Showing posts with label flowers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label flowers. Show all posts

Aug 19, 2016

Monsoon Plant Rant

Icky, sticky, muggy, and buggy.  That's what the Monsoon is like here in Nepal. Alternating between scorching heat and torrential downpours it is absolutely miserable! This time of year about half of my garden turns to a mouldering mess and gets tossed upon the compost heap. I don't dare plant anything until September. 


The first to go was the Autumn Beauty sunflowers. I salvaged what was left of them for a lovely bouquet that lasted/festered for about 3 days on the breakfast table. 

The next to go were these lovely Candy Cane Mix zinnias. These were from Burpee's heirloom cut'n'grow collection and indeed the more I cut them the more they grew! Ranging from 3 to 4 inches across they're an excellent variety for long lasting cut flowers. The packet said they'd grow to about 18 inches in height so I planted the seeds in pots. Mine grew to an astonishing forty inches in height and had to be transplanted to a bed. Unfortunately they weren't as fungus resistant as promised. Not much is around here though. Off to the compost pile they went. 

Here's my favorite vine that puts up with just about everything. Ipomoea alba or moonflower is a night blooming member of the morning glory family.  These enormous 6-8 inch blooms open around four in the afternoon remaining open until the morning sun hits them. Supposedly they are fragrant, I've grown them for years and never caught a whiff of any scent from them. 

This is a rare breed of moonflower. It also opens around four in the afternoon and remains open until dawn. It's lavender blooms are only an inch across and are supposedly fragrant also. They look beautiful intertwined with the larger white moonflowers in the evening. No fragrance detected with this variety either. 

These are the fragrance bombshells in my garden. Don't let those diminutive tiny pale yellowish trumpets fool you. This is raat ki rani, queen of the night, night-blooming jasmine, or Cestrum nocturnum. It is not a true jasmine but a member of the potato family, Solanaceae. It lets out sporadic nightly blasts of the most powerful, sweet, honey-like fragrance I've ever smelled. Why it blooms some nights and not others I don't understand. When it really gets going some nights it develops a salicylate/wintergreen tinge to it's fragrance in addition to it's sweetness as tuberoses do. I bought a tiny start of this in a pot at a local nursery. It looked dead after a week so I chucked it in a back flowerbed. Now it is an eight by twelve foot monster.

My rose of Sharon finally bloomed after four years. As soon as it bloomed every beetle and ant was swarming over it. At about ten feet in height I think it's going to get butched this Fall. Especially since I just read it only blooms on new growth.

Possibly the happiest plant of all during the Monsoon months is the sacred blue lotus! A native of Egypt this Nymphaea caerulea resides in a bucket/mosquito farm in the neighbors' yard. What makes this stunning plant sacred you ask? Well, the ancient Egyptians figured out the plant contained the psychoactive alkaloid apomorphine. The mildly sedating effects of N. caerulea make it a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey. It is also fragrant and has been used in perfumes since ancient times. So not only will it make you happy and but it'll make you smell good too!

On a not so happy note:
On Monday, August 15th a bus that was going from Kathmandu towards the village of Madan Kundari veered off the road and rolled for about 1,000 feet. The bus had skidded backwards on a steep and muddy grade even though the driver applied the brakes according to eyewitnesses. About ninety passengers were traveling on the thirty-five seater bus some of which were riding on the roof. Twenty-seven passengers were killed and forty-three were injured in the accident. Most of the passengers were survivors of the 2015 earthquakes going home to sign agreements to receive government grants for reconstruction of their homes. How anyone survived this crash is a miracle to me. It was said that many of those who were traveling on the roof jumped off the vehicle and survived. Road disasters are quite common in Nepal, particularly during the monsoon. An average of around five people die daily in vehicular accidents in Nepal. Another bus crash that same Monday killed three passengers in far western Nepal.

Jun 3, 2016

Another Plant Rant

Ok, so you've probably figured out by now that Bibi really likes gardening. It's for true! And what's the most exciting time of the year for flowers? Spring! For those of you tired of my gardening posts next week Ramadan starts and I'll be posting about all the events and happenings through the month long holiday. Until then here's what is going on in my garden-

This stunner is a "Mexican Sunflower" or "Tithonia." This is the first year I've ever grown this gorgeous flower. It's blossoms are exactly that shade of satiny saffron orange you see in the photo and are about three to four inches across. It looks a lot like a giant single zinnia. Tithonia seems to thrive in heat and tolerates poor soils. Amazingly, no insects or fungus seem to bother it either. 

