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.....!

Notice Board

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

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Help! I'm Need a Good Camera

A few days after celebrating the 1st year anniversary of using this entry level point and shoot Olympus FE-4000 and taking more than 10,000 pictures, my faithful darling is showing signs of deteriorating health. The camera gets jammed after every few pictures. The focus is starting to falter, i.e. sometimes, I am unable to get a sharp focus for macro view.  This is my second Olympus camera. As I need to send it back for servicing, I shopped for a new camera.

Vital statistics: 12 megapixel, 4X wide optical zoom, 26mm wide angle, 2.7" LCD monitor with Face Recognition, Image Stabilizer and Magic Filter

My experience: It is terrific with macro shoots but NG for night scenes and scenery shots. As you can observe from my pictures,
(a) for scenery shots, the image is sharp and clear in front but too bright and blur behind.
(b) for night scenes, I do not have any good shots yet!

My daughter said that Panasonic gives very sharp photos in vibrant colours. So I started  to dream of Diana's Panasonic Lumix FZ-100 (Elephant's Eye post is here). Its recommended retail price in Malaysia is RM 1,999 (USD 640).

Another entry level point and shoot compact camera is all I can afford at the moment. So, this time I went out of my comfort zone to try this Casio Exilim EX-Z16 which was just launched on 20 Sep 2010. Mine has a metallic pink casing while this image is red. I was torn between 2 choices, this and the Olympus FE 4050.

Finally, I purchased the Casio Exilim EX-Z16 for RM 500 which is equivallent to USD 160 or  115 Euros. As I know, the launching price was USD 99.99 in USA.

Vital statistics: 12 megapixel, 3X wide optical zoom and 4X digital zoom, ???mm wide angle, 2.7" LCD monitor with Face Recognition, Image Stabilizer and Easy Mode, Wide Screen Recording and You-Tube Capture Mode. Anyway, I have never You-Tube anything yet.

The camera shops I visited were not keen to have me as a customer, sob. They are busy serving the customers who are looking for DSLRs.

Now, I wanna work towards my dream camera, a DSLR!
Can you please tell me what camera you are using to snap those gorgeous pictures?
What is your dream camera?
Cannon, Sony, Panasonic, Nikon, Olympus, Casio, Fuji ?????
Please let me know the brand and specifications because this will be my benchmark.

Note: Picture no. 2 is taken from, the link is here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Pomegranate is Smiling !

Remember my ripe pomegranate that was dangling from the plant in my previous post?

Well, it is smiling now!

Due to space constraints, I grow my pomegranate plant in a flower pot. Eventhough it is less than 5 ft tall, it does bear a few edible fruits every year. The fruit in the first picture is just ripe for picking if I want to eat it. This time I had waited a little bit longer for it to split open. When it does so, it would have been too riped as the skin has hardened and some seeds are exposed to the external elements.

If you wish to know more about my attachment to this plant and my grandmother story, you can read more from my 2009 post titled, "Its Pomegranate, Not a Pomelo and a Grenade", link here.

“My Pomegranate is Smiling”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on October 21st, 2010.

This post is for Kitchen Flavours and Malay Kadazan Girl who commented that they'd like to know how a pomegranate fruit look like when it splits open at the bottom.

This pomegranate looks like it is smiling with opened mouth, gums and teeth. Smiling denotes happiness.

In fengshui and also Chinese culture, the pomegranate is regarded as a lucky fruit and a symbol of fertility and prosperity. The ripe fruit is auspiciously red in colour and when it bursts open, there are many many seeds inside. Now we use the same word, 子 (zi) for seeds and sons. Therefore, many seeds = many sons = many offsprings or children.

We use the pomegranate fruit as an offering during prayers. During festivals like the Chinese New Year, married ladies eat the fruit in the hope of being blessed with many sons to carry on the family surname for many generations. Pictures of the ripe pomegranate fruit bursting open with seeds are also hung in homes to activate fertility luck.

