Count Your Blessings!

With love and passion, everyone can have a nice garden...Elaine Yim

Count Your Blessings!
Count The Garden By The Flowers, Never By The Leaves That Fall.
Count Your Life With Smiles And Not The Tears That Roll.
..... Author unknown.

Knowing me, Knowing you..... Aha.....!

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Malaysian Flora USDA Zone 11
Welcome to our exotic world of everlasting summers and tropical rainforests!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Fairy In My Garden

Rain Lily
(Zephranthes Rosea), Fairy Lily, Magic Lily
Look what I found today. A tiny little lily bud has opened! It is my favourite flower. Can you see a pinkish wand in the centre pointing a peace sign at me? Looks like Tinker Bell came to my garden and sprinkled magic powder on my lily plant, bringing along a smile to me. Isn't it lovely? Comes to mind Peter Pan and Neverland.
I am sure many of us all around the world are very sad on the passing of the King of Pop, the late Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett. Me included. I'd like to remember this day as the day the fairies came and told me that all is well and MJ & Farah are both at peace now.
Can you see the the little bud next to the pink lily? I think it is going to be white in colour. When I bought this plant, it was supposed to be a zephyr lily, the blooms white. The seller said so. I had wanted pink ones but she told me that the pink fairies had been sold out. This plant is very easy to grow. It had already bloomed a few times before and the flowers were all whites. Just recently, I repotted the plant and separated the bulbs. Now, see what happens? I have a pink lily! Ha! Ha! Ha! Maybe the gardeners at the nursery got it all mixed up.

I guess what they say is true. Rain lilies seems to bloom after a rain or thunderstorm. It rained two days ago. There was thunder and lightning too. I would look out for the flower buds the day after a heavy rain. It did happened. A bud sprouted, the next day a flower opened. The flowers last only for a day. So, I'll enjoy the moment with my beautiful lily.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cat Whiskers for Tea Anyone?

This plant is a native plant of South East Asia. It is found abundantly in Malaysia and Indonesia. As the name suggests, the flowers resemble that of a cat's whiskers and may be either white or bluish purple. Cat whiskers are also known as misai kuching in malay.

Scientific name: Orthosiphon aristatus
Synonym: Orthosiphon stamineus
Family: Lamiaceae
 Common name: Java tea, Misai Kuching
Chinese name: mao xu cao (猫须草) or hua shi cao (化石草)

Origin: South East Asia
Category: Weak-stemed herb

It is actually very easy to grow. Propagation is by stem cuttings. Sometimes, roots occur at the place where stems touch the soil. You can cut-off this portion and transplant it.

There is not much of a problem with pests. With full to partial sunlight and regular watering, it can grow very fast. Frequent prunning is necesary to shape the plant.

It doesn't take long for the young plant to start blooming. Flowering occurs throughout the whole year. In my case, at first all the dainty looking flowers were bluish-purple. The next batch of flowers from the same plant was all white. Now, for this current batch, well, there are mostly white with one or to bluish-purple ones.

Wilted flowers should be deadheaded to encourage more flowering later.

We can grow this plant as a ground cover. Alternatively, we can also grow it in a container.

This plant is also known for its medicinal values, particularly in healing kidney ailments like kidney stones. The leaves can be used fresh or dried and later made into a tea for drinking. Cat whiskers is used in the making of java tea.

Very easy to grow, therefore a useful plant to have at home.

Note: This post has been updated with the latest images on 24 Jun 2010.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jasmine My Darling

My Common Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) plant is blooming now.

Botanical name: Jasminum sambac
Common name: Arabian jasmine
Family: Oleaceae (olive family)
Native of: India

Jasmine flower is also known as bunga melur in Malaysia, melati putih in Indonesia, mo li hua in chinese, sampaguita in the Phillipines and mallika in Indian (Sanskrit).

A beautiful and very fragrant flower much loved in many parts of Asia, the bunga melati putih was designated as one of the 3 National Flowers of Indonesia in conjunction with World Environment Day on June 5, 1990. Sampaguita is the national flower of the Philippines.

