Monday, June 28, 2010

Shooting Star Hoya

Sui Tin helped identified this plant .... info is from

Hoya multiflora, Centrostemma multiflora, Centrostemma platypetalum
Family: Asclepiadaceae
Shooting Star Hoya
Origin: Burma to Thailand, China, Malaysia, Philippines
vine or creepersemi-shademoderate waterregular waterwhite/off-white flowersyellow/orange flowersattracts butterflies, hummingbirdsincuded in CD catalog

White blooms are borne in large clusters, with the waxy petals swept back behind the center of the flower. A very easily grown hoya with thick glossy green foliage on an upright to spreading plant.

Link to this plant:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yellow Sunflower

In the flower bed with a row of a variety of sunflowers, one stood out and towers above the rest at nearly 12 feet. This is the single-petal yellow sunflower.

The plant produce an abundance of bright yellow flowers and bring a burst of strong colours to the garden. It is indeed a visual delight!

The sunflowers attracts lot of insects.

Nice, right?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Unknown

You all know we like fragrant flowers but we also like strange-looking flowers like the Hedgehog/Parrot's Beak or flowers that just look interesting!

Well, here is one of the beautiful interesting ones in the garden. No idea as to the name as I have not come across it in any references.This plant, with broad green leaves, has very attractive fan-shaped clusters of yellow/white flowers though no fragrance. They do look like arrowheads and that is what we called the flowers!

The flower buds are yellow five-sided pyramids while the opened flowers have five yellow petals folded back with a white five-sided pyramid in the centre. The pyramids have a brown star at the tips.

It is a rather slow grower, though we have seen bigger plants elsewhere. After one and a half years, it is till only about 30 cm tall though it regularly produce single clusters of flowers.

Anyone with any idea what this plant is?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pyramid Chilli

The chilli pepper is ubiquitous in Asian cuisines - from the mild to the fiery hot. It is to be found in most gardens and our garden is no exception with seven different types of chilli pepper plants! Some of the chilli pepper plants are from seeds thrown out with the water into the garden and which sprouted into bushes producing bunches of large fat chillis.

However, chillis are also great ornamental plants and bring much needed colour to the green vegetable patches. One great ornamental chilli plant is the pyramid chilli. As a spice, it is very fragrant and fiery hot. Great for those who loves fiery hot dips but a bit too hot for me!

The chilli fruits started off purple and then slowly ripened through the following colours - purplish-white, greenish-white, white, creamy, orangey-white, orange and finally, bright red. All the different coloured fruits can be seen at the same time on the same plant

The multi-coloured pyramid chillis. Don't they look great?

A harvest of the Pyramid Chillis.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Satok Weekend Market

Most Saturdays late afternoon will see us going to the Satok Weekend Market - prices are not that special but there is an amazing variety of food, flowers, fruits, vegetables and jungle products for sale. Yesterday was no exception and this week I want to highlight one interesting fruit .... the "jering".

The Jering fruit is pithecolobium lobatum and also known as the djenkol bean. It is used in cooking mostly for it's flavour and taste, eaten with belacan sambal or with grated coconut.

Frankly speaking, it is a foul tasting bean - as it contains djenkolic acid which is a sulphur‐containing amino acid. Beware of it as it is a derivative of cysteine, and is normally metabolized but, being relatively insoluble, any that is not metabolized crystallizes in the kidney tubules causing renal stones.

This fruit rank up there with the petai as my least appetizing "vegetables" :-) though I know many aficionados of both will throw daggers at me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Today is Duan Wu

Today is Duan Wu and early in the morning, I had to prepare the standard "SanSheng" (chicken, pork and eggs/cuttlefish), rice wine, tea and for this festival, the savoury and alkaline dumplings, for the ancestor worship ceremony. The ceremony is by tradition at about 730 am and my mum led the worship.

One other tradition we have is possibly exclusive to the Hakka community - this involves the Shi Xiang Fu (?stone-joss stick-symbol/mark).

This Shi Xiang Fuu is a bundle of five types of leaves comprising of pamelo, artemisia argyi (aiye), willow, anisomles indica (fangfengcao) and a type of grass(?) with long blades. I am not sure what this plant is but my mum refers to it as shi xiang or stone joss sticks. Hence the name. One does not have to prepare the bundles of leaves as these are prepared and sold at most wet markets in Kuching.

Artemisia argyi (aiye)
Anisomles indica (fangfengcao)
Unknown type of grass (?) - shi xiang

Each household would have prepared/bought two bundles of the Shi Xiang Fu and on the morning of Duan Wu, they are placed at the front door - one on each side.

My mum told us that this is a tradition from the Ming Dynasty. At that time, there were orders from the Ming Emporer Taizu (Zhu Yuanzhang) to massacre all the inhabitants of a certain Hakka district during Duan Wu festival - only sparing certain families or households specified by the Imperial court. These families were told to hang the secret symbol (Shi Xiang Fu) at their front doors. One member of the spared families took pity on the people in his village and told all of the villagers to hang the secret symbols. The imperial army thus spared all those in that particular village. This event was celebrated annually by the villagers who escaped the massacre and the same event commemorated by all descendants of the villagers. Since the event took place during the Duan Wu festival, for theses families, it was a dual celebration. The traditions continued on to this day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Harvesting for a Herbal Drink

This is what locals called Fly's Wings (Kummerowia striata) or Japanese Clover and of of the pea family. It has small pink flowers and is a fairly invasive plant - a weed to some and a herb to others. We are not going to talk about the weed aspect of this plant.

This is a close-up of the plant.

