zodia’s  intoxicating scent.

Then someone gave me a tiny Zodia. I subjected the tiny 1-inch seedling to a sniff-and-touch test. The leaves were sticky and the scent was heady. It was the real McCoy! As instructed, I planted the seedling in a small pot, and watered it sparingly.

The tiny pot didn’t do the plant any favours. It obviously gave the Zodia the impression that it was a bonsai as it remained an inch tall for a really long time.

“What do you mean it hasn’t grown?” the person who gave me the seedling asked for the umpteenth time. He nagged me to change the pot, and for the sake of peace, I did.

Liberated from its close confines, the Zodia stretched its limbs. For the first time, I could actually see significant progress.

Encouraged, I changed the pot yet again, leap frogging from a 4-inch pot to a 10-inch one. A drastic jump, defying the usual advice to take it one step at a time. I guess I was making up for lost time.

The Zodia obliged by growing stronger by the day, and taller by the week.

Then one day I saw buds, then flowers. Needless to say, this mother hen clucked with pride and dashed to get the camera.

I was hoping to pollinate the microscopic flowers but gave up after a couple of tries. I couldn’t even see the stamen and the pistil, what more the anther and the stigma. But thankfully,  before I could get cross-eyed, nature took over. Ants are great agents of pollination.

Right now, the fruit may still be green, but I’m already looking forward to getting some seeds from the plant. Perhaps once I have enough Zodia in the garden, mosquitoes will really be a thing of the past.



Care and propagation: partial shade to full sun; well drained soil, water moderately, propagation through seeds and semi-hardwood cuttings

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