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Archive for September, 2010

Helianthus Augustifolia or –folius? Whatever.

When I first got this plant I thought it was a variety of coreopsis or rudbeckia. I didn’t know what to call it. The poor plant had an ID crisis.

I think I should have just called it a traffic stopper. Because that was exactly what it did to me.

I was driving around the neighbourhood when I saw IT. I did a double take, braked and reversed. “What was that?!” I’d never seen anything like that before.

I saw towering bunches of golden flowers with dark brown centers, some over 6 feet in height. Everything else paled in comparison to that jaw dropping beauty.

“Beautiful … beautiful,” I kept muttering incoherently. While I stood gaping, my friend went up to the gate, knocked and asked for a plant.

My friend gave me that plant.

Before I knew it, the Helianthus Augustifolia made a home in our garden. Once it settled, grew and bloomed, its strikingly bright flowers put everything else in the shade.

What I can’t understand is why the Helianthus Augustifolia isn’t commonly found here. I’ve never seen any garden centre on this side of the causeway sell the plant.

Incidentally, the Helianthus Augustifolia and the illustrious sunflower belong to the same family. The sunflower may be the more famous of the two, but it is the Helianthus Augustifolia that gets my vote.

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Care and propagation: full sun; well drained soil, water moderately. Tall stems need to be staked. Check regularly for mealy bugs.

Propagate by division or by using basal root cuttings. Can be sown from seeds; unfortunately I deadhead spent flowers.

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I was mesmerized by the notice;  ‘… a storehouse of essential vitamins and minerals’. Wow!

When it comes to plants, it doesn’t take much to convince me. With the cherry guava, I didn’t stand a chance.

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I got the plant without tasting the fruit, but then a ‘cherry guava’ can only taste good, right? And how can a fruit which is also known as ‘strawberry guava’ be anything but delicious?

When the plant reached my height, I started to look for buds and flowers.

There were a couple of false alarms. New leaves unfurled from what I thought were promising buds. After that initial disappointment, I decided to let the plant grow in peace.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a Psidium Littorale tree with some ripe fruit. It felt like Christmas had come early for me! They were (predictably) the size of cherries and were a deep red.

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I rubbed the small fruit and bit into my first cherry guava. I ate one, then another and yet another. I only stopped because there were no more ripe ones to be picked.

And then, a few weeks back, I finally saw the first real bud on my cherry guava plant! It was no bigger than a peppercorn but it could have been the Koh-i-Noor at the rate I was snapping photos.

More buds appeared and then I saw their blooms for the first time. The pretty flowers have five ivory coloured petals and multiple stamens.

So far no fruit has formed but I guess, and hope, that it’s just a matter of time before it does. One thing I am certain of though; its first fruit will taste like sweet ambroisa. It couldn’t be anything less.

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Care and propagation: Full sun, not fussy about soil conditions, water moderately. Propagate using seeds or by air layering


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Someone posted pictures of his Tacoma Stans and I just gaped. The flowers were clusters of sunshine; a lovely rich yellow.

I wanted the plant but didn’t buy one. Instant gratification comes with a price tag and I remembered seeing a shrub in the neighborhood. It didn’t take me long to collect a couple of seed pods.

The seeds germinated quickly and grew into spindly plants. I gave two seedlings away and kept one.

I transferred my Tacoma stans to a huge pot positioned in full sun. The plant responded and started flowering not long after.

The weak stems still needed support but it kept flowering; first one bunch then another. The golden trumpeted flowers are attention grabbers and these pots of gold are visible from afar.

I am still amazed that such intense colour can spring forth from one tiny seed; all part of God’s amazing creation.

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Care and propagation: Full sun; well drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings or seeds.

Tips: The Tacoma Stans can grow into a tree up to 6m in height. It can also be contained and grown as a shrub in a pot.

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