Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Going organic for roses

Organic simply means going back to nature. That's my definition. I'm experimenting organics on my one and only rose, which I refer to as my rosie..the yellow 'Benson and Hedges Gold' species. Don't know how they derive that name, doesn't sound organic at all LOL!

I'm planning to do it step by step. First on the list is the soil. Compost is the best for roses. Next comes the fertilizer. Thanks to Mr Greenthumb for pointing out the fact that roses are heavy feeders. This sure is a good point to note for someone who have zero experience or knowledge on rose planting, like me, yet plan to go big on it. I'm using ground coffee in my compost. Thanks to Robin for sharing her tips on this. She mixes Starbucks ground coffee in her compost and usually side dress her roses three or four times a summer. According to Robin, it is the acidic nature of the coffee that roses like. Check out her spectacular roses yourself.

A lot have been said about Starbucks used ground coffee. Simply go to any Starbucks outlet and ask them for their used ground coffee. Well if you are lucky you might walk away with them for free. After all, they gonna dispose those used grounded beans anyway.

I was about to try out the Starbucks used grounded coffee beans myself when I saw a locally produced good ground coffee in my pantry, Kopi 434. (see picture below)

The said coffee in my experiment, Kopi 434

I'm not a coffee addict and this coffee was given by a friend. Supposedly one of the best coffee in town. I tried it out once and I thought it tasted good with nice rich aroma. The expiry date is not due yet but the ground coffee, which were packed in small transparent bags, has hardened making it impossible to make coffee drinks anymore. It was my fault for not storing it in an airtight container. Living in a hot and humid country like Malaysia, food go to waste easily if not stored properly.

See how the grounded coffee sticks together and hardened

Instead of throwing it away, I decided to try it on my rosie. So, I took out my garden tools and started digging CAREfully and gently just by the side of the flower pot. Don't want to mess with the root system in the middle. It was about 3/4 deep before I put the coffee into the flower pot and cover it up with soil.

Another sought after organics for roses is the banana peel which is rich in phosphorus and potassium, usually found in expensive fertilizer. So remember. The next time you eat a banana, don't throw away the skin. Cut it up into tiny pieces and bury them in the compost soil. This makes them decompose faster instead of leaving the peel in its original size. It has been a few days now since I tried this out on my rosie. Kind of excited to see the result, hopefully by next week.

Let the banana peel decompose itself before cutting into small pieces

A word on watering. The houris are of the opinion that watering needs depend on your country zone. For a hot and humid tropical climate like Malaysia (USDA Hardiness Zone : 11b), she waters her rose thoroughly and frequently. Frequent light watering causes stress for the plant.

Well..this is it. End of part one. More to come as I check on the progress of my rosie  *-*
Be seeing ya..

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Roses versus red ants!

Pest, pest...and more new ones! This time it's the red ants. Those tiny ones and they were attacking my yellow rose plant. Poor favorite, one and only rose in my garden! Not spared even by the tiniest ants. This is more than once it is being 'attacked' in 2 months. Just when it is about to recover from the previous 'invasion', now this. Trail of ants burrowing down its main stem into the soil. Why? Did the fat worm die? Were they going to pay their last respect or plainly put, wallop the dead meat!

What shall I do? No more pesticides, that's for sure. Took me awhile to decide and then presto! To open up the dense soil and see what's going on inside and then opt for new soil. NOoooo! I'm not going to do it myself. Surely do not want to encounter any 'surprises' wiggling out from the soil.

So, off I went to my favorite nursery at I-Vision in Tropicana, Petaling Jaya (next to Riana Green condo). The weather was nice. The owner, Angie, a pleasant lady and her workers were happy to see me again. Has been quite a while since I last came to buy plants here. When I told them my problem, they agreed that changing soil would be best. This is the beauty of this nursery, excellent customer service! The owner is always around not only to assist you but to answer whatever questions you might have, unlike other nurseries. And the workers Abdul and Norbi, both immigrants from Bangladesh, have worked here for more than 8 years and are very committed in their work.

They recommended that I use compost soil, best for roses. Really..I'm a novice with roses so I agreed. Abdul removed the dense soil from the pot and saw nothing. Only when he loosened up the soil, was the picture clear! Tiny red ants all over! About to build a nest! Thank God my timing was perfect. I watched him removed all those affected soil and then put in new compost soil. He then mixed in a white powdery substance into the compost soil as well as on the inside of the pot. This would deter red ants from coming again. Phew! It was a big relief to see aid coming to rescue my sweet rosie.

I also brought with me two plants in polybags, for potting services. Initially, I plan to get plastic pots as it is lighter and easier to handle. And I don't have to worry about strong wind knocking them over because it is after all an indoor garden! I do rearrange the pots regularly.
But look what I got instead! Glazed ceramic pots! See picture below. This nursery have very nice selection of pots especially those glazed ones and I couldn't resist myself.

My bonsai now has a lovely 'house' 
Can't resist the pastel turquoise color! Pot costs RM13 and black pot stand cost  RM11
Smaller two-tone pot, pastel green color at top and brown at bottom, costs RM10
What a lovely sight to feast the eyes!

By the time I reached home and started rearranging the pots in my garden, a sense of happiness and satisfaction set in. Not only did I manage to save my rosie but also give a new hope for it to grow stronger and flourish. I don't know about you but plants do sense our feelings towards them. I know some people talk to their plants, I do also at times :)

The Houris would like to share a few thoughts on pot stand. Besides elevating the plants off from the floor and makes it more accessible to direct sun, it also makes cleaning the floor area very easy. As you can see from the photo above, the wall restricts full sun exposure. Pot stand also saves a lot of backache for me..haha. I do not need to bend down so much, something which I try to avoid at any time. I would rather sit down on the floor comfortably if some work need to be done on the plant or the soil.

SubhanAllah, thank you God for blessing my garden and bringing it back to life. I know I will sleep well tonight. And thanks to you for dropping by.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Lavender, lovely lavender...oh how fragrant you are!

Lavender is blooming in my garden!!! 
And bursting with fragrance coming from both the flowers and leaves!

I noticed that the flowers are very tiny and pale lilac in color, unlike the ones I always see. It was a good thing that I checked with Autumn Belle about it. Seems that this is not the usual lavender found in cooler countries. And it can't stand direct sun too. 

Lavender is definitely not our native plant. If anyone know anything about this species, please do inform me.

There are 5 buds altogether but only 3 have bloomed. This morning the weather was good for photography. Although the color of the lavender seems pale, it turned out well against my white walls.

Bud 1

Bud 2

Bud 3

3 buds against the basil plant

View from top..too pale to see I wish I have a better camera.

Updates as at 12 May 2012
Somehow the houris and Autumn Belle got into talking again about this flower and they both doubt that this flower is lavender at all. Strange enough, it smells so much of lavender but it doesn't look like it and doesn't behave like it too. And this plant doesn't grow upright either. Instead it is sprawling over the pot. Autumn Belle has the same plant but it is not flowering yet. Can't wait to compare with hers. Has anyone came across this flower?

Updates as at 20 May 2012
The Houris made an attempt to put the lavender under direct sun today, just to get the plant familiar with the local hot and humid weather. Will be monitoring its progress daily. Managed to get in touch with Autumn Belle today. Her lavender didn't survive. Feel sorry for her.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The story of Daun Kesum

"don't forget daun kesum", echoed my husband if he knew I'll be cooking masak asam tumis Melaka. It's one of his favorite dish. The thing is I always forget to include this herb in this dish and he was my constant reminder. This herb is a must for its aroma and taste. And I'm surprised at myself as to why I keep forgetting this herb and not the rest. Funny though, but that's me. I now have a pot of daun kesum in my herbs collection so I shouldn't forget again, insha'Allah :)

Daun Kesum 

I have read somewhere in the internet that they propagate through cuttings. Roots will form between the nodes (see pic below) when soaked in water for a few days. I tried a number of times but no sign of root forming at all. Probably, it works for fresh and newly-picked daun kesum and not the ones which I bought from the supermarket shelves. Anyway, since I was passing along Sg Buloh area the other day, I stopped by at Delima Tani and brought home a pot of beautiful fragrant daun kesum :) Problem solved. Just need to water it twice daily. Not so much water though.

Nodes of daun kesum

The dish "masak asam tumis Melaka", is synonym with Melaka. When Melaka is mentioned, the first thing that comes to most Malaysian mind is masak asam tumis. The way my mom used to cook it was to sautee chili paste (blend of dried red chillies with belacan, shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric) with salt and lemongrass till fragrant. When the paste changes color to dark red, thick tamarind juice is added followed by daun kesum and water. Bring to boil after which vegetables (ladies finger or 'choy sum') are added. Let it boil before adding in your favorite fish (mine would be mackerel or red snapper). Simmer until the gravy thickens and taste it before adding in more salt (if necessary).

Alternatively, you may cook with chicken or beef but omit vegetables totally. Extra ingredient, galangal, needs to be added to the chili paste.
Truly, a mouth-watering delicacy which you wouldn't want to miss on your next trip to Melaka :) My husband would drive all the way to Melaka, which is 90km from Kuala Lumpur, just to savor this delicacy for lunch. Can you believe that?

If you are not familiar with Melaka, it is the historical city of Malaysia. Significant historical events happened here. Most fascinating city with rich heritage of culture and cuisine from the many ethnic groups of people there. Malay, chinese, indians, nyonya-baba, portuguese,  javanese, to name a few.

If you have not been there, make her your next holiday destination. You will never regret it. And what do you know? HRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Princess Kate will be coming to Melaka in early 2013! Instead of HRH Queen Elizabeth II who is too weak to travel long distance. I remember shaking hands with HRH the Queen when she came in early 70s and I was very little then. I'm from Melaka, you see. For more information on Melaka, check out lonely planet recommendations here :)