Hibiscus

The Color Of Summer

Staying away from social media for almost two months proved very productive.  I don’t mean to offend anyone who has been reading my blog or bloggers I’ve been following but I needed time to reflect, get things done and read books.  I did get a lot of things done, have read more books and even started baking again.  Now I’m back, refreshed.

Summer is really here with extremely high temperatures and humidity.  Aside from sunflowers and echinacea, another flower that represents summer really well is hibiscus.  I have two hardy hibiscus in the garden, ‘Plum crazy’ (plum color as it’s name suggests) and ‘Midnight Marvel’ (deep red flower with maroon leaves).  Their flowers are almost the size of a dinner plate.  I put them in the ground in a sunny spot and left them there.  I cut the dead old stems back to two inches above ground in spring, feed them and let them be.  They have come back up every year when the heat hits the area.

Hibiscus-Plum Crazy
‘Plum Crazy’ with plum color and very large flowers. This one has been at this spot for more than five years.
Hibiscus-Midnight Marvel
‘Midnight Marvel’ with eye-catching flowers and leaves

The tropical ones need a little bit more pampering as they have to stay in pots and go back in the basement in winter.  They need to be watered and fed regularly.  They also need plenty of sunlight.  With food, water and plenty of light they will flower continuously throughout summer.  I prune them once a year in spring so they won’t grow too big.  Flowers that develop before I take them to the basement still bloom but they rarely produce new flowers until they come back outside again.  Spider mites and whiteflies are the main pest when they are inside the house.  I spray them with insecticide soap to keep the critters under control inside.

Hibiscus 'Bon Temps'
I have been growing ‘Bon Temps’ in a pot for three years. It’s still doing well and flowering all summer.

I purchased the ‘Voodoo Queen’ last year because I wanted to see if the color really changes as the nursery claimed, though I hardly have space left for more plants in the basement.  She didn’t disappoint me.  Here are two shots of the same flower on the same day.

Hibiscus-Voodoo Queen-morning
Hibiscus ‘Voodoo Queen’ in the morning
Hibiscus-Voodoo Queen-evening
Her color changed to this color in the evening. Looks more like a Queen than a Voodoo Queen

With a few hibiscus on the pool deck and in the garden and 90 degree heat and high humidity, I feel like I’m in the tropics.  A little cool breeze would make it seem even closer to that reality.

Cashmere Bouquet

Really A Fragrant Bouquet

I love fragrant flowers and try my best to collect them in our garden.  Many of them have to stay in pots as they are tropical plants.  As we are running out of space in the basement, I try not to get a new tropical plant.  I also try not to propagate plants I have.  It’s hard to do since I regularly prune them in spring when I take them out in the garden.  I don’t want to throw healthy branches away so I stick them in a new pot and they take root.  Some plants have been with us for many years and have grown much bigger so space is getting tight down there.

I couldn’t pass up the Cashmere Bouquet (Clerodendrum philippinum) when I saw one in a nursery offering a couple of years ago.  Even though I know how fast it can grow and its need for space, but one is enough.

A clustered bouquet of pale pink fragrant flower at the top of the plant
A clustered bouquet of pale pink fragrant flower at the top of the plant
Sometime it's white
Sometime it’s white

It a big leaf plant with white, sometimes pale pink clustered flowers.  It’s fragrance is lightly sweet and musky and cannot be replicated.  It reminded me of home, of childhood.  I think it’s the same reason why I grow jasmine and have been collecting varieties of them.

Young stem usually produce half a bouquet but still have soothing scent
A Young stem will usually produce half a bouquet but it still has a soothing scent

I mentioned that one plant is enough, but they are two now.  The old habit is hard to get rid of.  I repotted it in spring to give it some legroom but I also split it at the same time.  I wish I could grow it in the garden so I could have a whole patch.  It can be grown out side in warmer USDA Zone 7 and up.  But be warned, they can produce suckers and develop a colony very fast.

If you wish to grow it in a pot, it may not bloom as it likes direct sunlight.  But if you have a window with plenty of light, it’s doable.  One year I had a plant light right on it, to my surprise it bloomed in winter.  Keep the soil on the dry side otherwise it will rot.

