Archive for the ‘Foliage’ Category

ImageIt’s supposed to be an honour to have a plant named after you. But what if the plant was the Sansevieria; commonly known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue?

The poor lady couldn’t have been amused especially since the plant’s hard sheaths have sharp pointed ends.

We had a huge clump of Sansevieria Trifasciata which had to be removed when we shifted the driveway. No one shed a tear.

Then many years later, someone gave me the tough rod-like Sansevieria Cylindrical. I thought the rods looked lethal and that someone could end up being impaled, so these too were duly removed. Once again there were no regrets.

IMG_7346Then the office next door caught fire. The quality of the air was badly compromised and we were desperate for an air purifier. I googled for answers and discovered just how amazing the Sanseviera really was.

NASA, apparently, revealed that the Sansevieria has the ability to absorb 107 unknown air pollutants including carbon monoxide and nitrogen monoxide (source: http://1st-ecofriendlyplanet.com/12/sansevieria/). Now, that really grabbed my attention.

That day, the scorned became the savior.


Two big pots of Sansevieria Trifasciata were wheeled into the office in an attempt to rid the air of some toxins.

At home, I started collecting the Sansevieria in earnest.  The S. Trifasciata Hahnii, S. Futura Superba  and S. Golden Hahnii Bonsai came hot on the heels of the Sansevieria Trifasciata.


Each were placed in small pots for easy handling.And so when the haze came and facemasks flew off the shelves and everyone clambered to buy air purifiers, I turned to my collection of Sansevierias.

My sister who was visiting thought the tray of assorted Sansevieria looked lovely.

Granted that the varieties we see now are more appealing in form and colour than what we had a few decades ago, who would have thought that could be said the Mother-in-law’s Tongue?



Care and propagation: shade to full sun; garden soil; water moderately; propagate by division


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IMG_8446Lycopodium Cernuum and Lycopodium Clavatum used to be quite common. As natural open spaces, slopes and hills get pushed back, these pretty prehistoric ferns are slowly disappearing.

These lycopodiums look like miniature pine trees with short fine soft hairs. The ferns send out horizontal stems, enabling them to spread over surfaces at a faster rate than propagation through spores.

I first saw them in floral arrangements when I was a kid; not as decorative ferns but compacted and wrapped around to hide unsightly floral sponges or plastic holders.

Since the ferns are not grown commercially, they must have been gathered from the wild. Sadly, they would have ended up in a bin or a compost heap.

IMG_2610Today, we don’t see them at the florist anymore; possibly because of their scarcity.

These lycopodiums have a shallow root system. I have tried a few times to remove the ferns from newly developed areas knowing that they would soon be cleared and replaced by manicured lawns. Each time, the ferns died despite all the care I took. Transplanting them seemed impossible.

Then, I came across a fellow gardener’s tips on relocating the lycopodiums. Fantastic! Armed with that knowledge, I was ready to try again.

So recently on a trip up to the hills, I found some L. Cernuum and Clavatum at the edge of a plot designated for the construction of a home.

IMG_2609In my enthusiasm, I ended up with more than I expected. My booty included grazed hands and knees as I slipped into the drain. If anything, this strengthened my resolve to succeed this time.

I wrapped the ferns in moist tissue and potted them as soon as I could. As advised, I kept the media constantly moist.

Now after more than half a year, I’m relieved to say that the lycopodiums have survived their relocation and are doing quite nicely.

Are these humble ferns worth the scraped knees? Undoubtedly.

Care and propagation: shade or dappled shade (can tolerate full sun once established); mix of loam and clay; water generously; propagation by division, or using spores (challenging)




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I must be seeing things. Creamy yellow flowers on variegated ivy? 

But the vision persisted; a trellis covered with ivy shaped leaves and daisy-like blooms. The leaves were fleshy; thicker and glossier. This wasn’t the regular ivy I knew, so what was it?

The plant wasn’t for sale but I helped myself to some of the seeds. My joy was short-lived though as none of them germinated.

what i saw at the garden centre

Then after three years, I found pots of the same plant at a garden centre!

And after all this time, I find out that it’s not a hedera after all but a Senecio Macroglossus Variegatus.

What a gem this Secenio must be for those who love the ivy but are allergic to it!

my secenio

My Senecio is adapting well and the leaves are lovely but I plan to feed it some flowering inducer soon and see if that can persuade it to bloom.

Wouldn’t it be great if that worked?

Care and propagation: filtered light; well-drained soil; water moderately. Propagate using cuttings or seeds.

waiting to see this bloom

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It was the biggest cascade of lycopodium squarrosum I’d ever seen. The epiphyte looked as good as mink.

There wasn’t even a price tag on it – a truly priceless plant. There were smaller versions of this beauty for sale. At a whopping USD40 upwards, it was much more than I would pay for a few strands of the plant.

And so I had to be contented with occasional visits to the plant centre, dropping in to feast my eyes on the plant.

A gardening friend gave me a few bits that had detached from his plant. These have rooted and are growing slowly so I know it’ll be years before they grow into anything substantial. No wonder the plant commands a premium price.

Then two weeks ago I chanced on a pile of lycopodium squarrosum that had just been delivered to a garden centre. They had yet to be potted and was sold by the kilogram.

The price? A reasonable USD30 per kilo.

I bought a small clump which weighed a little over 250g. There were 7 strong stems and 2 new shoots, and I knew it could cost thrice as much once it was potted.

The leaves were shorter and coarser than my dream lycopodium, but no matter. I was satisfied.

I carved big holes at the base of a pot and gingerly threaded the stems through the gaps. After filling it with a loose mix of soil, pine park and sphagnum peat moss, and adding a topping of live forest moss, I hung the potted squarrosum.


Now I yearn for a clump of the softer squarrosum. Maybe, one day …

Care and propagation: shade to dappled light; well-drained loose soil mixed with mulch and moss; water frequently; loves high humidity. Propagate using cuttings or by division.

my dream lycopodium squarrosum



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Platycerium ridleyii


The platycerium ridleyii is a prima donna. My first two didn’t even last a year.

Then recently I decided to give it another go.

I bought two small ones together with a holtumi and an elephantotis. One of the ridleyii only lasted  three months.

Then I found two weeks ago that a friend’s full-grown ridleyii had died. My heart sank.

The ridleyii had looked perfectly healthy and was simply gorgeous.

If that beautiful specimen can suddenly fade away, then maybe this is one plant I shouldn’t try to grow.

So I declared that I wasn’t going to get anymore.

Famous last words. Yesterday, I saw a lovely platycerium ridleyii going for a song and my resolution flew right out of the window.

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