Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mustard green's yellow flowers

One of the nicest things about growing vegetables is you never quite know what you're going to expect. We see all kinds of vegetables in the supermarket, yet most of us have no idea what the flowers or seeds look like.

I allowed my mustard green vegetable to grow and grow. Sometimes I can't bear to eat my own home grown vegetables. Today, I was delighted to see a little bouquet of yellow flowers.

Who would have known that a bitter tasting vegetable is capable of producing such pretty blooms?

Now if I leave the flowers alone, I might get mustard seeds. Yes, the kind that you use in Indian curries. Or I could just sow them and start another cycle.

Nature always amazes me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The idea that grew and grew

As you would know by now, I have been working with a bunch of young kids to transform their school yard into a little green haven. With my limited resources, I could only bring seeds, stem cuttings and seedlings for them to grow every week.

They began to develop the joy of gardening and respect for nature. Some grew up deprived of parental love and never knew what it is like to care for others. In some ways, gardening helps bring out the nurturing side in them.

Working with these kids has been a rewarding experience. It has inspired me to work harder to make the garden a more productive one. The kids get so excited when they see results. They're eagerly anticipating a good harvest of sweetcorn. These aspiring entrepreneurs have sold mangoes and cookies in the school canteen to raise funds.

Their energy is so infectious, it has inspired me to work towards my own dreams. I began toying with the idea of combining my love for gardening and animals to create something inspiring yet practical.

Once the idea was planted in my head, it just grew and grew. Finally, the time has come to roll out the first product - The "Grow a Little Love Everyday" 2011 poster calendar.

Promotional flier.

Featuring animals, flowers, leaves (28 types, each painstakingly illustrated by a very talented artist) and heart-shaped trees, the calendar showcases nature at its whimsical best. I hope the graphics will lift one’s spirit and feed the soul, inspiring one to give a little love every day.

The A2 size full colour poster is printed on the elegant 170gsm Antalis Sensation Tradition, bright white paper stock. The dates are laid out at the bottom so that it can easily be cut off if you want to keep the print hanging after the year is over.

I'm shamelessly promoting here hoping my readers will help spread the word around. As you know, the window for selling 2011 calendar is rather short, so any help is greatly appreciated.

It makes a great Christmas gift! 'Love grows by giving' is my new mantra.

The retail price is S$10 (USD7.50) per piece. Shipping cost within Singapore is S$3 for one piece (packed in a cardboard tube) or S$3.50 if you order two pieces. I am happy to ship all over the world but the postal rate varies according to the destination. Please feel free to drop me an email or comment if you have any queries.

My aspiration is to make this new venture a success. Please keep a lookout for more new products to come. With more money in my pocket, I will be able to grow more flowers in the school garden. :-)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

So beautiful

This is indeed the perfect birthday gift. It gets better and better everyday.

Ms Blue Pea

I was surprised to see a gorgeous flower peeking under the leaves of the Clitoria ternatea, commonly known as the butterfly or blue pea plant.

After I got rid of the bittergourd plants, I sowed some blue pea seeds that I had gathered from the wild vines growing around our estate. I don't really buy alot of plants from nurseries. Most of those in my garden are grown from seeds or propagated from stem cuttings.

To my delight, the blue pea plant, being a quick grower, started creeping up the trellis faster than I had expected. The deep blue flowers are used locally as a food dye. My friend's mum colours her nonya kuey and dumplings using the flowers in their garden. I'm not good at making kueh, so I'll just leave the flowers on the vine.


When I bought a pack of sweet jean corn kernels, I sowed some in the school garden and gave the rest to my father.

The ones at my father's front yard are big and strong, each plant producing ears of corn.

My father has the greenest thumb. Everything in his garden is extra lush, extra large and productive. Maybe it has something to do with the way he prepares the land for growing.

The corn that I am growing in the school yard (below) are small in comparison to my dad's. I blame it on the poor soil condition. The school is built on reclaimed land afterall, and each time we dig into the compact ground, we find pieces of tiles, granite and bricks buried inside. It's no wonder the plants there don't do so well.

Though they were grown at the same time, I don't see any ears of corn developing yet. I've been fertilising diligently. I don't think there is anything else I can do.

View from the top

Today I had the opportunity to view my patio garden from my neighbour's apartment six levels up. I'm glad to know it's not an eyesore, except for the garden hose which has been left uncoiled after use by my son.

Friday, September 24, 2010


With the sun shining on my patio now, my lush mustard green suddenly started bolting. Vegetables bolt for a reason. When the temperature gets too hot, it abandons growth and produces flowers and seeds instead. This is just nature's way of producing the next generation asap.

The coleus is also losing its shape and beautiful foliage. I've stopped nipping the flower buds. Now I just let the flowers grow any way they like.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A tale of 2 gardens

When Petunia visited my garden, she gushed, "Your garden is so lush, like a tropical rainforest."