After harvesting the fruits, I will prune my pomegranate plant. It can withstand hard pruning and very soon, new shoots will appear. Ideally it should be planted on the ground where it can reach a height of 15-20 ft.

My pomegranate plant usually start to bear flowers between Arpil - July and it takes a few months for the fruits to ripen.

Pomegranate plants have many sharp thorns which are like poison arrows in fengshui. We usually plant it at the front portion, i.e. outside the gate of the house, not inside the house compound. This was also my late dad's advice to me.

There are some smaller varieties with beautiful double petaled flowers for ornamental use. Mine is the fruit bearing type. The pomegranate plant can also be cultivated as a bonsai plant.

Scientific name: Punica granatum
Family: Lythraceae (Henna family - e.g. Cuphea, Lagersroemia, Henna)
Common name: Pomegranate
Malay  name: Pokok Delima, meaning ruby tree.
Chinese name:  石榴 (shi liu), meaning stone grenade
Origin: West Asia

The name "pomegranate" is derived from the Latin words "pomum" meaning apple and "granatus" meaning seeded.

The pomegranate is an ancient fruit that had been mentioned as early as The Iron Age in prehistoric times. It has a calyx shaped like a crown and was the inspiration for King Solomon's coronet. According to the Quran, pomegranates grow in the gardens of Paradise. (Source: Wikipedia)

How do you eat the pomegranate fruit?
Does it hold any special meaning in your culture?

I would like to welcome my new followers, Siti Ajar of Laman, Wancuyan from Malaysia and Amy from USA of In The Orchid House With Amy blog. Selamat Datang and Welcome to My Nice Garden!

Update: This update is for Natti from India of The Balcony Garden blog, in answer to his comment.

This is how my plant look today. Mummy's vital statistic is as follows:

Flower pot is medium sized of 1 ft diameter and 10 inches height. The plant is about 5 ft tall.

Other requirements:
Soil - use well draining soil.
Water - twice a day but the plant is quite drought tolerant. It may shed all its leaves but the shoots will grow back soon.
Fertilizer - use general purpose liquid organic type or organic chicken manure pellets. To encourage fruiting you also use the fertilizer for citrus fruits. This time I didn't use it.

1. If you use a bigger pot, (e.g. 3 times mine) it can grow to about 6 ft tall.
2. I think my plant was propagated from a cutting and not from seed. My late father purchased the seedling from his friend who owns a nursery in Ipoh. Fruit plants propagated from cuttings or grafting flower earlier, bear better tasting fruits and they are more hardy against pest attacks. My plant started bearing fruits after 1 year.
3. If a plant is grown from seeds, it takes about a year or 2.5-3 years before it starts flowering. It takes another 5-7 months for the fruits to mature.

This is for Melanie of Nothern Gardener's Blog - here's a video of how to seed a pomegranate from Produce Picker Podcast(The URL is here.)

This is my entry for Fertilizer Friday, the link is here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

GBBD Oct 2010

Today is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for October 2010, the time of the month where we get to show off what's blooming in our gardens. So, what are you waiting for? Let's head over to May Dreams Garden and join in the fun with Carol!

It has been raining almost everyday here for the past week or so. My Tunera ulmifolia yellow alder was completely drenched. Just look at those thin, delicate petals.

However, our weather has suddenly turned very hot today.

My pomegranate is ready to be harvested. This time I'll leave it on the tree because I want to see its bottom split open. Dad used to tell me that when a pomegranate fruit splits open it signifiies happiness and a smiling face.

My yellow hibiscus flower has a 'dirty look' because of rain splash.

I was overjoyed to see this tiny chili flower because I have been hoping to get some chilis from these plants which I had grown from some seeds I saved from the chilis I used in my cooking. But so far, no luck yet. Is there such a thing as male chili flowers?

Chili flowers always droop downwards, so I push up this beauty just to get a shot. I think the stamens in the centre look like purple diamonds. I wonder if jewellery designers get some of their inspiration from the chili flower?

