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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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Salvia Coccinea

IMG_2121Salvia Coccinea flowers may be tiny but what they lack in size, they make up for in sheer numbers.

Each plant has multiple branches and every spike has dozens of buds and blooms. So that easily adds up.

What’s more, Salvia Coccinea self-seeds easily. Left unchecked, it could easily cover an entire flower bed.

Given the Salvia Coccinea’s prolific nature, it’s a mystery how it could have disappeared from the garden altogether when I planted it years ago. Could someone have mistaken the seedlings for weeds?

Anyway, I was thrilled to find it again at the garden centre a few months ago. So the same fire-engine red Salvia is back in the garden again.

IMG_2120With it, I found another Salvia Coccinea I’d never seen before; the coral nymph. This is as lovely as its name suggests. This soft pastel coral coloured salvia looks almost coy when juxtaposed with the more flamboyant red.

The Salvia Coccinea loves basking in the sun, and has been doing so until very recently. It is now struggling with the storms that have been battering the region almost every day.

The damp makes the salvia a fungal magnet and it’s a challenge keeping the fungus in check.

I wish the rain would let up. In fact, any more of it and I may need to do the rain dance in reverse.

 

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

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IMG_1987Oranges and lemons sold for a penny

All the schoolgirls are so many…

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‘Oranges and Lemons’ … first a myriad of childhood memories surfaced, then visions of sorbets and marmalade.

I loved the rose on the strength of its name alone; even before I saw it.

I took home a plant with a bud on the verge of releasing its tightly bound petal so I didn’t have long to wait.

The next day, the petals unfurled with bolder streaks of colour. And then I saw Oranges and Lemons in all its citrusy glory. And as I expected, it looked good enough to eat.

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Care and propagation: full sun; light and well drained media, water generously, fertilize weekly. Propagate using cuttings

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 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

Someone had helped herself to our last African daisy.

Dad had planted it just outside the gate amongst some arachis pintoi and we noticed that each time it bloomed, someone would pick the daisy.

One day dad saw an old lady walk up the driveway to pick it but didn’t stop her. Why? I guess it’s because she looked a little frail. How could we begrudge her a bit of beauty? The other reason’s because dad had planted it outside our fence and so, technically it was on public property.

It became a routine; the daisy would always disappear a couple of days after it bloomed. Then one day the entire plant disappeared. That was the last of our fine-petalled scarlet African daisy. That was about two years ago.

But I miss that plant. I checked the arachis pintoi patch again today hoping to see something, but there was nothing. And I’ve yet to find a replacement.

I rarely see the old fashioned African daisy with its fine petals at garden centres now. Yet, I had grown up with it. I must have been about nine when we had a long row of these daisies in the garden.

We had peach (orange?) daisies as well as white and yellow ones. Every now and then, mum would let me take a few of the flowers, wrapped in a newspaper cone, to school for the vase in the classroom.

There was one thing I learnt about this daisy back then; it’s almost impossible to pull them out with the roots intact. I know, because I have tried many times only to find that the plant had come clean away from its roots.

page1sSo obviously the person who took the plant is wiser than I was as a kid. She had probably used a spade. So I should stop hoping for the plant to resurface and look harder for a replacement instead.

Today I have a pink and a white African daisy in the garden, and I think a peach coloured one too. I’m hoping, just hoping, that the same scarlet daisy will show itself again.

If it does, you can bet your last dollar that I’ll be planting it within the confines our garden fence.

Care and propagation: Full sun; well drained soil; water moderately. Propagate by division.

 

After the soothing mistiness of the Cloud Forest Dome, the Flower Dome came on strongly. I wish I had my shades cos it was a riot of colours.

The Flower Dome showcased countless flowers and plants from almost all the continents of the world; too many to enumerate but I had a few favourites.

Topping the list were the clumps of red and yellow Anigozanthos. I could have been in Australia; the kangaroo paws looked that good. I guess the microclimate in the dome suited them to a T.

Other Australian natives I saw were the xanthorrhoea, leptospermum and protea – lovely. I was looking forward to seeing the grevillea but unfortunately they were not in bloom. I guess the other flowers and plants kind of made up for that.

There were lovely fuschia standards, clumps of hydrangeas, unusually colored liliums, clematis, camellias and more.


There were some unexpected finds; I chanced upon a small lavender plant in one of the flower beds almost overwhelmed by the more flamboyant roses, clematis, foxgloves and rambling sweet peas. A fragrant treat that had me wishing for more.

And somewhere near the cacti and succulents of the semi-arid section I saw a most unusual plant with what looked like the pyramiding shell of a tortoise.  This was the Dioscorea Elephantipes or hottentot bread plant. Apparently its thick and massive stem is a source of food and is rich in starch. Utterly fascinating.

And then there were the baobabs from Africa with their huge swollen trunks, and the intriguing monkey puzzle tree from South America – the first I’ve seen in this part of the world.

But surely the real aristocrats at the Flower Dome had to be the 1000 year old olive trees from Spain. I was awed by their gnarled trunks and slivery grey leaves – it just isn’t the same seeing them in the olive groves of France or Italy. I wonder at the logistics involved in transporting these precious living fossils across the oceans; an amazing feat.

The latest updates shows the Flower Dome reflecting the splendour and charms of autumn. If only I could be there right now! If you’ve yet to visit GBB and you love plants, then you’re in for a huge treat! Happy mid-autumn festival, everyone!

And to my three dear friends who walked me through GBB and gave me that great tour, many thanks once again. I had a whale of a time!

 

I think I know how Aladdin felt when he stepped into a cave filled with treasure.

I stopped in my tracks when my friends swung the doors open. I was speechless.

Who would have thought that a 35-metre high manmade hill would make such an impact? But it did.

The Cloud Forest Dome enveloped me in its cocoon of misty coolness. Shrouded in mist, it felt like a mysterious forest glade out of which elves and fairies would emerge.

I felt I had stepped into a dream where anything was possible;

a hollowed out hill; caverns, elevated walkways, waterfall and water features …

Someone pinch me.

I revelled in the lush growth; rhododendrons, begonias, nepenthes, orchids, gesneriads, bromeliads, epiphytes, huperzias, platyceriums, fuschias, ferns … with some rare gems in between.

There were fir trees, tree ferns, maple, mulberry, brugmansias and many more plants from higher altitudes and cooler climes.

I felt a little dazed– as one would be when faced with endless buffet lines; tables of delectable food and insufficient time to savour it all.

But what fascinated me most was a carnivorous islet of sarracenias, pinguiculas, drosera and dionaea muscipula.

To the uninitiated, this pretty islet looks innocuous enough, but I wonder how many unsuspecting victims have fallen prey to its lethal charms.


I would have remained a willing captive under the spell of the Cloud Forest Dome I had to take a reality check. Time was running out and I had to move on …

Cloud Forest, I’ll be back.

(Next up, the Flower Dome)

 

 

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