Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ylang-Ylang @ Alokarama (Fragrant Blooms Series)

I have seen this fragrant yellow flower before but never do I know that it is called Ylang-Ylang (pronounced ee-lang ee-lang)! Yup, this is the flower that is widely used in perfume! The most well-known perfume containing Ylang-Ylang is the world famous Chanel No. 5. Ylang Ylang is also used in other perfumes such as "Aqua De Gio" by Giorgio Armani, "Poison" by Christian Dior, and "Elise Fields" ("Champs Elysee") by Guerlain.

This Ylang-Ylang tree in my photo is a dwarf version that is about 3 feet tall. It is planted by grafting. The tree that was planted from seed was over 30 feet tall. Unfortunately I didn't capture any photo of it. That big Ylang-Ylang tree can be found in the Herbs Garden section of Alokarama.

I brought a stem-cut from this Ylang-Ylang bush home to propagate. But the whole tree dried up. I read online that it is very difficult to grow Ylang-Ylang from stem cutting. Mmmm....sigh.......I should have bought the pot of Ylang-Ylang that I saw at a nursery in Tangkak. We went shopping for plants there. A pot of Ylang-Ylang was only RM6!! Probably I will have to check out the nursery in Sg. Buluh to find this plant. Another item to be added to my fragrant blooms list!

The Ylang-Ylang flower changes color from pale green to lemon yellow. Old flowers have a dark yellow color with brown spots and are about 2" long with narrow petals gracefully hanging down.

In addition to its wonderful fragrance, the plant blooms practically year round. Its branches are entirely covered with clusters of flowers and dark green oval fruits. Ripe fruits have a black color. Ylang-Ylang fruits are not used in foods; however they are quite edible.

Ylang-Ylang features are numerous:

1) it is very fast growing - you'll have a mature tree in no time
2) its nice columnar shape requires no special pruning
3) its roots are non-invasive
4) it has practically no pest problems
5) it is not messy because it doesn't drop much leaves, and it's evergreen
6) its branches are flexible in the wind
7) it blooms almost year-round and will suffuse all of your neighborhood with a fine fragrance.
8) its flowers are pollinated by night moths; therefore the most intensive smell is released from dusk until dawn.

Conditions for cultivating Ylang-Ylang:

Light: Provide full sun to ensure better flowering.

Water & Humidity: Water your Ylang-Ylang daily for the first 2-3weeks after you plant it. Then regular sprinkler irrigation will be sufficient. Cananga Odorata is a rainforest tropical tree that thrives best in a high-humidity environment. Average water is needed; water regularly; but do not overwater. Suitable for growing in containers

Fertilization: Fertilize the plant with one-half dose of blooming-grade balanced fertilizer at least once a month during the growth period to encourage blooming.

Pests: The tree is practically pest-free. No special treatments are usually required to keep it healthy.

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Propagation Methods:
From herbaceous stem cuttings
From seed; direct sow

Seed Collecting:
Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed; clean and dry seeds. Seed does not store well; sow as soon as possible

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.

Legend of Ylang-Ylang:

There is a Philippine legend that tells about a married couple who had everything in their life except children. In a dream, the gods came to them and promised to grant them a daughter, provided that the girl should never touch a man once she matures. The girl was named Ilang ("Flower"). She grew to be a true beauty, and there was no lack of men asking to marry her, but her parents guarded her in order not to break their agreement with the gods.

One day when the parents were not at home, Ilang went to her garden to collect a bouquet of flowers. Unexpectedly, there appeared a young man who for a long time had been in love with her.

He held her by her hand and said, "I love you, be my wife." Instantly the girl disappeared, turning into a small tree with very fragrant flowers. "Ilang! Ilang!" cried the young man. Since that day, it is said that the young man continues to wander in the magic garden, calling out her name throughout eternity.
Added on 3 May 2009:
I was in Sg. Buluh yesterday. The nurseries there called the Ylang-Ylang as Bunga Kenanga. They don't know what is Ylang-Ylang.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Green Thumb Workshop @ Alokarama (25-26 Apr 2009)

The herbs garden at Alokarama.