Muraya paniculata flowers emit a very strong and nice perfume.

“GBBD Oct 2010”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on October 15th, 2010.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
.....Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), the only British Prime Minister with a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Sometimes I am amazed at what a weak vine can do. Just look at this Clitoria ternatea (butterfly pea) plant. Without support it can't even stand on its own but within a few months, it had managed to scale to the peak of my Lipstick Palm!

Hypolimnas bolina jacintha

Even butterflies like my butterfly pea plant.
I wonder if anyone knows the name of this butterfly?

The butterfly has been identified as Hypolimnas bolina jacintha aka Blue Moon Butterfly, Common Eggfly.

Caterpillar crawling, ouch! ouch! ouch! ..... This extremely hairy and prickly little fella can move very fast. It is taking a brisk walk going round and round my flower pot. It is also giving me some goose pimples. A few of them have finished up my lavender and blue Angelonia plants.

Angels? Definitely they are not!

 Hopefully, the cuttings I saved from the bare cut branches will sprout some shoots.

At the moment, this is still classified as a UFO (unidentified flowering object) in my garden. I just love its frosty pale green leaves. Hopefully it will flower again in December so that I can pretend that it is snowing here.

This Hibiscus Rosa-sinensis double petaled variety is full of surprises. The unopened buds are yellowish in colour but the blooms are a pale pink.

My Sansevieria trifasciata has started to bloom. I consider this a foliage plant so it makes me very happy when it starts to flower. The flowers have fragrance and last for a few days.

It has many common names which include Mother-in-law's Tongue, Snake Plant and Sharp Tongue. It's Chinese name is hǔwěilán (虎尾兰), meaning tiger's tail orchid. In Malay, it is called, "Pokok Lidah Jin" meaning gennie's tongue.

Because the leaves look like sharp blades, we do not place it inside the home. My late dad had always advised me to keep it outside the house or put it near the gate to ward of evil. He said the leaves resemble a sword that the masters use for ghost-busting and driving away evil spirits and charms. You can say that I have this plant as a fengshui protection. My dad gave it to me.

Recently a neighbour asked me for some leaves which he would make medicinal herbal drinks or soups. Frankly speaking, I have never tried consuming it yet, neither have I ever heard that the leaves can be eaten, so I told him to be careful but he was adamant that it was the correct plant as the leaves have a yellow edge.

This is the result of my second attempt at growing the highlands wild sunflower from seeds given by a friend. My Miniature Sunflowers post link is here. I have followed the advice of my commenters and placed the pot under full sun from germination to blooming stage. I think the solar energy helped a lot even during this period of rainy weather and cloudy days. Here's my sunflower's new vital statistics:

Height = 2 ft (60cm)
Sunflower head diameter = 9 cm, centre = 3 cm
Stems = 0.5 cm thick.

This is an improvement from my first attempt. Now the flowers look more like sunflowers.

This is my Cat Whiskers plant with purple flowers. The white flower variety is easier to grow and more hardy. I am now trying to propagate some of these from stem cuttings.

To participate and/or view what other gardeners have for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - October 2010, please visit Carol at May Dreams Garden, the link is here. Thank you very much to Carol for hosting GBBD!

I am also participating in Fertilizer Friday. To enjoy the season of Thanksgiving, do visit Tootsie here.

For Blooming Friday, this week's theme is "Wild & Beautiful". Hopefully my flowers can fit in. To view more wild and beautiful blooms today, please visit Katarina at Roses & Stuff here

I would like to welcome my new follower, Leovi from Spain of Abstract Photos blog to My Nice Garden. Leovi, thank you very much for being my 202nd follower!

