Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Weeds, Begone!!!!

It is strangely satisfying to meticulously weed out box after box of tiny succulent container. Well, not so much when I turned the said container around and got the shock of life because there is giant snail right next to my finger, but the weed part is definitely satisfying.

Of course, I don’t have boxes of succulent at my house. No, this is me at San Francisco Botanical Garden, enjoying my first day of volunteering. I had finally followed through my desire to volunteer at a local garden/park. I am going to be helping at the nursery, and I will start helping with GIS and graphic design later on. Today though, it is mainly nursery tour and walk.

We started at 10AM and was suppose to end at 2PM. Me being me, went accidentally overtime by half hour without noticing. It’s a good thing I learned my lesson as outdoor Route Rabbit at Sunday Street – where I bike around checking up on volunteers and jay-driver (car that wonders into closed off, pedestrian only streets) – regarding the importance of sunscreen. I probably didn’t burn myself this time.

I did, however, neglected to bring my own gardening glove, lunch cash, and cap – though the nursery did provided backup, as no one actually brought any of those for their first day except for the cash part.

While browsing SFBG, I kept seeing this Poppy:

Since I left my camera at home, here is a stunning photo I found at an online store named Annie’s Annual.

Turns out it is is called the Ladybird poppy (Papaver commutatum), a heirloom flower (though the word Ladybird is a British way of calling Ladybug, which is strangely not Californian at all. I guess the botanist naming the flower is Britain???). The petal appears to have a paper like texture, yet it is smooth and soft like a regular petal when I touch it. The contrast of crimson red and black seems to set the petals on fire in a scenery of green and brown. A truly puzzling yet stunning sight.

Sadly, I didn’t have my watercolor kit with me either. Next time, next time.

After helping at the nursery, I am going to start helping in graphic design next Monday, and hopefully learn some GIS soon. Gardening and design, two of my favorites all in one!


Seed Starting Ideas – Commercialism Vs. DIY in Gardening

It’s sunny, it’s warm, it’s a season that inspire all gardener to go all out. Even containers ones like me.

So, as of a few days ago, I found myself rumbling through my boxes for seeds. The questions though, is how I should grow them? The plant nursery has so many different seed starter kits, sparkling in front of me and tempting me. So, what are someway to start seeds indoor?

Hmm… how about the good old jiffy pots? The compressed soil tend to led to sterile soil that will develop a moldy surface. I want to use my own, healthy soil. Besides, my chives has never successfully seeded in a jiffy pot – and I plan to plant some chives seeds.

Plastic container? They don’t have it, and transplanting is going to be nightmare for the seeds I have in mind.

Oh, what’s that? Biodegradable Coco-fiber pot? And it looks shiny too. But nope – bigger than what I want, pricier than other products in store, and don’t look that biodegradable. Maybe it will degrade outdoor, but I am not so confidence about indoor without all the bacteria and rain. I want something with thinner surfaces, like paper.

…No cowpot, pulp pot, or other paper-like pots on store shelf.

In the end, I ended up buying only a bag of all-purpose “Natural Plotting Soil” from a nearby succulent shop named Succulence (Yep, they sell not only succulent soil, but also natural and occasionally organic soil, all for a lovely $2 per bag. Oh, and they have Renee seeds and… wait, wrong post! Shall shut up now).

At home, I mentally debated on which seed starter products I should use. I mindlessly took some paper out for recycling. Lo and behold, I saw a egg carton. My mindless haze cleared up, and the wheel in my brain started cranking as ideas popped into my head. I was so busy thinking about what to BUY to solve my problem, I totally forgot my Eco Crafty side! The scariness of consumerism culture.

I make a quick, sneaky gaze around the apartment trash room. Area clear. I grabbed the carton and checked for a clean condition. Good. I chucked my papers-to-be-recycle and stealthy transport my egg cartoon without any neighbors seeing me.

Once I got home, I renewed my research, now with a new mindset and a new weapon idea. Excitingly, I googled about egg carton seed starter. I immediately learned that it is too small and not very biodegradable. Fortunately, I came across other solutions – homemade paper rolls, eggshell, and newspaper containers. I didn’t had any eggshell and paper roll prepared, so newspaper it was.

I decided to forgo the tape that several blog uses, and relied on my origami folding  skill. Then I rumbled through the cabinet for something to put it in. To my luck, I found a take-out rice box with a clear plastic cover – perfect for a greenhouse. All the seeds are edible plants. A lunchbox of edible garden – yummy.