We grow jasmine in our gardens to enjoy its exotic fragrance. Flower buds open in the late evenings to fill the garden with a pure magical scent. We usually pluck the flowers in the mornings when the buds are still unopened. These flowers can be tied into garlands which are used to adorn religious altars and deities or to welcome guests. Jasmine flowers are also used in wedding ceremonies. For example in a traditional Javanese wedding, jasmine flowers are used to adorn the bride and groom and decorate the wedding dias and bridal chamber. The bride-to-be goes through a 'lulur' bathing ritual before the wedding ceremony. Wow, isn't this royal treatment? We can enjoy the traditional lulur treatments or 'mandi lulur' in many modern spas. Jasmine is one of the flowers used in lulur.
This flower can also be made into corsages or as hair adornment. Jasmine is used it to make perfumes, scented cosmetics, powders and aromatherapy oils. We also have the Jasmine tea which I like very much.

Daughters are given names like 'Melati', 'Mallika' or 'Jasmine'.

A very popular mandarin folk song is tittled 'mo li hua'.

This is the beauty of Jasmine.

Now, back to reality. Based on my own gardening journal, growing jasmine had not been easy for me. This is my third try. The old plants died as a result of pest attack even before it could bear flowers. Even when it is flowering, somehow it attracts a lot of pests that damage the leaves and buds. These pests are very tiny, appear like brown or black dots on the surface of the leaves and secrete a sticky-like substance on the leaves. I sprayed boiled chilli solution on it and applied some purple colour pesticide granules on the soil to ward off tiny snails. The infected leaves and buds have to be cut off.

Regular fertilising is needed. Phew! A lot or work right? Seems to be working so far. Well, bees and butterflies loves the nectar of this flower. I love the scent.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wrightia Antidysentrica

My wrightia antidysenterica plant is begining to flower.

Botanical name: Wrightia Antidysenterica
Family: Apocynaceae
Common name: Snowflake, Milky Way, Artic Snow, Winter Cherry Tree, Sweet Indrajao, Pudpitchaya, Hyamaraca
Native of : Sri Lanka

Here in Asia, particularly the South-East, we usually grow them for their pretty white flowers which are collected in bulk to be made into garlands and flower arrangements. This flower is much loved in Thailand. The flower garlands are used as offerings during prayers or worn in religious ceremonies as well as celebrations. Pretty maidens wear them too, as garlands or hair adornment.

White flowers are usually heavily fragrant but this flower has no smell at all. They say some flowers will give off a strong sweet scent in the late evenings. So I tried to smell them in the late evenings too but no luck for me. Still no smell. Even the pests are giving this plant a miss.

Anyway, I think these pure white flowers are very beautiful.

This is my one and only wrightia antidysenterica plant. Very skinny! Therefore, there are not enough flowers to pluck for any celebrations, prayer sessions or beauty routine. I have also previously mistaken it to be Thai Jasmine.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Yesterday Today Tomorrow - Again

Many of us have heard about the saying:
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift.
That's why it is called the present!

The past cannot be changed. Do not dwell too long in it but use it as a yardstick to improve. Mistakes made are lessons learnt. After all, we still can make the best use of today's gift to improve the future.

Like this flower that changes from a dark purple to white, it would be great if people could also change from 'darkness' to pure white in heart, soul and mind as they age.

A reminder about how to live my life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hibiscus The National Flower of Malaysia

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis "Brilliant Red" was declared as the National Flower of Malaysia by on 28th July 1960. Our first Prime Minister, YTM Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj selected the hibiscus because it grows abundantly here. It was selected from a total of 7 flowers; namely the hibiscus, ylang-ylang, jasmine, lotus, rose, magnolia and bunga tanjung nominated by the Department of Agriculture in 1958.

The red colour signifies political and economic strength and courage in facing challenges while the 5 petals represents the '5 Prinsip-prinsip Rukun Negara', which is a declaration of our 5 Principles of Nationhood. The many varieties, colour, shapes and sizes of the hibiscus symbolise the different races, religion and multi-cultural background living harmoniously together.

1. Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan (Belief in God)
2. Kesetiaan Kepada Raja dan Negara (Loyalty to the King and Country)
3. Keluhuran Perlembagaan (Supremacy of the Constitution)
4. Kedaulatan Undang-Undang (The Rule of Law)
5. Kesopanan dan Kesusilaan (Courtesy and Morality)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis "Brilliant Red"
Scientific name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Common names: Bunga Raya, China Rose,Chinese Hibiscus, Shoe Flower
Family: Malvaceae
Origin: China

Hibiscus The National Flower of Malaysia”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on June 25, 2009. Pictures has been updated on July 28, 2010.

We can find this evergreen shrub everywhere here in Malaysia, especially in the kampungs and suburban areas. We call it the Bunga Raya in Malay. 'Bunga' means flower while 'Raya' can mean festival, celebration or big and grand.