Water Jasmine

A Tiny Fragrant Star

Winter is my time for basement gardening.  Where we live we have to put our tropical plants in the basement for the winter.  It’s a lot of labor to go through twice a year.  We take them in when we know that the night temperature will drop and stay below 45°F, usually around late September or early October.  Then take them back out in spring when the temperatures will stay above 45°F at night.  It was easy when they were small but it gets much harder once some of them grow taller than us.  But it’s always a pleasure to have them around.  They keep me going in winter and give us fresh herbs even when the ground is covered with snow outside.

Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter
Basement garden- with Kaffir lime in the foreground. The tropical plants reside here under plant lights during winter

Tropical plants that are taller than us in addition to Kaffir lime and the Ficus, are the Water Jasmines (Wrightia religiosa), of which we have two, one over six feet tall and the other is around 1.5 foot tall.  I grew both of them from seeds.  I did try air layering once but that plant survived only a couple of years.

Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.
Water Jasmine provide plenty of fragrant flowers for months during summer.  Each flower blooms for a day but it flowers continuously.
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
The branches spread out in layers with flowers under each layer
Each little branches fill with tiny white flowers
Each little branch fills with tiny, fragrant white flowers
Clustered of flowers
A cluster of flowers
A closer look at the flower
A closer look at the flower
A cluster of white flowers that ready to bloom once the opening ones drop
A cluster of white flower buds ready to bloom once the open ones drop

They never flower when they are in the basement.  I guess it’s not quite warm enough and perhaps not enough light.  The taller one gets very finicky with temperature changes too.  It drops 95% of its leaves when we first take it outside or when we bring it back inside.  Leaves and flower buds come out again after a month in full sun.  The tiny white star-shaped flower has a light, soothing fragrance.  Each flower blooms for just one day but there clusters of replacements ready to bloom in its place.

When they are outside and in full bloom, various types of bees, honeybees included, come for the nectar during the day and the moths take over at night.  Its seed pod is also interesting, it looks like a wishbone.  Once it’s matured the pods split open and release seeds with a silky thread attached that the wind will catch and carry to a new place.  That is how I propagate it, by the seeds.  The plant grown from a seed takes a few years before it will flower.  Air-layer and cutting are recommended for faster flowering.

Its seedpods look like wishbone
Its seedpods look like a wishbone
Mature seedpods spliced open with seeds with silky thread
Mature seedpods opened up exposing seeds, each with a silky thread
Seeds I keep for propagation
Seeds I keep for propagation

Water Jasmine is easy to grow in a pot, as I do.  It needs a warm temperature and plenty of sunlight to bloom. It can be planted outside in USDA Zone 8 and up.  If planting outside it can be used as a hedge.  It can also be trained to create a Bonsai.

It seems to have no known pests when growing outside, however Spider mites are the main problem when growing indoors.  I use an insecticide soap to get rid of them and mist the plant with water weekly.  I’m looking forward to germinating some of these seeds in March and hope to have a few more to create Bonsai from.

Growing Tamarind From Seeds

Trial And Error

I love eating Sweet Tamarind and spicy tamarind candy so much so that I forgot it has a laxative property.  Tamarind juice is also used in many beverages and cooking.  You cannot make real Pad Thai or Massaman curry without tamarind juice.  Young leaves and flowers are also good in cooking.  The juice is also good as a non-toxic polisher for brass and silver.  Wood is also good used as a cutting board.  The plant can be trained as a beautiful Bonzai.  As much as I want to grow it as a tree because of the benefits it provides, I cannot grow it in our garden in this climate.  So, I settled for growing it in a pot like the other tropical plants I have – for the beauty of it.

When I mentioned to my friends and colleagues that I attempted to grow tamarind (Tamarindus indica) from seed.  They asked either …why? or questioned whether I know that tamarind is a very large tree.  Yes, I know tamarind is a long lived, large tree that can grow over 50 feet tall.  Why would I want to grow it then?  It’s because I want to know I can grow it from seed in a cold climate.  I love its beautiful leaves and it can be made it into a Bonsai.  If they grow well, I can eat their young leaves, flowers and fruit.  Fruit is less likely, actually, due to a very short high temperature season and resulting lack of sunlight in this climate, USDA Zone 5-6.

