Friday, April 27, 2007

Four O'Clock (Mirabilis jalapa)

On July 1767, former US President Thomas Jefferson observed: "Mirabilis just opened, very clever."

He was pertaining to those plants which, several posts down, were proven to respond well to liquid fertilizer of human origin. The fragrant flowers of Four O'Clock suppsedly open up at approximately that time. Mine bloom at night though. Like this!:

This is something that every beginner, slacker, or busy gardener's dreams are made of. I took the seeds both from a beach garden in Anilao, and from a Merville sidewalk. They looked like little black pepper balls. I stuffed said seeds in pots with compost and watered them everyday, and within a week, ambitious little squirts came up. Within a month or two, they were a-blooming. And they bloom magnificently, beautifully, and in a super fragrant way, like sampaguita or something. Really really good stuff here! Minimum effort and maximum sensory return. They re-sow themselves too.

This plant has domineering roots, and is thus considered by a few anal persons to be invasive. They would surely win the common my-taproot-is-bigger-than-yours contests. So keep that in mind, and also remember that the whole plant is toxic to humans. Jesus always knows if you are plotting to place the seeds in your frenemy's pepper mill!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Yellow Purslane

Just thought I'd share my related photo. I've got it hanging outside my window, and the plant has grown a lot in such a short span of time.

I got this from the bag of dried leaves I stole from Ayala Alabang. Someone tossed cuttings in. This is probably related to the local ulasiman that is medicinal, which bears yellow flowers. You can eat the leaves too.

Too early to tell if it's the same as Diane's moss rose! Or are they one and the same? I'm confused.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Rose Moss (Portulaca grandiflora)

Last week found me walking around U.P. (University of the Philippines) for the first time, and I was taken aback by the abundant and beautiful selection of flora in the campus. I found a gorgeous low-growing plant with a few flowers among it, which I wanted to grow. A nearby security guard was kind enough to give me some cuttings, without any flowers, to take home with me.

On the way home examining it, I found that its stems smelled so good! I almost wanted to take a bite out of them. I've run out of pots at home, and since I haven't exactly settled yet with my parents where exactly my territory lies in the garden, I planted them in the only available container left, a hanging pot.

Two days later, at around noon, I noticed that the bunch did have flowers. Well, it bloomed one! A beautiful shade of reddish pink petals with yellow stamens in the center. Later in the afternoon that same day, I was walking around the garden looking at my growing plants again (I do this like I sort of expect them to grow right before my eyes! I get sort of anxious waiting haha), I noticed that it the same flower had closed!

Apparently this herb-y smelling flower, is, a flowering herb. It's considered an herb because of its soft bodies and they do not develop woody tissues. And, I always wanted one of those flowers that close at certain times of the day, and without knowing it I even got me one! And what are the coincidences of planting them in the only pot left at home, a hanging pot, because it's one of the showier plants that are usually used for landscaping gardens (as borders, ground covers, etc...) and because they self-seed during warm climates and may be considered invasive, are perfect as hanging plants.

Originating from Brazil, the Rose Moss, also known as Vietnam Rose, closes in the afternoon and reopens in the morning. The photo below was taken at around 6:30 a.m.

It requires little maintenance to grow, especially in the Philippines, as they thrive in hot and dry conditions which would otherwise cause other flowers to wilt. Their fleshy stems store the moisture that allow them to bloom in these conditions. They need good drainage so growing them in sandy or loamy soils is a good choice, and allow the soil to dry in between waterings.
The entire plant may be used as a depurative, and the juice of the leaves can be applied to soothe snake and insect bites.

The flowers can come in single or double, and in a variety of colors.
The photo above was taken at around 11:30 am. Gorgeous, ain't it? :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Oops, Did I Just Say Pee Is Good For Your Plants?

It's generally taboo, but many gardeners in the know secretly pee on their plants. For ethical purposes however, upstanding gardeners do not sprinkle on the leaves of edible herbs. Generally.

Now, I am not saying I feed my plants urine, or urinate on them. I have a career and a possible illlustrious future to safeguard.

