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!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Auspicious Plants for Chinese New Year

Auspicious Plants for Chinese New Year”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on January 25, 2010.

Artificial Peach Blossoms

On February 14th, 2010 marks an important date to many people around the world. While many happy couples celebrate their romance on Valentine's Day this year, I'll be having a double happiness celebration because this same date is also my Lunar Chinese New Year!

It is indeed a very busy time for all of us who celebrate the lunar new year. First, we will refer to the almanac or consult the astrologers, geomancers or feng shui masters to check what the coming Year of the Tiger has in store for each of our family members. We will select the auspicious dates for spring cleaning our homes and offer prayers to welcome the new year.

It may sound complicated, but we refer to 3 calendars i.e. the Hsia (Solar) Calendar, the Lunar (moon) calendar and the internationally accepted Gregorian Calendar. For example, I celebrate my birthday twice a year, according to the lunar and gregorian calendar. This year I celebrated New Year Day on Jan 1st, and I will celebrate New Year again on Feb 14th.

My first important celebration this year will the the day of the Lichun on Feb 4th. This is the day we welcome Spring because according to the Hsia (solar) calendar, that is the day of the begining of spring season. On this day, we pray to the gods and welcome the God of Prosperity to our homes at an auspicious hour.

We have a saying "Hua Kai Fu Gui (花开富貴)", meaning, "When Flowers Bloom, Prosperity Comes". It is important that gardens are green & blooming and homes are decorated with healthy, vibrant plants. Care is taken to remove all dead, dying and decaying plants from sight. My post today is about auspicious plants and flowers for the Chinese New Year season.

1. Pussy Willows (genus Salix) have white, silvery buds called catkins that look like silk and emerald green shoots and leaves. They symbolise the arrival of prosperity and growth in prosperity. They are usually sold as long stalks tied in bundles. We put the stalks in tall beautiful porcelain vases to decorate our homes. We also hang auspicious ornaments to make them into money plants. Nowadays they also come in flower pots. It is a good sign if we can get the pussy willows to sprout new shoots and leaves.

2. Plum blossoms (Prunus mume) are native to China where it is known as "mei hua (梅花)". They symbolise beauty in adversity, good fortune and longevity. Plum trees flower in winter and bloom vibrantly admist winter snow after most plants have shed their leaves and before other flowers appear. Plum blossoms are symbols of winter and the harbinger of spring. Plum blossoms together with the peony are the most beloved of flowers in Chinese culture. They are the subject of many Chinese paintings, calligraphy, art and poetry. In China, the plum blossom is the Flower of Winter.

3. Peach blossoms (Prunus persicaare flowers of peach trees. Peach is a symbol of longevity. Peach blossoms are popular during Chinese New Year among celebrities in Hong Kong where it is used to enhance relationship luck and popularity. It is also associated with sex appeal, love and romance.

What's the difference between Plum, Peach and Cherry blossoms?
Plum blossoms (mei hua) are the flowers of the plum tree and they bloom in winter, between Dec-Jan. Peach (tao hua) trees bloom naturally in spring around March. Cherry trees bloom during spring as in Japan's sakura flowers season from late March to early April.

Cherry Blossoms is also a term used for trees from the Prunus genus which are cultivated to produce lots of flowers rather than the fruit. During Chinese New Year, florists in Malaysia will give you pussy willows when you ask for live cherry blossoms.

1. View real cherry blossoms in Joanne's Cottage Garden here (April 2010)
2. View real plum blossoms in my January 2011 post here.  

3. Celosia argentea

Their Chinese name is feng wei (凤尾) or Phoenix Tail and they represent harmony and good fortune. Celosia blooms come in reds and yellows. Red blooming plants are grouped in pairs at doorways or gates to signify double happiness and bliss for the family and home.

4. Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums symbolise perfection, optimism and joy, and on a more spiritual level, longevity and meditation. In China, the chrysanthemum is the Flower of Autumn.

We like to buy cut chrysantemum flowers, put them in vases for used as prayer offerings. We also buy them in flower pots to decorate our homes. The preferred colours are yellow and orange.

5. Orchids

Together with the peony, orchids are Flowers of Spring. Orchids are also popular objects in Chinese art and culture as they are emblems of love and beauty. Their fragranced flowers represent virtue, moral excellence, refinement and reputation. They also symbolise good family luck and plenty of progeny. Violet coloured orchids are said to be the most auspicious.