I am back from the Green Thumb Workshop in Alokarama retreat centre in Asahan, Melaka.

Unfortunately, the soil specialist who were supposed to speak on soil improvement didn't make it to the workshop. However, we still had a good time working in the herbs garden (as seen in the above photo) ~ weeding, pruning and harvesting.

We also learnt the various benefits of the variety of herbs planted there. There are so many herbs and it would take me a very long time to learn them. We also used the harvested herb i.e. misai kucing, lemon grass and pandan leaves to boil tea with them. In preparation of our meals, we also used various herbs to prepare our meals, e.g. sawtooth coriander for nasi ulam, cili padi and limes as condiment and lemon grass for assam pedas. It was so fun to cook while in Alokarama as those herbs are easily available as they are also planted just outside the kitchen area.

There are so many fruit trees (durian, papaya, jackfruit, duku langsat, mulberry), flowers (birds of paradise, ylang ylang, kerak nasi, jasmine & etc), herbs, leafy & aquatic plants (lotus & waterlily) in the Alokarama's orchard. I will try to share them here with all of you in the next few days.

Durian fruits on tree.

I don't know what's the name of this herb. We pruned this plant. I like the beautiful flowers.

Added on 30 Apr 2009. Found on Malaysian Herbs website that this plant is called Ekor Kuching. USAGE : The root of this herb is considered useful for healing bone fractures and for the treatment of urinary diseases, tumors, oedema, burning sensation and difficult breathing. The leaves are considered antiseptic and are used to treat gonorrhoea. The root is credited with aphrodisiac properties; its paste, mixed with water, is used as an antidote for snakebite. Its decoction is prescribed for cough, chiles and fevers. The roots and pods are used in the treatment of anal prolapse in infants, and pods are used to treat sore throat in childrenParts Used: Roots, leaves and pods.

Misai Kucing


Silhoutte of a durian tree

The beautiful view of Gunung Ledang from the stupa site

Banana fruit


All of us planted a plant together with Rev. Mahinda & Sis. Sumangala. The sapling of this fragrant flowering plant was brought back by Rev. Mahinda from Sarnath, India (which was the deer park where the Buddha preached his first sermon).

A video of us planting a plant at Alokarama during the recent Green Thumb Workshop.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Basil (My Herbs Garden Series)

I love cooking with basil. I first had the taste of basil when dining in a Thai restaurant. Basil is widely used in Thai cuisine, e.g. in green curry, basil fried chicken/squid.

It is not easy to find basil being sold in the herbs section of our supermarkets. Even in the Subang Jaya SS15 wet market, it was not sold until recently where one stall carries this herb. I used to drive down to PJ Old Town Market to buy it. It was quite a hassle to cook with basil until I got my own plant. My several early attempts in planting basil failed as they wilted due to too much of heat from the sun.

Two months ago, my close friend from Bukit Rimau, Chooi, who has many basil plants growing in her garden gave me two big bunch. These two bunches grow very well and lush. I am so happy that these days I could just go over to my garden and pluck some basil whenever I need them.

Two weeks ago, I got a pot of lemony-fragrant basil from Danny who owns a booth selling potted plants in Amcorp Mall's Flea Market. Please see the photo below. I am not sure what variety of basil is this.

Photo #1 & #2: Basil - Type 1 (I think it is called Thai Basil)

From my past failures in planting basil, I learnt that basil likes well-drained soil and not too much of direct sun. I keep my basil plants under the shade of my taller plants. This protect it from the scorching heat that we are experiencing lately. I also water it twice a day ~ in the morning and evening. Sometimes when the sun is too hot, I find my basil leaves drooped. A quick watering is required in order to save the plant from wilting.

Basil can be planted from seeds or stem-cutting. Keep the seeds found from the flowers. Sow them on the soil. In no time, you can find small shoots growing.

Photo #3 & #4: Basil - Type 2 (I think it is called Lemon Basil)
Its leave has a tinge of refreshing lemon smell. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Thai Basil Chicken is one of my favourite recipes, using basil. It is a simple dish to prepare. I am glad to share the recipe of this dish. Try it out and let me know if you like it.

