Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

In the neighborhood...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Roses of Fall

Perhaps because sweltering heat often sets in relatively early for us here just as spring is changing into summer, it always seems to me that some of the most flawless, pristine roses are produced not in May and June but in the cool last days of autumn.

One of many roses still blooming along my daily walk to campus

Their cheerful perseverance sweetens the ever shorter days and chilly mornings, and makes me a bit more forgiving of the pumpkin spice and foliage fueled fall madness all around me.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


With the many new gardening possibilities my new domicile offers, I am of course already hatching plans for all sorts of plant-related projects. One of those is to grow some small tropical waterlilies (Nymphaea sp.) in nice containers, to adorn the balcony in summer and perhaps even the sun room in winter. I have seen a lot of this done in South and Southeast Asia, for instance in Thailand as I described here, or in Malaysia and India in the pictures below:

A white one at the royal museum in Klang, Malaysia...

... And some pink and purple ones in the same garden

Another one found last January in the roof garden of a guest house in Varanasi, India, a bit bedraggled by winter cold and perhaps neglect, but still producing flower buds

Obviously I will have to go even a bit smaller than at least the first two examples, but hopefully that will not be a deal breaker. Now, if anyone has experience with this, I have some questions:

What species or varieties of Nymphaea should I give a try? My online research so far suggests that Nymphaea x daubenyana, also known as Nymphaea x daubeniana or Nymphaea 'Dauben', is my best bet, since apparently it will adapt to different pond or container sizes, can grow in very shallow water, and will still flower under less than ideal conditions, such as in a bit of shade or cooler temperatures. Does anyone have other suggestions? Something showier in terms of flower color and shape, perhaps, but still as small and tough?

Secondly, from where should I order my plants? I found a number of potential purveyors online, but would love any recommendations or warnings from anyone who has experience ordering these sort of plants in the United States.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bigger and Better Things

I finally moved this weekend, a step long in the making. The move itself was grueling, with my parents and me up and working almost non-stop from early morning to late a night in a four-day marathon of lugging suit cases and heavy furniture, cleaning, painting, trips to Home Depot and IKEA, and assembling oh so many shelves, beds, and tables. However, the new place is glorious - spacious and bright, and fully ours! There is a southwest-facing sun room of sorts, a large balcony, and even a little plot which I might be able to claim in the building's communal garden. So there is room for a lot more plants and a lot more books - room, that is, to grow.

One corner of the sunroom-like glassed-in porch

Lots of space for the collection

The hardy succulents from my outside window sill in their new home on the balcony

Now if only Verizon could get our phone line and Internet connection to work as they should...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Eid Mubarak!

In the Moroccan Garden, Taman Botani, Putrajaya, Malaysia

عيد مبارك

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Losses and Gains

It has been quite a while since I have flat out lost a plant to a pest but it appears that the drumstick tree or murungai sapling (Moringa oleifera) that I have been tending for the past year has succumbed rather rapidly to the predations of spider mites. The speed at which this has happened is astonishing; until about a week ago the spindly little plant was doing better than it ever had, rapidly putting out ever bigger new leaves. Then the mites appeared, and within days all the leaves turned a sickly yellow and dropped. Luckily all the surrounded plants seem to be unaffected so far - fingers crossed that it will stay that way. I will give murungai another try once I get a hold of another batch of seeds.

Drumstick tree sapling in its spider mite-induced death throes

Meanwhile, a new generation of basil plants is growing on my bedroom window sill, including both bush basil (Ocimum basilicum var. minimum) and holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), the latter protected against cold and drafts - and maybe spider mites - by a little miniature cloche made out of an inverted vase.

Bush basil babies (Ocimum basilicum var. minimum)

 Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) under cover

I continue to be surprised that the fine-leaved bush basil is not more popular outside of southern Europe - I can say from personal observation that it is quite common in Portugal, Spain, and Turkey, and the seeds I use are imported from Italy, so clearly it is grown there as well - despite its great fragrance and basil taste and the fact that it is naturally bushy and wonderfully adapted to windowsill culture. The much more common 'Genovese' cultivars are downright prissy by comparison, and not nearly as ornamental.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Colors

On the way to the supermarket