Here you can see how tithonia displays it's flowers, they're surrounded by large lush green jagged almost "gothic" looking leaves. The entire plant is about four feet tall and three foot wide and really fills this sandy back bed in my garden up beautifully. This is not a plant for pots (unless it's a really HUGE pot) so if you don't have a large garden this probably isn't the flower for you.

This beauty is a native of Northern India commonly called "Blue Sky Vine" or Thunbergia grandiflora. It unfurls these lovely three inch yellow throated purplish-blue trumpets daily throughout the Spring, Summer, and early Fall. Blue Sky Vine makes an excellent container plant, I've had it a twelve inch clay pot for years now. It is supposed to be a vine but mine just sends out canes which I clip back at the end of the season. It is tender to frost and loses it's leaves in late Fall so I put it in a sheltered spot near the house to protect it when it gets cold. I'm surprised this hasn't become more popular in Western gardens as it is so pretty and blooms so prolifically.

I put a photo of this gorgeous bloom up earlier in a post but didn't say anything about it. This is the morning glory called "Flying Saucer." Each flower is unique in pattern and coloring and an astonishing five inches across. Most have the paintbrush effect you see here but some have speckles and freckles too. They start out in the morning with that beautiful heavenly blue in their markings which gradually fades to the purplish tones you see in the photo giving them a psychedelic tie dye effect. By noon all the blooms are gone unless it happens to be overcast or cloudy. They're borne on a vigorous vine with the prettiest heart shaped leaves too. 

Here's another great summer container plant. This is a dwarf canna that is only about a foot tall and continuously puts out these lovely lemony yellow four inch flowers with barely there peachy pink freckles. Cannas put up with insane humidity, high heat, drought, boggy clay soils, and even bloom throughout the misery of the Monsoon in July and August. All that and gorgeous blue green tropical foliage too! I raised these from seeds I purchased from Park's Seeds three years ago. They sprouted in a week and were blooming in two months. The seeds are available in pink, white, salmon, and red also. The white version is more of a creamy yellow with tan freckles though.

And the sunflowers are going on and on. This Autumn Beauty mix from Burpee has been around since the late 80's I think but I have never grown it. I have to say it is really one of the best sunflower mixes I've ever raised, not only are the colors and shapes amazing but each plant puts out multiple stems as you can see in the photos. These stems are about twelve to sixteen inches long and make this Autumn beauty mix one of the best for cutting flowers. These stems are quite profuse along the upper half of each plant making for an incredible fifteen to twenty gorgeous flowers per plant. What a performer!

Six foot high with 15 flowers!
All on long stems for bouquets too!
Calmly currying on,


May 20, 2016

Sunflowers & Showers

Sunflowers in mid May?
Who'd of thunk it? Well, that's what we have here in Nepal. It took me like two years to figure out how to plant around the Monsoon. Everything but okra, cleome, morning glories, and Malabar spinach rots during the Monsoon season in July and August and we might have a light frost through the month of January. The trick is to plant seeds as early as possible in February to make sure whatever you're planting flowers or fruits before July. Cross your fingers whatever you've planted won't be smashed to bits in one of the hellacious hailstorms we have through March too. So here are this year's survivors in my sunflower patch.

Burpee's Autumn Beauty mix sunflower

These are all from a packet of Burpee's Autumn Beauty mix. Looking a bit raggedy and gnawed upon but beautiful none the less. Spectacular in autumnal hues, these would not be blooming in my native California until mid to late Summer. I wouldn't even dare to plant these in my northern California garden until after March due to frosts. Light frosts, but enough to kill seedlings. 

Burpee's Autumn Beauty mix sunflower

Slightly squished, hail damaged and bug bitten these sunflowers range from four to six inches across. My mom hated sunflowers, "Weeds!" she would yell as she ripped them out. I love them because they're so brazen in their glory. Yes, they're a bit rangy in habit but they look so happy!

Burpee's Autumn Beauty mix sunflower

A monocolored fuzzy sort of double thing going on here. All of the sunflowers in the Autumn Beauty mix are from four to six feet tall and have multiple flowers as you can see in this photo.

Burpee's Autumn Beauty mix sunflower

I'm not sure why but these pale lemon colored or creamy white smaller sunflowers in the mix always suffer more insect and fungus damage. All the sunflowers this color are a bit wonky like this.

Here's the villain of the piece. Darned caterpillars. If the sunflowers survive all the fungal issues and weather mishaps this is what they are plagued with. I don't spray, the gardener and I hand pick these pests and throw them to the chickens. You have to be careful when picking up the fuzzy caterpillars, some have spines that will give you a sharp poke. I do have to stake these sunflowers as they are prone to being blown over by the brief but powerful gale force winds that blast down off the mountains during Spring storms.
Hope that inspires all of you to go out and garden!
Calmly currying on,
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