Sunday, September 28, 2008

Clerodendrum thomsoniae Balf. 紅萼龍吐珠

Clerodendrum thomsoniae is also known as bleeding heart or glory bower. It is a twining evergreen shrub that is native to Western Central Africa. Leaves are evergreen, simple, opposite, glabrous, entire. They are up to 6 in (15 cm) long and have strong veins. Flowers appear mainly in summer. They are grouped in axillary or terminal panicles. Flowers have a white calyx, a scarlet-red corolla, and prominent stamens and style. This plant produces inedible black and orange-red berries as fruit. Green at first, they blacken as they ripen. Then, they split open from the top to the bottom to present a bright orange fleshy lining that contains four black seeds. Blooms mostly from April to October-November in natural conditions of tropical climate. The plant drops some leaves (not all of them) in winter, and has some flowers (not much) even during the winter time. As long as you provide lots of light to it, it'll bloom most of the time.

This Clerodendrum is often sold as a house plant. However, it is a fast growing and vigorous plant that is best grown outdoors in warm climates, or under glass elsewhere. This plant needs direct sun in order to bloom well; a sunny window may be sufficient if you don't move the container outdoors for the season. Water and fertilize regularly when actively growing. Use a rich, but well-drained potting medium and keep moist but not wet. Since C. thomsoniae blooms on new growth, it is best to cut the plant back after blooming. Thin out old overcrowded shoots and any other far-reaching growth to keep the vine in bounds - don't be afraid to prune severely. Bleeding heart vine has few pests, but mealybugs and spider mites can occasionally be problems.

Although it is root hardy to zone 9, it really is a tropical plant and does need protection from freezing. If grown outdoors, move inside when temperatures fall below 45ºF. When temperatures are cool enough (even indoors), the plant will shed its leaves. New leaves will resprout from the roots or what looks like dead wood in spring. If it does go dormant in the winter, withhold water until the new growth starts (water just enough to keep the soil from drying out and don't fertilize).

Bleeding heart vine is easy to propagate by cuttings or serpentine layering. Semi-ripe tip cuttings taken in late spring or late summer can be rooted in water or moist sand or other medium. Roots should appear in about 2 weeks. Seeds can also be planted in spring.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zephyr flower (Zephyranthes candida) 韭蘭

he Zephyranthes are a genus of bulbous species in the amaryllis family that are indigenous and limited to the Western Hemisphere, being an entire American species of Amaryllidaceae. Several dozen bulbous species occur only in warm temperate to tropical areas, from near sea level to high plateau and mountain regions.

Some common names include rain lilies, August rain lily, and Zephyr lily. But most people call the small and delicate zephyranthes rain lilies, because they tend to send up a flush of bloom about four days after each rainy spell.

This is a white cultivar of a flower usually found in pink flowering forms, Candida, grows 152 mm to 254 mm (6-10 inches) tall. It's ideal for rock gardens and for tucking into groundcovers.

Leaves are a deep glossy green and measure 3 mm wide. Flowers are erect in perianth white or sometimes pinkish abaxially. The leaf-like brach is 1.8 to 4 cm. They grow best in full sun to part shade and require a medium wet soil (regular watering).

Propagation is done by dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets) and from seed; direct sow outdoors in fall.

Bloom time: Late summer into fall

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Four O-Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa L.) 煮飯花

An old fashioned favorite, four o-clocks are a fast growing bush plant. They grow to about 36" with oval lance shaped leaves and trumpet shaped, fragrant flowers. Flowers may be shades of red, pink, yellow, white or striped. Mirabilis is a wonderful addition to an evening garden. Once even one flower opens, a rich fragrance is released into the surrounding air.

The plant thrives in all zones, blooming in early through late summer. Four o’clocks thrive in ordinary soil in full sun or partial shade, sending up numerous volunteer seedlings every year (even in cold parts of the country.)

Seeds may be sown directly into the garden in the Spring in warm areas. In other areas, start the seeds indoors about eight weeks before the final frost date in Spring for transplanting. Seedlings may be set in the garden at about the same time you would plant tomatoes. Allow about 12 inches between plants. Roots are tuberous and can be stored for planting in the Spring. Plants can also be divided in early Spring.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gomphrena Globosa (Global Amaranth)

Gomphrena globosa
Common Names: globe amaranth, gomphrena, bachelor's buttons
Family: Amaranthaceae (amaranth Family)

Globe amaranth is a tropical annual, originally from Asia, growing up to a height of 24".
Globe amaranth has an erect branched stem with opposite, oblong leaves.
It has flowerheads in the colors, purple, white and pink, which are borne on spikes.
This flower head, one inch a cross, consist of small inconspiciuos individual flowers, however the bracts are colorful. The flower heads can keep there color for several years when gathered.
How to grow
full sun, organically rich, well drained soil, can withstand some drought.
An excellent border plant, but can also be used in dried arrangements and as cut flowers. It also attracts butterflies. Plant in frost free areas. seed propagation.