I kept seeds of Sweet Tamarind after having eaten the yummy flesh.  Yes, there is a type of tamarind fruit that turns sweet when ripened.  I put them in warm water and let them soaked over night before I put them in a growing medium.  I put the tray on top of a heat mat that was set to 75°F.   Looking back at my 2015 garden record, I put the seeds in on March 31 and they sprouted on April 11. I was surprised to see them germinate in two weeks.

Tamarind seedling sprout up within two weeks
Tamarind seedling sprouted within two weeks
A week old, new leaves started to unfurl
A week old, new leaves starting to unfurl

Once they grew around 3 inches tall and produced a pair of true leaves, I transferred them to larger pots.  They seemed to grow fast when they were very young but after a year the growing rate seems to slow down.  I’m not really sure if it’s normal for tamarind or it’s because they have to spend 6 months in a cool basement, under artificial sunlight.  Will they grow faster if they sit on a heat mat in winter?  I don’t know but I don’t have the space to put them on a heat mat as an experiment.

Transferred from a seed-starter to a larger pot after the leaves were fully unfurled.
Transferred from a seed-starter to a larger pot after the leaves were fully unfurled.
The four survivors enjoyed late summer outside last year
The four survivors enjoyed late summer outside last year

Out of eight seedlings that sprouted in 2015 only four survived the first year.  I think I may have watered them too much.  Tamarind does better in semi dryness.  In their natural habitat, they survive drought and do fine with less than fertile soil.

The survivors are now almost two years old and thriving in the basement at the moment.  They are around a foot tall but branching out with a lot of beautiful leaves.  I haven’t decided if I want to keep them at a Bonsai height or let them grow to four feet tall (the height that can easily be transported in and out of the basement).

Reside in the basement with other tropical friends in winter. In a couple of moths they can enjoy warm weather and real sunlight again
Relaxing in the basement with other tropical friends in winter. In a couple of months they can enjoy warm weather and real sunlight again.

I’ve learned that watering tamarind too much will kill it, so each one of them will stay slightly on the dry side.  I have not encountered any pests or diseases yet.  As far as I know they are fairly pest-free in their natural habitat.

I look forward to seeing them flower, maybe five to six years from now.  They may not flower at all, but like our Kaffir limes, the oldest of which is around 20 years old, thrive but never flower.  By then, any survivor should be something of real beauty.

Too Cold To Be Outside

A Good Time For Planning: Flowers For Pollinators I

Snow came down two days ago accumulating just three inches.  Today the garden is still covered with snow and the temperature dropped down to just above 10°F.  It’s a perfect winter day for bird watching through the patio door.  Since the ground is covered with snow and the sources of water around here have turned to ice, they congregate around our feeders and heated birdbaths.  It’s also a good day to start planning for the next growing season.

The plant catalogs have been piling up. I have picked out a couple of new vegetables I want to try and am now looking for flowers that bees and butterflies will like. A new Cosmos ‘Cupcake’ looks very tempting. I have already put 200 crocus in this autumn. If they haven’t all been dug up by the squirrels and chipmunks they should blossom when spring arrives.  Any new plants I choose I make sure will benefit all pollinators, not just honeybees.  If I have to pick and choose however, flowers for the bees will come first.

Here are some plants that work for our pollinator garden and I start with flowers:

