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Friday, March 27, 2009

The Monstrous Lemon Balm

I went over to Apperceive and Hanaabi's. I met two young people with flawless complexions and smiles that lit up the corridor. Without being told the unit number, I already knew which apartment to head towards. All I needed to do was follow the forest of plants that lined the walls all the way up to the non descript door impossibly framing 3 open and generous faces - Hanaabi, Apperceive, and Mom. I was there to get the Monstrous Lemon Balm.

I had very much wanted that plant ever since I read about it in Apperceive's post (or was it Hanaabi?). But you know, one must be polite on the forum and I hesitated to ask for my heart's desire. It's one thing to advertise that one needs seeds of one sort or another and leave people the choice to offer their seeds, or simply just to be silent. It's another when the whole world knows that Apperceive and Hanaabi are the only ones who actually have the Monstrous Lemon Balm to give away. One can't very well ask only to put them in a spot in case they haven't enough to give!

So, I put up a request for lemon balm seeds instead. I hoped merely to grow the normal lemon balms that die after a while in my garden despite all the care I give to them. But well... I guess I'm still not used to the generosity of GCS forummers. Without thinking twice, Apperceive and Hanaabi offered to give me one of their mother's monstrous specimens instead. So now, I am in proud possession of the Monstrous Lemon Balm. It looks like a cross between the Indian Borage and the Lemon Balm. Where the Indian Borage smells like the bottom of my husband's golf bag, this one has the citrus fragrance of the Lemon Balm. Where the Lemon Balm's citrus scent is gently subtle, this one's fragrance envelopes my head and fills the nose with its sweet tart flavour. Actually, it smells the way a French Lemon Tart tastes. Where the Lemon Balm's leaves are like thin pieces of crepe paper, this one has soft and cushiony leaves that little elves and fairies could comfortably sleep on at night. And whilst the Lemon Balm has small prim leaves, this one's leaves are unabashedly large and joyfully expansive - like the well-meaning country woman with big hips, big bosom, big heart and loud voice. And just like women of such ilk, this plant is robust in health and very resilient. It is so easy to grow!!

The differences are so stark between what I know to be Lemon Balm and this Monstrous Lemon Balm that I rather suspect that it isn't Lemon Balm at all. I don't know what it is. Maybe it is a cross between Indian Borage and Lemon Balm? But who cares, I ventured to make of it a delicious tea and I am still very much alive. When a plant is edible, fragrant and easy to grow, what more can you ask for?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Purple Petunia

I don't know why but my Purple Petunia looks blue. In reality though, if you came to my garden and took it in with your eyes, you would see a rich and royal purple. The sort of purple that is deep and mysterious... the sort that scions of the de Medici family wore to balls to show off that they could afford the expensive dye made from the hypobranchial gland of a marine snail... the sort that reeks of medieval opulence, princely seduction and royal debaucherie. It is a sinful colour that adds a touch of the gothic to my otherwise bright and cheerful garden filled with whites and yellows.

I love it - this rich and corrupt purple.

I set eyes on my first pot last year and was mesmerized. Hardly knowing what I was walking through or trampling upon, I made a beeline to the pot of Purple Petunia. It was crush at first sight. Anyway, I carted home the pot intending it for my friend's housewarming. I was quite overjoyed when Lili refused to take the plant because simply, she doesn't grow plants. Well and good, I thought to myself and I kept that little pot of princely seduction for myself. Like all petunias do after some time, it started to wither and die away. I sowed its seeds in 3 new pots. They sent out shoots and leaves and now have grown into 3 cascades of purple flowers propped up by green leaves. Petunias don't breed true to colour. I was really blessed to have 3 pots breed true. I shall now go out and buy 3 more hanging pots so as to sow another three pots of purple petunias, thereby causing a further proliferation of sinful debaucherie in my garden.

I don't know why I like the Purple Petunia quite so much. First, I can't eat it. Second, it isn't a colour I would normally even wear, I who prefer whites and blues and browns. It isn't a colour I would choose for drapes or bedsheets. Too strong. Too opulent. Too showy. But in my garden, I can be who I am not, and live the life of a degenerate Princess through the blooms of my Purple Petunia.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Growing Chamomile

I promised Blur Ting to write about how one might successfully grow chamomile. I've been putting it off because I cannot get my hands on our camera. The Daughter is all of sixteen, and has run off to something called the Graces Camp. It is a 3-day sleepover where the young ladies are taught womanly graces. There is make-up class, catwalk class, dining class etc... There is a concert to put up and beautiful gowns, strings of pearls (fake, of course) and high heeled shoes. I expect she shall come home transformed from a gauche and ungainly oversized toddler into a composed and elegant young lady. With a prize like that in my sights, I have surrendered the use of our camera. So, I have no picture to show with my instructions on how to grow chamomile. And I shall have to do my very best to describe with words.

Chamomiles are temperate climate plants. They abhor the tropical rains. Of course, they do like a fair amount of rain but have you noticed how civilized spring rains are in Europe? Spring showers are comprised of small water droplets that fall gently and with ladylike decorum. Contrast them with the loud and rambunctious droplets that splash like pails of water upended on the hapless passerby, and one can understand why the genteel temperate plants are most offended by our impolite tropical rains. It is important therefore, to ensure that chamomiles do not suffer from any raindrop rudeness.

I do this using transparency foils arched over the breadth of my long, rectangular pots. Using 3 transparency foils per pot (fixed with scotch tape), I create a transparent roofing over the heads of my chamomile seedlings. The soil mix is composed of 50% perlite and 50% TREF compost. This is a mix that lets water through easily. Sow the seeds about 2 inches apart on top of the soil. Then, water from the bottom of the pot in order not to displace the seeds. To water from the bottom of the pot, stand the pot in a basin of water and allow the water to seep up to the soil surface from the drainage holes are the bottom of the pot.

Place the pot out in full sun and water again from the bottom of the pot every 5 days if there has been no rain at all. If rain has fallen, then don't bother to water at all. Once the seedlings are established, one may remove the transparency foils and leave the chamomiles free to bob their heads at the wind and the rain. They should be tough enough to stand up to some uncouth raindrops by then.

If you have a sunny balcony that hardly gets any rain, chamomile should grow beautifully for you even without the transparency foil. Just make sure that you water from the bottom of the pot.

May your chamomile grow for you and bless you with it's cheerful smiles and soothing flavours.