Archive for February, 2012

“You want this?” the lady selling plants asked me. “Take it. No one will buy it.”

“Why not?”

“I dropped the pot the other day. See? The leaves have broken off so I can’t sell it now. You can have it.”

I couldn’t say no so I thanked the lady. I felt I had adopted an orphan; the plant no one wanted.

The bruised African violet (does anyone actually call it Saintpaulia?) didn’t look too bad despite being lopsided.  But I wondered if it could have gone to a better home.

I had bought two pots of AVs a few years back when I was up in the highlands.

(wouldn’t you have found them hard to resist if you had seen this expanse of AVs?)

But a couple of months and a few leaf propagations later, I was ready to call it quits. To tell the truth, I find the AV a little fiddly.

I was tempted to pass the poor orphan to someone who could appreciate it but could not make myself do it.

So, I played the reluctant guardian. I bemoaned my lack of patience with gesnariads and my friends probably sympathized with the plant.

“So how’s the African violet? Is it blooming?”

“No,” I replied, “but at least it’s still alive.”

After a few months of inactivity, a few small buds peeked through the leaves; nothing impressive but it looked like the AV had finally recovered.

Then more buds showed. I felt like a proud guardian when the first bud bloomed.

And then when it was lovely enough to be part of the décor during the lunar new year, I knew it had come into its own.

But, would I like another AV? Er, no, I’ll pass. One is plenty, thank you.

Care and propagation: bright light, out of direct sunlight; potting mix; water generously at base; wick-watering recommended. Propagate using leaf-propagation method.

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Tibouchina Spp.

The Tibouchina I am familiar with is a big shrub with vivid purple flowers. Much as I’d love one for its flamboyant blooms, I’ve refrained from getting one due to its size if left to grow unchecked.

One day, an aunt told me about her ‘Japanese peony’ which was covered with flowers. “The lady says it’ll keep blooming all the time.”

“A peony?” This I had to see.

But it wasn’t one. At that time, I thought it was a Melastoma; albeit a prettier version. “But it’s like the roadside weed, right?” I asked. Imagine my reaction when I found that she had paid more than USD10 for it.

Two weeks later, I had to eat my own words. I paid the same amount for a small but lovely plant. What I was more concerned with was to get it to like the six-foot tall beauties I saw growing in the vicinity of the garden centre I bought it from.

what i saw at the garden centre

tibouchina spp. in full bloom

I stopped to gaze at the gorgeous display. I couldn’t wait to get home with my latest acquisition.

I planted my plant out in full sun as soon as I reached home and paid the price for my hastiness. The blazing heat was too much for it and I had to prune most of the wilted buds. What a shame!

Lately the plant’s been showing a bit of what it’s capable of. There are always flowers on the bush – each with five pinkish purple petals. The pistils are gently curved and stamens, distinctly hooked.

But what I thought was a Melastoma turned out to be the Tibouchina I had always avoided. And it took a trip to a garden centre in Sydney for me to realize my mistake.

Melastoma, Tibouchina … whatever. I am a convert.

Care and propagation: dappled light to full sun; water moderately; not fussy about soil; propagate using seeds or cuttings

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