* During ancient times, people of the Malay Archipelago were fond of using perfumed flowers such as kenaga (canaga odorata), yellow chempaka (Michelia champaca), white chempaka (Michelia alba), bunga tanjong (Minusops elangi), Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) and kesidang (Vallaris glabra). These scented flowers were scattered on banquet tables, worn in the hair of maidens, made into garlands, used to decorate festive archers and to perfume clothing. The hibiscus stayed fresh the whole day even after picking, hence it was used as a decor at weddings and kenduris (feasts).

Therefore Bunga Raya = Festive Flower

*Source: Book titled "Tropical Horticulture and Gardening by Dr. Francis SP Ng (Clearwater Publications).

Hibiscus is a native plant of China. The chinese call it 'Ta Hung Hua' meaning 'big red flower'. "Rosa-sinensis" is the Latin name for Chinese Rose.

Long ago, the petals of the hibiscus flowes were used to shine and blacken shoes in the West-Indies, hence the name "Shoe Flower" while in Indonesia, it is called "Kembang Sepatu", also meaning "shoe flower".

The flowers are edible. It can be used in hair care as well. As a kid, my friends had taught me how to eat the flower buds. I tried it and I remember it tasted good. Modern chefs also use it to garnish dishes and in salads.
The sapling of this hibiscus plant was won in a lucky draw contest during a health campaign and get to know the rakyat session organised by the government.

The hibiscus plant is very easy to grow. You can grow it as a hedge or use it to form a wall around the perimeter of the house. This plant needs a lot of prunning. You don't have to wait long to see the flowers. The bright red flowers last only one day but will be replaced by other new ones. Once it starts to bloom, flowering occurs all year round.

Remembering the 'Bunga Raya'"
  1. When I was little, I stayed at the government quarters since mum and dad were teachers. The perimeter or our kampung style house with stilts were lined with hibiscus bushes acting as a natural screen.
  2. In school, the hibiscus flower was one of the first flowers we learnt to draw and label in Science class.
  3. During child play, we liked to wear the hibiscus flowers on our hair, placing them just above the ears.

Hibiscus flowers attract butterflies to the garden.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blastoise, My Pet Tortoise

I have a pet tortoise. My son named it
"Blastoise" - a character from his favourite pokemon game.

I used to think blastoise was 'blast toy'. What a big difference on that. Blast toy sounds like violence but blastoise sounds good to me.
My father-in-law found this tortoise at the middle of a busy traffic junction near Kampung Jawa, Klang. Fearing for its safety, he took it home.

Blastoise likes to romp in my garden. When you bring him out for a walk or 'exercise', he can find his back back to his abode. He can walk quite fast. I used to think that tortoise walk very very slowly.

Blastoise likes to come out from its resting place in the mornings and have a romp around my back yard. I think he is omnivorous because he liked to catch the tiny flying insects that stick to the wallf for breakfast. I didn't know that he has such a long neck! He makes a good companion while I hang out the clothes to dry.

Speaking about his eating habits, I have tried giving him what I think tortoises like, for example the kangkong and lettuce. But he doesn't even touch these vegetables. Neither does he want tomatoes, carrots, royale lettuce, or other salad greens. But he love the plant in the picture below.

Actually, I don't know the name of this plant. It looks like 'lemon basil'. A neighbour has given it to me and told me that this 'lemon leaf plant' is very easy to grow. She said that people used it as a health drink for diabetes and hypertension. According to her, just pluck the leaves and make tea with it. This plant actually grows very quickly. To propagate, you need to cut a portion of the stems from the top and plant it onto the soil.
My tortoise found this plant and has made it his home. As for the trimming part, I don't have to do it. Tortoise does it for me. I think he loves to eat the leaves of this plant. He also loves the shade that it provides.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Baby Monitor Lizard Visits My Garden

Look! A baby monitor lizard visited my garden recently.

In Malay language, we call it the 'biawak'.
I came in the afternoon when the sun was shining brightly and stayed around for some time, long enough for me to grab my camera and capture this moment. Based on its stance in this picture, I guess it was looking for food, not its mum... "Crouching Biawak, Hidden Prey", lol.
Before long it disappeared into the drains. Its movement was very fast - like Dash in the movie Incredibles.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow (YTT) Plant

(Brunfelsia calycina)

What an appropriate name for a showy plant.