The peony or mudan (牡丹) is the flower of riches and honour, romance and beauty. However, in Malaysia, we can only get the plastic ones to decorate our homes.

6. Azalea

Azalea is the symbol of happiness, harmony and balance in life. It is used to foster and strenghten relationships.

7. Four Seasons Citrus Lime Trees

The fruits look like gold nuggets. A pair of blooming lime trees are placed at doorways and living room to bring abundance, good luck and wealth for the coming year. In Malaysia, local nurseries have perfected the art of getting the plants to flower at precisely the right time so that during the New year, the fruits will ripen.

Two types of lime plants commonly used here for this purpose are the Calamansi lime (吉子) and kumquats (金吉). The chinese letter, "kat" - 吉 means auspicious. Calamansi in chinese carry the meaning 'little auspice' while kumquat means 'golden auspice'. This is a plant that has bloomed and is now bearing golden fruits. It is like saying that your efforts have brought excellent results. These are evergreen plants, so the words "Four Seasons" are cleverly added to signify everlasting auspice. Now, can you see why these citrus plants are so saleable during Chinese New Year?

I have written a post titled, "Calamansi, The Multi-Purpose Plant" on its off-season uses.

8. Pitcher Plant

The pitcher plant (Nepenthes) is zhu long cao (猪笼草) in Chinese, meaning "pig cage plant". Some people also call it 'Monkey Cups'. The pitchers are said to attract and accumulate all the good luck and fortune that the New Year brings. The more pitchers a plant has, the more luck and fortune you are likely to accumulate!

Update: To view more pictures of these plants, please visit Aaron's blog here.

9. The Crassula ovata or Jade Plant is a native of South Africa. Its emerald green succulent leaves look like jade, a precious stone highly valued by the Chinese for its many good attributes. This plant is regarded as a symbol of prosperity, continual growth , wealth and fortune. It can also be grown as an indoor bonsai. We regard this plant as a wealth or money plant.

These plants are placed near the entrances to restaurants to create success luck for the business. You may also find them at the cashier's counter. At home, we place them at the Southeast to energise money luck. Sometimes, other species of succulent cactuses are used as a substitude. Their thick leaves are loaded with water, so they are used to attract money and wealth luck. Water is frequently associated with money luck. However, cactuses with thorns are considered not auspicious as these thorns are like poison arrows.

10. ZZ Plant and Lucky Bamboo

The Zamioculcas zamiifolia or ZZ plant is native to Eastern Africa. It is also know as the money plant Jin Qian Shu (金钱树) or 'gold coin plant'. Its dark green juicy leaves are neatly arranged on opposite sides of a long petiole, therfore it looks like a string of ancient Chinese coins. Just like the jade plant, the ZZ plant is also used extensively in business shops, offices and homes to attract wealth luck. It is also commonly called the fortune plant in the west.

The Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is a native of the West African (Cameroon) rainforest. It can be bent and twisted into auspicious shapes, e.g. circles and figure of 8. It is used to bring prosperity, fortune and happiness. The plants in the picture above has been decorated with red ribbons and lucky ornaments.

New plants are given auspicous sounding names and constantly introduced into the market to attract more buyers and cash in on the festive occassion . For example, the pitcher plant N. ampullaria 'Brunei Red' was named "zhu long cao" which literally translates into "pig cage plant" in the Year of the Boar back in 2007. The above are only some examples of the many many auspicious plants we can buy or grow for this occassion.

My post today is dedicated to Di from the Pacific Northwest of Voice in the Garden blog. She has a lovely and interesting blog about gardening and beautiful scenery. Occassionally, she will include a good recipe and once in a while, she also gives tips and good advice on blogging.

This is my last post for January 2010. I will be taking a break from writing. The rest of the week will be spent visiting blogs and commenting to clear my backlog. My sincere apologies for not visiting as often as I'd like to. I hope you didn't fell asleep reading my strange stories here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Xanthostemon youngii - A Rare Plant?

Family: Myrtaceae
Botanical name: Xanthostemon youngii
Common name: Crimson Penda
Origin: Australia

In Australia, this plant is found in Cooktown and also on the sandy dunes of Cape York Peninsular, Quensland.

