What I'm Growing In My Garden

I’m quite pleased that my garden (little though it may be) is growing quite well, thanks to the rich compost I make. (In case you want to make some compost of your own, you can read about the composting method, that a very gungho couple from Bukit Mertajam taught me.)
It’s been a little more than a year since I started to use compost for my own plants and herbs and I can tell you, there is a BIG (pardon the pun) difference with regular soil. Compost is full of nutrients and plants love it!
Here are some photos I took just this morning – I’m already in the Chinese New Year mood so I decided to take it easy and show you what I like to do when I am not busy with website design projects or doing business writing or networking or going out.
Besides cooking which I love (I think I like experimenting with food), I enjoy pottering about the garden, watching my plants grow. It’s quite fulfilling to see something growing from a seed – and I have had much success growing plants from seeds or cuttings (thankfully). I do know some people who can’t seem to grow anything or rear anything. Unlike Midas with his golden touch, certain people have poisonous touches, killing plants with their vibes.
At the moment, I’m satisfied that my little roselle sapling (is it a sapling or a baby plant) actually has roselle fruit! Look at the photo below. It is about 4 inches tall but it is mighty cute with a single roselle bud. I grew this from seeds which I saved after I made roselle syrup. Roselle is one of those plants which need a lot more publicity because it can be grown in Malaysia and it is full of vitamins and tastes better than the sugary-rich Ribena.
roselle plant, roselle fruit
The next plant or sapling which I am quite pleased with are my markisa plants (also grown from seeds, after I ate most of the markisa or passionfruit which I so adore). Nic isn’t too keen on passionfruit as it’s a tart fruit.
I figured I could grow the fruits I like to eat so this was one of those experiments. Passionfruit seems to be making a comeback now as I see lots of fresh passionfruits sold in the Lip Sin market. The flowers of this fruit tree are gorgeous, I am told, and a little research online confirms this. However this passionfruit is a climber vine sort so I have yet to find out how to let the little ones climb and where! I cannot wait when it fruits!
markisa, passion fruit,
The next plant which I really love is pokok kemuning. For the longest time I didn’t know what it was called because Nic calls it by its Mandarin name “chit lee xiang” (roughly translated, “seven mile fragrance”). But a search and some garden blog scrutinising later and I found out it is called Murraya Paniculata.
Like most plants with nondescript tiny white flowers, it needs an added ‘feature’ to get the bees and butterflies excited (and come over and help them pollinate!). That is why Murraya Paniculata has an enticing fragrance, one so heady I swoon (in a good way of course).

Murraya paniculata, pokok kemuning
Murraya paniculata is a sun-loving shrub and grows well in pots or in the ground

The tiny white flowers are five-petaled, with each petal curved back. Their fragrance gets released as the days grow into nights and I can tell you, it’s an unbelievable aroma, coming from smallish white flowers like the kemuning.
When I was in HK last year, one particular white flower caught my ‘nose’ too. The osmanthus plants I saw grew in the HK Botanical Garden – the plants were grown around the bird cages where their delicate aroma masked the stink of the birds. I thought this was a splendid idea. When I came back, I was dismayed to know that our tropical weather did not bode well for the temperate osmanthus. Luckily I got to know about the Murraya and it is as good as the osmanthus! The Murraya can be grown as hedges, in the ground, or in pots (like what we’ve done). It loves the sun so anywhere which gets the sun is good place to position your dark-green plant.
By the way, the city of Gui Lin in China is named after the osmanthus. In Mandarin, the osmanthus is called “gui hwa”. Osmanthus flowers are also used in TCM; its dried flowers are steeped as a tea. I have seen dried osmanthus flowers sold by local herbalists to promote beautiful skin.
Here’s a photo of the fruit of the Murraya. The fruits are oval-shaped green berries when unripe but become attractively orange when they ripen. As with all plants, they entice birds to come eat their berries and help spread the murraya seeds far and wide. My mom-in-law grows saplings easily from these seeds back in Kuching. You can do the same too by plucking the ripened berries and putting them into separate pots to help them grow.
Murraya paniculata berries or kemuning fruits
Ripe Murraya paniculata berries which can easily grow if planted

Since this post is quite long, come back for the next post of what else I’m growing in my garden and why!
Do you have a garden? What do YOU grow in your garden? It doesn’t have to be a garden at all. When I was in my old apartment, all I had was a tiny balcony. Even so, I had pots and pots of plants. I believe all of us derive great pleasure from seeing things grow and progress. Plants are one of the easiest and when they grow well, we get the added benefit of seeing their flowers or inhaling their fragrance.
So tell me, what are you growing right now?

The Heady Smell of Herbs

I’ve been dutifully composting my food scraps using the 10-pot system and it’s been about 7 months now.
Don of Green Crusaders (that’s him below) taught me this system and since using it, I’ve never had to throw out any food scraps! I have actually reduced the amount of rubbish I throw out as I compost mostly everything (except unedible and inorganic stuff).
This is Don, the tireless eco crusader!
I can safely report that all’s fine and I couldn’t tell you how pleased I was to find big, fat earthworms in my compost a few months ago. Earthworms make the job easier! Of course besides the earthworms, there’s a host of bugs, milipedes, ants and such but that’s part and parcel of the composting process.
But there is no smell. No stink. That is the beauty of Don’s 10-pot system. It’s really simple once you get the system all set up. And you don’t need to buy those plastic bins or composting contraptions which look really huge and ugly.
Now with enough compost, I can start my little herb garden. (Compost must be mixed well with regular red earth in 1:1 portions. Compost on its own will kill plants as it is too ‘nutritious’!)
I’ve always been interested in gardening. I wouldn’t say I’m Miss Green Finger but I do enjoy getting my hands dirty, watching plants grow and best of all, eating what I grow. That’s the best organic kind of food.
Of late, I’ve been poking around C&L Nursery (opposite Convent Green Lane) and buying pots of herbs.
Rosemary is one herb I really adore, especially its heady aroma as one brushes against its spiny leaves. I am still figuring if it needs direct sunlight or not as my previous pot of rosemary died after 2 years (that pot was kept on the balcony away from direct light). I don’t really use rosemary for cooking – I just want to inhale its fragrance!
Next I came across a type of mint which smells like lemon. Its mint leaves are thin and papery but again, it smells like lemon and lemongrass when you light brush your hands over its leaves. Again I bought this because of its citrusy smell.
Recently a friend gave me two cuttings of Indian borage. It is also known as local oregano because it smells just like that!
Indian borage
The heart-shaped leaves of the Indian borage are thick. big and hairy. In Malay, it is known as Daun Bangun-bangun. Apparently it is a hardy plant but what makes it attractive as a must-have herb in the garden is its ability to help with coughs. A fresh leaf boiled with some water is a good tea to sip if you have persistent coughing. Or pick a leaf and chew it if you have a sore throat.
And here’s more uses for Indian borage – if you have a blocked nose, crush some leaves and inhale.
If you have skin problems or insect bites, crush the leaves and use as a poultice.
If you have dandruff, use an infusion to rinse your hair.
This herb seems to be multipurpose. You can use it for increasing milk flow for new moms, to reduce flatulence and stomach cramps, to reduce menstrual pain and insomnia. Oh yes, it can also get rid of kidney stones!
Besides these herbs, I am also trying my hand at growing turmeric, plantago, basil and Thai basil. There’s something really special when you can eat the stuff you grow!