Monday, August 31, 2009
Blue enamors me, and so does Jaipur's famed blue pottery. Blue pottery has persian origin and traveled with Mughals to India. It has a time-consuming process but the results are excellent. This craft now has the Geographical Indications (GI) status that will save its uniqueness and protect the artisans from losing business to cheaper versions available elsewhere.
I picked up these beautiful planters from Jaipur that now adorns my living space.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Phlox grows from seeds and need shade, moisture and loose soil to germinate quickly. The seedlings can be transplanted in 3 weeks into containers and window boxes. A well-draining potting soil mixed with organic compost works best. Phlox thrives in sun and needs to be well watered but not allowed to sit in water-logged soil. Left to dry, phlox wilts and the leaves turn brown. As the plant grows and the tips are pinched, flower heads will be more. The plant might need to be staked as they grow unless you like the trailing effect. They begin flowering in 2.5-3 months from sowing, and bloom for 2 months.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Amber Fort, Jaipur (Source: Web, since I had a hazy image for this one)
Kesar Kyari (saffron garden)
Charbagh (paradise garden)
Charbagh (paradise garden), Source: Web
I visit Jaipur almost every month, and pass by this 13th century palace on my way home. A fusion of Hindu and Mughal architecture, this fort is a visual treat. It was built over two centuries in red sandstone and white marble. As you set out to explore the fort atop the rugged hills, on foot or a elephant - the view is breath-taking. On your way up and inside the palace, among other magnificient features, you cannot miss the gardens.
Across the entire fort there are fountains, waterways, gardens and courtyards. The fort rises above the waters of the Maotha Lake, an artificial lake. The Kesar Kyari (saffron garden) lies in the centre of this lake, laid out like a persian carpet. The garden was planted with saffron for the fragrance to waft into the palace above. The garden is under restoration. Further on, the fort is entered through the 'Dil-e-Aaram' Garden (in the traditional Mughal style). Inside the palace, lies a series of corridors, centering on a typical Mughal 'Charbagh' garden or also known as Paradise gardens. Char bagh literally, means four gardens. The philosophy of Charbagh is stated below.
Charbagh in the Amber Fort demonstrates how the basic four parts can divided in complex geometric ways. The concept of the paradise garden was one the Mughals brought from Persian Timurid gardens. It was the first architectural expression they made in the Indian sub-continent, fulfilling diverse functions with strong symbolic meanings. Known as the charbagh, in its ideal form it was laid out as a square subdivided into four equal parts. The symbolism of the garden and its divisions are noted in mystic Islamic texts which describe paradise as a garden filled with abundant trees, flowers and plants. Water also plays a key role in these descriptions: In Paradise four rivers source at a central spring or mountain, and separate the garden by flowing towards the cardinal points. They represent the promised rivers of water, milk, wine and honey. The centre of the garden, at the intersection of the divisions is highly symbolically charged and is where, in the ideal form, a pavilion, pool or tomb would be situated. (Reference: wiki/Citizendium)
- Seeds are easily available and late monsoons are a good time to sow, once the showers end or are a few and far between.
- Soak the seeds overnight, strain and sow them an inch deep in dry and loose soil. Make sure the seeds are well spaced out and the soil is not compact. No fertilizers needed at this point. Partial shade and very light watering is advisable to enable germination. The seeds sprout in about a week, and are ready to be transplanted to bigger containers in about 3 weeks when they are around 6 inches tall.
- Soil to be well-draining and mixed with compost. As the plant stabilises, full sun is essential. Broccoli needs regular top ups of organic nitrogen fertiliser in every 3 weeks. Use neem cake (Azadirachta indica) as a natural fertilizer and pesticide once a month in very small quantities.
- Cabbage is usually ready for harvest in 2.5-3 months.
- For broccoli, as the plants grow taller you may need to stake the plants. Your first harvest is when the broccoli buds of the main head (central stem) look compact. Don’t wait for it to loosen and form yellow flowers. Cutting off the main spear will produce side shoots/florets. As these shoots grow, you can harvest them for over 6 weeks.
- You will not need many plants as each plant will produce continuously over time, but you may need to plant successively for an harvest until summer.
It's worth a mention that studies have shown that cabbage and broccoli have anti-cancer benefits.
Monday, August 24, 2009
What and how to plant?
Any potato variety can be propagated vegetatively. You shall need seed-potatoes and they are the ones you see producing shoots in the potato eyes when stored in kitchen for too long. You can plant seed potatoes, or cut them up into “eyes,” with each eye having a sprout, then mound the earth up around them in the container and water lightly. The plant takes a bush-like appearance with very little care. The crop is usually ready to harvest in 2-3 months and once you see the top of the plant dying off. You can leave the potatoes in the ground for a few weeks longer, as long as the soil is left dry. Dig out the potatoes carefully to avoid bruising them, and brush off the dirt. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Happy farming!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Watering is extremely important. Your basket may dry out quickly and your plants will not do well unless the soil and moss remain moist. Keep the moss moist by watering the sides of the basket, and twice a day.