Photographs taken by Autumn Belle at The Secret Garden of 1-Utama

My grateful thanks to Dr. Francis Ng who is growing this plant/tree at The Secret Garden, on the rooftop of 1-Utama Shopping Complex.

Have you seen this plant before?
Are you growing this plant?

Is it a rare plant?

Here's my findings:
1. In Australia, according to the Australian Govenment's Department of the Environment, Water, Herritage and the Arts website here and here, this plant has been listed as:
Vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth)
Rare under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Quensland)
This plant is listed as rare under the Queensland Nature Conservation Regulation 1994 - Schedule 4 Part 2, Page 88 which falls under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, source here.

2. It was planted in Singapore's National Parks under their Living Green scheme. Source here.

3. In Malaysia, I have found two nursery that stocks it.

(a) Wellgrow Horti Trading, link here.

(b) Company Name: Arus Samudera Sdn Bhd
Address: No. 32 A, Persiaran PM/1 Manjung Business Centre, 32040 Seri Manjung, Perak, Malaysia
Phone: 6-05-6881258
Fax: 6-05-6881207
Contact: Haji Shahruddin Noordin
The link to their picture is here.
(Note: the earlier link has been removed on 28 Aug 2012 because the url is no longer valid).
Each seedling about 3 ft tall is selling at RM 15.00. According to them, this plant is very easy to grow. I'm sure it will love the sandy soil and warm climate of our country.

Is it still a rare plant?
It may be rare in one place but then again, I won't be surprised if someone tells me that it is an invasive weed in another part of the world.
Come on now! Tell me more, tell me more .....

My post today is dedicated to Bananazക, from Planet Jupiter of BananazകPeople blog, the first commenter of my previous post on the "Mickey Mouse Plant". I am so glad to discover this blog because my visits there always makes me smile and laugh a lot.
This is my entry for the 4th Blooming Friday of 2010. My grateful thanks to Katarina at Roses and Stuff for hosting Blooming Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, click here.
This is also my entry for Fertilizer Friday. My grateful thanks to Tootsie at Tootsie Time for hosting Fertilizer Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, visit here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Ochna kirkii, the Mickey Mouse Plant

Family: Ochnaceae
Botanical name: Ochna kirkii
Common name: Mickey Mouse Plant
*Origin: East and South Tropical Africa; Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique

Photographs taken by Autumn Belle at The Secret Garden of 1-Utama
Grateful thanks to Dr. Francis Ng of The Secret Garden of 1-Utama.

*Sourced from USDA website here.
To view other WW posts or to participate, please click here.

My post today is dedicated to Mary Anne from Pennsylvania, USA of Stone Manor Garden. She was the first commenter of my previous post titled "Spider Plant". Her latest post is "12 Tips to help you enjoy a Flower Show". I do enjoy Flower Shows and her tips are indeed very useful.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NOT Spider Plants But Chlorophytum bichetii

I have recently discovered that this post which was initially titled "Spider Plants" needs to be updated. They are infact not Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) but Chlorophytum bichetii!

Why? Because they do not have the arching stalks of  "baby spiders" or plantlets hanging from the mother plant which real Spider Plants have.

These plants are very hardy. Don't give up on them so easily. Eventhough they appear dead, they may not be dead yet! This plant is easy to take care and propagate. It is a good choice for beginners in container gardening and houseplant enthusiasts.

This impromptu post came about after reading the comments of my Blotanical friends; Rosey Pollen, James Missier and Evolutionofagardener about growing this plant. Now, I am writing this post based on my own experience. I hope you find it informative. Please take my word with a pinch of salt as I am not a qualified botanist or master gardener. I am growing this plant in warm, equatorial weather. Here, the plants prefer cool air. Maybe the rules for winter or temperate regions are different. I welcome any comments from your experience / experts which may help me improve.

Botanical name: Chlorophytum bichetii
Family: Liliceae
Common names: Bichetii Grass, Siam Lily, False Lily Turf, Wheat Plant, Loose Leaf Chlorophytum
Misapplied names: Dwarf Spider Plant, Variegated Spider Plant
Origin/Native of: West Africa

This plant prefer the natural lighting of a shade e.g. under the porch or as indoor houseplants placed near a window. However, they do not like direct sunlight. They are not drought tolerant at all but they can even grow underwater in aquariam tanks.