Gophrenas are used in annual beds and borders. In masses, the round flowerheads produce an interesting texture, and their bright colors last late into the season. Their low stature makes them well suited for edging around taller plantings. Globe amaranth is often grown in containers on the porch or deck. The conelike flowerheads are beautiful in dried arrangements and will hold their shape and color indefinitely. To grow gomphrena for cut flowers or dried arrangements, plant closely together to force longer stems. Cut the stems just as the heads are beginning to open and hang upside down in a warm, dark place to dry.

Gomphrena is an old fashioned bedding plant that just isn't used enough these days. It tolerates poor soils, heat and drought, and was once a favorite in British gardens. It is a true "everlasting" and one of the best flowers you can grow for dried arrangements. As an added bonus, it attracts butterflies.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ceylon Spinach (malabar spinach)

Malabar spinach is in the Basellaceae family, not the spinach family. The taste is similar to spinach. It is also called Ceylon spinach, Vietnamese Spinach (Mong Toi). Malabar spinach is a tender and fast growing, climbing tropical vine; growing up to 12 feet tall. This variety has a green stem, dark green leaves in thick heart shaped, This species is called Basella alba.

USDA zone 9 - 11.


Seeds have hard coating and it is suggested to soak seeds in water overnight or the seed skin be scratched before planting. Sow the seed directly on the soil and cover with thin layer of soil.
The plant is almost insect-free and is very easy to grow.
Full sun / light shade; plant outdoors after last expected frost.
It can be grown as a spring-sown annual as high as zone 7.
Tolerates high rainfall and is extremely heat tolerant; soil pH 6.1 to 6.5.
The soil must be rich and well drained.

Planting Season
Late Spring to early summer.

approximately 60 days

Only the leaves and young stems are eaten; they are used in salads or steamed with tofu and ginger.
The taste is similar to spinach. It
usually cook with noodles or soup, stir-fried. They have a succulent mucilage (a thick gluey substance produced by most plants) that is uses as a thickener in soups or stews. In Japan, it is cooked in tempura or braised and topped with a sesame dressing.

High in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium; also a good source of chlorophyll.

Health benefit
In China, the leaves and roots are sometimes used medicinally for digestive system.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica)

Mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)
The 'sensitive plant', Mimosa pudica, also known as 'humble plant', or 'touch-me-not', is a source of fascination to adults and children alike. It is a fun plant to grow. When you gently touch the narrow fern-like leaflets they almost instantaneously fold together and the leaf stalk droops. This sometimes sets off a chain reaction, with several leaf stalks falling on top of one another, causing the collapse of a whole section of foliage, or perhaps the whole plant. When left to its own devices, the plant gradually returns to normal, this taking up to about half an hour. These movements are called seismonastic movements (reaction to physical shock). At night, the leaves will also fold and bend in movements known as nyctonastic movements (reaction to absence of light).

The stem is erect in young plants, but becomes creeping or trailing with age. The stem is slender, branching, and sparsely to densely prickly, growing to a length of 1.5 m (5 ft). The leaves are bipinnately compound, with one or two pinnae pairs, and 10-26 leaflets per pinna. The petioles are also prickly. Pedunculate (stalked) pale pink or purple flower heads arise from the leaf axils. The globose to ovoid heads are 8-10 mm in diameter (excluding the stamens). On close examination, it is seen that the floret petals are red in their upper part and the filaments are pink to lavender. The fruit consists of clusters of 2-8 pods from 1-2 cm long each, these prickly on the margins. The pods break into 2-5 segments and contain pale brown seeds some 2.5 mm long. The flowers are pollinated by the wind and insects

How to grow
This plant is most often grown as an indoor annual, but is also grown for groundcover. Mimosa pudica need full sun to partial shade, with a rich moist soil. We use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand or perlite. The soil should be kept evenly moist but not saturated. During the growing season, the plant are fertilized on a weekly basis with a balanced fertilizer diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. During the winter months, fertilize on a monthly basis. Winter temperatures should not fall below 65° F; if they do get chilled, then the plant suffers with yellowing of leaves and stems.

