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Grevillea superb

20150112_174131sA dozen rainbow lorikeets caused a commotion as they chattered noisily and competed for nectar. My host told me it was a Grevillea. Lovely tree, I thought, but much too big for the garden.

Those days, I didn’t rely on Google for answers. If I had, I’d have known that there were smaller variants.

Then a little more recently, I saw some potted Grevillea Superb plants which were barely knee high. What amazed me was that they were already in bloom with bright orange spidery flowers.IMG_6726s

Then I saw the price tag! I should have guessed it would be daunting since these Australian native plants from the Proteaceae family had been imported. IMG_6720sThen they told me they had smaller 8-inch ones at a more affordable price.

Question was, would these bloom, and if so, when? But I figured that if the plant never bloomed, I could still take consolation in its handsome foliage.

That was mid 2013. 20150101_085715-horz_s

Less than three weeks ago, I found buds forming on my (now more than knee-high) plant. What lovelier surprise could I have asked for on New Year’s Day?

The raceme of lightly furred buds split to reveal a pastel shade beneath. The soft colour deepened as the flower morphed into its distinctive spidery form with slender curved pistils. Some call this the ‘spider flower’. 20150112_173048b

Can spiders be lovely? I’m not an arachnid fan, so I’d have to say nay. But you can give me the Grevillea … anytime.

Care and propagation: full sun; well-drained soil; water moderately. Propagate using cuttings (which I have yet to try)   20150111_113701b 20150112_174131b 20150104_140609b 20150111_190122b 20150112_173409b

World Farm Revisited

20141213_095719b“So what animals do they have?” L asked as we headed in the direction of what was easily the republic’s largest plant centre. I suppose the name ‘World Farm’ is kind of a misnomer.

WF isn’t stocked with farm animals; its sprawling acres boast an impressive catalogue of flowering plants, foliage, ferns, culinary and medicinal herbs, carnivorous plants, bog and aquatic plants, climbers, fruit trees and more.

 

 

 

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What caught our eye first were two big pots of giant citrus. We couldn’t tell what it was exactly as the fruit didn’t really look like a lemon, orange or pomelo. It was intriguing, but I was more fascinated by a couple of other plants.

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First, the pretty fan-shaped Lobelia Blue; a totally unfamiliar plant which reminds me of the Scaevola Aemula but looked more resilient and much easier to handle. Definitely a plant worth checking out.

 

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Then there were the small bio-domes housing juvenile nepenthes Lady Luck with their rosy red pitchers. Ingenius. This may just be the thing to have in an office – before the plant outgrows its dome anyway.

20141228_161248sThese two were lovely, but I was on the lookout for a Petrea; not the more common P. Volubilis but what is supposedly a better variant. Apparently, the racemes of this Petrea are more impressive and its true flowers bigger and a more vivid purple.

Not having much success locating the Petrea, I gave up and approached a helpful and professional WF personnel who pointed me in the right direction and even gave me a ride in a buggy. Many thanks, Mr G! I’d never have found it on my own.

And how is this Petrea different from the P. Volubilis; could it be the Petrea Racemosa? The leaves have the same sandpapery texture of the P. Volubilis but appear to be bigger and have more pointed ends. Unfortunately the plants were not in bloom so I can’t say anything about the inflorescence.

 

Back at the main section of WF, my companions were adding media and other gardening paraphernalia to their purchases; sand, compost, clay beads, stakes …

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We must have spent close to two hours at WF but could not cover everything.  With so much to look at, one should be prepared to allocate half a day … and be prepared with a stuffed wallet and lots of car boot space as well!

 

Point to note: World Farm is also known as Hua Hng.

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Euphorbia Geroldii

20141115_110821sRed, yellow, pink, peach or cream, plain or mottled, Euphorbia Milii blooms are quite outstanding.

But something else stands out as well … the Milii’s tenacious and wicked, inch-long spiny thorns. They didn’t call this euphorbia ‘Crown of Thorns’ for nothing.

I once considered divesting a Milii of its thorns but thought better of it. I had hoped that might trigger its evolvement into a thorn-free plant, but since a thornless variety already exists, I should just keep a lookout for that instead.

Then last week I saw IT.

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Euphorbia Geroldii at the garden centre

It was my aunt’s latest euphorbia purchase. What caught my eye was not presence of its bright red blooms but the significant absence of thorns!

I quizzed my aunt about it and made a beeline for the source.

And now I have it – the thornless Euphorbia Geroldii. For the same price that my aunt paid for her plant, I acquired three much smaller ones.

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The small 4-inch plants are already blooming; glowing red petal-like bracts with bright yellow centres.

Known as the thornless crown of thorns, the Euphorbia Geroldii is considered rare by some circles. It is also deemed to be almost indestructible.

20141102_161819Just as I mentally strike the Euphorbia Geroldii off my gardening wish list, I remember another; the Euphorbia Fulgens. With its arching thornless stems and attractive flowering habit, this is another gem worth acquiring – except that there isn’t the faintest trace of one over here.