To decorate my interior, I will still plant it in a plastic pot and put the plastic pot inside another beautiful ceramic/clay/ porcelain decorative pot. I find this easier to work with. When my inhouse spider plants look 'tired', I bring them out to the porch to bask in some solar energy, then leave them out, exposed to the open sky to take in some cool and fresh night air and morning dew. Then I bring them in again. An old Indian granny who came to my house for a chit-chat about gardening taught me this.

Propagation is by division of clumps.

1.If your plant is healthy, you can repot it by separating the whole plant into a few portions and repotting it. Actually the miniature plants around the adult spider plants are the babies.

2. The most common problem I experience is root rot due to water logged soil in the pot. If there is not enough water, the plant will also dry up. Use loose sandy soil with good drainage because you need to water it often, i.e. at least once a day in our hot climate. I often lift up the leaves to check the soil condition. I don't water if it is still wet. When preparing the new soil, I like to sprinkle some tiny Japanese humus pellets as fertilizer. These are slow release fertilizer. Don't overdo this as the spider plant doesn't really need or like fertilizer. Over fertilizing can cause immediate yellowing of leaves or burnt-out.

3. When plant look like dying due to root rot, take out the whole plant and wash it thoroughly with clean water, especially around the roots. The chances are good if you can see the bulbs among the roots. Let it air dry for some time (overnight) before putting it into a dish of clean water and wait for it to root and reshoot again. This may take a week or so. Treat your plant as though it is recuperating in a hospital. When healthy, green shoots begin to appear, separate and plant in potted soil. My flowering spider plant in my previous post was salvaged and revived by this method. Luckily I didn't throw the whole plant away.

4. When I see the tips of leaves turning brown, I water it with diluted Chinese tea which is recycled from yesterday's leftover tea. This tea was collected from the tea cups served to my deities during my daily prayers. I learnt this tip of using leftover tea to water green foliage plants from a TV gardening program. Brown tips are an indication of burn out due to over fertilizing or certain undesired chemicals in the water we use.

5. This is one example of a plant that can suffer some neglect. It fact it likes to be left alone. From my own experience, I only apply fertilizer once, i.e. during soil preparation. Thereafter, I don't need to fertilize anymore. When it blooms, you may not notice it because the flowers are very tiny.

6. I like to use rainwater or water that has been left to stand overnight on all my plants. In our city, our tap water has too much chlorine. Sometimes, my children have some leftover water in their water tumbler, so I use this to water my houseplants.

7. Even my mother-in-law takes an interest in this plant. She likes to occassionally pull out all the yellow leaves one by one.

8. In our family, we are very happy if we see green foliage plants e.g. those from the evergreen family, ZZ plant, jade plant, snake plant, aloe vera, night blooming cereus, ferns start to bloom. We regard it as a good sign as these plants are without flowers most of the time.

This post is dedicated to Ms Noelle (azplantlady) from Arizona, USA of Ramblings From A Desert Garden blog. She was my first commenter for my previous post, My Nice Garden is Blooming. I love to read her consultant advice, tips and guildelines told with many beautiful pictures. She is the first person who changed my perspective that all deserts are dry and humid, yellow and bare. Now I see so much beauty in the desert, with cactuses that look like trees and there are so many flowers there.

Today is Foliage Follow-up day, hosted by Pam Penick of Digging. Do head over to her site here to see more fabulous foliage and /or participate.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Nice Garden is Blooming

Do you remember the pineapple influorescence bud that greeted me on New Year Day 2010? Well this is how my 15-day old babies look like now. These many many pretty purple flowers will later become fused together to form my pineapple fruit. The pineapple is a bromeliad plant. Hopefully, more babies are coming out to form a bigger fruit. From my experience, my pineapples could only reach the size of the palm of my hand.
My tip: I read that putting apple peels around the leaves will induce the pineapple to bloom. I tried this when my pineapple plant was around 2 years old and it worked. Coincidence or not, I don't know.

A former colleague told me that there was an old wive's tale saying that the cat whiskers flower makes cats want to make love when they are around this plant. I don't think so because I have never heard any cat calls or seen anything of that kind happening at My Nice Garden. I think she must have got it mixed up with the catnip plant!

Now, these kalanchoe flowers are actually bright red but it became less red and more orange after going through my camera lens screening. I am trying my very best not to murder it with over watering. Last year, I bought a much bigger plant that bloomed profusely for 3 months but my overwatering sent it into ICU. Sad to say, I had to pull out its life support and that was the end of my yellow kalanchoe. I am not giving up yet because I think things are getting better now that I have a better understanding of their special needs.

