Archive for the ‘Fragrant plants’ Category


20150831_092421sOur guide at the French perfumery talked us through the distillation process of perfumes and essential oils from flowers and plants.

One stood out in particular – the Patchouli or Pogostemon Cablin Benth. Not because it was a plant I was familiar with, but more because they said it could grow where I lived.  And that was what got me started.

20150831_093010sFor years thereafter, every plant that looked remotely like the Patchouli came under close scrutiny. I would furtively pick the leaves hoping to get a whiff of what was supposed to be a sweet earthy scent. But each time they turned out to be fool’s gold.

In retrospect, I realize how foolish I’d been. I was just fortunate none of the plants turned out to be stinging nettle or worse, or I’d have to pay for my folly.

This obsession may have carried on if not for a friend who told me that he had found the elusive Patchouli. Finally, finally …!

20150831_092918sIt was only a matter of time before cuttings made their way to my garden. True to form, they had square stems and ovate-eliptic shaped leaves with soft-toothed margins.

So what do I think of the Patchouli, one of the most important plants used in perfumery? Actually the fresh leaves smell ‘vague’ with none of the intensity I had expected. Since I can’t distill its perfume, I’ll going to dry the leaves instead. But no, I’ve no intention of starting a home perfumery or a Patchouli farm any time soon.   🙂




Care and propagation: Partial sun; garden soil; water moderately. Propagate using cuttings.




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20130930_180811sI rarely buy a plant for its foliage, so it was quite out of character for me to get this.

The gardenia is known for its lovely waxy, ivory blooms and the Gardenia Jasminoides Variegata is no different.

Yet it was the green and ivory variegated leaves that caught my eye first; a gorgeous blend of greens and ivory; each leaf a unique monochromatic artwork.

Surprisingly, the plant was inexpensive.

The Gardenia Jasminoides Variegata has great potential as a focal plant, so I removed a waterlily tub in the centre of the garden and planted the gardenia in its place.


20131003_072412sThe gardenia grew for close to half a year before anything happened. In fact, I didn’t even know that the gardenia was budding and almost missed its first bloom until I saw a flash of white amidst the leaves.

And then I noticed swirls of buds; much like the top of a Cornetto ice cream. And like the ice cream, it was irresistible. I took multiple photos of the buds – I just couldn’t get enough of its unique swirls

If anyone asked me which has the x-factor, I’d say it’s a close fight between the variegated leaf and the bud.

But what about the flower? … I think in this case, it may just be a little outclassed.


Care and propagation – full sun; garden soil; water generously. Propagate using cuttings.





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With a name like that, I expected something of epic proportions.

The brugmansia Supernova lived up to its illustrious name. A gardening enthusiast had shared photos of his trophy; my jaw dropped. The pendulous trumpets measured at least 10 inches in length!

But what’s so special, one might ask.

The Angel’s Trumpet may be a dime a dozen up in the cool tropical highlands, but they are as rare as hen’s teeth where I am; where temps can soar beyond 40 degrees in the afternoons.

I’ve always been cautioned against getting any brugmansias from the highlands. “They’ll never bloom for us,” my friends advised.

IMG_0078The amazing thing was that the Supernova was thriving and blooming in all its luminescent glory in hot humid conditions!

Always a fan of the Angel’s Trumpet, I was delighted when I finally got a few cuttings of the B. Supernova and managed to grow them in the garden.

And when the Supernova’s first buds formed, I almost held my breath.

Overnight, the buttery yellow buds burst forth into full ivory-coloured trumpets.  The Angel’s Trumpet; truly an inspired creation of God.



Care and propagation: Partial shade, well drained soil, water generously. Propagate using cuttings


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Leptospermum Petersonii

 I was in Sydney a couple of months ago and spent some of my most memorable hours in my friend’s backyard.

P has, among other plants, a genoa black fig, a Nellie Kellie black passionfruit, vegetables, herbs and one of my favourites – the Leptospermum Petersonii or Lemon Tea Tree.