Photo source: Web, for now. My baskets would be vamped up and ready for display soon.
Gomphrena globosa (bachelor’s buttons) is a low maintenance, heat resistant annual with a bushy appearance. They are excellent plant for containers and look brilliant with their brightly colored globe-shaped flower heads. The plant is easy to grow, flowers profusely, needs the full sun and regular watering (not over-watering) during summers. The soil type should be both water retentive and well-draining and could be prepared with a combination of peat moss, sand and garden soil. Feeding it monthly with a balanced fertilizer is beneficial.
To encourage branching and hence more blooms, pinch the tips of plant. They are easily propagated by seeds or simple layering. Bend down a stem such that the node is covered with soil. Keep it moist for rooting and separate from the main plant when rooted and transplant as a new plant.
A must-have for summer gardens and butterfly lovers! Did you also know that Gomphrena can be used for dried flower arrangements? Cut the stems just as the flower heads are beginning to open and hang upside down in a warm, dark place to dry.
There are names for Gomphrena colors too. ‘Buddy’ for purple flower heads; ‘Strawberry Fields’ for bright red flower heads; ‘Lavender Lady/Queen’ for lavender flowerheads; and ‘Cissy’ for white ones
Which one are you?
In a climate like ours, they flower more in summer than winter. It does not prefer extreme temperatures, but needs light and warmth to thrive. They grow best in well drained loamy soil, rich in organic matter is ideal. Water stagnant or soggy soil will adversely affect the flowering and growth of the plant. Once assured of a well-draining soil, it is safe to water the plant regularly.
Pruning is done to shape the plant, keep it bushy and full of blooms and and is normally done in late summer or early monsoon. Use a sharp cutter and cut just 1/4th of an inch above about an eye that is pointing in the direction you want the new growth to appear. Alternatively, pinch off the tips of branches to encourage multiple growth tips further down the stem.
Don’t feed your plant after pruning. Watch for new shoots to appear and then start feeding. Hibiscus like organic feed, so feed your plant with bone meal or once in every two months. Remember winter is the resting period for your hibiscus, so do not fertilize in winter. In summer, fortnightly feed it with a balanced fertilizer mix. The health of the plant may be gauged from its foliage that should be a deep glossy green.
At a time when you observe roots coming out of the bottom of the pot through the drainage holes or the soil is compact and difficult to break through due to the roots, this is a good time to re-pot, but only in early autumn. When the root ball has been carefully loosened and lifted out of the pot, completely cut away any dark brown and soft roots and re-pot. Never prune off more than 1/3 of the root mass. Propagation is by layering, cutting, and grafting. Green semi-woody tip cuttings, treated with rooting hormone, does well.
Other names for hibiscus are Jaba Kusum (Bengali), Gudhal (Hindi); Shoe flower is another common name in a reference to the use of the crushed flowers as a black shoe polish.
The propagation is through seeds that can be sown directly in the ground and it will germinate in one to two weeks. Sprinkle seeds over soil mix and lightly cover. Thoroughly moisten soil and keep it moist and not soggy. They grow quickly and may bloom in just six weeks. Successive sowing every few weeks beginning from April through early July will ensure continuous flowering through summer and monsoon. The plants may also self-seed in the garden and some varieties are available from nurseries.
Photos courtesy: Web
This plant needs a good potting soil that would both retain water and drain well i.e. 1 part garden soil, 1 part peat moss and 1 part sand. Drench the soil and then allow dracaena to dry slightly until watering it next. Feed every 2-3 months with a water soluble fertilizer. If it gets too tall, prune it back in early autumn or spring. To propagate, air-layer, remove basal shoots or stem cuttings in spring. Chop off a foot length, remove the leaves from the bottom half, and push in into some compost soil. Keep it moist, in indirect light and wait a few weeks. Some of the original leaves may drop off, but after a while it should bounce back to life.
They grow from seeds but it’s best to plant cuttings. They are very easy to grow. Get a small stalk that is not flowering or about to flower and place it in the soil. They will grow and multiply very quickly. The plants prefer loose, sandy or loam soil with a well-draining composition. Water sparingly, if at all. Allow soil to dry out between waterings. Pinch off spent blooms to encourage flowering and to keep the plant tidy. Fertilize once or twice in mid or late summer.
It’s a woody and erect perennial, bushy, compact with variegated coloring. Exposure to bright light intensifies colors. Full sunlight is needed but not the oppressive summer heat that might discolor and burn the leaves. Over-watering or too low temperatures or low light might cause leaves to wilt and fall off. Houseplants need better management in terms of light and water. Fertilize once a month and lightly with a balanced soluble food easily available in markets these days. Autumn and spring are a good time to prune and cut back on height.
Beware of mealy bugs (tiny white bugs) and spider webs that are some of the more common pests. Remove infested leaves and spray water soluble pesticide on the plant.
Photo Source: Web
How to start?
