Friday, January 30, 2009

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) 猫薄荷

Nepeta cataria (Catnip / Catmint) is a 50–100 cm tall herb resembling mint in appearance, with greyish-green leaves; the flowers are white, finely spotted with purple. It has been introduced to many countries, including the United States. The name was derive from their famed effect on cats—nepeta pleasantly stimulates cats' pheromonic receptors, typically resulting in a temporarily induced euphoric state. Cat loves it!

How to grow
To start a crop of catnip plants with seeds, sow directly into the ground when the soil is warm; it is easily cultivated in any garden soil, with little care, as the plant does not require the moisture that most mint plants need. Plants should be grown from seed sown where they are going to stand. Bruised or recently transplanted plants are likely to be eaten by cats unless protected. The seed should be sown very thinly in rows 20 inches apart and the seedlings thinned out to 20 inches apart in the rows. It requires almost no care except occasional weeding. A bed will last several years. It can also be propagated by division of the roots in spring. Catnip plants can be grown in planting zones 3-9.

The herb is harvested just before flowering in middle to late summer on a dry sunny day and in late morning when all dew is gone. Drying should be done carefully. The leaves are stripped from the stems and dried as quickly as possible with good ventilation out of direct sunlight, or in an oven at 150 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid losing much volatile oil.

Catnip plants are not just for cats: like so many herbs, they also have culinary and medicinal uses, whether used fresh or dried. Tea made from the leaves and flowers of this herbaceous perennial has traditionally been imbibed to relieve coughs, for instance. The leaves and shoots can be used as ingredients in sauces and soups. The oil extracted from catnip plants is even used in natural mosquito repellents. Store dried leaves and flowers in freezer bags to preserve the potency of the oil.

Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley

Italian flat-leaf parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum) is a bright green, biennial herb with serrated leaves and a clean, slightly peppery taste. Its flavor is stronger than that of its ruffled cousin, curly-leaf parsley. It is often used as a garnish. It is very common in Middle Eastern, European, and American cooking. The flat-leaved parsley is superior for flavor and is prized by gourmets as the most flavorful of all parsleys. Native to the eastern Mediterranean and related to celery. It can grow to 10-12 inches tall.

How to grow
Soaking parsley seeds overnight before sowing shortens the germination period. Parsley seeds will sprout best at a temperature of around 20° centigrade when you can expect about 70% germination in about 14 days.
Transplant as soon as they have two sets of true leaves (and the soil is warm), because they have a long root and resent being transplanted once they have begun to leaf out. If you're growing them in a pot for the kitchen window, select a container that is long and narrow rather than wide and shallow, to give the root room to run. Parsley grown indoors requires at least five hours of sunlight a day.

Planting session: Early spring.

Days to Maturity: 75-80

In Central and Eastern Europe and in West Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Green parsley is often used as a garnish. The fresh flavor of the green parsley goes extremely well with potato dishes (french fries, boiled buttered potatoes or mashed potato), with rice dishes (risotto or pilaf), with fish, fried chicken, lamb or goose, steaks, meat or vegetable stews.

Christmas Palm / Manila Palm

Botanical name : Veitchia merrillii syn. Adonidia merrillii

Christmas Palm is medium size palm that is a long-time favorite in South Florida yards. One of its common names is Dwarf Royal Palm because it resembles a "Mini-me" version of the Royal Palm (Roystonea regia). Christmas Palm has a very neat appearance and is well-suited to use as a patio, terrace, specimen, or framing tree.

Christmas Palm has a smooth slender grayish stem ringed by semi-circular frond scars. A 2-3' green crown shaft supports a crown of almost a dozen pinnate fronds. The fronds are arched to about 5' long with leaflets that are about 2' long and 2' wide. Where the crown shaft attaches to the trunk 2' long inflorescences sprout. Small butter-cream colored flowers form light green 1" long ovoid fruit. By December, most years, the fruit ripens and turns a crimson color.

How to grow
This palm is easy going in its requirements and will grow in most soils with well-drained except those that are constantly soggy. Christmas palm is moderately salt tolerant. Sow the seed directly into soil about 3-4 inch depth. The seed will germinate within 1-3 months.
For growing instruction, you can visit

Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 12, does poorly in prolonged cold weather below mid-30F. Frost-free area. Prefer full sun, watering regularly. Young tree prefer partly shade area.

The showy Christmas palm is a compact beauty whose small stature makes it perfect for use in courtyards, atriums and other small scale plantings. It is sometimes closely planted in groups of two or three. This causes the twin's (or trio's) stems to curve in graceful arcs away from the center of the planting creating a lovely living sculpture. The formal symmetry of Christmas palm is nicely showcased when it is grown in a container. Indoors or out this is a glamourous container plant that can maintain its looks despite hardship and neglect.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pinang Tree / Betel Nut Palm (Areca catechu L.)

Pinang Tree / Betel Nut Palm is a straight and graceful palm tree growing in most tropical countries. It is native to Malaysia tropical rainforest. It is a palm exhibiting a slender single trunk, up to 10 m tall and about 20 cm wide, green at first, subsequently greyish and ringed by the remains of leaf scars. Its leaves, borne at stem apex, are pinnate, with a rigid but recurved rachis and several rigid, closely packed segments. Flowers, yellow and fragrant, are unisexual, clustered in inflorescences basally arising from the leaves, and enveloped by two spathes; male flowers are more numerous and located at inflorescence apex, whilst female flowers, less numerous, are to be found near the base. Fruits are hard, ovoid, red-orange coloured; they possess a fibrous mesocarp and a thin woody endocarp enveloping one seed.