Alyssum comes in white, pink and purple. It blooms until frost and has honey scent
Alyssum comes in white, pink and purple. It blooms until frost and has a honey scent.  It’s great for ground cover too.  The white variety self sows very well
Honeybee seems to like this Aster more than the lavender color
Honeybees seem to like this Aster more than the lavender color.  It’s a good late season food source for pollinators.
Summersweet
Summersweet has a perfect name; its fragrance is really sweet. I grow both the pink and white varieties. But it can be a problem in the garden as it produces a lot of suckers.
Sunflower is also everyone favorite, birds included.
Sunflower is also everyone’s favorite, birds included. I was able to grow sunflowers again last year after I put the deer net up.  Prior to last year, all flowers, in fact everything, became deer food.  Sunflowers are fun to grow as there are many colors and different heights to choose from.  The Maximillian’s sunflower below will also brighten up late summer in the garden
Maximillian's sunflower 'Santa Fe' is a perennial that can grow over 6 feet tall and produce plenty of flowers on each stem
Maximillian’s sunflower ‘Santa Fe’ is a perennial that can grow over 6 feet tall and produce plenty of flowers on each stem.
Echinacea is a must for pollinators garden
Echinacea is a must for a pollinators garden.  There are a variety of colors to choose from: pink, white, yellow, orange.  The native purple (dark pink actually) readily self sows.  I propagate other colors by digging them up and separating them after a couple of years.
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)has a strong fragrance and easily self sows.  I pick off spent flowers before they set seeds which encourages the plant to produce more flowers and no seedlings that I will have to pull next season.
This iris is a re-blooming variety
This iris is a re-blooming variety and fragrant.  I planted more bearded iris last autumn and look forward to seeing them bloom this spring.
Water Jasmine
Water Jasmine is a tropical flower with a mild, soothing fragrance.  In it’s native tropics, it’ll bloom year round but in a cold climate it blooms heavily in summer.  Bees and moths love it. The honeybee in the photo above is covered with hollyhock pollen .

These are just some of the flowers I managed to photograph with honeybees on them.  There are many more flowers that they like- crocus, snowdrop, Black-eyed Susan.  Next post will be on herbs and vegetables that I allow to flower, both as a pollinators food source and as the next season’s seeds.

 

 

 

Flower Offering

For Peace Of Mind

I prefer to make an offering in what ever method is considered respectable in whatever country I visit; Buddha, Stupa, Bodhi Tree, River, Ganesh, Shiva Lingam, to name a few.  I don’t see any harm in making an offering since the act exists in all cultures and can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt.  Whether I believe this ritual will bring me anything is another story.  My parents taught me that ‘Even if you don’t believe, don’t insult’ so respecting what others believe has always been my principle policy.

Lotus, Jasmine, Marigold, Plumeria and Orchid seem to be common offering flowers in Asia.  The flowers in general represent prosperity and abundance.  The water represents peace and abundance.  Whether prosperity and abundance materialize or not is anyone’s guess, but watching lotus offerings floating slowly down the stream, circling one another and stopping at the edge of the reflecting pool was very peaceful.

Offering flowers: Plumeria among orchids and chrysthemum
Offering flowers: Plumeria among orchids and chrysanthemums
Pink and white lotus with some petals folded
Pink and white lotus with some petals folded
Lotus grouped randomly, floating down stream
Lotus grouped randomly, floating down stream
White lotus floating together
White lotus floating together
Pink lotus at the edge of the reflecting pool
Pink lotus at the edge of the reflecting pool
Floating White lotus
Floating White lotus
White lotus at the edge of the reflecting pool
White lotus at the edge of the reflecting pool

 

 

Back From The Tropics

With the Memory of Colorful Flowers

I have taken leave to the other side of the world for a couple of weeks.  Though I didn’t have much time to look around as I usually do, still common tropical flowers were the cheerful sight to be seen.  Nothing much in North America but bare branches and snow.  So, sharing some colorful images of these common tropical flowers wouldn’t hurt.

Plumeria
Plumeria

Plumeria (Plumeria obtusa) flower has a very soothing fragrance.  This plant in the photo is around two stories high but Plumeria can be grown in a pot and kept short and tidy.

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea

Paper Flower (Bougainvillea) is another common tropical flower that can take negligence and drought in stride.  It comes in many colors, from white, bright pink, orange, yellow, red… It blooms throughout the year and is great for trellises or climbing on a fence.

Desert rose
Desert rose

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) is another flower that does well in heat and negligence. It comes in both single and double petals as well as in a variety of colors.  I attempted to grow it here once, but too much pampering with food and water, I killed it.  I guess they call it ‘Desert Rose’ for a reason.

Paraguay Jasmine
Paraguay Jasmine

The flower of Paraguay Jasmine (Brunfelsia australis) aka Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow is slightly fragrant.  The flower first opens up in violet then fades to pale pink and white at the end.