From left to right, there is two strawberry, chives, nasturtium seeds.

The nasturtiums outgrown the box pretty quickly though. So I took it, and it’s now arrange symmetrically with two other baby aloe. One of the chives have also popped up. Strawberry will take a while, but I think it is a pretty successful experience so far.

Point one to DIY.

Orchids under Golden Gate: 2012 Orchid Expo

The sky is clear, there is a farmer’s market to my right, and a Crystal Fair to my left. But those are not my goals that day. I was there for the 2012 Orchid Expo at Fort Mason, San Francisco.

As someone who like to get into the depth of things, naturally I didn’t attend. I volunteered as well. My position was suppose to be Security, but through a series of events, I ended up helping with volunteer check-in (I am not getting into the detail, but l will just say that getting from Bayview to Fort Mason apparently can take 2 hours and half instead of the 2 hours I planned, and google maps can make mistake about locations in park. So beware if you live around that area and remember to bring a map.)

I was pair with another older, regular volunteer. The people at the volunteer booth was friendly, and my volunteer partner had many stories to tell. Being so engaged in the orchid world, the volunteers and leaders has traveled and seen quite a bit, so I loved listening to them.

Eventually, mys shift ended – early in fact, since the next group of volunteer arrived early themselves. To my surprise, I got a meal ticket. I was really there because a) I am curious about orchids, b) I want to meet people with common interest, and d) my curiousity does not warrant me to spend $15 on a ticket, but does warrant me to give hours of volunteer. So, I have apparently not read the fine print and didn’t realize that I get free meal. Extra bonus!

So I took out my camera and went out the volunteer room. I have no idea what the expo will be like. I had been late and rushed inside the volunteer room, and thus have no idea what the place look like. A giant Golden Gate Bridge surrounded by orchids was a bit of pleasant color-shock:

People gathers around the front displays. They are quite stunning as flower, but even more so as companion in display. The theme this year, very obviously, is Golden Gate Park.

Eventually I caved and got myself an orchid. I wondered around, amused and slightly horrified by the prices (since I wanted to buy an orchids and my budget don’t agree with me. The flowers are still beautiful as always). Eventually, I discovered a small numbers of booths that sell baby orchid, and one of them shows the pictures and indicates whether the full-grown version would have fragrance. One of them was the Chocolate Drop Kodoma. Fragrant, deep red flower with waxy petals. The name was attractive, and while the fragrant wouldn’t be chocolate-scented, it still seems like such a good choice. It’s just $6!

It will take me at least 2 years to get it to blossom, but I am willing to wait. Makes it all the more exciting, wouldn’t it?

Oh, I finally post image up on my Flickr, so take a look. It is fortunate that I know how to use this tool now, because converting and putting all those photos up my blog post not only would take forever, but it will probably take quite a while to load for my readers. Alas, the displays are stunningly beautiful, and I can’t stop clicking!

In addition, I also went to the Crystal Fair. They can make some amazing object from crystal, to my surprise. I had to strongly refrain from being tempted to buy anything, with only one goal – a amethyst bed to put my tumbling stone on, from a seller that knows what where her stone are sourced (<—concerns about ethical and mining chemical byproduct problem)

I was quite successful in that mission. Patience is indeed a virtue, and now I shall happily go coo over my orchid… (Float in clouds of happiness)

Polka Dots and Terrarium: Gardening Trend in Cities

I want to scream so badly, or at least squeak.

It is a Polka Dot Plant. Pink, miniature, grown just the right size for a terrarium. Good thing I am not an anime character, because I would had done the “so cute I faint” scene. Hilarious, but bad because I was about to take a pruning class. I intended to be conscious for that, thank you very much.

If you are observant, you probably guessed where I was: a nursery. To my joy, I discovered about Sloat Gardening Center after I moved back to San Francisco. The center offers classes that are free if you sign up as member (free also); of course I was not going to miss a chance like this. The earliest class I can attend was “Training and Pruning Small Garden Trees” by Elizabeth Ruiz. Personally though, I was more into finding an excuse to visit a new garden shop. After all, I didn’t have a tree.

Well, not yet. I will get a one, just not in my current apartment. Planning for the future never hurts, though indoor tree is not the focus of Ruiz’s class. However, visiting the center brought the topic of indoor tree and micro-climate – as in terrarium – to my attention.