TQVM to Andrea for being my first commenter! Hope that your laptop will be up and running smoothly soon! Goodnight and sweet dreams!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Torenia Fournieri Tale

This is my Torenia fournieri plant. My brother's neighbour in Ipoh gave it to me. She just pulled a seedling out from the ground and put it into a plastic bag with a little bit of water. Then it travelled all the way back to my home garden which is about 205 km or 2.5 hrs' drive by car.  It was in the plastic bag for 2 days before I planted it in a flower pot. It lived!

I started with a single blue Torenia. It had bloomed and died and disappeared from my garden with no offspring. Months later, I begin to notice baby plants near the area where I had placed my pot of Torenia plants. I had planted a blue Torenia but soon I was pleasantly surprised to find some pink ones too. I have 2 colours now. Ms Neighbour did inform me that she has the blue and pink ones in her garden. When she gave the seedling to me, she didn't know what colour the flowers will be.

Now, I am wondering how can a blue flower parent give rise to pink flower plants?
Did the seeds of the pink torenia came along with the blue plant?

After all of my second generation of torenias had died back, my garden was completely devoid of torenia plants for a few months. So I went shopping. The above was planted from a seedling purchased from a nursery.

Scientific name: Torenia fournieri
Common name: Wishbone flower, Bluewings
Chinese name: 蓝猪耳 (blue pig's ears)
Family: Scrophulariaceae
(same group with Snapdragons and Foxgloves, perennial plants in the Figwort family)
Origin: Indo-China

The name Torenia fournieri was given by Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy after a contemporary Swedish clergyman, Olaf Toren and also in honour of French botanist Pierre Fournier.

“My Torenia Fournieri Tale”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on October 10th, 2010.

A torenia seed has found its way into my potted pineapple plant. It is now the pineapple's room mate.
Hey, I think they look good as a couple!

According to the book "Tropical Horticulture and Gardening" by Dr. Francis Ng, this species of torenia tends to propagate itself by small seeds that are moved about by rain splash and perhaps by insects.

As for me, I have never seen their seeds or know how the seeds look like.

Now, this is supposed to be my potted kaffir lime plant. I didn't plant a torenia here.

I grow torenias in my front yard. Somehow, some seeds have spread all the way to the backyard where I have my vegetable garden. It has now taken up the whole space of the kaffir lime plant. Can you see the poor lone stalk of kaffir lime leaves jutting out on the left side? Do you think the kaffir lime will mind?

In life, have you come accross someone who moved into your abode without asking and and then proceed to share everything that you own?

Yahoo! Today I am posting this at 10:10am on 101010, i.e. October 10th 2010 at 10:10am. In Malaysia, many couples are tying the knot on this day. Today is supposed to be a very auspicious day for marriage with 10 signifying maximum or perfect 10! And this day only occurs once in a hundred years. Also, many people are planning some events to make this day memorable.  How about you?

Wishing you many happy days of perfect 10s !
Happy Thanksgiving Day, Oct 11th to my Canadian friends!

Thank you very much to Florentyne from Poland of Groszki i róże... blog for being my 201st follower. Welcome to My Nice Garden!

This is my entry for Today's Flowers, the link is here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Caterpillars and Periwinkles

Periwinkles are available in many different colours and I find it difficult to resist the urge to buy them to add to my collection. I buy the seedlings from nurseries as vinca seeds are not readily available here. My plants have self seeded and now these are my second generation offsprings. I have collected the seeds and scattered them on the ground.

Scientific name: Catharanthus roseus
Common name: Madagascar Periwinkle, Vinca, Rose Periwinkle
Chinese name: 长春花 (Zhǎngchūn huā -  long lasting spring flower)
Malay name: Kamunting Cina, Bunga Tapak Dara
Family: Apocynaceae (dogbane family)
Native to: Madagascar

Some offspring look like the original parent while others come in new mixed shades. The first 3 are the original colours.

There are many emails circulating about them being poisonous plants to avoid. However, they are poisonous only when ingested but nobody would eat their leaves, flowers or other plant parts anyway.

The vinca plant is used medically as a source of vincristine in the treatment of leukaemia.

