Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cape Jasmine

This plant is a long time favourite of the family - having seen this plant in our various family gardens since childhood days! This is the Cape Jasmine (Gardenia jasminoides).

At present, there are two bushes in the garden - the bigger bush is near the front of the main door - about one quarter along the walkway.

The other one is towards the back corner facing TK's bedroom.

The one in front is a new plant purchased from the Satok Weekend Market about a year ago. The one at the back has a long history - the original plant being in TK''s old house in Sibu. A cutting was taken years ago to our PJ garden. Ever since TK's mum got sick and then passed away, no one was in the old Sibu house to take care of the plants - sad to say, the old huge Cape Jasmine "tree" was attacked by termites and rotted away. One and a half years ago, a couple of cuttings were taken from the bush in the PJ garden and taken back to Kuching, Only one survived the journey and it seems to be healthy and thriving.

The bugs seem to love these plants and both plants have to be frequently sprayed with dried-chilli water to get rid of all the bugs that seems to prey on the plants!

The two plants bloom continuously producing displays of gorgeous white flowers putting out whiffs of sweet pleasant fragrance.

These two plants help make for a very pleasant evening or night time walk along the pathway!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Fragrant Drink ....

This is such a common plant in Malaysia to be found in almost all most gardens and frequently along the side of country roads. Yup, it is the fragrant Pandan or Pandanus amaryllifolius (screw pine genus). I have three clusters along the pathways in the garden and they do form part of the fragrant garden.

One needs no introduction to the myriad of uses (culinary or medical) the Pandan leaf is put to in Asian societies.

However, when it comes to making drinks, it is usually added to a variety of other ingredients to make a pandan-flavoured drink. Not many people use it on its own as a drink.

any years ago, the first time we came across it as a drink on its own, was in the drinks menu in a Thai steamboat restaurant and there was an item called pandan "tea" . We were intrigued, of course - pandan tea being a change from the normal Chinese tea or soft drinks or even plain water - and ordered it to find out what it was. It was served piping hot in a normal teapot and all we see in the teapot was a clear drink slightly tinged with green and a lovely pandan fragrance. It was a truly refreshing balance to the steamboat meal.

Well, at home, all you need to to is to cut a few pandan leaves into 5-cm strips and boiled for half an hour.

There you have it - serve it ice-cold or piping hot. A great refreshing drink for a hot or cold day :-)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rat's Tail Fragrance

Another interesting fragrant plant along the walkway in the garden is this small shrub.

The local gardeners called it rat's tail fragrance! :-(.

This plant is the buddleja asiatica lour (white butterfly busy, dog tail). It is a small shrub (now about 60 cm tall, later ?) and rat's tail or not, it has spikes of small white flowers that deliver a light fragrance. The spikes are about 4-6 cm long. It requires full sun to thrive.

Once it is fully established and a metre or so tall, it should be an impressive plant and provide a strong addition to the various fragrances of the garden.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fragrant Garden

We have a passion for fragrant flowers and is trying to establish a walkway with fragrant plants such that a walk (especially in the evening) through the garden will have different floral fragrances hitting you from all directions.

I have already mentioned the fabulous Queen of the Night or Night Blooming Jasmine. Other favourite fragrant plants are the various varieties of ShuMei or Wrightia Religiosa.

Of all the many varieties of Wrightia Religiosa, the one closest to my heart is the Wrightia Religiosa "Double".

There is an interesting story behind this particular plant.

In 1986, when we were staying in Yishun, Singapore, we attended a series of Bonsai classes at the Braddell Heights Community Centre in Singapore. The "sifu" was Mr Boh Chit Hee. A knowledgeable and helpful man, he taught us on how to create bonsai over a period of eight weeks . He started us from the basics of bonsai and provided plenty of cuttings of Wrightia Religiosa for us to practise marcotting and to create bonsai of various styles. We all end up with pots and pots of bonsai!

It was on a working-visit to his famed garden (Straits Times called it magical) in Changi that I saw a huge bush of Wrightia Religiosa "Double" at the front of his garden. I asked for and received a few marcots. These were planted in the back patio of the flat in Yishun, alongside the many pots of new bonsai. They all did well!

In 1991, all the plants were taken out of the pots, washed free of the soil and carted off to our new garden in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Some died but enough of the bonsai survived, as did one of the Wrightia Religiosa "Double". This plant was planted right in the front garden underneath the front bedroom windows. By 2008, it had grown into a bush some 3.5 m tall - providing regularly a profusion of flowers that scented the air - and a very pleasant fragrance when one opens the front bedroom windows.

At the beginning of 2005, an off-shoot of the Wrightia Religiosa "Double" was taken back to Kuching and planted at the front of a 1200 square metres piece of land intended for a future house. In June 2006, the same plant, now 1 m feet tall, was dug up and transferred to the garden of my 4th sister in Poh Kwong park, Kuching in case it was damaged by earth-fillings on the site. By October 2007, a new house was under construction.

The new house was competed by October 2008. That December, the now 1.5 m Wrightia Religiosa "Double" at my 4th sister garden was dug up and replanted in its permanent home in the garden here

It had been moved from Singapore to Selangor and then Sarawak and had been dug up and replanted many times over a period of some 22 years.

There - it is not a great looking plant (not yet!) - but is certainly of great sentimental value!!