As cities grow and suburbans transform, our society is going up the ladder – literally in the case of raising apartments. Trap in midair, the human society that once attempted to control and even eliminate nature is finding themselves missing those little green creatures in their busy everyday life, not to mention finding themselves tired of the bland taste of 100 miles old vegetables and pesticide flavored fruits. So what’s a girl (or a guy) to do?

At first, people brought in kitchen herbs. You’ve seen how the commercial market reflected this trend: that three planters with compacted soil in attractive, simple package that you may had swooned over? Quite adorable, but often not very practical. First, compacted soil, similar to jiffy pots, tend to be susceptible to molds. It may freak poeple with cleaning-obsession for their kitchen. Second, many urban kitchens lacks window light. Herbs like mints are fine in dim kitchens, but the sun-loving basil? Third, some herb not only love sun, they like to spread – rosemary just don’t  fit on a window sill. Alas, herbs are pest-light, require little water, and so very useful. The scent of a freshly plucked rosemary is truly enticing; the raising popularity of kitchen gardening brought in a new generation of city gardener.

Some people, though, want not only herbs but also fruits and vegetables. The problem is that fruits and vegetables are nutritious for a reason – they grow in places with access to resources: space and sun. For fortunate individuals, as in my case when I lived in the suburbs, their gardening experiences started on a balcony. Balcony is windy, and large pots with soil are expensive, but the result is worth it. Elevated height means less pests, and distance from land predator create great possibilities for bird-lovers. But even without a balcony, people find ways: from renting a garden space to joining a community garden. Yet, city dweller are busy people living in compacted space. Traveling to garden takes time and energy, and balcony is a luxury.

If we can’t grown outdoor, then we move them indoor. Lettuce and strawberries are simple enough. How about something bigger and more abundant? Yes, it is time for another evolution – the indoor fruit trees. Need a lemon to flavor your dish? Stop by your foyer and snap one there. Our own little orchard. The soils are hell to carry for repot, and you actually have to prune, mist, and even pollinate. But trees can be hot topics among friends and guests. You will be know as the cook who serve what she grows, whose dishes are always fresh. It takes time, it takes patients, and it takes research, but it can be done and the reward can be fulfilling to both mind and stomach. Still, trees are intimating and do require bit more work. Some of us just want some green: a small luxury of mother nature in the house, a beauty to placate our eyes after a busy day of work.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we have our own little forest? This desire leads to the growing new trend – terrarium. A tiny, flowerless succulent is often overlooked by nursery visitors. The average houseplants can appear bland sitting on their little pots in a nursery bursting with color. What if the succulents are clustered together like a little garden? A good terrarium encase a beautiful arrangement of succulents together in elegant glass jar. Flowers are enticing because of color varieties, but a terrarium allows designer to arrange a tasteful blend of earthly color just as attractive. It’s our little garden – elegant, serene, classical, and a world away from the daily chaotic life.

I will probably not buy a glass terrarium myself though. I appreciate its aesthetic appeal, but it goes again my gardening principal. I garden so I get more in touch with nature. Terrarium plants are generally succulents. The selection is deliberate, because plants don’t belong in such environment.

Terrarium typically has a shallow soil depth, lacks a drainage space, and stagnates water and air. Native environment for plants are outdoor – indoor is a human creation. Plants, by nature, don’t crowd more than they can afford. Their main water source tend to be rain, which completely soaks the soil before descending to the ground. In the case of deserts, rain are rare, but when it comes the water goes all the way. This process is why houseplant are overwatered more than underwatered. Most plants don’t like overly consistent, small supply of water. They like the watering to be bold: plenty and quick.

Terrarium is a beautiful feature, but I feel like I am torturing my plants if I use it. I do encourage interested individual to try it. The more new and/or casual gardener like their plants, the better care the plants gets. Succulent is capable of growing in a terrarium. For me, I try to provide my plants with the best environment because I have a passion for and connection with nature. I know plants don’t grow comfortably in a glass jar, and I sympathize with being trap in small space from my years of shared room. Looking at terrarium make me go “aw~” first but “ouch…” a second after.

As a city-dweller, we actually have a lot of options regarding gardening, and new trends (or old practice re-marketed) hop up in our radar every once in a while. Each practices have their pros and cons, and no solution are perfect for everyone. I hope that everyone will find their own little garden space, as I had before in San Luis Obispo. I will continue to find ways to deal with the current limited environment at my new apartment. After all, nature is where we grow and where our origin is. Our mind are creative, and our heart seeks home, so human will always find a way.

