My Calathea loeseneri is smiling from ear to ear during this time of the year in my tropical garden. The cool and wet weather without any constant drying wind is something quite comfortable for this plant.
To show its pleasure, this plant first doesn’t roll up its leaves anymore and what’s more obvious is that it has produced a great profusion of flowers.
Its leaves aren’t as fanciful as other foliage calatheas but are still pretty on their own. In a shady environment, the leaves are two-toned. The area near the mid rib are lighter in green which gradually turns darker as we progress towards the leaf margin.
Only with the absence of any wind, the minute, pale pink, true flowers of Calathea loeseneri are visible. These fade off quickly and will do so more quickly if the plant is grown in a windborne area. They literally dry out. What remains showy for weeks is the inflorescence consisting of hot pink bracts. There is another cultivar with bracts that are coloured darker pink.
The front part of my open concept community garden started off as a medicinal garden. Due to inconsiderate harvesting that led to untidiness, it was converted to an ornamental garden where the cannas and loniceras now stand.
Cannas and loniceras are, of course, more ornamental than the original medicinal herbs. Many visitors who stepped in the garden are not aware that these two plants also have medicinal uses, although they are better known for their ornamental value.
Those medicinal herbs that made way for these ornamentals are making a comeback in the plots where they originally grew. Earlier they are wanted and now they are not. They have now become a nuisance as they have sprouted all over the place in the garden, such as in between the crevices between the masonry. Some of them grew quite rapidly that they form a carpet in some of the plots.
In this first part, let me show you some of the herbs that have kind of become a nuisance in the garden. They are very difficult to eradicate, so think twice before considering to grow them in your garden. They can either come back via the small bits of broken stems in the soil or via the numerous seeds that are dispersed when the fruits are ripe.
Phyla nodiflora (Capeweed, 过江藤) is a member of Verbenaceae. A herbaceous, prostrating vine that grows very quickly and attracts butterflies.
Plantago asiatica (车前草) is a rosette-growing herb belonging to the Plantaginaceae family. The seeds are easily dispersed and grows anywhere, regardless of the soil’s fertility. Sprouts even from the crevices between the bricks and so on.
Alternanthera sessilis (Sessile Joyweed, 红田乌) is a member of the Amarantaceae. The plants are not easily to uprooted and the fine stems of this plant break easily! The remains of the stems are probably where the plants grow to make a comeback. The numerous small seeds that this plant produces is another means of spreading itself.
My Alabama Red okra plants finally flowered and fruited! The fruits are unique from what I have grown before as they are really fat, blocky red and green.
I find that they kind of get “old” quite quickly, that is, they turn rather hard and it is quite difficult to ascertain when it is the best time to pick them.
My website, Green Culture Singapore, was invited to take part in the community planting in the Community In Bloom’s display plots in HortPark.
We are perhaps the first visitors to this gardening hub and public park ahead of the upcoming GardenTech 2007!
Here are some pictures we took during the session. Three members, namely, Eng Ong, Xuan Hong and myself, represented the website.
The banner for the event.
The Community in Bloom display plot at HortPark.
My team members, Eng Ong and Xuan Hong.
Eng Ong and Xuan Hong with Azmi (from Community in Bloom, NParks).
Myself, in the capacitiy of Founder of Green Culture Singapore, at the plot which we are going to plant some alpinias.
Xuan Hong getting his hands dirty.
Eng Ong at work.
THANKS ENG ONG AND XUAN HONG FOR MAKING TIME TO TAKE PART IN THE COMMUNITY PLANTING!!
The honeysuckles (Lonicera japonica) in my community garden were covered with blooms for the past week. Because they are grown near the front part of the garden, anyone who steps into the garden will be greeted by the honeysuckle’s captivating fragrance. I wondered was it the cool, rainy weather that triggered the plants to bloom.
Honeysuckle flowers are interesting, when they first open, they are white in colour and gradually turn into a orange brown colour, which somewhat resemble gold. This has earned it the Chinese name called “Gold Silver Flower”.
Luckily, there was not much of a theft this time around and the fragrance of the flowers was only noticeable with the profusion of blooms that were left untouched . The flowers of the honeysuckle are believed to have medicinal properties and in past occasions, passers-by to the garden tend to help themselves to the flowers.
We are all familiar with the cooking ginger (Zingiber officinale). Many of us have tried taking a piece of the rhizome and planting in a pot of soil. But not many of us have seen its flowers.
Whilst I was at World Farm a few weeks ago, I stumbled on a couple of pots of ginger that were flowering. The entire green, cone-shaped thing you see in the picture below is the inflorescence. Those little bits of yellow that are peeking out are the true flower buds. The inflorescence actually emerges out from the ground. The true flowers actually do not last a long time.
So the next logical question anyone may ask will be what is the trigger for the cooking ginger to bloom. I do not know the answer. The pot which this ginger sits in is small, but I wonder how large is the rhizome below the soil, which is an indication of the maturity of the plant.
It could also be the growing conditions of this ginger. It is happily located in a shaded, cooler and humid part of the nursery. It must not be grown in a windy area or a place exposed to direct sun or has low humidity. All these factors will cause the leaves to burn and dry out.
Guess what I saw while I was at World Farm buying some plants?
I saw a Syngonium fruiting as I looked up a traveller’s palm located near the sales counter. Some red berries were spotted on this rather adventurous Syngonium vine.
This aroid adopts a vining habit. Only in a mature specimen will it possess those 5 lobed leaves. Syngoniums are interesting plants, as they grow, their leaf shape evolves from an arrowhead to a deeply lobed leaf that looks somewhat like a palm.
We always associate this plant as a little potted plant that is often sold as an indoor plant in the nurseries. Occasionally we see them being trained up a moss pole. As they grow, many people find them a nuisance as they grow out of shape with the vines trailing all over. We don’t often see them in flower or fruit in the home setting.
Probably we now know why. The plant really needs to get quite big, judging from the height of the traveller’s palm which this mature syngonium has managed to climb up!
I came across for the first time the Panama rose (Rondeletia leucophylla) when I visited the ‘Girl on the Swing’ statue at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. It is one of the flowering shrubs that were grown as part of the border that went around the statue. Gives a very ‘meadowy’ feel to the area.
It is a fragrant flower whose perfume gets stronger after dusk. But I wasn’t attracted to it due to that. In fact, I did not know that it was a fragrant flower until I researched on it further. Instead, I like the pink flowers. Their texture sort of gave me the impression that they were made from clay.
The Panama Rose is a member of Rubiaceae to which the common Ixora is also a part of it. The plant is named after Guillaume Rondelet, a French natural historian, physician and botanist.
I just bought a pot of it from World Farm yesterday.
For the first time, a few of the fruits on the cotton plants in my community garden had matured fully where they burst forth to reveal the white, silky cotton inside their hard, dry cases! The picture below was taken on Monday morning.
The “cotton” has to be harvested immediately to maintain their pristine white colour so as to not be soiled by water, rain or mud splashes. The seeds can be found being embedded in the mess of fibers and are difficult to retrieve them totally free of cotton fibers.