As a kid, I frequently followed my mum during her forays to various empty overgrown lots of land and along ditches. This "Fly''s Wings" was one of the plant she was looking and we would go home with a huge bundle of the whole plant - roots and all.

Well, at the back of my garden, we have it that is growing all over the place and I harvest it once a month before the mowing take place!

The latest harvest just in - the whole lot was dumped into a huge basin of water and painstakingly washed of the soil. All other extraneous plant materials were also removed. The lot was rinsed with clean water a couple of times and the herb will be ready.

In the past, even though we have a huge family, the amount of herb my mother collected is so much that she can use some to prepare the herbal drink for the day as well as preparing large number of small bundles of the herbs to dry for storage.

Making the drink is easy - take one or two bundles and add 3 litres of water. Boil at low fire for an hour or so. There - you have it. There is a nice floral fragrance to the drink and it taste "gan" (Chinese for pleasant/sweet (?) - I just do not have the right English word to explain this specific Chinese tasting term! - possiblly sweet with a trace of liquorice?). I prefer it hot without added sugar but some people do like it with sugar and ice-cold!

As we are slowly establishing the garden and with regular mowing, there is little chance for this lovely plant to thrive. So I have turned a long one-foot wide strip of the garden against the back wall were this plant can grow freely - to ensure a steady supply of this useful herb!

Monday, June 7, 2010


I just love sunflowers - they are large, showy and positively brighten up any gardens when blooming.

I grew my first sunflowers - the large plate-like yellow ones - way back in 1981. That was when I just came back to Kuching from the UK and was staying at my parents' old house (previously mentioned, now shuttered up). The seeds were from my old secondary school teacher, Fred Black, who returned to Australia in the 70's. I was in Kuching for only 18 months before I moved to Singapore. The flat there did not provide enough patio space for much of a garden there!

Even our garden in PJ was just not big enough nor got enough sun to grow a row or two of sunflowers - the mango tree and rangoon creeper shaded most of the garden.

Different story now in Kuching :-)

I tried to get sunflowers seeds from local supermarkets and seed stockists but somehow I cannot get them to germinate. Again the seeds had to come from Australia, courtesy of Sui Tin! The first packet of seeds were of the large yellow sunflowers but it never arrived - lost in the post :-( She sent a second packet but of the smaller mixed bronze shades which arrived safely.

Well, here they are though not all are in bloom yet.

Don't you all think they look gorgeous?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dragon Boat (Duan Wu) Festival

No need to say what this is ....

Yup, Duan Wu or Dragon Boat festival is just round the corner - on the 5th Day of the 5th Moon (16th June). This festival is to commemorate the death of a famous Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, who committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River in 278 BC. Rice dumplings were thrown into the river by the local people to prevent the fish from eating the poet's body.

No Chinese festival is complete without food and this wasteful throwing of dumplings into the river eventually end up with people eating the rice dumpling (zongzi) :-)

Ziongzi is a traditional dumpling, pyramid-shaped or otherwise, made of glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves (traditional) or with large pandan leaves (localised in South East Asia). The filling can be savoury or sweet. The type of filling and the shape of the dumpling depends on the dialect group of the family making them.

Another type of zongzi is the alkaline rice dumpling (jianshuizong) which tends to be much smaller and eaten dipped in palm sugar syrup or plain caster sugar. The best jianshuizong I have eaten were from the roadside stalls in Bangkok's Chinatown. The dumplings are tiny ones that can be eaten in a single bite and so delicious that each time I eat jianshuizong in Malaysia or Singapore, I am always disappointed that it is not as nice as the ones in Thailand!!

This year, the first batch of savoury zongzi just arrived this morning - courtesy of my 3rd brother's family. As we are Hakkas, the traditonal filling normally includes pork, mushroom, chestnut, peanuts, and dried prawns. We always eat with palm sugar syrup!! For the next two weeks, there will be a lot more zongzi from all the family members and it will be rice dumpling galore! Yummy!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mango, Kuini and Figs

The garden is not all flowers and we do have some interesting fruit trees.

Amongst them is a mango tree, now about 12 feet tall. The original mango tree, which is in our Petaling Jaya garden, produces smooth creamy sweet mangoes. The problems then were that we had to fight with the birds, bats and squirrels for the fruits!!! :-)

There is also a 5-feet kuini tree (local variety of mango, Mangifera odorata). The seedling is from the garden of my parent's old house, now shuttered up, about 2 km from my present place. I still go back to the old house during the fruiting season to check and to collect the kuinis. Last season, the tree produced more than 500 delicious fruits, some of which are up to 1 kg in weight!!

There is also a fig tree - the original cutting being from Australia, courtesy of Sui Tin in Melbourne. We have just transplanted the plant to the ground. Even though it was in a pot (about 25 cm diameter ), it has grown to about one metre tall and has been producing some nice figs, some of which are the size of a 50 sen coin.

The pot was in a shady part of the garden between the kitchen and the 2nd Apartment. There is an access door from the main living room. This part of the garden is intended for a future Japanese garden - not fully conceptualized yet. I will talk more about the layout of the house and garden in a future post.

Here are some pictures of the fruit - some of which are the size of a Malaysian 50-sen coin.

Fresh sweet figs for the table :-)

I will get back, at another time, to our other fruit trees, some of which are not normally found in a Malaysian garden.


1st and 2nd June are public holidays in Sarawak for Gawai Dayak or Harvest Festival for the native tribes of Sarawak.

Coupled with Wesak on 28th May and the Agong's Birthday on the 5th of June, many people took long 2 weeks' breaks! Other than shopping, there is not much else to do - so it is time to catch up on work in the garden.