Lavender Part 2

Ah, part two of my Lavender post. Past the name and historical use, now onto the technical!
The more technical, landscaping element of Lavender is slightly harder to search and learn – but I finally got it!
Lavender is classified a herbaceous groundcover or subshrub Lamiacae. It’s typically use for groundcover, border front, and rock because of its relatively small size in comparison to other shrub and its ability to thrive in dry soil. The dwarf species of Lavender can also be use as container plant, though Lavender will always prefer open ground. Lavender should be repotted annually.
Its growing range is within USDA Zones 6a to 8b, though some can thrive in zone 5. Soil-wise, it prefer soil with good drainage, but can stand brief moment of flood. PH level should be between 6.0 and 8.0, because makes it pretty neutral. Spanish Lavender, however, can tolerate more acidic soil than English Lavender.
The plant itself prefers sun and hot weather, but it can withstood most outdoor wind. Like most sun-loving plants, it doesn’t like wet-foot and can suffer from root rot if over-watered. Therefore, while it grows best in the summer, it will do well at late Spring, Autumn, and early Winter. During humid weather, using overhead sprinkler will risk bacterial and fungal disease unless the plant is carefully pruned. A way to deal with this, in addition to careful pruning, is to use trickle irrigation.
Great, I just remember that I have been pouring water on my lavender from the top down! (Bangs head on the wall for being an idiotic…)
After a harsh winter, the plant should be prune back in the Spring. Pruning prevents the plant center from turning woody. When done in Spring, it encourages top-flowering. Most pruning should be one-third, some of the harsher cultivators like Spanish Lavender (invasive in Australia, remember?) can deal with one-half.
The best time to prune, other than Spring, is typically in mid-autume before the frost. English Lavender and Provence French Lavender can be prune after flowering instead (which is close to mid-autume anyhow).
Among the various cultivars, Spanish lavender can tolerate colder conditions better. It can withstand temperature from frost to -5C, and even snow. French Lavender, on the other hand, is less tolerate of cold than its other sister cultivars. It is also takes less pruning than the others.
Like other plants that requires pruning, if the bush of lavender has not been prune in the beginning of its life, it may not survive heavy pruning. Pass the three year mark, and it maybe too late to prune.
Ah, I have not been pruning my Lavender either! Can I make even more mistakes?
Lavender can be use either as bushes or hedges.
As a med-size bush, the typical English Lavender should be grown about 28 inches apart. In the cases of hedges, they should be 12-16 inches apart. For the smaller varieties, bushes should have 20 inches growth spaces and hedges should be 10 inches apart. Spanish Lavender is a bit unique. As a bush, it needs 40 inches of growth space. Hedges needs to be 20-28 inches apart.
Its properties makes a good plant for xeriscaping and rock garden. Lavender can even be used in green roof. It is suitable for semi-intensive or intensive roof because of the deeper substrate. (Again, I can’t resist adding for the architecture bits. For those who know me though architecture, I even went and look for possible LEED credit one can earn from using lavender landscaping – result from 2 week of LEED studies. Obsesses, much?)
*Stretches* Looking for the information about different variation of lavender took some time, but it was interesting to see that even one species can have so many different variation. Consequently, learning about its climate preferences got me interested in looking into xeriscaping and green roofing. Maybe I should start do a blog post on that, too! For now, I am going to relax… I want some chocolate!

Lavender Part 1

Ah. Summer is abound. So much to do. So little time.

In my boredom, I have once again resorted to my research mode. This time on Lavendula – or Lavender in common name form.

As my previous post stated, I did purchased a pot of French Lavender during Earth Day from SLO Botanic Garden. Since then, I have pay extra attention to any Lavenders that I met on the way. (Yes, I personify plants. Sue me.) And as an added bonus, I can now differentiate Lavender, Sage, and Rosemary from each other. I used to get a bit confuse – their flowers and bush bodies are quite similar to my eyes, especially since there are two type of Lavender flower buds. Now I learn that they key is in their leaves form. If there are still doubts, rub the leaves. Not that I would recommend thrusting a bare hand into a flowery and aromatic bush on a sunny day – the bushes tends to be swarm with bees.

Note to self – never plant lavender, sage, or rosemary next to a door or window. Do the bees love them!