“Caterpillars and Periwinkles”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on October 8th, 2010.

 This offspring seem to have a mixed parentage of pink, white and lavender. I love the red and pink hues around the centre which makes it look like a kaleidoscope heart.

I think the centre of the vinca flowers look like a button. Sometimes, I see a mouth with lips pursed into an 'O' shape.

Here's another mixed bred.
Vinca flowers have smooth, soft and delicate petals.
With proper pruning, the vinca plants can live 1-2 years before they die off.

On certain mornings, I get a surprise when I water my plants. I'm sure you know who did it!

The truth is out there!

Of course it is this guy who look like an oleander moth caterpillar. They are voracious eaters and a few of them can gobble up all the leaves before you can call it a day. This little fella flashed its faked monster eyes trying to scare me when I was photographing it. Aha, I not scared!

I often think about the butterflies or moths that they will soon turn into, so I spare them. Monsters turning into angels or destructive bugs transforming into beneficial beauties? Should I interrupt an innocent life cycle?

From experience, I know that the leaves will soon grow back. I used to remove the caterpillars or make them disappear. If I try to pull them out, they will cling more tightly to the branch, thereby increasing the chances of injury. I let them glide slowly onto a plucked vinca leave and I bring them to my 'birthing centre'.

This vinca with lavender-purple flowers is the most hardy type in my garden. It can survive frequent attacks by a few caterpillars and it will grow back its leaves. I use this plant as food for the caterpillars.

When I see signs of stem blight, I will pinched off the infected stems. I also trim off the wayward branches. The stem of this plant has grown to about almost an inch thick.

This is vinca perennial (vinca minor). It behaves like a weed here and we can commonly find them growing by the roadside. Somebody even laughed at me for growing this in my garden.

I don't know where all the caterpillars had gone to morph into a chrysalis because I have never seen any chrysalis on my vinca plants. At other places, like under the leaves of my Ti plant, on the rim of my flower pot or hanging from my pomegranate branches, I find this. Are these the chrysalis of some kind of butterfly or moth?

It is funny how a plant that is toxic to humans can be nourishing food for these creepy crawlies who after feasting on their leaves will morph into gorgeous butterflies that will help us pollinate our flowers to produce delicious fruits to satisfy many a hungry stomach. That's the beauty of nature.

My Nice Garden would like to welcome Gesine of Seepferd's Garten blog. Gesine is from Germany and a newbie blotanist. Gesine, welcome to Blotanical and thank you very much to Gesine for being my 200th follower.

This is my entry for Fertilizer Friday, the link is here.
This is also my entry for Blooming Friday, the link is here. The theme today is "USED". Well, my periwinkle is certainly "USED" when all the leaves have been eaten by the caterpillars!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gardening A Game !

I would like to thank Malar of My Little Garden blog for inviting me to take part in "Gardening A Game" where I have to list down "10 Things That I Love To Do".  Her post is here.

Malar, the lovely Blotanist who tagged me.

I have included 10 pictures of flowers from my garden to accompany the 10 things that I am going to list down:

1. I love GINGER. I love my pink Etlingera elatior, or torch ginger. It add a special exotic flavour to my favourite spicy hot and sour dishes. The fun part is getting my kitchen knife to cut off the flower buds and eating them raw, usually as garnishing on those dishes. I am now experimenting with growing the lengkuas, turmeric and ordinary ginger in my garden from store bought rhizomes.

2. I love FRAGRANT plants. This angelwing jasmine has been propagated from a cutting from my brother's neighbour in Ipoh, the same person who gave me the rhizome of the bunga kantan (torch ginger). The fragrant plants I have are Jasmine sambac, Murraya paniculata, Kesidang (Vallaris glabra) and also a white champacca that has not ever flower yet. I also have pandan, mint and lemon grass if you can call them fragrant plants.