Since it may a while before it makes an appearance, I’ll just enjoy the beauty I have and wait for it to fulfil its great potential.

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Care and propagation: Full to partial sun; well-drained soil; water moderately; propagate using cuttings.

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20141006_094527sThey are like hundreds of purple bubblegum balls clustered on a stem, only much smaller, and exactly the same colour as the grape-flavoured gum balls I had loved and bought from the school canteen.20140901_080240s

The berries were every bit as inviting as the gum balls but I had to find out if they were edible or toxic before I planted it. I was more than a little suspicious of the enticing, vivid berries.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Callicarpa berries are edible – at least that’s what Google Search and a TV documentary told me.

I finally bought the plant a couple of months ago and couldn’t wait to do a taste test. Would be as delicious as it looked? I picked a small purple sphere and popped it into my mouth.

The verdict? It was dismally flat and insipid. Tastewise, it would never make it to the hall of fame.

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20140920_123502sBut hey, it’s totally off the charts in the looks department. What it lacks in taste, the Callicarpa makes up for it through its aesthetically pleasing berries. Whoever gave the plant its common name chose that name well.

But there is more to the Callicarpa than its gorgeous berries. Even the buds and flowers appeal visually. Neat clusters
of pinhead grey-green buds blush slightly before revealing a delicate froth of pink flowers.

The Callicarpa has bloomed more than a few times so I had expected more berries. But strangely, these have not been forthcoming. Apparently, fruiting is a lot easier when a few shrubs are grown together and there’s cross-pollination.

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So it looks as though I need to get another plant … or two. In the meantime, I’ll get a brush ready and give Nature a helping hand. Who knows, that may just work.

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

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20140902_165118sHe had guilt written all over his face and scampered away faster than I could say Jack Robinson.

The squirrel had been feasting on my red shahtoot! And this was despite wrapping the berries in netting!20140810_083544

The netting may have deterred the birds, these quicksilver creatures just grabbed the berries, netting and all, and sucked them dry.

I held the flimsy netting with the pitiful remains of what had been succulent berries just minutes earlier. All the ripening shahtoots had been eaten.

What’s the big deal, one may ask? After all the shahtoot is just another mulberry and I have lots of that.

20140823_103309But while the other mulberries in the garden are tart, the Morus Macroura is nectar sweet. The tassel-like berries which measure up to four inches long is definitely no ordinary mulberry. The Morus Macroura or red shahtoot is clearly in a league of its own.

The problem is, the birds, squirrels and ants love it too much. Procuring the plant might have been a huge challenge, but guarding the berries is definitely a bigger one.

Care and propagation: Full sun, water moderately, most soils. Propagate by using cuttings (I have not succeeded yet) or by grafting

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20140501_084659sWhile the Salvia Officinalis is the sage most people are familiar with, fewer have heard of Salvia Elegans, the pineapple sage.

In contrast with the grey-green of the regular sage,  the pineapple sage has attractive light-green ovate leaves, pink stalks and square stems.

The leaves have a fresh fruity taste and make what I’d like to think are ‘healthful herb’ fritters.

I’d seen pineapple sage fritters on the Internet and as soon as it was possible, a handful of sage leaves went into the batter and into the hot oil. As my niece would say, I walloped them all.20140501_130204s

But since that fritter episode, the sage has diminished in size and is just teetering in there. I’m giving it a small dose of TLC and am hoping it’ll rebound.

If it does, it wouldn’t be fritters that would top my wish-list this time; it would be the herb’s intensely red edible blooms. I wonder if those taste like pineapple too.

 

Care and propagation: Partial sun, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings

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Plumeria Pudica

20140729_083929sThe petals were so white they could have been bleached. It was only much later that I realised the flowers had yellow centres.

When the Plumeria Pudica first appeared on the scene, I wasn’t even sure if it was a plumeria. Its leaves were unlike those of the regular local variety. And the structure of the tree wasn’t the norm either. Instead of spreading out wide, the Plumeria Pudica just grew vertically and reached for the skies.

But its identity wasn’t really an issue; we were fascinated by its for20140729_083815bm.

Whenever we drove past a Plumeria Pudica in the neighbourhood, we’d slow down as much as we dared to gawk at the statuesque beauty. Since we were not given to coveting our neighbour’s plants, we figured we should get our own.

20140717_174736The initial price of the Plumeria Pudica was predictably high. After waiting for about a year, we bought it at half the price. What’s more, there were two plants in the pot!

The Plumeria Pudica proved to be a fast grower, although not quite in the same league as Jack’s legendary beanstalk. It’s barely a year since we bought it and the plant is already towering over me. I had to stand on a garden chair to get a shot of the yellow centres.

Will it have to be a ladder next? I think not.

The clusters are actually best viewed from below, each framed by the blue sky or a darker foil of a tree; which was exactly what captivated our attention in the first place.

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Care and propagation: Full sun, well-drained soil. Water moderately. Propagate using cuttings.

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