I have, fortunately, discover that they are fairly docile when they having lunch in a bush of aromatic herbs. They may fly by to check people out, but as long as I don’t do anything silly – like thrusting my hand into their lunch – they circle around for a second and go back to their lunch.

My Lavender hasn’t attracted any bees though. In fact, after I brought the plant, it has since then refused to bloom. For a long time, I couldn’t comprehend why, as Lavender – along most other herb – are notoriously difficult to kill. They love sun and is drought tolerant. Some of them thrive on being neglect, with my Aloe Vera being a very good example. In fact, one could say they are borderline masochist!

Granted, I have my Lavender in a pot, but it is not a small pot, and Lavender can be a container plant. I told myself that its probably just shock by the transplanting process. When I brought my first Lemon Thyme – my container garden plant – the leaves turn yellowish and the plant look like it was going to die. But in the end, the Thyme rebounded fairely quickly. However, as the day goes on, my Lavender remain flowerless and its leaves yellowish. What is going on!?

And so I started looking. Then, I wanted to bang my head against the wall. Ah, if only I am not worry about damaging the wall with my own head… The problem with buying plants on an impulse without research is that, sometimes, certain plants have very specific blooming requirement. Yes, Lavender would take an idiot to kill it, but to make it bloom beautifully… it can be a bit fussy. The history, biology, and growth of Lavender is quite complex yet fascinating, and writing about it will definitely take more than one post. Good thing I am on summer break. So let me start off with the basic:


Lavender, or Lavandula, is part of the – lo and behold – mint family of Lamiaceae.

I know, my eyebrow shot straight up with a “Huh?” as well.

The most common Lavender, which most of the time Lavandula refers to, is the English Lavender. It is also known as True Lavender and Common Lavender. It’s scientific name is Lavandula angustifolia, with augustifolia meaning “narrow leaf”. It is the most used culinary lavender because it has less camphor oil. Camphor oil adds bitterness once cooked. The favorite plant of Queen Victoria, it was also named Lavandula officinalis in the old days to indicate that English Lavender is the only “official” medicinal Lavender. Other than the basic English Lavender form, English Lavender also have varies varieties – in fact, up to 40. The most well-known variety is Munstead because of its sweeter scent and taste, which makes it a better culinary Lavender than most.

For the same reason regarding camphor oil, Provence French Lavender (Lavandula x intermedia) – a sterile cross between English and Portuguese Lavender – is the second best culinary Lavender (Second, since Munstead is just a variation of English Lavender, not a different species the way Provence is). The land it named after, Provence, is the largest producer of Lavender in the world. Among the various species of Lavandula, Provence tends to tolerant moisture slightly better (Lavenders tends to like dry, well-drained soil in places with good sun).

I have the French Lavender (Lavendula dentata) – not the Provence one, just French. While it is called “French”, it is actually native to Spain. It’s Latin name, dentata, means “toothed” in references to its leaf form. It is commonly grown as ornamental plant and perfume ingredient. I was recommended to buy this instead of Spanish Lavender (the store only have French and Spanish) because I planned to use my Lavender for culinary and scent purposes.

Confusingly, some of the older text may refer the Spanish Lavender (Lavendula stoechas, also Topped Lavender) as French Lavender. To add to the confusion, it is also called Italian Lavender. It actually originated from the Mediterranean region (I know, “Huh?”), but can later be found in Italy, Spain, and France. Despite the confusion regarding its current name, it is easily distinguishable from the actual French Lavender because of its two spiked petals and pineapple-like body. In fact, some also nicknamed it “Rabbit Ears”.  While it is more fragile than the English Lavender, it will self-seed on its own and upon attempts to cut it. Thus, it is consider not only an invasive species in Australia, but a noxious weed in parts of Victoria, AU (Note to self: Don’t plant it next to my neighbor’s garden unless they like Lavender too.)

I mentioned Portuguese Lavender (Lavandula latifolia, or Spike Lavender) earlier. It’s native to west Mediteerrian. It has a stronger fragrance and camphor content than most of the other Lavender, so it is grown mostly for aromatherapy use. However, because of its high camphor concentration, its oil produces a more methol aroma and thus holds less value than the English Lavender. As a result, it is often hybrid with the English Lavender to create the Provence French Lavender.

Those above are the most commonly mentioned and used Lavender. There are, of course, other hybrids and types Lavender out there. But I think go more into Lavender as whole now:


The Latin root of Lavender, lavare, means “to wash”; Is it any wonder why it is so popular in bath and body products? Well, it should be the other around I guess – is it any wonder it means to wash in Latin considering its use. Lavender is, after all, fame for its calming properties.