Some of the ingredients used for Thai Basil Chicken

Ingredients: A few bunches of basil, bird's eye chillies, capsicum, diced chicken fillet, minced garlic, corn flour, soya sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, chicken powder. (I don't use measurements in my cooking. Just an estimate of the quantity, depending on your tastebud.)


1. Mix diced chicken fillets with soya sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, chicken powder & corn flour & marinade for 20 mins.

2. Slice capsicum. Cut bird's eye chillies into two.

3. Heat up oil. Put in bird's eye chillies. Fry till fragrant. Add garlic. Continue frying. When garlic is fragrant, add marinated diced chicken fillets. Fry till chicken is fragrant and the sauce caramelized (due to the added sugar). The chicken will taste better this way. Then add capsicum slices. Do not fry too long as to retain the crunchiness of the capsicum slices.

4. Lastly, add basil. Remove and serve.

The steam from the basil chicken fogged my camera lens.

Delicious Thai Basil Chicken


My archive collection of an article on Basil - King of Savoury Herbs by Dr. Chew Boon Hock, taken from Flavours magazine, Issue May - June 2003. Please click on the photos below to link you to a bigger image.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Adenium (Fu Gui Hua) - Part 2

Photo above shows dried Adenium seedlings that I got from a friend.

Adenium can be grown from seeds or propagate from stem-cut.

Those grown from seeds have bigger caudex (the swollen trunk/stem). However, I read that even well-fertilized Adenium propagated from stem-cut can have big caudex. Very often, one will not be able to identify the difference between an Adenium grown from seed or stem-cut.

Photo above shows the Adenium grown from seed. I bought this Adenium when it was very young. After nearly 9 years, this is what I achieved. My friend said I should re-pot and uproot it more often. And regular pruning would help the caudex to grow bigger.

Photo above shows the Adenium that grew from a stem-cut. The caudex is not as big.

However, with more pruning of the stem and frequent fertilizing, its caudex may expand too.
I will try to work on growing its caudex.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day - 22 April

Earth Day Unofficial Earth Day flag,
by John McConnell
featuring the Blue Marble on a blue field

Happy Earth Day!! I am dedicating today's posting for Earth Day activities and continue with the posting on Adenium tomorrow.

Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in in 1970 in San Francisco and is celebrated in many countries every year. This date is Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. [Source: Wikipedia]

Today's The Star paper featured green initiatives by our local communities.

In Malaysia, local communities and NGOs will organize all sorts of green activities to commemorate the Earth Day celebration as part of their commitment to promote the preservation and maintenance of Mother Earth. Read more about it at today's The Star paper's 'In Celebration of the Good Earth'.

My friends and I have signed up for a Green Thumb Workshop that will take place this weekend at Alokarama, Tangkak. According to the organizer, Aloka Foundation:
'Green Thumb aims to aims to provide a platform for individuals to come together to learn, practise and share and get up close and personal with nature of the mind, body and environment.

It also aims to disseminate green thumb knowledge and skills, especially the usage of medicinal plants and herbs; to maintain the Herb Garden; and replant and harvest the herbs.
The workshop will be led by Rafael Legaria, an expert in soil improvement, soil bio-dynamics and nutritionist will share with us his vast knowledge in this coming workshop. Some of the topics that will be addressed during this hands-on workshop would be:

  • SOIL: the medium for planting food. But, how do we improve the soil fertility, organically?

  • Want to find out this and more like the nutritional difference between commercially planted and organic fruit?

  • I am excited about this weekend's workshop. Hope to share the knowledge that I gained at this weekend's workshop with all of you when I return. Will continue the post on Adenium tomorrow.

    Happy Earth Day everyone! Think again.....what have you done for the good of our Mother Earth?

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Adenium (Fu Gui Hua)

    Adenium bloom

    Today's posting is on Fu Gui Hua or Adenium. Frankly, I only get to know of this plant's scientific name today, after some research on Google. As we always refer to this plant as Fu Gui Hua (meaning Flower of Prosperity), I never bothered to check out its formal name. Would anyone know what's the name of this plant in the Malay language?

    Young Adenium shoot grown from seedlings.