How to grow
The betel palm prefers moist soil with excellent drainage and a moist tropical climate. It is too tender to grow outside of the tropics and does not tolerate drought. It is cold sensitive. USDA hardiness zone is 10 - 11. They cannot withstand temperature below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. A slow growing graceful palm reaches 80 feet in the wild. Grown indoors as a container plant it is kept in check.

This plant is a very usefull and attractive addition to garden, because it is one of the few smaller growing sun tolerant feather palms. Seeds of this palm, incorrectly known as betel nuts, are widely employed, notably in South-East Asia, as a masticatory, due to its stimulating, digestive and cardiotonic properties, exerted by tannin and alkaloid substances present in them. The seeds contain arecalin, a stimulant, and are the betel nuts that color the teeth and mouth red, when chewed. Medicinally, the betel nut is used to treat intestinal worms.. In addition, its vegetating buds are often used as palm cabbage.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Murraya paniculata (Orange Jessamine)

Other name: Mock Orange, Satinwood

Orange Jessamine is a small, tropical, evergreen tree or shrub growing up to 7 m tall. Its leaves are glabrous and glossy, occurring in 3-7 oddly pinnate leaflets which are elliptic to cuneate-obovate to rhombic. Flowers are terminal, corymbose, dense and fragrant. Petals are 12-18 mm long, recurved and white (or fading cream). The fruit of Murraya paniculata is fleshy, oblong-ovoid, coloured red to orange,[2] and grows up to 1 inch in length. M. paniculata is cultured as an ornamental tree or hedge because of its hardiness, wide range of soil tolerance. It is very easy to grow. It is native to South-East Asia.

How to grow
Sow the seed 1/2 inch deep directly on the well-drained and moist soil, barely cover the seed with soil. The seed will germinate about 7-10 days. Place the seedling in shade area with filtering sun. You can transplant the seedling when it reach 1 foot tall. Water regularly will promote grow and flowering upon mature. Need frost-free climate. You can move it indoor during winter.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thymus Vulgaris (German Winter Thyme)

Thyme is a generally upright, woody-based perennial which is primarily grown as a culinary herb in herb gardens. Numerous, somewhat woody stems grow upward to form a foliage mound 6-12" tall. Stems are clothed with tiny, linear to elliptic, pointed, gray-green leaves which are distinctively revolute (leaf margins are rolled under). Leaves are highly aromatic (reaching their peak just before plants flower) and are frequently used fresh or dried as a seasoning in a variety of culinary applications including soups, stews, sauces, meat and fish dishes. Whorls of tiny, tubular, lilac flowers appear on the stem ends in late spring to early summer. Flowers are attractive to bees. Plants are evergreen in mild winters.

Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun. Loose, sandy or rocky soils with excellent drainage are best. Drought tolerant. Dislikes wet soils where it tends to rot. Cut back plants to limit woody growth or to stimulate new growth. Harvest leaves throughout the summer as needed. Plants tend to become overly woody and loose after several years at which point replacement should be considered.

Best in herb gardens. Good companion plant for eggplant or tomatoes in vegetable gardens. Can be grown in rock gardens or border fronts, but there are many other varieties and cultivars which have superior ornamental features for this purpose. May be grown indoors in pots in a sunny kitchen window.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Passion Fruits (Passiflora edulis L.)

Other names:
Passiflora, apricot vine, grenadilla, maracuja, maracuya.

Passion fruits are great for use in soft drinks or cocktails. The fruits grow on a climbing plant which is also well known for its beautiful flowers. The passionfruit vine is a strong, vigorous, evergreen climber, produces egg sized fruit filled with wonderfully tart, bright orange pulp and it originated in South America. This common red-purple passionfruit is native in Malaysia. Passion fruit vines are hardy to 32F, so protect from any frosts. They can withstand short drops below 32F but foliage may die back. It can grow about 20ft per year. The plant vine can live between 5 to 7 years. Passion fruit can grow well in Southern California and Florida.

How to Grow
The purple passionfruit is subtropical. It grows and produces well between altitudes of 2,000 and 4,000 ft (650-1,300 m).
Soil type: light to heavy sandy loams, of medium texture are most suitable, and pH should be from 6.5 to 7.5. If the soil is too acid, lime must be applied. Good drainage is essential to minimize the incidence of collar rot.
Seeds are planted 1/2 in (1.25 cm) deep in beds, and seedlings may be transplanted when 10 in (25 cm) high.
Regular watering will keep a vine flowering and fruiting almost continuously. Pruning passionfruit is essential to avoid fungal diseases.

Passionfruit fall from the vine when mature, and the fruit is harvested off the ground.

Maturity period:
Usually 18 months for first fruit bearing.

Eat raw as fruit or use the fruit pulps to make juices.
In Madeira, the juice of passionfruits is given as a digestive stimulant and treatment for gastric cancer

Nutrition info
Good sources of potassium, vitamin A & C and dietary fiber.


Sunday, January 4, 2009