(Growing conditions) Patchouli


I’ve been looking for the patchouli plant and seeds for about two years or so, when my neighbor’s young son contracted an adult’s version of leukemia, and his mom asked me (knowing that I grew plants) if I was able to get it for them. I looked everywhere, including online, but nurseries abroad either wouldn’t ship out of their country, or required us to purchase a phytos cert, which would cost terribly much. The boy’s parents have spent tens of thousands of dollars on his chemo so far, and I felt bad for them; yet, I had little cash to offer in buying a plant with phytos and pay for both that and the freight.

And so…the idea went forgotten, somewhat, and my neighbors turned to drinking the infusions made by leaves of the rose cactus plants.

Out of nowhere, my friend suddenly mentioned that he had the plant, and extremely kindly provided me with cuttings. The cuttings root terribly easily – I just stripped most of the adult leaves off, plonked the cuttings into either well-draining compost with volcanic sand, or perlite, and within less than a week, the sad-looking drooped leaves came back looking perky and happy.

Websites and people claim that the patchouli plant smells earthy. Maybe my nose has some problems, or else my definition of earthy is way different from everyone else’s, because the plant just smells like fresh, uncooked vegetables to me, kinda like the daun dewa when I was first growing it.

No matter how it smells like, though, the patchouli is a very useful plant, like many other herbs are. According to the entry on Wikipedia, “In several Asian countries, such as Japan and Malaysia, patchouli is used as an antidote for venomous snakebites. The plant and oil have many claimed health benefits in herbal folk-lore and the scent is used to induce relaxation. Chinese medicine uses the herb to treat headaches, colds, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Patchouli oil can be purchased from mainstream Western pharmacies and alternative therapy sources as an aromatherapy oil.”

But uh…I haven’t yet smelled the essential oil, so I can’t say how similar it is to the fresh scent of its crushed leaf. Whatever the case, it’s a plant I’m happy to have in my garden.

Care: Not too fussy about the soil mix, but keep it on the moist side
Fertilizing: Does well with frequent weak fertilization
Sunlight: Full sun to bright shade
Propagation: Easily by cuttings

Addendum: I passed some cuttings to my neighbor to plant, and the plants seem to be quite happily acclimatizing. I hope it helps them keep their son’s body healthy.

(Growing conditions) Vitex trifolia

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I first heard about the vitex trifolia on the local gardening forum. Someone posted up some articles claiming that village in one of the ASEAN countries burned the dried vitex leaves to repel mosquitoes and that it worked very well.

Repel mozzies? I was definitely hooked, since I really hate mozzies.

I looked about here and there and everywhere, but there was no nursery which sold the plant in a size small enough for me to plant in a pot and cultivate it at home. Furthermore, the seeds was rumored to not be willing to germinate well. So, I needed cuttings.

Someone at a local nursery was kind enough to give me cuttings to start me off. I must have been an extremely strange sight holding really large twigs and going home on the bus. But ah well. All in the name of having a plant, isn’t it?

I haven’t yet tested the efficacy of the leaves on repelling mozzies – I keep forgetting to bring them along whenever I go trekking. But there have been a few articles written about the effectiveness of the leaves, so I suppose the properties claimed are substantiated with some evidence, at the very least.

The cuttings seem to go through moods where they sheds leaves and have their twigs dry off so that many times, I think that the whole pot wouldn’t survive. But ever since I started using worm poo to feed them, the cuttings have given me new and lusher leaves.

I can’t wait for the plants to flower again, since the purple flowers are rather delicate and pretty, and helps to beautify my too-green a growing area a little bit.

Care: Not too fussy about the soil mix, but keep it on the moist side
Fertilizing: Does well with frequent weak fertilization
Sunlight: Full sun preferable
Propagation: Easily by cuttings

(Misc.) Earth Day Meme


1. Link back to the person who invited/tagged you, and link back to this post.
I was invited by The Sage Butterfly to do this Earth Day Meme. Shall attempt to complete it best as I can.

