Archive for February, 2011

Bauhinia Kockiana

I love the highlands – but I can’t say the same about the arduous drive up and down the hills. Sharp curves and hairpin bends are just not my cup of tea.

But it was on one of those stomach-churning trips that I spotted a blaze in the lush tropical forest. Nausea forgotten, I craned my neck to get a better look. One of the tallest trees was aflame with orange blooms. A bauhinia kockiana had wound its way up more than 100 feet. It was spectacular!

Our own kockiana was no comparison, but we were proud of our modest plant all the same. It (then) draped over the frame of our old swing, creating a semi-angular arch with heavy splashes of orange all year round.

The kockiana gave way to the petrea but its marcotted progeny grew in other parts of the garden. One of them brightens the far corner in the garden now.

Unlike its lofty highland relative, our kockiana leans over the fence at my height. The advantage? I get to see it at close range.

Delicate tendrils belie their strength as they wind round whatever they come into contact with. It’s no wonder then that the kockiana is able to reach tremendous heights despite its weak stems.

Clusters of small green buds blossom into yellow then peach coloured flowers which eventually darken to a flaming orange shade.

Every now and then a seed pod forms producing between one to four seeds. I try to pick the pod just before it explodes in situ since dispersed seeds could land in inhospitable conditions.

The bauhinia kockiana is just the thing for anyone who loves bursts of flaming colours in the garden. What’s more incredible is that this perennial will thrive happily in your garden with minimal care.

Care and Propagation : full sun; not fussy about soil; water moderately; support weak stems; propagate using seeds or by marcotting

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“We’re starting the monthly plant competitions again – but only with the nepenthes. Will you support the competition? Just send us a photo of your plant.”

It was a modest online nepenthes competition with no prizes at stake. Did I want to enter?

I had seen my friends prepare for these competitions. And it involved almost-professionally-taken-photos shot with sophisticated (read ‘expensive’) cameras. Mine is a modest point-and-shoot model.

“I’ll try.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to compete but I also didn’t want to disappoint my friend.

I had a look around the next day; a few of the neps actually looked quite decent. At least I wouldn’t be too embarrassed when they were eventually posted online, I thought.

I snapped the photos and sent them off. Then I waited for the results of the members’ poll.

My Nepenthes ampullaria x ventricosa (Singapore Gardentech) which I had bought as a juvenile just 15 months ago was neck and neck with another plant; and that was how it ended.

The Gardentech won by a whisker. There may not have been a prize but nothing beats the satisfaction that it was deemed worthy of being a winner.

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Moist Dark Chocolate Cake

I love chocolate cake, especially if it is rich and dark.

My colleague’s dark chocolate cake tastes superb; really moist and chocolatey, and it seems to fulfil all the requirements of what I think a good choc cake is.

We were amazed that it was steamed and asked for the recipe. But when we saw the recipe, we balked at the shocking amount of oil and sugar that had gone into the cake. It was guaranteed to give a sugar rush – and more. But it was simply delicious.

Determined come up with a healthier version, another colleague modified the recipe by reducing both oil and sugar. And I’ve modified it yet a bit more.

If you like chocolate cake, try giving this a shot. This is definitely a recipe worth repeating.

1 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup castor sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
½ cup condensed milk
½ cup UHT milk
¾ cup vegetable oil

1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 eggs

Here’s how:

  1. Mix A and heat over low flame till dissolved. Remove from fire and cool.
  2. Sift B twice.
  3. Beat eggs lightly and pour into mix A. Add B.
  4. Pour into lined or greased and flour-dusted 10-inch cake tin.
  5. Cover and steam for an hour.

Bon appetit!

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