This is my blooming Asparagus Fern / Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus "Myersii"), still living and getting along fine here after a few years. Can you see the tiny white flowers?

This is the second generation offspring of my white vinca plant that had self-seeded. I planted the parent plant near some shocking pink, light pink and purple vincas. I had expected some colour mixing but the offspring had turned out to be pure white, just like the parents. Maybe I wasn't that good in biology and genetics after all, so I have mixed up my facts.
When I look at the face of the white vinca, I see yellow sexy, pouting lips, enticing me to kiss it. But beware! It is poisonous. Only a caterpillar can survive its kiss of death.

This dragonfly like to come here in the evenings to perch on my jasmine plant. I had just given some hard prunning on this jasmine because it was sick most of the time. I don't know why but pests, bugs and grasshoppers love this plant. I have tried organic sprays, chili and garlic sprays and fed it doses of 'vitamins' but all the methods doesn't help. Why didn't I throw the plant away? Its because I still think that I can do a better job and make it bloom again. I could photograph this dragonfly because it seems to be sleeping. Just look at its transparent wings which allowed all the light to pass through to the brown woody stem!

My Chlorophytum bichetii (Dwarf Spider Plant/Variegated Spider Plant) is blooming now. The flowers are very tiny.

Actually I quite like this purple balloon flower or chinese bellflowers (Platycodon grandiflorus).

My post today is dedicated to Rainfield of My Journey, the first commenter of my previous post on Trailing Abutilon. I like to hop over to his blog and follow him on his jungle trekking adventures and nature hikes. Reading his blog is as interesting as Sinbad sailing the Seven Seas.

This is my entry for the third Blooming Friday of 2010. My grateful thanks to Katarina at Roses and Stuff for hosting Blooming Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, click here.
This is also my entry for Fertilizer Friday. My grateful thanks to Tootsie at Tootsie Time for hosting Fertilizer Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, visit here.
Hey, I am also joining in the fun at the once a month Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - January 2010. My grateful thanks to Ms Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting it. To see what others have posted or to participate, please visit here.
This is also my entry for Today's Flowers #75. My grateful thanks to the TF folks: Santilli, Denise, Pupo and Valkyrien for hosting Today's Flowers. To participate or view other floral displays around the world, click here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Trailing Abutilon






Family: Malvaceae
Botanical name: Abutilon megapotamicum
Common name: Trailing abutilon, Chinese lanterns, flowering maple , Brazilian bell-flower
Origin: Brazil

Photographs taken by Autumn Belle at The Secret Garden of 1-Utama
Grateful thanks to Dr. Francis Ng of The Secret Garden of 1-Utama.
You can visit Dr. Francis Ng's blog here.
To view other WW posts or to participate, please click here.

My post today is dedicated to jodi DeLong, writer, editor and photographer from Canning, Canada of Bloomingwriter: Gardening in Nova Sotia. She was the first commenter of my previous post on the "My Blog Plans for 2010. Congratulations to jodi who is currently celebrating her 4th Blogaversary. I just love the big bouquet of lavender in her latest post. Quick! Why not hop over there to congratulate her.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Blog Plans for 2010

My Dear Friends,

Today, I'm going to talk about my blog plans for this year. For a start, I have found this free site at the web and created my own mangatar. If you wish, you can also try doing your own at the Face Your Manga. I like cartoons, anime and manga too. Sometimes, I am quite curious to know why my teenage son is still watching cartoons, so I join in as he watches his Naruto and Avatar cartoons. Seems interesting, so far, but my fave is still Tom & Jerry, The Road Runner and Pink Panther. I still watch them because they make me LOL .

I am using this avatar in Blotanical now.

I plan to write about 3 posts per week. The rest of the time to be spent visiting and commenting on other blogs.

This is what I intent to blog on:
a) My Home garden
b) The gardens of 1-Utama Shopping Complex, namely The Secret Garden, The Rainforest and The Victoria Amazonica Water Lily pond.
c) Gardens and plants in the places I visit

As I am a Do-It-Yourself gardener, I shall be writing about what I am doing in my garden. I plant many different types of flowering plants, shrubs, foliage, vegetables, fruits, herbs and also medicinal plants. My garden landscape is always changing according to my whims and fancies of the moment. As I live in the city with limited garden space, my posts will be mostly about urban and container gardening, with occassionally some old wives tale or grandmother stories thrown in.