Wild Petunia
Wild Petunia

This lovely violet flower-Wild Petunia (Ruellia tuberosa) is classified as a weed with herbal properties.  Since people tolerate them because of their beautiful color, they can be seen along side local roads and highways.

I’m not advocating growing non-native plants but most plants above can be grown in a pot in USDA Zone 3-8 or in the ground in Zone 9-11.

Basement Garden

Still Blooming

What’s left blooming in our garden now are just some hardy roses, calendula and the broccoli that we let bloom for the bees (though technically a vegetable).  The re-blooming iris are just producing flower buds which may or may not bloom.  The weather has been staying around 50º F during the day and drops down below 40º F at night.  Last week it dropped below 30º F for a couple of nights and that stunted the growth.  The iris will bloom again if the weather stays above a frost.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

There may not be much left in the garden but down in the basement where the tropical plants reside in winter there is still activity.  I can smell perfume wafting up the basement stairs from a variety of jasmines every time I open the door.  I’m thinking of taking a table and chair from the garden and putting them down there so I can continue the joy of being in a tropical garden in winter.

Night Blooming jasmines continue to bloom
Night Blooming jasmines continue to bloom

The Night Blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) are doing well this year.  I re-potted the largest one to its benefit.  I also propagated a few plants from the main one and gave some to friends.  They perfume the basement now, competing with the Orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata).

Jasmine-Poet
Jasmine-Poet

Jasmine ‘Poet’ (Jasminum grandiflorum) loves cooler temperatures and started to bloom profusely outside, but it continues to bloom down in the basement.

Christmas cactus
Christmas cactus

One of the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera hybrid) bloomed as soon as it got inside.  This is a hard to kill plant.  No matter how negligent the treatment I give them they never miss producing flowers year after year.

Orange jasmine
Orange jasmine

I took this Orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata) photo back in June when it enjoyed sunlight outside.  It still blooms here and there until sometime in the middle of winter when it will bloom heavily again.

Later Summer For Tropical Plants

About Time To Go Back To Winter Camp

It’s a little bit too cold for mid-September this year.  Some nights the temperature has gone down below 40°F and hovered around mid 50°F during the day.  But it has gone up to 70°F during in the last two days.  The thirty degree gap between high and low temperatures makes it difficult for me to decide whether to move the tropical plants back down to the basement.   Although it’s not yet freezing, these plants don’t like to stay in a temperature below 50°F, but I do want them to get real sunlight as long as possible.  I think I’ll move them this weekend if it doesn’t rain.  Better safe than sorry since many of them have been with me for many years.  They have been putting up with confinement (in a pot) all these years so I shouldn’t discomfit them further.  The weather may not have been on their side this summer but they still offered fragrant flowers throughout the summer and some of them are still pushing to bloom even when it’s a little bit too cold for them.

'Azores' jasmine
‘Azores’ jasmine

‘Azores’ jasmines (Jasminum azoricum) have just produced new flower buds that will blossom when they’re already in the basement.  They flowered through mid-winter while residing in our basement last year.

'Poet'
‘Poet’

‘Poet’ Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) seems to like cold weather.  It started to bloom more when the temperature dropped and is still blooming.

'Belle of India'
‘Belle of India’

‘Belle of India’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) really struggled this year.  Its’ leaves dropped at one point when it had been raining for a several days and it was forced to sit in water for a bit. It managed to produce a couple of flowers anyway.

'Maid of Orleans'
‘Maid of Orleans’

I repotted, changed the soil and trimmed the roots of the ‘Maid of Orleans’ jasmine (Jasminum sambac) this year.  I gave them a close pruning as well.  It’s a ritual I do every couple of years for all the potted plants so they can have fresh dirt and more leg room.  They respond well by producing bigger flowers abundantly.

Almond verbena
Almond verbena

Almond verbena (Aloysia virgata) is happy after receiving a crew cut early this spring.  It can grow pretty lanky and floppy when it doesn’t get enough sunlight.  Now it’s a little more compact and blooming better too.

Orange Jasmine
Orange Jasmine

Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata) produced a lot of flowers earlier this summer and is still flowering here and there.  Their three inch tall offspring seems to want to flower as well.  Maybe because they are closer to the house and warmer.

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