    Adeniums are happiest when they have sufficient warmth, sunlight and ventilation. This plant is very suitable for my house that faces east. I placed my Adeniums under the bright hot sun. They would bask, glow and bloom gloriously under the heat.

    Last month my adeniums were attacked by caterpillars. You wouldn't believe how much of food those little greenies are able to consume overnite. Although I have grown adeniums for some years, my knowledge of maintaining them is very minimal. It was always through trial and error that I learnt how to manage my plants. I saw my adenium's partly-eaten leaves with brown edges and witness 3 healthy, lush, green adeniums turned into very sick-looking, browning trees. Looking at them made me heart-sick. Yet, I am no plant doctor and can't offer the cure.

    Fortunately, my close friend, Roxanne, who also loves gardening and grows adeniums caught sight of my problem and alerted me on the caterpillars attack.

    As the caterpillars were hiding on the underside of the leaves, they were not visible unless you check carefully. Rox showed me the culprits - fat, green caterpillars!!! They have infested my plants. The sign of them can easily be seen from the tiny, black, sphere faeces found all over the plants, according to Rox! However, by then, it was too late to do much. I was advised to prune the stems of the adeniums and let them re-grow with new shoots.

    Thanks to the regular downpour in the evening and bright sunshine during the day. After a month, I have beautiful, healthy growing adeniums and one of them is blooming. See the photos below that show before and after the flowers bloom.

    Photo above shows the Adenium with buds.

    Photo above shows the Adenium when the flower blooms eight days later.

    I am no expert on Adenium. Due to today's posting, I have surfed online and found more information on Adenium. I will post the information that I found tomorrow so we can learn more about Adenium together.

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Kayangan Sumeru - A Paradise For Me

    Photo #1: Don't know the name of this plant

    Photo #2: Same plant as #1

    Photo #3: Don't know the name of this plant
    My friend has given me a young shoot of this plant. Hope I would be able to grow it successfully.

    Photo #4: Don't know the name of this plant

    Photo #5: Same as plant #4

    Photo #6: The only one that I can name: Bromeliad

    Photo #7: The red variety of Bromeliad

    Visiting Kayangan gives me a lot of joy, in terms of photography opportunities and gardening. Last Saturday, some friends and I volunteered to clean up the Bamboo Grove in Kayangan. I will never forget to bring my camera whenever we visit Kayangan.

    Kayangan is a retreat centre for meditation, developed by someone whom we became friends with due to our mutual interest in Buddhism. This friend of ours has personally taken up the gigantic task of developing the 7 acres of land located within a palm oil plantation into a meditation retreat centre and old folks home.

    The plants that I featured in today's posting were all photographed in Kayangan on last Saturday. I do not know the name of many plants there. If you know the name of the plants, please leave your comments. I would love to learn more about the plants from you.

    More photos of Kayangan can be viewed at my photoblog: Subang Jaya Daily Photo

    Friday, April 17, 2009


    After taking up gardening for almost 10 years, it was only much later that I understand the components in my fertilizers.

    Usually, I would just go to the nursery and ask for fertilizers to stimulate foliage or flowers growth. It was only by reading one of the articles in the Haven magazine issue Aug/Sept 2003, written by Landscape Architect, Nicole Van Den Steenhoven of Bukit Kiara Properties, that I got to know what are the components to look for when purchasing fertilizers.

    According to Nicole:

    • Although most organic fertilisers are sufficient for flowering plants, consider adding the NPKMg compound fertiliser to stimulate flowering. Generally, inorganic or artificial fertilisers like NPKMg contain N (nitrogen for foliage growth), P (phosphorus for root development and enhancing the strength of the plant during its early stages of growth) and K (potassium for fruit and flower development).
    • When choosing flowering/fruit inducing fertilisers, go for those with a high percentage of K. Fertilisers with a high percentage of N or even NPK (15:15:15 ratio) encourage foliage and general growth while those with a higher percentage of P improve the strength of branches and help root development.
    • Check the label on your fertilisers for the recommended quantity to be used and frequency. Do not overfertilise your plants or they will have brittle branches or bad root development, making them vulnerable to being uprooted by strong winds.