Mimosa pudica is propagated from seed. Seed will germinate in 14 to 21 days at 70° F. Place your seeds in a container of warm water and let them soak over night before you plant your seeds. This will help them to sprout faster. First leaves are not ticklish and will not move. About three weeks later, real TickleMe Plant leaves will appear and will move when tickled. As plant grows, more and more leaves will appear as well as branches. The branches will even droop when the leaves are tickled.

Medical Properties
In Ayurveda, the plant is described as a plant which folds itself when touched and spreads its leaves once again after a while. It is said to have a bitter and astringent taste, and has a history of use for the treatment of various ailments. Most commonly used is the root, but leaves, flowers, bark, and fruit can also be implemented

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tong Ho Choy (Garland Chrysanthemum)

Tong Ho is an edible garland chrysanthemum, is one of the most popular vegetables in Europe and has become very popular recently in Asia too. Oriental love this leafy variety for its unqiue flavor and taste. Plants are very vigorous and are easy to grow. Pick young leaves for the best eating quality, excellent for salad and stir-fry. This unique vegetable has been considered as a healthy vegetable by Oriental, good for eyes and vision care. This broad leaf variety with thick leaves and slightly serrated can grow very well in slightly cool climates. It has a milder flavor than the small serrated leaf variety, but their Chrysanthemum essence does get stronger with maturity.

Tong Ho is both an herbal medicine and a cooked vegetable. Leaves and stems have a slightly succulent texture and a distinct and pleasant but not strong flavor, which becomes stronger with plant age.

How to grow
Tong Ho is an easy and weather-tolerant plant, which prefers coolish conditions. Some varieties can tolerate even 0 ℃. However the optimal growth temperature is around 20℃. Below 12℃ and over 29℃, it grows slowly and poorly. It grows well and vigorously mild and slightly climates. The leaves and stems are ready for harvest one to two months after the seeds are sown. It can be grown all the year round depending upon temperature. In Florida, the seeds can be sown in late fall through spring. In some areas, mulching is recommended.

Direct sowing is a common practice. However, keeping soil moist is important for good germination. Note: too much water is no good for germination either. For summer and early fall sowing, make sure to overshadow to keep them from direct sunlight and high temperature. Normally you can get good germination about one week after direct sowing. To commercial growers, direct sowing can be 12 Kg (26 lbs) per acre for row cropping. For gardening, plant density can be 16x10cm(6 3/10"x4").

In spring sowing, in order to promote and speed germination, seeds can be soaked in water for about 24 hours, then keep them at 15-20℃ for germination. They are ready for sowing when "white tips" appear.

When the plants reach up to 10 cm (4") tall, more nitrogenous fertilizer is recommended.

In most cases, Tong Ho is disease tolerant to certain extent in normal condition and no need to use pesticide and other chemicals. However under humid and high temperature condition, some chemicals e.g. fungicide has to be sprayed.

Harvest and storage
Tong Ho like most Oriental vegetables must be harvested when young. Generally, when the plant reaches up to 20 cm tall, it can be harvested. You may harvest the second time if you cut the stem 2-3 cm above the soil and let it grow for another one or two months ( in most cases, it should be fertilizer after the first cut).

Cooking information
Leaves and stems can be eaten raw in salad or cooked like stir-fried or used in soups. Whether used in salad or cooked, they should be young, fresh and green, free of yellowing, wilting and the stems should be very crisp. Cook only briefly (like spinach) whether boiled or stir-fried. When it is flowering or has sign offlowering, the leaves and stems become bitter and fibrous. The leaves are usually blanched briefly to soften them and deepen their color, but young leaves can be served raw. Add them to cooked dishes at the last minute, as they become bitter if overcooked.

Nutrition info
Tong Ho is a useful source of potassium, with some vitamin C and dietary fibre

Miniature Bottle Gourd

This variety produces miniature size bottle gourds, that are widely used for making decorative gourds. This vine plant is very vigorous in warm climates and is often grown along trellis and fences in the subtropical Orient.
This miniature bottle shaped fruit grows 1' in length, and is used as a container or as decoration after the fruit has dried and the seeds have been removed. The plant requires a long and warm growing season.

* Maturity: Approx. 95 days
* Planting season: Late spring to early summer