Oxalis corniculata - Creeping Oxalis 

3. I enjoy WEEDING whenever I can. Pulling out the weeds and dumping them into my compost pile is a very satisfying experience. I feel like an accomplishment to rid my garden of unwanted plants and recycling them. However, if the weeds are as beautiful as this tiny yellow wild flower with heart shaped leaves and the jade green moss, then I give them a chance. The above is the habitat of my pomelo plant which is grown in a big flower pot.

Weeding or wild flower? The answer lies with the gardener!

“Gardening A Game”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on October 5th, 2010.

4. I love to KEEP STUFF and I like to write. I kept a diary when I was a kid. I started a blog to keep an electronic diary or journal but ended up writing a garden blog instead. I like to keep records, directories and spreadsheets and I use an excel file to do the computing and sorting.

 I still keep the letters, cards and stuff my friends and family sent to me.

5. I love FLOWERING plants. Flowers brighten up my day, no matter what their colour. I like it when my foliage plants start to bloom too!

I believe that blooming flowers always bring happiness and good fortune.

6. I love being a DIY gardener because I enjoy doing it MY WAY!

I have since learnt to be a frugal gardener and I also like to experiment with all kinds of plants. So my garden is always changing. I have a backyard for herbs and vegetables, a side yard for shade plants, the front yard for the showy ones and a 'laboratory' under my bamboo tree to act as a quarantine, ICU as well as 'birthing centre'.

7. I love to know the NAME of each and every plant that I come accross. I find that if I know the plant name, then I can find out its origin, likes and dislikes. By doing so, I can become a better gardener.

I also wonder if getting to know a person more thoroughly makes us a better spouse/friend?

8. I love raising BABIES. I am busy raising plants, the sex of which may be male, female or both! I plant from seeds or seedlings purchased at nurseries and also from cuttings given by other gardeners and friends.

Some babies are a nuisance but nature will take care of them if your garden has become a natural habitat and the ecosystem has balanced itself. Can you spot the 2nd grasshopper nymph in the picture above?

9. My HOBBIES. I love to eat, cook and take photos but not necessary in that order. I also like to listen to songs and watch movies, including costume dramas and westerns. Anyway, most of the singers I like are dead and gone (to Heaven), e.g. Karen Carpenter, Andy Gibb. I still watch Tom and Jerry and Disneyland.

If I have more money, my hobby will change to travelling around the world and visiting every botanic garden there is.

I never leave home without my camera and I have never lived a day without my dose of caffeine. I like black expresso coffee on the double, and also coffee in cakes, ice-cream and dishes, e.g. coffee pork ribs.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.

The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

..... Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

10. I love to READ.

I get lots of inspiration from reading books such as the classics, fairy tales, self improvement, fiction, romance, sometimes even children books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Harry Porter series and I read the children book, The Secret Garden as an adult. Now, most of the books I read are gardening books and cook books. I can spend the whole day in a bookstore or library, reading or browsing.

I also love to read your blogs, as many as my time allow me to.

I have selected 10 bloggers who are also newbie Blotanists to play this game. Let's get to know more about and welcome them to our beautiful Blotanical family of garden bloggers. They are:

1. Makarimi of Orchid de Dangau - Malaysia. Update: The post is here.
2. Terry and Janice of The Upside Down Garden - New Zealand
3. College Gardener of Journey & Jonquils - New England, USA
4. Bom of Plant Chaser - Philippines. Update: The post is here.
5. Michelle, Chris and Gabe Clay - The Clueless Gardeners - Massachusetts, USA
6. Rosie of My Garden Haven 1’s Blog - Malaysia
7. Carol of My Passion Venture - Malaysia
8. Radha of Naturally Beautiful - India
9. Trevor Hunt of A Gardening Life in Brittany- France
10. Takaeko of Small Vege Garden in a Suburb - Japan

The rules of this game:
1) Inform who invited you and link back
2) What are the 10 things you like to do
3) Invite another 10 other bloggers

Now, I wonder if anyone will do this post on Sunday, October 10th, 2010 or 10-10-10!


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