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    Bougainvillaea - Forever Blooming

    Bougainvillaea is a sun-loving plant and it is such an easy plant to grow. As I do not have much shade in my garden, I let my bougainvillaea grow tall and I tried to shape it into a big umbrella so that I could place some of my orchids and plants under the shade of the bougainvillaea plant. Lately, my bougainvillaea has grown out of control and look quite messy. My neighbour suggests that it is time to trim and re-shape it.

    The only dismay that I have with my bougainvillaea is it doesn't bloom as much as when I first bought it from the nursery. The whole tree had more blooms than leaves. I have 3 pots of bougainvillaeas ~ 2 pots of fuschia colour flowers and 1 orange flower. The orange flower hardly blooms. In the 2nd photo above, you can see a few tiny orange bloom at the back.

    I have used the NPK compound fertilizers to stimulate the flowering of my bougainvillaeas. But I believe this is not good enough because it doesn't flower as much. If anyone has more tips on what to do to encourage more blooms on my bougainvillaea, please do share with me. I will try to trim my bougainvillaea in these two days to make them neater and tidier.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009


    My friend, Elicia, gave me a stem cutting of her mulberry bush so that I could also propagate it. This plant is very easy to plant. I just placed the stem into a pot of soil and then the branches started to sprout new shoots and leaves. With some organic fertilizer added from time to time, within a short duration, it has shoot up to the height of the roof of my porch. I was told that I should trim the fast-growing branches often to keep the bush low and produce more fruits. However, the tall branches are offering cool shade to my lower growing plant, so I leave it to grow.

    We dry the leaves and usually make tea out of it. The tea tastes as good as our usual jasmine tea, of course, without the fragrant of jasmine. The tea made of mulberry leaves is believe to lower cholesterol level. Thus, I would collect these leaves, dried them and bring them for my brothers back in my hometown in Melaka. Both of them have high cholesterol problem.

    My close friend whose daughter's nose always bleed, have a remedy for this. She will boil the fresh mulberry leaves with water and feed it to her daughter. This remedy works effectively for her toddler.
    As for the fruit, I like eating them fresh. The berries should only be plucked when it has turned dark. Then it will be sweet, or sometimes sourish-sweet. The unripe fruit is very sour.

    A well-known home caterer, Debbie Teoh, who always share her recipes in the Flavour magazine, has several bushes of mulberry in her garden. She usually collect the mulberries and store them in the freezer. As the harvest is small, she will gather the berries in batches until she has enough to make mulberry jam. I have very little harvest. Probably I should add the correct type of fertilizer to encourage more fruits.

    If you want to know more ways to use the mulberry plant, read about it from this article that I have scanned from the Flavours magazine, issue July - August 2003. The recipes are by Debbie Teoh. Click on the photo to link to the article scanned in bigger format.

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Bunga Jasmin (Fragrant Blooms Series)

    Generally known as Jasmine or Bunga Jasmin, the Jasminum SP is another scented plant that I love. I have a pot of it and placed it on the path that leads from my gate to the main entrance of my house. Similar to Bunga Kerak Nasi, the bunga jasmin exude a nice smell in the evening. Thus, it is nice to return home and be greeted by the fragrant of the jasmine flower in the evening.

    I like to offer this flower and the Bunga Kerak Nasi to the Buddha on my altar.

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    Bunga Kerak Nasi (Fragrant Blooms Series)

    I love fragrant blooms. I started collecting fragrant plants since last year. I started with collecting the 'shui mei' or wrightia religiosa. That was follow by many others such as jasmine, gardenia, susur kelapa (sorry, I don't know its English name) and kerak nasi (vallaris glabra).

    Vallaris glabra is my favourite among the fragrant flowers that I have planted. The creeper plant has small, whitish green flowers that produces a strong pandan leaf scent. The fragrant is very prominent in the evening. It is also called bunga kerak nasi. I got it from the pasar malam in Bandar Baru Bangi when I went there for sate Haji Samsuri. A pot cost me RM10 only. The blooms have brought many sensual joy to me! I love visiting my garden in the late nite to enjoy the sweet scent exuding from these fragrant flowers, especially from my bunga kerak nasi.


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