It should be noted that many of the original bonsai created at the Braddell Heights bonsai classes in 1986 are still doing well today in the garden.

Foot note :
Bonsai plants find a home in Shanghai.

A COLLECTION of 51 bonsai plants which is almost half-a-century old is now sitting pretty at the Shanghai Botanical Gardens. Mr Boh Chit Hee, 67, who started growing the plants when he was a teenager, gave them to the gardens there after
the Singapore Botanic Gardens turned down his bequest.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It rained ...

The heat is taking a toll on some of the small plants and it is too hot to work in the garden except early mornings and late evenings.

After ten days of the relentless sun with nary a drop of rain, the sky suddenly opened up and rained yesterday evening giving us a much welcome respite from the hot muggy days and nights. Our two water tanks in the garden filled up nicely to give us some 250 gallons of rain water.

Of course, today it is back to the same hot relentless sun again!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Gmelina philippensis (Hedgehog, Parrot's Beak)

Many thanks to Sui Tin from Melbourne who had identified the unknown plant in my last post. She referred me to website and the plant is listed as Gmelina philippensis (Hedgehog, Parrot's Beak, Ching-chai).

Following are some brief notes from the website on this plant :

Gmelina philippensis
Family: Verbenaceae
Hedgehog, Parrot's Beak, Ching-chai
Origin: Malaya, Malaysia, India, Philippine Islands

large shrub 5-10 ftsmall tree 10-20 ftfull sunsemi-shadedry conditionsyellow/orange flowersdeciduousincuded in CD catalog

An extraordinary round shrub with pendant branches, large long leaves and exotic flowers comprised of yellow blossoms which emerge at the end of a tube-like structure of overlapping bracts. The flower resembles parrot's beak. Large yellow pod contains 1 seed. Sow seed in standard potting mix with good drainage. Grow in full light, water freely and feed once a month. Related species - Gmelina Arborea. These are tropical plants, can be deciduous in cooler climates.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

An Unidentified Plant

This is one plant which has not been identified to date. I did asked in a Plant ID Forum at Green Culture Singapore but no luck there!

The original plant was a bush that hung over into the garden of TK's 3rd brother,Hoo, in Miri, Sarawak. The cuttings were taken to the PJ garden many years ago and they did very well inside a 12"/25cm pot.

Planted in a pot, the plant managed to get to about 6'/180cm tall The flowers (picture taken in PJ) were a continuing source of wonderment to the neighbours and passerbys.

When moving from PJ to Kuching, cuttings were taken and taken back to Kuching. Only a couple of survive. One was planted in the front garden to the left of the driveway and it is now about 14 feet tall!

A bit more information on this plant. Right now it is about 14 feet tall - a single branch was forced to be vertical and supported by a tall wooden stake. Otherwise, it is like a creeper/bush with sharp thorns and, according to TK, covers one side of the wall at his brother's house in Miri.

The flower in the picture is about 12 inches and will keep growing till up about 2-3 feet and last for months. Seems to bloom year round and there are a profusion of flowers hanging pendulously from branches of the plant. When the flowers do set, they produce yellow berries, each the size of a small cherry.

Right now, I have no information at all as to the identity of the plant or where it originated from. If anyone of you knows about this plant, please let me know!

A friend, Nik, e-mailed me and told me that it looks like the Dragon's Tongue (Phyllodium longpipes or Desmodium longipes) that can be seen in the Singapore Botanical Garden.

I checked that out at The Plant Observatory. The Phyllodium longpipes have whitish-looking flowers that set into legumes, unlike this plant that have bright yellow flowers, each of which produce a single berry. The leaves also are different.

So we are no closer to identifying this plant. If anyone of you out that can identify this plant, do tell!!

Before I continue ....

Before I continue on with the introduction to the garden, I just want to mention a bit about my current absolutely favorite flower of the month!

My youngest sister-in-law, Ling, gave me two small cuttings but all she said was that the flowers are fragrant but we have no idea what they were.

Then it grew and blossomed ... that's when the plants were identified.

Yes, it is the Queen of the Night or Night Blooming Jasmine (Cestrum Nocturnum).

From what I read, it is a climbing or spreading shrub that can grow up to 4 metres tall. It blossoms after dark, year round but more so during rainy season. (Page 144, 145 of What's that Tree by David H Engel and Suchart Phummai).

Well, we had them in two tall pots (12"/25 cm diameter) and both plants are about 7'/2.2m - the pots are at the end of the driveway. Now, both plants are entirely clustered with the small white flowers which seems to be very long lasting - they have been blossoming for the last month or so. During the evenings and at night times, the entire front garden/house is scented with a delicate, yet intoxicating, fragrance.

A delight to all!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Then and Now ....

By December 2008, we just had the cow grass laid in. This is a photo of the SW corner end of the garden.

This is the same SW corner in May 2010 - obviously an improvement!!

In between we had a bit of a disaster with the cow grass - we obviously neither mow the grass evenly nor frequently enough. We also did not use enough fertiliser. This was just remedied and the improvement is very obvious!

A Reincarnation ...

This is a reincarnation of my previous blog of the house and garden in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Now the focus in on the house in Kuching, Sarawak. We moved into the basically empty house on the 8th of October 2008 based on an auspicious time and date according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar (10th Day, 9th Moon).