In addition, it is an antiseptic, antitoxic, antispasmodic, and antibacterial. It’s wonderful for massage and helps relive tension and stress from headache, depression, muscle pain, insomnia, to PMS condition.

As antibacterial, it’s great for acne. It can also work in case of sun burn, fungal infection, bug bite, and other skin disease. It is particularly effective if mix with Aloe Vera gel or Tea Tree oil, depending on use.

However, while Lavender in essential oil form is the least toxic oil, it can still irritate skin. Always test the oil, don’t put oil open wound if you don’t want a burning sensation, and don’t consume it in oil form.Since it is the least toxic, it can be used with children, but always test it out first. In its plant form, however, Lavender is great tea and cooking ingredient.

As for its growth conditions… I think I will left it to the next post – I am reaching to the second page of my OpenOffice document. A break, shall we?

Pink, Adorable, and totally Edible: Pinks, the flower Diathus

I recently came across a pot of pink Diathus and fell in love at first sight. Since I already had so many plants, I held my urges and… did not purchased it! (Not sure if I should be proud or sad by that fact?)

However, a few days later I discovered more about the plant as I was skimming through an herbal book – turns out it is an edible flower!

My balcony garden is somewhat an herbal & veg garden. I am a sucker for edible plants. It makes me slightly less guilty about my obsession with gardening purchases. But when I came across the store by accident a few days later (realize that I was running out of soil) and decided to ask about it, the store worker couldn’t anything about it in their books or through the internet.

A few days later, I decided to look up the book that I was reading as well as look for books for edible flowers and google online about edible Dianthus. And lo and behold, Diathus is edible – for certain type!

The scientific name is Diathus spp. but the most popular common name of the specific edible Diathus is Pinks.

……No, it really is Pinks. I am not just describing its color. In fact, it can also come in rose, white, purple or red flowers. It can have a single or double layers of petals. Its a hardy perennials that love sun and well-drained soil. It is suitable for flower borders and flower beds.

There are several species in Diathus that is especially good for eating. Now, this can get very confusing. Dianthus, by itself, is commonly refer to as Pinks. But the fact is that there are two most popular edible species in Dianthus. Pinks refers to one of them: Dianthus plumarius. Another one is Diathus caryophyllus, which is more popular for its celebrational use and fragrance. Its common name  is “Clove Pink” and… Carnation! Another edible Dianthus popular for its fragrance is Sweet William (D. barbatus).

Now, the confusion part about its edible properties comes from the leaves, which IS toxic. In addition, the entire plant is toxic to pets, so don’t grow it in the house if you own pets. While the flowers is classicfy as edible and is indeed edible, it contains a small trance of toxicity. In large amount, it can cause contact dermatitis or inflammed irritated skin in some people. But nutmeg is toxic in large quantity as well, so unless you are eating an entire bowl of Dianthus petal.. I think most of us should be safe. :D

Dianthus was named by Greek botanist Theophrastus, with dios meaning divine and anthos meaning flower divine (dios) flower. Di can also mean Zeus, making it a flower symbolic of the Greek God Zeus. The common name for Diathus Caryophyllus, Carnation, is believed to come from its use in Greek ceremonial garlands and crowns. Part of the word coronatin, corone, means flower garlands in Latin.

While it is a flower that represents Zeus, its Greek mythology relates to Zeus’s daughter Artemis. While Artemis was hunting, a shepherd played an instrument and frightened her quarry. In a fit of rage, she tore out the shepherd’s eyes. But her anger passed quickly and she immediately felt sorry for her act, and so she transformed a flower that bloomed in the place of the shepred’s lost eyes, which is the Dianthus.

Its ruling plants, as many may guess, is Jupitar (Zeus) and Moon (Artemis).

Like most flowers, Catholics use it to represent Virgin Mary. In the Middle Age, it took on the meaning of marital love and fidelity. In the 20th century, its transformed into a flower for Mother’s Day.

Dianthus have a spicy, floral, and clovelike taste and is generally strong in fragance. The white base of its petal can be bitter, so taste it before using and remove it if bitter. Dianthus can be used in  or made into soap, perfume, syrup, sorbets, custard, crystallized candies, butter, cakes, sauces, salads, soup, punch bowl, vinegar, and even wine. In Western herbal healing, it’s said to calm nervousness and coronary disorders, sooth seasickness, improve skin condition, and reduce inflammation or swelling. In Eastern herbal healing, its flower tea helps relax the body and spirit, as well as restoring energy in the body.