She's quite right. It's on the second floor, where the air is warm and humid, and deprived of direct sunlight most part of the year. It's the perfect environment for heliconias, banana, episcia, fern and spider lilies to thrive in. The garden is overgrown with large foliage and vegetation that builds upwards to create a dense tropical (mini) jungle.

garden, on the other hand, is all the way up on the 14th floor where the air is hot and dry during the day. At night, cool air filters through the garden, creating a mediterranean like climate. No wonder she can work magic with delicate herbs like lemon myrtle, thyme, rosemary and arugula, and coax pretty flowers out of chamomile, dandelion, hyssop and tarragon. Recently her strawberry plants produced some fruits. This would never happen in my garden!

Now she worries if she can continue growing the same plants if she moves into her new house, a landed property, next year.

If I were to sell my house, I would leave most of the plants behind for the new owner. While it would sadden me to part with my beloved plants, moving matured plants around could traumatise them. Besides, they may not do so well in a new environment. Of course, that would mean I can only sell my house to a plant lover.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Meet my carnivores

Guess what my vegetarian friend Patricia gave me for my birthday? A carnivore!

Yup, I was presented a Nepenthes, aka pitcher plant last night. This particular one looks fairly phallic to me, thanks to the unusual colour of the pitchers. With this carnivorous plant hanging in my bedroom window sill, I forsee there will be less ants and bugs in my room from now on.

Yesterday, I also inherited a venus flytrap from my son who thinks I can do a better job at keeping it alive. It's sitting in the shade, somewhere below the Nephentes. I hear it has a reputation for being difficult to grow but I like challenges, so, let's see how long it will last under my care.

Just about everyone knows how I like gardening so I wasn't too surprised to receive a pot of Gloxinia (instead of a bouquet of flowers) from my beloved on my birthday. He's being practical of course because this pot will keep producing me flowers, hopefully for many more birthdays.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Everything's coming up roses

My friends, all avid gardeners, gathered at my house for lunch at the patio yesterday. Alas, our plans were thwarted by the rain. Why does it always have to rain when I have people coming to view the garden?!

We had a good time though, eating and chatting in the cool comfort of the living room. When they were gone, I walked out to discover a big palm-sized rose hidden amongst the foliage. I wish they had seen it!

The sun is finally out this morning and the plants are flaunting their blooms. The rose bud has transformed into a gorgeous creamy yellow flower.

The one below is already fading. Soon the petals will fall to the ground.

The cherry tomato plant is showing off more flowers than before. That will improve my chances of getting tomatoes.

I like how the turnera plants take advantage of the morning sun to showcase their pretty flowers. It's the best time to admire them in their full glory before they close hours later.

Now the weather is just right for a garden party. I sit under the umbrella and eat bruschetta, made using the left-over tomato salsa and french loaf from yesterday's party.

I read the papers while Rusty bathes in the warm sunshine.

It's the start of a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oh joy!

After a week's break, the kids returned to find everything thriving in the school garden. Thanks to the rainy week, the plants seemed to have shot up overnight! There were lady's fingers and chilli waiting to be harvested.

I had never seen the kids so excited.

Lady's fingers.

Sweet corn.


Chilli padi.



Friday, September 10, 2010


When the morning sun started streaming into the garden, I stood there and literally watched the turnera flowers blossom before my very eyes.

Stage 1 - the tight petals started to open up.

Stage 2 - Petals unfurling under the warm sunshine.

Stage 3 - Almost there.

Stage 4 - Tada!

The lipstick plant also makes me beam with joy. After the last flowering season in July, I wasn't quite sure if I would ever see flowers again. Then suddenly, little tube-like calyxs started appearing.

Some have red lipsticks emerging already.

The flowering season has begun!

Cherry tomato

My cherry tomato plant is flowering but I am not jumping for joy yet. I have had many tomato flowers come and go without producing any fruits.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hello Yam!!

Say 'Hello' to my yam! Recently I bought half a piece of yam (taro) from the market. I sliced the top off and covered it in a thin layer of soil instead of discarding it. I wasn't sure if it was going to work but shoots started appearing not long after. Now there are several big round leaves.

Yam plants thrive in the shade and they need a long growing time (around 6 months) to produce tubers. I've planted in a deep pot to give it room for growth. Hopefully, I will get to eat yam by February next year.

The sweet corn in my styrofoam box have all germinated. While some of the leaves appear to have been chewed off, I've scattered a pellet like soil to discourage the snails from sneaking in. The other thorny sticks in the box are 'kau kay choi' (Lycium chinense) - a vegetable with soft, oval and slightly bitter leaves. Apparently it's a herb with cooling properties. My family loves it, so I'm trying to grow some in my garden.