I also live with 9 koi fishes in a water fountain, 9 gold fishes in a little indoor aquarium, 1 garden tortoise, some frogs, butterflies, caterpillars, dragonflies, spiders, some other visiting wildlife and also a fat & white, freelance cat who occassionaly come to my house to peep into my kitchen, then walk around my garden to pee and poo. My garden consists of a few eco-systems with a bio-diversity of flora and fauna.

The Secret Garden of 1-Utama is an experimental garden using novel technologies to grow 500 species of interesting, rare and unusual plants in an open tropical roof-top environment. The soil medium is based on granulated horticultural carbon. Chilled water is provided by sprinklers at night. The plants in the garden fall under several themes. The names of the plants and their origins are provided in small labels at the base of the plants. Yor are welcome to take photographs but please observe that this is a NO-SMOKING area.
.... from the words of Consultant Botanist, Dr. Francis Ng in their brochure.

This is the place where I satisfy my hunger for knowledge on plants and also where I practise my photography skills. Here I can find tropical, desert and even temperate plants. With close to 600 species of plants now, I can write a post each day for each plant continuously for nearly 2 years! Usually I will take pictures of those plants that are blooming and record the information about the plant 's botanical name and origin.
Once, I am back home, I will surf the internet for details and information about the specific plant. By the time I post in on my blog, I would have done my research and homework. This way, I find that I can learn a lot about native plants around the world and I also hope to share this knowledge with you. There are also some rare and unusual plants grown here too. Some examples are the grass orchids, Arundina sp; Kinta orchid Papilionanthe hookerina and Tapah orchid Arundina gramilifolia. I will be posting about them soon.
As we know, growing native plants in our garden has a lot of advantages and it contributes positively to our environment. If we know more about the native plants and their origin, we can select the suitable ones to grow in our garden. Many native plants are hardy and easy to grow in their places of origin and they also have medicinal values.
Learning about and teaching our kids about rare plants will raise awareness on the need to do our little part or what we can in preserving the environment that we live in and in preventing rare and endangered species from disappearing altogether from Mother Earth.
There is a wealth of information to be learn from this roof-top garden in the city.

This garden has taken urban gardening to a new dimension.

The Rainforest of 1-Utama contains real forest trees and hundreds of species of plants. This is another good example of beneficial urban gardening.
Can you imagine a rainforest inside a shopping complex? There is also a pletora of fresh water fishes, making it a very good learning ground for adults and kids alike. The flora and fauna here are properly labelled.
Malaysia's rainforests has an incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna and they also have a wealth of rare plant species which are very important to medical and scientific research. Indigenous people who live in the rainforest have their own medicine men (MM). These MMs are already very old now and may be into their 70s. They know a lot about the medicinal use of many herbs and rare plants. Whenever an MM dies, a wealth of knowlege is burried together with him/her and this knowledge may be lost forever. There is a real and immediate need to "Save The Rainforests" from further destruction and/or disappearance. The least we can do is to learn more and then to educate our children and future generations to the best of our ability, to care for the environment.

Next, during my travels to other places, I may come accross interesting local plants which I will highlight in my blog posts.

Hopefully, when you read my blog, you get to know more about tropical, equatorial Malaysia, our rainforests and our gardens.
Finally, before I sign off, your feedback and all comments for improvement shall be greatly appreciated. Comments do not have a closing date, so there is no such thing as a 'late comment'.
My post today is dedicated to jodi DeLong, writer, editor and photographer from Canada of Bloomingwriter: Gardening in Nova Sotia. She was the first commenter of my previous post on the Cardinal Creeper. At the time of writing this post, her blog is the no. 1 most popular blog at Blotanical. Congratulations!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cardinal Creeper Ipomoea horsfalliae

Hi, do you think I'm sexy?

Don't you wish you had a blooming flower that is hot like me in your garden in the midst of winter?

Family: Convolvulaceae
Botanical name: Ipomoea horsfalliae
Common name: Cardinal creeper, Prince Kuhio* vine, Horsfall's morning glory, Lady Doorly's morning glory
Origin / Native to : West Indies (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Guyana, Suriname), Venezuela, Brazil

* Named after Hawaii Prince Kuhio who grew it on his property in Waikiki. See what I mean? Even a prince wants to have her.

This vine blooms repeatedly in late fall to early or mid-winter. The flower buds resemble berries. (Please refer to the second picture). Flowers are a bright fuchsia (red/purple) colour and measures around 2-3 inches in diameter. It was the showy flowers that first attracted my attention. It was love at first sight! I think it looks like a symmetrical 10-sided decagon. I just love this shade of fuchsia.

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.

Just look at the shiny, glossy, dark green foliage of this evergreen, perennial vine. The leaves have a rounded, wavy outline and palmate with 5 - 7 lobes.

This is how the whole plant look like from afar. It is a medium sized vine that can grow to 12 - 15 ft tall.

Growth requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Water regularly but do not overwater.
Propagation is by seeds or stem cuttings. It is a slow grower and may take 2-3 years to reach 8-10 ft. It can also be grown as a houseplant or container plant.

The kiss of death: The seeds and parts of the plant are poisonous if injested.

This post is dedicated to Mr Subjunctive of Plants Are The Strangest People (PATSP), the first commentor of my previous post, Wordless Wednesday - Purple Fountain Grass. I need to look up the dictionary to find out what 'subjunctive' means. I think the meaning is very deep. I really like the unique blog name of PATSP and I do agree with this statement that plants are indeed the strangest people. This I can relate to very well. I also enjoy reading this very fascinating blog.

Photos taken at The Secret Garden of 1-Utama
My grateful thanks to consultant botanist, Dr. Francis Ng. His blog link is at my sidebar.

1. Daves garden
2. Gardino Nursery, Corp : Rare and Unusual Plants

This is my entry for the second Blooming Friday of 2010. My grateful thanks to Katarina at Roses and Stuff for hosting Blooming Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, click here.

This is also my entry for Fertilizer Friday. My grateful thanks to Tootsie at Tootsie Time for hosting Fertilizer Friday. To see what others have posted or to participate, visit here.

This is also my entry for Today's Flowers #74. My grateful thanks to the TF folks: Santilli, Denise, Pupo and Valkyrien for hosting Today's Flowers. To participate or view other floral displays around the world, click here.

Post publication update: Andrea of Andrea in This Lifetime has posted pictures of the Ipomoea sp in her post "Wildflowers ... that's what we thought ... at first!" One of the picture is a yellow ipomoea, also has star shaped pattern in the flowers but it is a different species. Do have a look at those lovely flowers too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Purple Fountain Grass






Family: Poaceae
Botanical name: Pennisetum advena
Common name: purple fountain grass
Origin: North Africa and Asia

This post is dedicated to Ms Carol of Flower Hill Farm , the first commenter of my previous post, "Where Am I Planted ?". The deer and fawns she is featuring in her latest blog post are so cute, gentle and such a dear! What a joy to visit.

Photographs taken by Autumn Belle at The Secret Garden of 1-Utama
Grateful thanks to Dr. Francis Ng of The Secret Garden of 1-Utama.
You can visit Dr. Francis Ng's blog here.
To view other WW posts or to participate, please click here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Where Am I Planted?

Once upon a time, in a land far far away in Malaysia, lives Autumn Belle of My Nice Garden. Do you know where on Earth that place is ?

This post is inspired by Ms Janie of An Obsessive/Compulsive Plant Collector. In her post titled, "Where Are YOU Planted?" dated 2nd Nov 2009, she posted about where in the world she lived. Since we are in a global community with thousands of garden bloggers, she suggested a blog-a-rama where we were to post about where we live, and link back to the original poster so everybody could read what everybody had to say. I think this is a brilliant idea. Since this is the begining of the year, I might as well tell you my exact whereabouts.

I come from Malaysia, a country in the region of South East Asia. Our immediate neighbours are Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Geographically speaking, Malaysia is located just above the Equator at 2 degree 30' North latitude and 112 degree 30' East longitude.

We have tropical weather influenced by the monsoon climate which comes twice a year, the wettest season being in the months of Dec -Feb. Our annual rainfall is 2 670 mm, so you can expect to find vast areas of tropical rainforests in the hilly regions.

Temperatures average around 23 - 33 degrees Celcius. Humidity is more than 80%.

Overall our climate is warm and sunny during the day and cool at night all year round with occassional rain in the evenings. Four seasons? No way! Malaysia is a land of everlasting summers and evergreen rainforests.

