Archive for November, 2010

My Marigold French Vanilla is blooming!

The flowers remind me, not of lacey can-can skirts, but of ice cream; French vanilla, of course.

My friend’s cousin shared her Thompson & Morgan marigold seeds with me and said that the petals were edible. That made it a double treat. I couldn’t wait to sow them.

I planted the seven seeds on seed-raising tablets and all seven germinated.

When they were big enough, I transplanted them to the ground. But I made a big mistake by not being careful enough.

The next morning I went to check on the plants and was stunned. The seedlings were all gone; except for one which I had tucked behind another plant.

No prizes for guessing who the culprits were. I rescued the survivor and planted it away from marauding snails. For good measure, I sprinkled snail pellets around it.

So the seedling ended up growing in the shadow of lilies and basils. After a few weeks, the marigold pushed its way through its taller neighbors.

A tiny bud formed, burgeoned, then split. Each flower is a frothy concoction with creamy petals that look good enough to eat. And indeed they are.

The petals may make a pretty salad but I can’t make myself pick them. For now, they will just remain a feast for my eyes.


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

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When my friend told me about his Hedychium Coronarium, he said it was pretty.

“It’s like a white butterfly,” he said. “And it’s scented.” He gave me a rhizome.

It didn’t take long to grow and soon after, it flowered. True enough, the petals resembled a butterfly’s wings.

The Hedychium Coronarium has an understated beauty and is definitely more subtle compared to its more flamboyant relatives.

However, it’s almost impossible to walk past a Hedychium Coronarium in bloom as it only takes a whiff of its delicate sweet perfume for one to be totally enraptured.

Care and propagation: partial to full sun; garden soil; water generously. Propagate by dividing rhizomes. Flowers more freely when grown unrestrained in the ground.

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Barbecued Ribs

My sister posted photos of the BBQed ribs she made recently. They looked so good I just had to try them myself!

I asked her for the recipe and got it.

But what I saw made me balk; the list of ingredients was daunting. I wasn’t about to get every ingredient so I improvised – a lot. But guess what? The marinade turned out to be quite good despite everything.

4 slabs ribs

2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup honey
½ teasp paprika
4 pips garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
½ cup barbecue sauce
3 tbsp tomato sauce
2/3 cup apple juice
½  teasp salt
1 teasp chilli powder
1 tbsp mustard
dash of black pepper

Here’s how:

  1. Marinate ribs for 48 hours. Preheat oven at 425 F.
  2. Place ribs on foil-lined tray, fleshy side up. Seal with another piece of foil. Bake 15 minutes.
  3. Remove foil. Baste with marinade and bake again for 8-10 min. Turn and return to oven for another 8-10 min.

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I can never have enough mushrooms. I love them fried, sauteed, grilled, baked, stewed … whatever.

Years ago, dad bought some mushroom plugs and tried cultivating them. I was envisioning a mushroom farm, but it turned out to be a one-off experiment.

We’ve also had edible mushrooms pop up mysteriously under a fruit tree after a storm. Unfortunately, the mushrooms never reappeared after we chopped the tree.

After these disappointments, I’m resigned to the fact that our mushrooms will just have to come from the supermarket shelves.

I am especially partial to white button, Portobello and field mushrooms. I bought four of the latter yesterday, picked some herbs from the garden and baked garlic butter and herb mushrooms. Enjoy!


4 big field mushrooms
chopped cheddar cheese
black pepper

Mix the following:
2 tbsp butter
3 pips garlic, minced
3 sprigs thyme, chopped
a few tarragon leaves, chopped
a bit of parsley, chopped

Here’s how:

1.  Turn mushrooms over and smear on the herbed butter.

2. Sprinkled with chopped cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

3. Bake 25 minutes at 350 deg F.

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It’s the battle of the bulbs.

The Eucharist lily, Hippeastrum and Crinum Jagus are trying to out-do each other in the garden. At least they appear to be doing so. And if they really are, I’ll be the last to complain.

It’s as though each is putting on a show to prove that it’s lovelier than the other two lilies.