2. List at least three books that inspired you to perform any sustainable living act or inspired you to live green, and then tell us why they inspired you. These books do not have to be about green living. Nonfiction and fiction apply.
– The Lord of the Rings
– Finding Sanctuary in Nature (a book on shamanism)
– By Oak, Ash and Thorn (a book on neo-shamanism)
– Wolf Totem (fiction book on a Chinese student living in Mongolia for some time, raising a wolf cub, and learning about the cultures of the Mongolians and about how their lives are intertwined with the wolves’)

3. Select at least three other blogs to invite/tag for the project and post a link to them. Let each of the invitees know they have been tagged by emailing them or posting a comment on their blog and linking them back to this post to get the rules.
Not sure if I’m able to do this since most people are busy, but I shall try.

4. Let the person who tagged you know when you have published your Earth Day Reading Project post.

5. All posts must be completed by midnight EDT April 23, 2011. If you are invited/tagged on April 23, 2011, then skip Rule #3 above. If you want, go ahead and do a shout-out to some blogs.

Awesome blogs to check out:
The Sage Butterfly
The Curious Gardener

(Articles) Common Plants Can Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants


Adapted from Science Daily

Of the 28 species tested, Hemigraphis alternata (purple waffle plant), Hedera helix (English ivy), Hoya carnosa (variegated wax plant), and Asparagus densiflorus (Asparagus fern) had the highest removal rates for all of the VOCs introduced. Tradescantia pallida (Purple heart plant) was rated superior for its ability to remove four of the VOCs.

Full article here


Adapted from NASA

Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement:
Bamboo palm
Chinese evergreen
English ivy
Gerbera daisy
Janet Craig
Mass cane/Corn cane
Mother-in-law’s tongue
Peace lily
Pot mum

Full article here

(Growing conditions) Tea tree


Very tall plant in a small pot

I love the tea tree plant, but I have mixed feelings about how easy (or difficult) it is to grow. I suppose I should divide the growing process into two portions: by height.

I’ve never propagated the tea tree successfully using cuttings, whether it’s through the use of growing tips or not, or making the cutting have a heel or not. For me, vegetative propagation has never worked with this plant.

So, all the tea trees I’ve grown over the years have been grown from seeds. The seeds are terribly fine, almost like coarse powder. It is hard to separate them too finely, and when I sow them, I tend to sow about four or five seeds together, also for a just in case the seeds don’t sprout.

However, it’s not the sprouting of the seeds which poses the main problem. The seeds germinate readily and easily without much effort; it is the period between when the seedling has just sprouted, and the time when it has grown at least three pairs of true leaves, which is the most problematic.

During that stage, the seedlings are terribly tiny. I would estimate them to be about 3mm in height. They are extremely delicate. Logic almost dictates that with a root and stalk system that weak, one shouldn’t touch the seedlings to transfer them to pots which would serve as their more permanent homes. But, if one doesn’t, and the seeds were sown in a closed container, then they rot extremely easily.

The leaves and stalk

If one has done in situ sowing, the seedlings prove to be just as finnicky. I have a

few experiences of sowing about five seeds in a pot, having all the seeds germinate, water all the seeds carefully with a syringe, and having most of them dry up, with barely one or two surviving.

So, I think that extra care is definitely needed to protect the seedlings from extreme conditions at this stage. I think that I’d suggest partially shielding the seedlings from wind which would move them even the slightest bit, from hot sunlight (provide bright shade for this period), and from excessive watering or excessive dryness.

If you squint, you can see a slight color difference on the stalk - some portions have peeled off

Once the seedlings grow to a height of about 4cm and have grown about three to four pairs of their adult leaves, the critical period is over. I find that, beyond this stage, the plant seems to have grown resilient to most of the conditions one can give it. I’ve been rough in transplanting the plants at this stage, and they have happily grown; I’ve given them anything from part shade to direct sun, and they are perfectly fine; I’ve severely pot bound them like my current plant, and they will happily grow extremely tall and healthy.