Scientific name: Brunfelsia calycina
Synonym: Brunfelsia pauciflora

Common name: Yesterday-today-tomorrow, Day-noon-night, Kiss Me Quick
Malay name: Semalam, Hari ini dan Esok
Chinese name: 番茉莉 (fan mo li which means European Jamine) or 昨天今天明天

Family: Solanaceae
Origin: Brazil

Its flowers change from purple to lavender blue to white from bud to full bloom in 3 days. There are 3 colours on the plant at any one time. Beginners like me find this shrub easy to grow and the results are quick. These beautiful pansy-like flowers smells nice too.

Changing hues to reflect a person's changing moods. Isn't it intriguing and flirtatious? The whole plant looks nice in the container. Like a beautiful lady sitting down elegantly.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Plumbago adds colour to my garden!

I found the baby plant at the Sungai Buloh nurseries and fell in love the blue flowers instantly. It had cost me 3 ringgit then. I have been growing this blue beauty for 2 years and still do not know its name until today. Bingo!

Scientific name: Plumbago auriculata
Synonym: Plumbago capensis

Common name: Cape Leadwort, Blue Plumbago, Cape Plumbago, Sky Flower
Chinese name: 蓝雪花 (lan zue hua - blue snowflakes)
Malay name: Ceraka Biru

Family: Plumbaginaceae
Origin: Cape Province of South Africa
Category: Evergreen perennial shrub

Photo taken at: My home garden

The genus Plumbago is derived from the Latin words, "plumbum" meaning lead and "agere" meaning "to resemble".  The flowers resemble the lead-blue flowers of a plant known as "molybaina" that could cure lead poisoning. The species name auriculata means "ear-shaped" after the leaf bases.

There are about 10-20 species in the plumbago family. Some species, cultivars and varieties include Plumbago zeylanica (Derhaka Putih/Ceraka Putih/Ceraka Bukit) and Plumbago ariculata 'Escapade White' with white flowers, Plumbago indica (Ceraka Kampung/Derhaka Mertua) with red flowers. Some species have pink or purple flowers.

Are the flowers blue? or is it pale purple? 

Anyway, it is a nice change from the usual pink, red, orange flowers that I have in my garden. It is good to be able to mix colours in nature's lanscape. Gardening can be so interesting and colourful! Just like painting a picture. But this picture changes everyday and every moment. Different flowers bloom and wither and different visitors like the birds, bees, frogs and insects come and go everyday.

As for the flowers, there are hairs at the base of the flowers and buds that tend to stick to clothes and hands. This woody plant is very easy to grow but needs constant triming to get rid of dead ends after the flowers have withered. It loves plenty of sun and watering too. Not much to worry about pests though.

How to grow:
  1. Use as a bush, border plant, ground cover or stand-alone specimen plant
  2. It can be grown on the ground or in a container
  3. Grow under the full sun in moist but well draining soil.
  4. Water regularly.
  5. Fertilize once a fortnight.
  6. Propagation is by cuttings and also by seeds
  7. Prune to maintain shape

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bunga Kantan, The Torch Ginger Flower

Bunga Kantan, Bunga Siantan, Torch Ginger Flower
(Etlingera Elatior)

My bunga kantan plant is grown from a rhizome. It was dug out from the garden of a friend in Ipoh. Like me, she also loves gardening. The mother plant was given to her by a kind makcik neighbour who lives a few doors away. Through gardening, we became friends and made more friends.

This plant loves a lot of water, full sun and well drained soil. I waited a long long time for it to bloom, I think a year or so.

Looks like a pink lotus.

No wonder they are also called torch flower.
This plant can grow fast and may reach 15 - 20 feet tall. I had a hard time cutting and disposing off the dried stems. I need to sharpen my chopper knife first before the cutting job and my usual pruning scissors won't do.

Great for cooking some yummy asam laksa, or seafood tom yam tonight. Yes! This is a flower I can eat and for health too. The flower, stems and leaves smells nice. In fact, the whole plant smells good. Makes a picturesque view too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Curry Leaf Tree

This is my curry leaf tree. I bought the sapling at the nursery near my house for 6 dollars. I planted it in a flower pot because I am not sure whether it will survive long. It is quite lean and looks small. Quite a number of times, it has been infected with pests that looked like tiny black flies. So I sprayed my homemade concoction of chilli potion on it. A friend had taught me this. While preparing the fish for cooking, do not immediately discard the inards. Instead, use it to make a solution and water it on the plants. It will make a good fertilizer. How true.

If this tree is grown from the ground, it can reach to a few meters tall. The leaves of the curry leaf tree (also called sweet neem leaves) are very fragrant and can be used in many asian dishes e.g. curry laksa, kam heong lala & crabs (or spicy clams, and crabs), etc. Yummy! Yummy!

