Archive for the ‘climbers’ Category

20160620_171403sI had just planted a few Gloriosa tubers from my Aunt C three weeks before, and I was mesmerised by its rate of growth.20160607_175641s

It was like watching a video on a fast-forward mode; within a week, the nub on one of the tubers grew an amazing 30cm.

With each day, the spindly shoot grew taller, and within three short weeks of planting, I saw the first Gloriosa blossom.

The flower went through a spectrum of colours as it opened gradually; from a light apple green and pastel yellow, to a pale blush which gradually flamed into a hot, intense cerise.

20160615_071504sThe corollas of the Gloriosa Superba are reminiscent of orchids and, lilies; and their wavy, flaming reflexed petals resemble tongues of fire.

20160622_102715bNow as the flaming flowers of the first tuber lie spent, a second dormant tuber is stirring and showing signs of life. I’m hoping that this lethargic tuber will put up a similarly brilliant show.

If you are keen to have a go at the flaming Gloriosa, do exercise a bit of caution. It wouldn’t pay to get your fingers burnt by what is listed as one of the most breathtaking but dangerous flowers in the world.


 Care and propagation:

Semi-shade to full sun; garden soil, water moderately. Needs support. Propagate using tubers or seeds





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20150501_100106s2‘The seeds fell on rocky places… and sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow,’ … so it goes in the parable.

Which was precisely what happened to the neighbour’s Basella seeds; these dropped into cracks on our side of the wall and quickly took root in the shallow soil.

The fleshy Basella leaves make a good soup so we nurtured the
plants as best we could. Before the plants faded away, they 20150524_092202sproduced plump purple berries which we planted in compost-rich medium.

The seeds responded to the more favourable conditions and germinated readily. They grew upwards, and twined all over the neighbouring plants.

20150524_092407bI rigged up a simple support using stakes and a nylon garden trellis, untangled the mess and trained the purplish Basella vines. The Basella now grows in some semblance of order and yields enough for a pot of soup every fortnight.

A common vegetable in tropical Asia, the Basella thrives with minimal care in the backyard and grows easily either from stems or from seed.20150509_082821_s

But despite feeding them regularly with fertilisers, our Basella can’t hold a candle to those sold in the market. The latter are such whoppers I suspect they’re on steroids. Sour grapes? Sigh … I guess you could say that.


Care and propagation: Partial shade to full sun, humus rich garden soil; water generously. Plant using seeds or stem cuttings.





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IMG_6084Anredera cordifolia - then chut_sThe Anredera Cordifolia is regarded as nothing short of a nuisance in some parts of the world. Growing relentlessly, it has been known to smother trees and shrubs that are superior in both size and volume.

But the puny climber in my neighbour’s garden bore no resemblance to the marauding monster I saw on the Internet. It was just a metre in length; a long way off from reaching the end of its bamboo support. I guess the intense heat of the tropical lowlands stunts its growth.

However, I saw what the Anredera Cordifolia was capable of when I was up in the hills. Assuming a different persona under more favourable and cooler conditions, the brash climber grew in abandon, rambling unchecked over beams, fences and shrubs.


seen up in the hills

IMG_6091sNot content with twining over anything in its path, Anredera Cordifolia scions grew where swollen aerial tubers had dropped onto the soft moist ground.

This was a lot more like the menace that was depicted on the net. It’s no wonder then that the spread of the Anredera Cordifolia has to be curbed in some countries. Left unchecked, it is likely to colonise the world.

So we confronted the lush mass of Anredera Cordifolia before us … armed not with machetes or poison but with baskets and bowls.

IMG_8469bWe spent more than an hour filling our receptacles with fleshy jade green heart-shaped leaves, a portion of which went straight into the frying pan after a quick rinse. We demolished a plateful in the blink of an eye.

I doubt if I’d ever have an issue with overgrown Anredera Cordifolia in my garden. If anything, mine needs a growth booster shot right now.

But if I ever had to control this climber, I’d probably just chomp my way through it.



Care and propagation: Partial sun, moist fertile soil, water generously; propagate using aerial tubers







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We never planted the cucumber, but there it was, in a bed covered with stones and pebbles.

20130925_181639sWe thought it wouldn’t survive, but it did. The gangly thing grew stronger and then surprise, surprise … it flowered!

The flowers were spots of sunshine in the otherwise colorless corner. Pretty, yes. But productive? Mmmm …20130921_133254s

What doubting Thomases we were. We didn’t expect the gangly vine to produce anything for the dining table.

But it did and proved us more than once.

The unassuming vine yielded cucumbers for salad and stir fries. And when we let the last cucumber age, we even had a lovely golden hued cucumber for soup.

It’s amazing how quickly the cucumber grows.

A tiny one-inch cucumber could grow to its full length within four to five days. Even the aged old cucumber didn’t take very long.


The vine was short lived and expired soon after we harvested the last old cucumber.

But I’ve a hunch that that cucumber plant is the precursor of many more to come.

Care and propagation: full sun, garden loam or compost soil, water generously; propagate using seeds.





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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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I was briefly acquainted with the Mandevilla; twice in fact. But both encounters were fleeting at best.

It was easy to fall for the Mandevilla. It’s a handsome specimen with glossy ovate leaves and blooms that look like a cross between a plumeria and an alamanda.

Its climbing habit gives the Mandevilla a grace that the alamanda, with its stiff woody stems, lacks.

The Mandevilla comes in almost every shade of pink, white, red and yellow. What’s more, there are double petalled variants as well.

But just about every pest in the garden liked the Mandevilla too; the mealy bugs, aphids and scales loved it to death.

Perhaps if I had been more liberal with the pesticide, my Mandevilla would still be alive today. Its premature death meant I never got to see it in its full glory.

Whenever I see a Mandevilla at the garden centres I am a little tempted to get a replacement.

I’ve been resisting the temptation so far. … let’s see how long my resolve lasts.



Care and propagation : indirect, filtered or partial sun, well drained garden soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings

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Telosma Cordata is supposedly good for the eyes. So dad used to buy the fragrant blooms from the market.

That was how I first saw them; clusters of pale green buds and flowers in pastel yellow-peach shades destined for the dining table. It makes a great soup!


telosma cordata soup

I had no idea what the plant looked like until my neighbour told me about hers. This climbed over the fence 6 metres above the ground where I was standing. She not only enlightened me about its habits but picked me some flowers as well. More soup! Yums!

I got a plant for myself but it didn’t last very long. Then my neighbour propagated and gave me another. That followed in the footsteps of the first plant. When she asked about its progress, I had to admit that it was long gone.

She passed me a few cuttings, assuring me that they were not difficult to grow. By this time I was a bit of a skeptic but …, they actually rooted!

Then, after some long months of ‘dormancy’, I moved them out into full sun and planted them into a big pot.

I thought it’d continue to grow at the same sluggish pace but it proved me wrong. Then one day as I was about to prune the neighbouring plant, I realized that the telosma cordata has twined itself all over the former. And it was blooming too!

I replaced its small support with a bigger trellis, but I know it’ll soon outgrow the latter as well. I’m tempted to just let it ramble all over the fence. Maybe then I may have enough flowers for a telosma cordata stir-fry as well.


telosma cordata seed pod


telosma cordata seeds


Care and propagation: full sun, well drained, fertile soil, water generously. Propagate using soft wood cuttings or seeds (mine fruited but alas, the vine dried before the seeds reached maturity)

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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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