I suppose the real kicks in growing this plant is the thought that I may use the leaves in fashions similar to the essential oil this species is grown for; that I have experienced and learned from the challenges from germination to adulthood and succeeded in growing them well; and that I simply love how the outer bark peels off to reveal the slightly silverish bark beneath it, just like the paperbark trees of its relatives.

Care: Not too fussy about the soil mix, but keep it on the moist side
Fertilizing: Does well with monthly or bi-monthly fertilizing
Sunlight: Full sun to bright shade
Propagation: Easily by seeds; cuttings are hard to strike
Special care: Extremely easy to die off from seedling stage until it has grown its third/fourth pair of true leaves

(Photography) More neps

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A mid-range view of my N. (mirabilis x coccinea) x rafflesiana which has grown really big due to getting a lot of sun

N. (mirabilis x coccinea) x rafflesiana peristome - very beautiful!

N. albomarginata 'Brunei, green'

N. albomarginata 'Brunei, green'

Nepenthes ampullaria 'bronze nabire'

Nepenthes ampullaria 'bronze nabire' - pitcher coloring up with more sun

(Photography) Toothache plant, neps.


Toothache plant flower #1

Toothache plant flower #1

Toothache plant flower #2

N. ampullaria 'speckled' I'd bought from Nep about a week or two back

N. albomarginata 'ringlet'

Growing tips of sphagnum moss

(Pest control) Worm tea

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Phone quality picture of my worm tea in the making

After having sprayed commercial pesticide on my plants, I was rather annoyed at myself for having done so.

I can’t really remember what triggered me spending the whole of yesterday trying to Google up information, but the gist of the story is that someone had once told me that worm tea, used as a foliar spray on plants, repelled pests. Since, after having fertilizing my plants with worm poo often and seeing a marked decrease in pests, I thought that the tea idea was interesting and definitely possible.

Googling simply brought up hundreds of sites all claiming the same fact – worm tea repels pests. Why? None of them said why. How? The answer still eludes me.

Whatever the case, I’ve made my own batch of worm tea to try. I used the old and dirtied pantyhose I’d pulled over the lid of my worm bin (have replaced it with a Daiso wash bag which is more durable), tied a knot over one opening, filled it up a bit, and then tied another knot to seal the casting inside. I filled a container with de-chlorinated water (I have a filter on my taps), dumped the worm-cast-filled stocking in, and added a tablespoon of raw (muscovado) sugar to feed the beneficial bacteria.

I shall harvest the tea tomorrow and spray on all my plants. Hopefully, within a few days, I won’t see any white flies at all.

(Pest control) Synthetic pesticide


I’m not a fan of using chemical stuff on my plants most of the time. I like the organic way, because a lot of the methods I use reuse things which would otherwise be treated as mere waste.

But, there are some times when the delicate balance between healthy plants and a minimal amount of pests gets tipped over.

After converting to using worm poo to feed my plants frequently, the presence of pests infesting my plants has severely nosedived. The only pests I find are the random scale insects, and, as I found out yesterday, three or four of the lowest leaves of my raspberry baby plant having about 10 spider mites each or so.

I recently took a few pots of plants back from a friend’s place. I didn’t know that the plants had white flies, and that my friend had tried fighting them off to little avail.

When this kind of thing happens, through no fault of his/her/my own, the balance in my own garden gets tipped. I’ve had enough of experiences fighting off infestations of pests – it gets tiring more than quickly.

So, I turn from using things like garbage enzyme, to using a pesticide my dad bought in 2006. I have no idea of the compounds, but it’s so strong that five years after buying it, he/I/we haven’t finished using it even. The dilution rate must be very high, to prevent leaf burn and plant death.

I haven’t touched chemical pesticide for well over two years. It infuriates me that I have to resort to it now, but I really need to control the darn white fly infestation before it gets severely out of hand.

Ah well. As long as I remember not to consume anything within two weeks to a month of spraying this.

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