I will, however, say that an unnamed person's pee has graced this yet-unidentified fat, healthy, and hydra-headed plant:

Compare its leaf growth and height to these three ones, which were planted even before it. I grew all of them from seed. The un-pissed on ones haven't even hydra-fied out at all! They are timid, though they get the same soil and sun:

Of course, the latter are three plants sharing one container, but I have investigated and found the single plant's roots have not creeped to the left-hand side of its receptacle. I have no side-view photos, but the lone one has grown way (like waaaay) taller! And it's even about to flower bright pink lovelies:

Feeding your plants urine requires polite discretion and one other consideration: dilute in water, as too much nitrogen is too much of a good thing, I'm afraid.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Chuck It In Some Soil!

One night, when I was five years old, I was eating some cold lychees after dinner. As I watched everyone push the seeds to the sides of their plates, it hit me: I loved lychees, lychees came from trees, trees came from seeds... why not "make" my own lychees?

On a mission, I saved my seeds and buried a couple in the soil next morning, alongside my mom's ornamental hoo-haws. Sure enough, it first came up unimpressive and twerpy, but it had the beginnings of a lychee tree nonetheless. I practised the patience demanded by ungrafted fruit trees. Eventually, however, I moved out and of course, forgot about it.

The story would have ended sans epiphany if I had not, two years ago, happened to pass by my childhood home and notice a hulking, enormous lychee tree, several times larger than me! I could not believe that this beautiful massive thing was sitting there because of me, or rather, my sudden burst of curiosity and initiative on that fateful night.

Of course, someone else may reap the benefits, but who cares? Everyone should remember that all it takes is a little effort to collect the seeds you usually throw, bury them under soil (or even hurl them into empty lots), and wait patiently for them to bear fruit (or forget about them), and enjoy their shade and oxygen along the way. Fruits for you, me, or the guy who will move into your house in the future, it doesn't matter! We have to save all these aborted baby treetus-fetus things!

Many of the first human "orchards" were found in old latrine sites, where ancient communities would poop out seeds, which would then grow. Chucking seeds into soil, we are agents of propagation. Fruit and food trees do not belong in plantations. They belong to the people, and they should be free, whenever possible.

Fresh food is a right! Viva los salvadores de semillas!!! :D

Friday, April 6, 2007

A Must-Have Book

Growing up, I always saw this book in our den, alongside some rare, really old, and interesting books my parents had. I never took a second look at it, it never piqued my curiosity. It's even older than me! It was originally published in 1952, and my parents acquired it in May of 1974.

22 years later as I discovered my love and fondness for plants, especially flowers of all kinds, I've been so hungry for information. My dad directed me to this old book, his favorite plant book. Its pages are almost yellow, and its hard-bound cover rugged in the edges, which I think adds to its character.

I have to say it was quite "lucky" among the other books here at home because it was spared my vandals as a kid. I used to color on encyclopedia sets and my parents' other precious books!! :P

Philippine Ornamental Plants and Their Care by Dr. Mona Lisa Steiner is a must-have for plant lovers, amateur and professional gardeners alike.

It's more of a treasure chest for me than a book! It's complete with pictures (which greatly helped me in plant identification), information on propagation, soil types, there's even a part that tells you how to create hybrids! And, as the title says, Philippine ornamental plants... it's got everything (shrubs, poisonous plants, vines, ornamental trees, odd plants... you get the point:) here. Even if it was published decades ago, it provides timeless information.

It's considered a rare book, but you can purchase the used versions online (although a seller in Amazon's selling it for $75!). I have yet to check the local bookstores for brand new versions, which I'm not sure are available anymore.

If you're interested in buying it, there are other more affordable options you can check out, just click on the links below:

Tamarind Books



Happy reading :)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Calamansi in the Limelight

In one of the last pages of this month's Elle Magazine, I chanced upon a little blurb on our national sour citrus of choice.

Apparently, it's come into some kind of popularity in the current cosmopolitan universe. Here's to your fifteen minutes of fame, calamansi!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Rafflesia- World's Largest Flower

Did you know that the world's largest flower:
  1. Is considered very rare and can be found in the Philippines?
  2. Has no roots, stems, or leaves?
  3. Has a foul, rotting smell?
  4. Can measure up to 100 cm in diameter and 11 kg in weight?
  5. Is a parasitic plant to a vine?
  6. Lacks chlorophyll, and is therefore incapable of photosynthesis?
  7. Has a lifespan ranging from 3-7 days?

Photo source: