Another slap-and-dash trellis

So it happened again.

The bittergourd plant that sprouted in the undergrowth beneath a peacock flower tree, now protected by a pair of poles.

The bittergourd plant that sprouted in the undergrowth beneath a peacock flower tree, now protected by a pair of poles and a heap of mulch.

One of our plants – this time the small bittergourd – reached the end of its productive life, and we hadn’t started the next plant yet… and then I noticed a volunteer plant that had started growing where I wouldn’t have planted one – in the undergrowth beneath one of the peacock flower trees. It had managed to climb over two metres up the tree, which is why I noticed it – I’ve always found the leaves quite ornamental, and they caught my attention.

I don’t like wasting such opportunities, so I first considered pruning the tree to a shorter height and allowing the vine to grow on it. However, after pruning part of the tree, which is just in front of the house, we realised that it was actually shading the house from the sun, and that it was noticeably hotter, so a change in plan was needed.

Since I’m not averse to putting up trellises as and when necessary, it was time to do a little quick DIY work. The first thing to do was protect the spot where the plant had started growing. This was especially important as it’s an area that we’d likely go over with the strimmer when it’s time to cut the grass and weeds. I stuck the minimum two poles in – one for height, and the other to support it – with the vine between them.

You can't see it that clearly, but the bittergoud plant starts just behind the rooster - up the poles, the across to the right to the taller white pole. The second white pole is out of frame.

You can’t see it that clearly, but the bittergoud plant starts just behind the rooster – up the poles, then across to the right to the taller white pole. The vine is only about halfway across the horizontal pole at the moment. The second white pole is out of frame.

Next, I needed to provide some horizontal growing space for the vines, so I connected the top of the taller pole to another pole that happened to be about two metres away. That pole had a companion next to it, so I added another connection, creating a triangular area.

With the construction done, it was time to gently detach the vine from the tree and wind it around the trellis and give it time to settle in to its new home. The vine only reaches about halfway across at the moment, and I’ll be interested to see if it wants to keep growing towards the sunny side or back towards the tree. I’ve pruned the tree so it’s not easily accessible, but when a plant wants to go somewhere, it will find a way. At the worst, I think I’ll have to keep training it until it reaches the other end, then let it grow backwards… Anyway, we will be looking forward to enjoying the little bittergourds soon.

© 2017 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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Year of the rooster

Our almost-resident rooster on one of his favourite perches.

Our almost-resident rooster on one of his favourite perches.

If you’re familiar with the Chinese Zodiac, you’ll know that 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. For whatever reason, we’ve been quite blessed this year with the presence of our neighbourhood’s wandering rooster. He’s been around for several years, starting off with very brief sightings. Then those became occasional day visits, prompting us to speculate that he belonged to someone somewhere down the lane. Then one morning we were delighted to see that he had stayed overnight in the curry leaf tree.

His visits used to be few and far between. We’d see him once every few months, then the timing closed to every few weeks. This year, he started visiting for longer periods of time – a couple of days, then he’d disappear, only to be heard crowing in the distance. I’m not convinced he belongs to anyone from the way he seems to travel so far and wide. However, he’s begun to stay for longer stretches of time. A few days became a week. A week became a couple of weeks. Now we’ve finally hit the “month” stage – he’s been here for almost two months!

The rooster perched up in the belimbing tree late in the evening as he settles in for the night. Yup, he sleeps up in trees!

The rooster perched up in the belimbing tree late in the evening as he settles in for the night. Yup, he sleeps up in trees!

We’ve all become very accustomed to each other, meaning the humans, dogs and Mr Rooster. He is comfortable around family members that he recognises and just minds his own business even if we pass within a metre of him – and by “we”, I mean both humans and dogs. He has also made himself comfortable in different parts of the garden, going to specific spots at around the same time every day. And he greets the neighbourhood every day (not necessarily only in the mornings) with his strident, repeated crowing.

It looks like we may have been adopted. Or, perhaps in typical wandering rooster fashion, he will traipse off to another corner of the kampong and entertain another family for a while. However, I feel that he has earned his place as part of the totem of this blog.

© 2017 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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The exasperating coleus

Green Coleus "canina"

Green Coleus “canina”

How often do you encounter plants that just keep popping up all over your garden? They may show up in flowering beds, across the lawn, with your potted plants, in cracks in cement… You get the picture? When plants do that, we call them weeds – but honestly, they’re just plants that we didn’t plan for and are prejudiced against because they grow better than the plants we actually want.

Well here’s the tale of one such plant that has been spreading happily all around our garden. I know it has been growing “here and there” for several years, but this plant finally got a firm foothold and is now growing in clumps all over the place. Why? Because it has such a quick life cycle and it produces loads of seeds with each plant. They must be tiny and light because, somehow, they are able to find they way onto roofs as well! The consolation about this is that I don’t think they have roots that can damage property, but I’m still peeved about how pervasive it is.

It took me a while to figure out what it was, and let me give you the shortcut I learned. It’s called a Google image search. Instead of typing in your search request, you can actually go to Google images and use an image to submit your query! It’s pretty cool, and allowed me to finally identify my new plant foe as a coleus.

Check out the length of those flower spikes ...then imagine the number of seeds being produced!

Check out the length of those flower spikes …then imagine the number of seeds being produced!

Coleus to me are normally ornamental plants with colourful, patterned leaves that grow in shady conditions. This insidious plant is plain green all over and has a flower spike of pale blue or purplish flowers, and grows not only in shade, but also full sunlight. What I don’t like about it is the weird scent it gives off when it gets bruised when I’m yanking it out.

This belongs to the Plectranthus family of plants which has a multitude of varieties. The closest I’ve come to identifying this one is Coleus “canina”, which describes it right down to the smell. It is apparently also called the “Scaredy Cat” plant as it supposedly repels pest animals (like cats). What interested me was that it supposedly also drives off mosquitoes! Maybe it does, but I’m still not happy at the way it has spread so much.

© 2017 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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How a pineapple develops

It’s really interesting to see how different plants grow. I was lucky to catch the ratoon pineapple just as it began to crown, and this is how it grew from March to July this year…

First sign that it's time for the pineapple to start developing the fruit - you see the shade of pink starting to show in the centre.

First sign that it’s time for the pineapple to start developing the fruit – you see the shade of pink starting to show in the centre.

Three weeks in and you see more pink bromeliad leaves emerging.

Three weeks in and you see more pink bromeliad leaves emerging.

Week 5 and the shape of the fruit starts to show. The lower parts have purple flowers.

Week 5 and the shape of the fruit starts to show. The lower parts have purple flowers.

Week 9 and the fruit seems formed.

Week 9 and the fruit seems formed after all the flowering has finished.

Week 13 and the skin looks like it's toughening up. A sucker is starting to grow.

Week 13 and the skin looks like it’s toughening up. A sucker is also starting to grow.

Week 17 and the fruit is ripening.

Week 17 and the fruit is ripening. The crown has grown impressively.

The ratoon pineapple and new sucker.

The ratoon pineapple and new sucker.

This pineapple was harvested 18 weeks after we first noticed it crowning. If I recall correctly, the first pineapple also took about 18 weeks to grow, even though it was heavier. So that makes it about four calendar months for a pineapple to reach harvest!

© 2017 curiousgardener.com All rights reserved.


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