And the Crinum Jagus is definitely no less beautiful even if its name leaves a lot to be desired.

The phrase ‘swamp lily’ doesn’t exactly conjure the prettiest of pictures. It brings to mind thick, gooey muck – which belies the purity of the lily.

Our four big crinum bulbs share a 15-inch pot.

When I moved them from the porch where they were growing, they were not too pleased.

The disgruntled bulbs protested and the leaves suffered burnt marks as they adjusted (rather ungracefully) to the blazing sun.

I turned a blind eye and willed them to brave the heat. They didn’t disappoint.

The new leaves are blemish-free. They have acclimatized well and seem to be flowering more often now that they are situated in full sun.


I’m glad there isn’t really a battle between the three bulbs. If I was asked to choose a victor, I’d have to concede. How can anyone possibly choose between the three?


Care and propagation: Partial, to full sun; garden soil, water moderately. Propagate using bulbs (plant with the necks slightly exposed)

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I saw the hippeastrum yesterday; stately white blooms held loftily above its sturdy green stalk.

A long-time resident in our garden, the white hippeastrum is a firm favourite.

We started off with peach colored hippeastrums, then pink and red ones. They were a motley crew; each beautiful in its own way.


Then we found white hippeastrums and the rest took a back seat. I was enthralled.

Happily I gave away most of the other bulbs in my attempt to make room for the white ones.

Yes, I know. It’s unfair to play favourites, but the purity of the white was awesome.

Now, while the whites bloom and enjoy their elevated status, the rest seem to have forgotten how to. I think they are  sulking.

If I never believed plants had feelings, I do now. I wonder if talking to them would help? I guess I could try.


Care and propagation: Full sun, well drained soil. Water moderately. Propagate by dividing bulbs.

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When I first saw the Eucharist Lily, I had to lift the bloom to look at it properly. The shy lily seemed intent on hiding its glorious beauty from the world. And it was really, really beautiful.

It looks like a daffodil; only the petals are pure white and it has a pale green corona. Each fleshy stalk carries up to eight blooms.

Eucharis (from the Greek word ‘kharisma’) means ‘grace’ or ‘charm’, and in Latin, it means ‘elegant’. I think the flower has been aptly named.

The price tag for the pot of Eucharist Lily stunned me. I had to forgo the treasure but it became my mission to find a cheaper version elsewhere.

I found it.

This tropical lily has been in the garden for a few years now. It is an easy plant to care for and isn’t prone to disease. It loves the warmth and high humidity and has taken everything that the tropical weather has been dishing out in its stride.

The lily has since grown into a nice clump and I’ve had the chance to share its bulbs with friends who’ve been admiring the plant.

For a long while my Eucharist lily has bloomed just once a year. The rest of the time,  I’ve been content with its handsome broad leaves.

Lately though, the clump of Eucharist lilies has been blooming more often; four times over the last three months and I’m still counting.

I am still in the habit of lifting each bloom to look at its full beauty. I wonder if the Eucharist lily will ever realise that its own stunning beauty and hold its head up high.


Care and propagation: Bright indirect light, well drained soil, water moderately. Propagation: division of bulbs.

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My heart sank. I had planted mostly double petalled zinnia seeds and I only saw single-petalled blooms forming.

Could they have been hybrids?

Single-petalled zinnias are all right too but I had gotten my seeds from an aunt and most of hers were fully double; awesome orbs of vibrant colours.




I should just have been a little more patient.  … because other petals started to emerge.

Before long, the petals were more than an inch thick, some two. A few stems buckled under the weight.

Now I have both single and double-petalled blooms. I can’t believe I’ve never have planted the fully double variety before – unless that part of my memory has totally vaporized. Whatever the reason, I intend to make up for this omission.

Lately I’ve been tagging the lovelier flowers so that I know which ones to replant. My fingers are already itching to harvest the first seeds. I just can’t wait to replicate these beauties a few times over!

Zinnias are one of the easiest things to plant. Just sow the seeds in full sun and wait to be rewarded by the most gorgeous flowers.


Care and propagation: full sun, well-drained soil, water generously. Propagate using seeds.

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