Archive for December, 2010


Dozens of bees hovered over the lavender patch moving swiftly from flower to flower. I knew I was inviting trouble but I really wanted to smell the blooms.

I was excited and overwhelmed by the expanse of lavender flowers  (who said lavender had calming properties?) and hurried from one row to another convinced that the next row had even more blooms.

I could have stayed there all day.

If only my own lavender would bloom like that. Alas, few of my plants actually make it past six months. This Mediterranean plant hates our high humidity and frequent monsoon and torrential rains with a vengeance.

Why then do I keep trying? I guess it’s the stubborn streak in me that refuses to give up. Besides, I love all things lavender; their oils, gels, teas, lotions, and even candy and ice-cream. I even love the plant when it’s devoid of blooms.

My most established lavender plant is already woody but there has never been a single bud on it.

Fortunately it more than makes up for that with its velvety silver leaves. Every time I touch the plant, I revel in the luxuriant feel of its highly aromatic leaves.

A few months ago, a friend convinced me to get a few more lavandula augustifolia plants. One was already in flower but past experience told me not to get my hopes up.

But I had underestimated the plant.

It budded again and again a couple of months later and surprised me with more blooms. Finally, I actually have some lavender flowers in the garden!

I know I will never have a hedge full of lavender flowers; not in our muggy tropical clime, but for once, I would love to be proven wrong.


Care and propagation (in wet, hot and humid, tropical conditions): Partial to full sun; well-drained soil; water sparingly, shield from rain. Propagate using cuttings or seeds.

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I’d look out for plump flying ants whenever it rains the night before. Fortunately for me, the recent rains brought some.

They swarm around the lights outside the house and invariably find their way indoors. So I’d get them – before they get in.

I swing my flyswatter around with as much panache as a swashbuckler and my roguish grin widens with each ant I drop into a container.


Okay, so it’s a bumper crop of ants with plump heads and abdomens. But much as I appreciate exotic food like fried caterpillars and grasshoppers, these ants are not destined for my dinner plate.

They’re meant for my Gobbleguts … I think my pitcher plants know I have a treat in store for them.

I kept the ants for a couple of days before using them, so they ended up smelling like fermented shrimps. But I think the pitchers are not going to be too picky.

True enough, they had their mouths open impatiently for their share this morning. The smaller pitchers had an ant or two, while bigger ones gobbled a few more.


I had enough ants for both Tropical and North American pitcher plants. Most of them had seconds and a couple had an extra treat of fresh juicy caterpillars.

They’re truly Gobbleguts indeed.

Wait … did I hear a burp?

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Our garden is infused by a sweet perfume in the evenings and it reminds me of a tropical spa.

But the perfume doesn’t come from our wrightia religiosa, jasminum sambac, hedychium coronarium or brunfelsia americana. What then?

It could only be our neighbour’s ylang-ylang. They had planted this at the edge of the garden so the scent wafts over into our space. O joy!

The neighbour’s plant is festooned with drooping greenish-yellow blooms year round. So we’re blessed with the exotic scent of a spa whenever there is the slightest breeze.

I picked a bloom and held it to my nose expecting a wonderful scent. But I was taken aback by the intoxicating odour that assailed my senses.

I can’t understand it. How can something which smells so sweet a few feet away smell so overpowering at close range .. almost vile, in fact.

Despite this, I bought a small plant for myself. After all, it only cost the equivalent of USD1. Quite a steal, I thought.

It sits under the living room window and I’m hoping that its gorgeous perfume would waft indoors one day. I only need to remind myself not to stick my nose too closely to its blooms.


Care and propagation: partial to full sun, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings or seeds

my small ylang-ylang plant


our neighbour's ylang-ylang


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Dry Curry Crabs

It’s been a while since I bought mudcrabs.

Then I saw two basketsful of crustaceans this evening; one basket of river crabs and one of mudcrabs. The latter were just RM15 a kilo.

I chose three firm ones and rushed home. We’re having crabs for dinner tonight!

Here’s my version of dry curry crabs:

3 mud crabs (wash and cut into pieces)
3 tablesp curry powder
2 teasp chilli powder (or less)
2 big onions, minced
5 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon ground ikan bilis
1 teasp sugar
1 table soy sauce
half cup milk
4 sprigs curry leaves

Here’s how:

  1. Heat up a ladle of vegetable oil in a wok. Add minced onions and garlic and saute till fragrant.
  2. Add curry leaves, then ground ikan bilis, curry and chilli powder.
  3. Add in crabs and fry. Add sugar, soy sauce and milk.
  4. Fry till dry and dish out.

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