P’s leptospermums are more than 10 feet tall; completely dwarfing my sapling which is all of16 inches in height. Some may not fully appreciate the beauty of the plant; until they crush the leaves to release its essential oils. And when they do, my guess would be that they’d want a plant too. And there’s a bonus – the scented leaves of the Leptospermum Petersonii make a lovely fragrant tea.

P can enjoy a pot of it anytime she prunes her trees which are already flowering and setting seed.

My first attempt at planting the Leptospermum Petersonii seeds crashed and burned.

The next lot saw some success but only one seedling survived past infancy. It will be a while before I can harvest any leaves from this plant for a cup of tea.

At the rate it’s growing, a few more Leptospermum Petersonii plants wouldn’t hurt; especially since I believe in having insurance. So, guess what? I’ve just sown another batch of seeds.

seed pods and seeds








Care and propagation: partial shade to full sun; well-drained soil; water moderately; propagate using seeds or cuttings 

seed pods on one of P’s tree

P’s Leptospermum Petersonii

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Patchouli Wannabe

2002 – I heard about the Patchouli during a visit to the Provence and learnt that it was highly sought after for its scented leaves.

My radar went on high alert. But nothing showed for more than ten years until a few months ago when I chanced upon something unfamiliar at the market.

“That’s reserved,” the lady told me. “… but keep this leaf. It’s scented.”

When I described the plant to a gardening pal, he said it was probably the patchouli. He was right – or so I thought.

As the leaf in my wallet dried, its essential oils intensified and it became increasingly fragrant. After all these months, the dry and crisp leaf still perfumes my money and wallet.

A few months down the road, this same friend smelled the leaf I had in my wallet. “Hey, this can’t be the patchouli after all. It’s more fragrant than the patchouli I have.”

Not the patchouli?? How could that be?

But having obtained a pot of the real patchouli, I’ve come to appreciate my still nameless plant (my patchouli-wannabe) even more.

It’s a familiar fragrance that brings back memories; memories of gran who used to make her own face powder. She would keep her dried pearls of powder in cut-glass bottles. Scented leaves were dried with the powder and stuffed into the bottles as well. Gran had discovered this plant long before I even heard about it.

My patchouli-wannabe now takes pride of place in the garden. Gran, this one’s for you!

2015 – Lately someone said it’s called Strobilanthes Nivea Bremek, but apparently the name is still ‘unresolved’. But I guess it doesn’t really matter what its name is after all.

Care and propagation: Shade to indirect sun; loamy moist soil; water generously. Propagate using cuttings

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I’ve been coughing my lungs out.

After multiples doses of cough mixtures and popping lozenges and cough drops, I decided to turn to the herb garden for relief. I wonder why I never thought of the Indian borage in the first place.

As it’s always been lauded as a great herb for coughs, I steamed a few leaves with a small lump of rock sugar.  Just as well I hadn’t pruned away too much of the herb the last time I gave it a haircut.

Today, my friend, Mag told me that her family has always turned to this herb as the panacea for coughs. “My great-great grandmother would extract the juice from the leaves and drink it.”

Since it was too much bother to extract the juice, I just popped the leaves into my mouth and chewed. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be; I’d have endured much more to beat this dastardly cough. I just hope there’ll be enough leaves on the plant for a few more doses.

That’s my normal Indian Borage. I value it for its medicinal value as well as its lovely thick scented leaves which are covered with a soft fuzz.

The other Indian Borage I have has an additional feature; the leaves have an attractive white edge.

I saw the variegated Indian borage at a friend’s place and loved it.

For some reason the cuttings she gave me rotted away; perhaps due to my over enthusiasm in watering them.

Just as I was lamenting its demise, I saw a tiny leaf that was miraculously spared. I stuck that leaf, no bigger than my fingernail, into the soil. No harm trying, I thought.

I cheered the leaf on, praying that it wouldn’t end up as compost material. Amazingly the tiny spunky leaf took root and grew.

The spindly new growth is now about six inches tall and sports more than two dozen white edged leaves. While this little tyke is still dwarfed by its strapping cousin, I don’t think it’s going to remain so for long.