However, dried curry leaves is not as fragrant as fresh curry leaves, hence the dishes will also taste different, i.e. without the 'kick' or 'oomph'!

My curry leaf tree has started to bear flowers. Its tiny white flowers are also very fragrant.

Scientific name: Murraya koenigii
Family: Rutaceae
Common name: Karivepallai, Kadipalla
Malay name: Daun Kari (malay)
Origin: Sri Lanka

My curry leaf tree has started to bear fruits and what a great surprise! I feel so rewarded. Look at the tiny green berries. It will turn to pale yellow, then to reddish brown and finally deep purple. The colour change process somewhat resembles the chilies that grandma used to plant in her pots. I was very tempted to try eating these ripe berries. However, I was told that the seeds are poisonous, so I didn't take the chance.

Propagation is by cuttings, seeds or suckers that grow from the grown. We can also buy the saplings from nurseries.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Growing Pineapple Plants From Store Bought Pineapples

We all know that pineapples do not come from pine trees. Neither do they look like an apple. The word "pineapple" is used for the plant as well as the fruit.

Pineapples are bromeliads. Knowing this fact makes growing pineapple plants as easy as ABC. It can be grown from suckles, slips, ratoons or crowns, never from seeds. For the first 3 methods, you need to ask from someone who is already growing this plant.

My method is to grow from the leftover crown of a store bought pineapple. A great way to recycle, from the garbage to the garden. Just cut off the top portion (crown) from the pineapple fruit and plant it in on the ground, a tub container or flower pot. You can even use those crowns cut off to be thrown away by the fruit sellers. Just ask nicely and he'll most likely give it to you. To improve the chances of success, here's what you need to do:

1. Select a pineapple that is neither too ripe nor too green
2. Remove excess flesh around the crown
3. Let it stand for a day or so to allow the cut end to heal and to prevent rot
4. Dip the crown in some rooting powder and plant it in the soil.
5. There is no need to let the crown stand for a few days in a container of water. Believe me, it won't work.

It is a challenge to get it to root and initially it takes a long time for the leaves to grow. You won't see much changes in the first year. Your pineapple plant will most likely look like the one in the picture below.
Meanwhile, it helps to water the plant only when the soil is dry, apply a liquid fertilizer and move it to a location under the full sun. Use well drain soil. Pineapple plants hate soggy soil and water-logged conditions.

At first, the leaves takes ages to grow, the roots are so fragile, short and tiny. A gentle pull and it seems that the whole young plant can be uprooted! But don't worry, it won't die so easily.

Pineapple plants get water and nutrition through their leaves. The leaves are very tough and not much water is lost through evaporation. Therefore they do not need a lot of water.

 Pineapples are terrestrial bromeliads, so let some water collect on the leaves while watering.

When the pineapple plant is blooming, the stem elongates and enlarges near the apex. First, there will be a bright red inflorescence in the centre of the leaves. Soon a cone appears followed by small pretty purple flowers, each accompanied by a single red bract. There are as many as 200 flowers in a single inflorescence.

An inflorescence is a group or cluster of flowers arranged in a stem.

The stem will continue to grow and soon you'll see a compact tuft of stiff, short leaves called the "crown" or "top". Pretty, isnt't it?

Scientific name: Ananas comosus
Common names: Pineapple, Nenas
Family: Bromeliaceae
Native plant of: Southern Brazil, Paraguay

How to induce your pineapple to bloom
The fruit takes about 6 months to mature and ripen. Normally it takes about 2 years for the plant from a crown to bear flowers. For suckers, it is 18 months and for slips it is within a year. If your plant is still not showing any signs of flowering way after the "expected" date, try putting some ripe apple peels around the base of the leaves. The ethylene gas released can trigger the blooming process. I tried this method on my pineapple plant after 18 months and it worked.

A mature pineapple is ready to be plucked when the fruit start to turn yellow. A pineapple plant flowers only once and produces one pineapple fruit. Before it dies, it reproduces in the form of suckers and slips.

More information about growing pineapples:
1. My NST Article dated 3rd July 2010 - Fruit of Good Fortune
2. Permaculture way - Tropical Permaculture site

1. This post has been updated with my latest images as of March 2010.
2. Rosie from Leaves 'N Bloom blog has a post about using plastic bags to force bromeliads to bloom again, her link is titled "Bromeliads, Inflorescens and Plastic Bags", please click on the link provided to read more.


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