Again, don’t overdose on a bowl of Dianthus petal just because it hs a known healing quality. Everything in moderation.

Bu then, it’s a lovely flower just to own. Maybe next gardening year, I will grow some Dianthus myself. But for now, I have some Nasturtium seeds I plan to grow. :)


Garden Book: Better Vegetable Gardens the Chinese Way by Peter Chan

Well, this blog did started with a focus in green technique and urban gardening, so… time for a little garden book reflection.
I found this book, Better Vegetable Gardens the Chinese Way: Peter Chan’s Raised-Bed System by Peter Chan, in the library. Being Chinese and being a garden newbie, I can’t resist grabbing the book (despite the fact that I have, oh, about 20 books check out? Book addict, can you say?)
The book is kind of old, and readers can tell the author is not native to English because of the sentence structure. However, the information is the most important, and it’s got plenty. On some pages, large calligraphy of Chinese words or phases are display along with English translation. The pages that follow that calligraphy talks about that very subject. It helps organize the book in an linguistically-fun way.

I like how they explain what they do, and the detail attention they would go into their gardening. A lot seems to common sense once they point it out, but it’s common sense we forget as we grow more detach to the older generation and a earth-base community. Some fun facts I learnt are:

  • Farmers water in the morning because it helps reduce insect while the buggers are still sleepy and the plants are waking up strong. They avoid watering at night because plants are getting sleepy and weaker, while the insects are up and ready to work.
  • Farmers should work early, for the reason above
  • Any soil can produce plants – you just need to be willing to work for what you deserve.
  • Natural composting produces essential good-bacteria for plants artificial fertilizer lacks.
  • Seed quality matters, a lot.
  • Just because you brought a pack of seed, doesn’t mean you should use it all. Crowding seeds are worst than dumping seeds. It tortures the plants and eventually waste the seeds because the plants dies.
  • Plant to the season of your region creates good food – simple as that.
  • Know which plants are cool-weather plants, warm-weather plants, and the in-between

Those are my favorites so far. The books goes into a lot more, though the information can be somewhat scatter (the author needs an editor and a organizer). I love how it talks about the plants individually. When they talk about planting time, even they talk about cool and warm weather plants, they also talk about how the Chinese broccoli, onion, cabbages, bok choy and others should be plants. They don’t just categorize them and say – oh, those three are cool-weather and all should be planted in March, and those in June. They talk about how this one plant may react to frost, and this plant may not like the sun.

All in all, a very nice book with great useful content that just needs a little editing.

The Impossible Task of Tranplanting Cilantro

As many herb gardener may know, Cilantro is a pain in the ass to transplant.  Hence the reason why most people would plant from seed. Well, I have just transplanted one.

I know, it’s silly.

Why exactly cilantro so difficult to transplant? Heck, for some of you, you may even ask what on earth is Cilantro!

Cilantro is the leaves of Coriander plant, also known as Chinese Parsley, or ,in a more scientific term, Coriandrum sativum. It is an annual plant (meaning it germinates-grows-dies all in a season, then come up again next year. Very short lifespan, but amazing reseeding ability. Think of it as reincarnation at work in nature). It is frequently used in Asian dishes – Vietnamese restaurants always present them as a choices when delivering the noodles, and my family loves them. It is, however, a herb that is loved as much as it’s hated – some consider it an abomination to the tongue. Some people even said the fondness or distaste for plant is genetic! (Very true in my case, since my mom love the little but powerfully tasteful herb)

For those of us that worship – um, I mean love the herb and have an interest in gardening, planting the amazing plant is a must! And I did successfully germinated one small spot of them – last two school quarter. I was unable to successfully germinate them afterward. Over the summer, there was an error with my self-water system over the summer break when I was away at San Francisco. My only pot of living cilantro dried out and died. Now, I was cooking without the plant, and that’s just horrid >-<

I now realize that I can increase the chance of germination by… soaking them! Trial and error also taught me that they don’t like my jiffy pot system, which I implement into my gardening practice after my first plant of cilantro. Still, it would take a while for my cilantro to germinate and grow. While I do use the herb frequently in my dishes, as one person, I can’t consume the large bunch of cilantro they sell in grocery store. So instead of buying a large bunch and waste half of them, I decided to buy a small pot I spotted at the newly opened ACE store. (Usually I buy my gardening needs from local nursery, but the store is new, I am curious, and lastly the plant looks very healthy!)