Care and propagation: partial shade to full sun; garden soil; water moderately. Propagate using cuttings.

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I’ve been fooled by a plant for years.

I always thought that the Ploiarium Alternifolium was a small potted plant since ours has always been less than 18 inches tall. And we’ve had it for a very long time.

Then I find out that it’s called Cicada Tree and I wonder why.

A quick Google search tells me that it is indeed a tree with the potential to reach great heights.

And why ‘Cicada’? I hope this means that the insect has an affinity with the plant since that means I may, one day, get to hear the cicada sing. So far, there hasn’t been a ghost of a cicada.

Our Ploiarium Alternifolium tends to be overlooked due to its diminutive size but it is attractive.

Its leaves are a glossy green.

The buds are plump and tipped with a blush of pink.

Its flowers remind me vaguely of sweet cherry blossoms and are delicately fragrant.

Even the seed capsules are lovely with their deeply ridged structure.

I love it.

Yet, strangely, it’s not commonly sold at garden centres. It should be, given the ease of care and I’ve never seen any pests on it either.

Lately I’ve been on the lookout for beetles. We’ve had visits from big black rhinocerous beetles and shiny green ones, too, but there are still no cicadas.

If anyone tells me that there’s a cicada sitting on our Ploiarium Alternifolium right now, I’d have to be a cynic and say nay. It’s the first of April after all.   🙂



Care and propagation: Partial shade to full sun; not fussy about soil; water generously. Propagate using seeds.

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Stray plants in the garden normally spell trouble but not when they are Thymophylla Tenuiloba seedlings.

These tiny seedlings could never be mistaken for a weed; not with their soft, fine, scented leaves.

We bought a pot of Thymophylla Tenuiloba many years ago; a froth of small dainty yellow flowers which threatened to spill over the sides of the pot.

The original plants are long gone, but Nature has been propagating this seemingly delicate perennial without any help from me.

Lately, more stray seedlings have appeared and I’ve been relocating them to a bigger planter.

I’ve been thinking … if a small pot of Thymophylla Tenuiloba can be so pretty, imagine a wide expanse of this yellow sunshine. Maybe I should speed things up by giving Nature a hand …


Care and propagation: Full sun, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using seeds.

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‘Angel’s Trumpet’. The brugmansia’s common name suits this pendulous beauty to a tee. The trumpets are lovely in any colour; waxy white, as well as luscious peach, yellow and pink.

A single flower is mesmerizing enough in terms of its beauty, size and fragrance; a tree in full bloom just defies description.

But much as I love it, I’ve never had the opportunity of growing the brugmansia; it’s too hot where I am.

Fortunately for me, the brugmansia blooms with glorious abandon up in our tropical highlands, so I get to see them when I have the opportunity to visit.

I have tried taking cuttings, but none ever made beyond a couple of months.

That is, until Calvin, another gardening enthusiast and a brugmansia expert, gave me a few of his Brugmansia Ms Emily Mackenzie cuttings. With his encouragement and numerous tips, a couple rooted and grew.

I transferred them to larger pots and placed them where they would get some shade.

Growth was a little erratic but when they stabilized, I looked out for signs of branching – apparently this indicated that it would be budding soon. Alas, the main stems just grew vertically.

Then one day, I saw one, then two buds! How could I have missed the initial signs?

The first bud lengthened quickly over the days and I went over the top, measuring it every day.

Soon a tight whorl of pale yellow petals and amazingly long tendrils emerged from the calyx. Strange … I had been expecting to see pink.

And then, it happened.

The pale yellow petals of the Ms Emily Mackenzie changed to the softest shade of salmon pink overnight, and then to a deeper glorious shade the next day. It was a touch of the Master’s hand; God’s masterpiece.

And the fragrance of the Angel’s Trumpet? Just heavenly.

Care and propagation: filtered or partial sun; top soil (shaded from the blazing tropical sun); water generously; feed regularly; propagate using seeds (not tried this myself), hardwood or semi-hardwood cuttings or by air layering.

my inspiration up in the highlands

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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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