Malaysia is made up of 13 states and 3 Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan). Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia while Putrajaya is the administrative capital of Malaysia and the seat of the Federal Government. Our country is ruled by an elected monarchy and the head of government is the Prime Minister. Malaysia is separated by the South China Sea into 2 regions; West Malaysia (aka Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia (formerly Borneo).

Summary of some useful facts:

Time Zone: Universal Time (GMT) + 8 hours.

Estimated Population: 29 million in 2009
Composition: 50% Malays and Indigeneous people, 23% Chinese, 7% Indians and 20% of other ethnic groups.

Official language: Malay

Official religion: Muslim.
We are free to practice our own faiths, e.g. Buddhism, Toaism, Hinduism, Sikkhism, Christianity, etc.

Official currency: Ringgit Malaysia (approx. 1 USD = 3.50 RM and 1 Euro = 4.92 RM)

The fomer British colonies in Peninsular Malaysia achieved independence on 31st Aug 1957. With the addition of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia existed as a unified state with effect from 16 Sept 1963.

I live in the city of Klang in Selangor state which is about 32km west of Kuala Lumpur. Klang has a population of about 1 million and is the 4th largest city in Malaysia. Klang probably obtained its name from the Klang River which runs through the town. The entire geographical area in the immediate vicinity of the Klang river which begins at Kuala Lumpur and run all the way to Port Klang is known as the Klang Valley.

Klang city is the royal capital of Selangor. Klang's history dates back to the bronze age. It first started as a territory under the Malacca sultanate which later fell to the Portugese, then to Dutch and the British. Selangor state's prosperity started with the booming tin and rubber industry during the 18th century which also attracted a lot of Chinese immigrants. Today, Selangor has the latest facilities, infrastructure, business complexes, shopping centres and industrial areas. It is the most developed and the richest state of Malaysia. With a population of 5 million in 2008, it is Malaysia's most populous state.

Now, Autumn Belle's home and garden plot is situated on the plains or flat land in the southern region of Klang city.

Before photo. Front portion: 10 ft by 18 ft
The soil was full of construction waste and debri, sand and gravel. We covered it with course sand, followed by a few layers of black soil.

After photo.
This is the main section of my 'laboratory' where I experimented with many different plants and also my 'studio' for photo shoots. This area is quite sunny, so I plant mostly flowering shrubs, perrenials and annuals.

Before photo: The side and back portion, area maximum 5 ft (varies fr 2 - 5 ft) by 55 ft.
This area is quite narrow, therefore I don't have much room to play about.

After photo.
Most of the plants are in containers. Even trees and shrubs are planted in containers. My hibiscus plants seem to be growing well like a small tree eventhough it is planted in a container. I am not so lucky with my chempaka tree which has not flowered yet eventhough it was blooming in a small plastic bag when I bought it at the local nursery. (Update: My cempaka tree in a pot has started to flower in 2012! I am ecstatic because I am growing this 40ft tree in a flower pot).

Garden Theme
I'd like to describe my garden as DIY, experimental and naturalistic or "rojak", after a very tasty Malaysian salad dish. This rojak dish is actually a mix of raw local fruits topped with spicy peanut sauce. I grow many native plants in my garden which is kept free of harmful chemicals and pesticides. My garden is wildlife friendly. It is like a resort cum maternity home for birds and butterflies. Birds come to my garden every evening to bath and butterflies are free to lay eggs and hatch their caterpillars here. My garden is also a garden of love and memories. Many plants in my garden has a story to tell.

I have many different plants, perhaps one plant of each type to satisfy my curiosity and also because I love variety. I can't settle for a few types, I want to try many many types. Herbs and vegetables are planted from this point onward towards the back of my house. Now many of my babies have grown into teenagers and young adults, each having their own characters. My green family is the source of my daily happiness and joy.

As you can see here, I have a lot of work to do. My garden is getting unkempt and dull looking. The current rainy season which brings rain and little sunshine almost every day didn't help much either. I need to spruce things up before the Chinese New Year in February.

This post is dedicated to Keats the Sunshine Girl, the first commenter for my very first post of 2010. She is a person I admire very much for her many voluntary social work and storytelling abilities. She is currently participating in the Blog4FT Contest. Do vote for her when you visit her blog.


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