Sunday, May 22, 2011

Japanese Paper Roses

When we went to Sungei Buloh to get plants a few weeks back, both my daughters wanted to get roses. I wasn't so keen as they are very difficult in a tropical country, but they wheedled me into it, so we came home with three traditional roses and two hybrid plants which the vendor called a Japanese Paper Rose.

The paper rose has a beautiful flower which looks just like a rose, but the plant is quite different. The traditional rose is quite bushy and has woody stems. They most often come up from one stem and branch off from that. The paper rose, on the other hand, looks more like an annual. All its stems come straight up out of the soil and don't branch off. The stems aren't woody either. They are herbaceous and thornless. In that regard, I think they won't last longer than a year.

As you can see, the leaves come out straight from the main stem itself without any small one of its own. It looks more like a sweetpea leaf.

We've tried to find out information on the internet about them, but haven't succeeded yet. Frances did find out a lot of information about traditional roses of course, sadly none of it about growing them in a tropical country. All the same, there was a lot of practical information that could be applied to them wherever they are.

1. They like well-drained soil. They don't like sitting in water, but they want a lot of it passing through. Frances solved this by getting an IKEA metal kitchen shelf with holes in it and putting a container under it.

2. They like lots of sun, but no heat.

3. They also like circulating air, but no direct breeze on them.

4. They don't like sharing their pot or space.

5. They like rain on them or a spray from time to time.

6. Regular fertiliser

So fussy!

She has got them in her window which gets afternoon sun and she leaves her fan on low to circulate the air.

She says that they responded well at the beginning, but they seem to have paused in their growth. She says that the soil is very wet even with it being drained. I wonder if it needs to dry out a little before the next watering because of the local humidity. I looked up on and it mentions that they like a lot of water, but less in high humidity. So, it might pay to give a little less. We'll see. It also mentions that it's good to add a mulch to the top, such as bark. I might have to look into that. The mulch inhibits evaporation, helps keep the plant roots cool and provides nutrients.

This shows how the two types of roses look quite different. The new hybrid is on the right. You can see the metal shelf that Frances uses too.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I went out onto my balcony this morning to find almost all my tomato seedlings had gone!! Completely disappeared with the container remaining. I couldn't believe it. I still can't. There are no dried up plants - the soil was wet. The soil is still in there. It isn't reachable from any other balcony (and if a person had taken them, the whole container would be gone). No. It wasn't the weather, moisture content or people - it was pigeons!!

Exploring my balcony about a month ago. The seedlings are safely under cover at that time

Yes, pigeons. Then to prove my case against them, they keep coming to my balcony while I'm having breakfast and working at my computer and pecking at other pots and plants. I'm devastated. Just after my failure with the up-side-down tomatos and me telling everyone - no worries, I have more seedlings. sigh. I'm left with one, which was half pulled out and lying on its side.

My daughter, Zara, and I sowed the seeds about a month ago. They had been growing very slowly in general as the weather has been very bad and there hasn't been much sun in the afternoons as needed. I'd taken the lid off the seed starter as they were getting too big for it and I was going to re-pot them today. I'd been checking them each evening for water content and they were doing ok. Then - pigeon attack!
On a brighter note, I do have some in normal pots still. Most of them are still small, like the other seedlings. So, I'll have to keep protecting them. But one has shot up and is already 20cm plus. It must be in the perfect tomato growing spot on my balcony. Thank goodness for that.

Here it is with the arrow pointing at it. The other plant in the pot is basil, which is a famous companion plant for tomatos - in growing and cooking :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Up-side down tomato update

Sadly, my up-side-down tomatos weren't successful. They all died just this week. I think there were a couple of reasons for this.

1. The original plants weren't big enough. They were quite small and curled up to reach the light. Then, when they started to get bigger, they snapped as their weight pulled them down.

2. I found it hard to control the water intake. I hadn't used a good quality soil that retained water, so as I poured water in the top, it seemed to pour out the bottom.

Now, I have to learn my lessons and try again in the future. I still have some tomato seedlings left. They're small right now, so I'll have to wait until they're bigger. I'll also have to get some better soil and perhaps put some of those silicon balls in that hold water. Tomatos are very thirsty plants and need a constant water supply. They don't like drying out at all.

So, next time!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spinach in a pot

I've been asked about growing spinach in a pot and like many vegetables, it's quite easy to do. Even though, I'd grown plenty of leafy vegetables in NZ before, I was a bit concerned about the differences in humidity and heat. However, it seems that spinach likes those conditions and just thrives.

I first got a packet of seeds at the local garden store and popped them into a pot as per the instructions on the packet. They like full sunlight, lots of water and regular fertilising. What I really like about them is that they self propagate really easily and one packet can go a loooooong way.

In fact, they can begin to act like weeds and self seed in all the pots around, occupied or not. This isn't a problem, however. You just pull them out when they're big enough to cook with, but not too big that they've rooted in too deep.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, my younger daughter and her friend got overly excited with growing plants a month or two back and used up the remainder of the seed packet in a long box. They all sprouted and then began to fight for light and resources. I pulled the bigger ones for eating and then the smaller ones came through. That's given us a few meals that way. The last ones are beginning to go to seed now, so hopefully, there'll be a new generation soon.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Revival and Recuperation

As I mentioned in one of my early blogs, many of my plants had had a hard time earlier this year when they were forced to stay inside the house against their will for several weeks while renovation work was done on our building. Some looked near the end and others got hit by disease causing leaf loss and deformity. However, with my chilli spray and an excellent organic fertiliser leaf spray they've bounced back with a vengence!

Firtly, my Golden Pseuderanthemum. When she went back out onto the balcony, she was barely one stick and a couple of leaves. But within a month, she'd put out leaves and even a little spray of flowers. Now she's beautiful and bushy. She's very happy in her corner. She likes the sun, but not too much and now she's florishing!

Another one that has suffered has been my purple heart. I love this plant with its deep purple leaves. Sadly, it suffered a lot from something - I honestly don't know what! Its leaves lost their colour, but it looked like the colour had been stripped from the leaves, not faded and its leaves and stalks were growing in deformed shapes. There didn't appear to be any insects, but I couldn't find anything online about purple heart diseases. All that was mentioned was that they were hardy plants! Then I read that they don't like soaking roots and to let them dry out a little before the next watering. So, what did I do? I let them dry out too much and any shoots I had died! Determined not to give up, I watered it again anyway and sprayed the soil with the new organic spray. Two weeks ago, I was rewarded with little purple shoots and now I've got some little purple plantlets reaching for the sky.

A third one that had a hard time was my bird's nest fern. It got burned by my chilli spray when I put too much garlic in it. Old leaves and new shoots were all affected. I didn't prune it back immediately, thinking that it would still need to photosynthesise for any new shoots. It took a bit longer to spring back than the others, but I finally got to prune all the affected leaves off last week and the new ones are looking so beautiful and fresh.

The final one for today was my spider lily. It'd been hit hard by the white bug which was proving ridiculously hard to get rid of. I'd even taken the bulbs out and washed them in conventional insecticide. Then I started using my chilli-garlic spray and it just loved it. The white bugs were just starting to multiply again when I made my first batch of insecticide and I sprayed all my plants weekly for over a month. My spider lily just lapped it up and wasn't even burned by the strong batch. Since then I haven't seen hide nor hair of any white bug and my spider lily is an abundnace of leaves. Then last week, I got the best gift of a spray of flowers. The scent was delightful and not a hint of chilli nor garlic. ;)