Fetch a glass container (round or rectangular) with a sealable lid. Start with a layer of gravel, a layer of sand, then charcoal (half of sand) and top it with potting soil. Make sure there are no clumps in soil – mix it very lightly with sand for a well draining texture. For plants, preferably use moss and button ferns, crotons and slow growing plants for the tropical feel. Avoid cacti since they suffocate in excess moisture. Do not mix desert plants with moisture loving tropicals. You could try herbs too, but pruning might need extra attention.
Once you have found your plants, carefully plant a small sample of plant you choose. Make sure you give it some room to breathe and grow and water very lightly, just spray and replace the lid. No direct sunlight is needed. Ambient light will do else you’ll see condensation on the glass. For the next few days, watch your terrarium closely, and see what balance of moisture and air it needs. Depending on the size of the plant it may need more or less water than you’re giving it. If it seems as though there is too much water, leave the lid off for a day, and let it dry out a bit. Make sure you remove dead matter, trim plant on a regular basis. Once the terranium looks stable, water once in few weeks and don’t care. You could also design a landscape within, create uneven surfaces (hill look with lumps of soil covered with moss) and grow plants in sections. Use bridges, craft animals, birds, other structures for a dramatic presentation. Once you are comfortable with the terranium environment bit and feel confident to experiment more, you could move to other plants like mini-foliage and flowering plants.
Just in case you do not have lid for the terranium, you will have to care for it a little more. The open-terranium needs to watered once in few days unlike the closed ones. Everything remains the same.
A single coleus plant could be planted in a small pot, or 3-4 different types could be planted together in a larger pot for dramatic presentation. The soil mix should be of good quality, airy, and well-drained. A combination of garden soil, peat moss, sand and compost is recommended. Daily watering may be necessary to keep the soil evenly moist and do not allow the soil to dry out. Watering is best done in the early morning so the leaves have time to dry before the sun hits them. Use a fertilizer conservatively as long as the soil nutrients are intact. Pinch off the tips of the plant frequently to encourage the plant to branch and look bushy. Some coleus plants will bloom, and the blooms may be pinched off too. All coleus are grown from seeds and cuttings. Early autumn and spring are a good time to raise these plants. Cuttings can be either planted directly into soil or left in clean water, partial shade for 2-3 weeks until roots appear (see pictures)
Note: The milky sap that it oozes when damaged or cut may cause skin rash, itching and general discomfort.
Plumeria or Frangipani is popularly known as “Temple Tree” or “Champa” in India, and grow to be large flowering trees. They can be grown in containers since it’s very adaptive and you can control the size of your plant by the size of container you choose for it. Plumerias love full sun, water and fertilizer to thrive.
You can grow Plumeria from cuttings, usually a foot in length. Apply rooting hormone to the base of the cutting and plant it good three inches into a pot with well-draining soil. Wet thoroughly, do not water again until you have 2-3 well formed leaves. It will take about a month for the cutting to root. Until then, the soil needs to be kept slightly moist. The cuttings need a green-house environment to emerge faster. A pink plumeria cutting that we planted, showed signs of growth after four months, so each type of cutting will have its own growing characteristics and you have to patient with them. At this stage and beyond, watering should be such that the soil never gets soggy and the soil should be a well-draining one.
The secret to lot of blooms is a lot of branching. Each tip on the tree produces a flower stock that in turn causes it to create multiple branches on each tip. I recommend fertilizer high in phosphorous that will promote this flowering/branching process. A water soluble fertilizer feed every other week will work wonders. Plumeria begin to go dormant in autumn and all through winter. You may stop fertilizer feeding around September until spring. Prune the fine roots every spring, or re-pot if you think the plant needs space to expand. In case you don’t re-pot, I’d suggest you remove some top soil and add fresh soil mix to refresh the plant.
This spring, all our plumerias have been kind to us. We’ve seen a beautiful sweet-smelling bloom, the ones you see in pictures. By the way, did you know champa flowers have no nectar and simply fool their pollinators?
Growing lilies in containers brightens up the garden and provides an attractive display for one season, remaining unnoticed for the rest of the year. With careful planning, the bulbs may be lifted after flowering and replanted each year to make room for other seasonal plants in limited spaces. The bought or stored bulbs of the lilies are planted in late summer or early autumn to be ready for display in spring. The bulbs are planted in free- draining fresh compost to avoid water-logging or the bulbs may rot. They are planted at twice their own depth and one bulb’s width apart with the growing tip facing the top. Avoid over crowding bulbs in a pot. Once planted, the bulbs in containers should not be allowed to dry out when in growth and should be fed regularly in 2-3 weeks with high potash low nitrogen fertilizer to boost flowering.
When foliage leaves begin to turn yellow, usually a month after flowering, gently lift the bulbs, clean off the soil, and dead and dry flakes. Cut the drying foliage, leave it overnight to dry, dust them with fungicide and store them in clean labelled paper bags in a cool and dry place in summer. Alternatively after flowering, the bulbs may remain in the pot, kept moist and shifted to a shaded place to rest till early autumn.