The problem now lies “How do I transplant it?” , which brings me back to why cilantro is so difficult to transplant. Most herbs are very hardy. They can handle roughness well, and are often grow as indoor kitchen plant. Not true for cilantro. It is extremely delicate – over-heating or any other stress will cause it to “bolt”. Bolt means that they will start growing flowers and set seeds. The favor the leaves will lower in order to focus their energy for flowers and seeds, and the leaves itself will turn thin and narrow. (The whole annual plants, germinate-live-died-in-one-season thing.) Transplanting any plants will stress to a degree – movement of roots, change of soil, change of atmosphere, etc. With cilantro, it’s even worse because it’s a taproot (instead of fibrous), which means that it dislike transplanting even more.

But alas, I brought it, and I can’t keep it in that little overcrowding plastic container. As I was staring at it, an idea came to: I will cut the container open! That way, I will never shake the soil – at least not as much.

Ok, so here is how I started out: plant, clay pot for transplant, scissor, and gloves. I got a bag of soil from local nursey on the ground. All ready, set, go!

Um… The plant is way too big for my pot. It’s getting stuck half way into the pot. Since I can’t move the root for fear of stressing it, I should probably look for a bigger one.

Ah! I got a pot with a 6″ opening!

Ha! It fits! Yes! Now I just have to wait and see if it works. Wish me luck!

As a bonus, two photos of cute swimming duck. Unfortunately, they moved very fast, so it’s a bit blurry.

Aren’t they cute!?

Another New Addition to my Plant Family: African Violet

Some of you may know my Aloe Vera, Angel, and my Snake plant, Mr. Snake. Angel lives in my house, while Mr. Snake goes to my studio. Well, I lost Mr. Snake!


When I moved to a different housing during Spring Quarter, I left behind Mr. Snake near the studio sink in all the chaos. I didn’t freak out too badly back then – I thought I can go back during the Summer, and if not then Spring (I just watered it, so it should survive). The problem is, I forgot that studios, unlike regular classes, gets locked during Summer. Then to my surprise, I was accepted into the San Francisco Internship Program. But the time I came back, Mr. Snake was gone!


After a look at my studio and my sitting area (I am sitting in the middle) this quarter, I decided to buy a new plant to lighten the mood up. Something with a flower this time, hopefully. But since I sit the middle, it seriously limited my choice of plants.

I will talk about my studio condition in the next post, cause it is way too long to be posted in this one post.

So, the flower.

I walked over to the Poly Plant Shop. I was going to walk around and check out the plants, but then I realize most of the indoor plants is going to be actually indoor. Besides, I walked around the Plant Shop already few weeks ago when I was looking for a lemon thyme.

Um, that is whole entirely different story, one which would involve a talk about my mini-veggi balcony garden. That belongs to another post.

The only flowers I could really get are orchids, which I don’t really like because it is so tall. Transportation will be hell for me each quarter. I wanted an African Violet, but the cashier looked around and didn’t see one. It was out, so she told me to leave an email, and she will contact me when it comes. I was going to leave, but there is this one little yellow orchid that caught my eye – until I realize it is $10.


I checked the prices again. All the orchids are outrageously expensive. But then, I did read the book “Orchid Thief”, so I guess I could understand why. It is really a tropical plant and highly sensitive. Its difficult to propagate, with a massive amount of variety, and in many cases difficult to care and grow to a sell-able condition. It is also supposed to be addicting and was a high class hobby. I didn’t really get the addicting part before because I have never been that fond of it. But that little yellow orchid – very cute!

Still, its $10. Then I saw it!

An African Violet! The flower (there was only three) was so small, I wasn’t sure if it was really an African Violet at first. Besides, the cashier said it was out, maybe it is a African Violet look-a-like? I brought it over to the cashier, and to both of our surprise, it is an African Violet!

It is the last one, hidden in the shelf near the door, in its tiny little 2″ pot and just the right size for me… can you say match made in heaven?

And so, along with a larger clay for it when it grow bigger, I happily brought the last African Violet in the shop and carried it to studio.

Her name is Lilian, and here is her picture:

Isn’t she absolutely adorable!? She’s just a little pass the size of my hand!