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Friday, June 14, 2013

Busy as a Bee

Sorry for the long absence again, since I've been simultaneously busy and lazy haha. Starting from July onwards, I'll be embracing a new life as a college student studying for his A-levels. Everything will be a new experience for me; a new living space in the dormitory, new friends, new knowledge to gain, etc. I'll be busy packing stuff and getting ready for college soon, and I'm not sure whether I'll be able to blog in college again. Hopefully this isn't the end of it haha.

But the bees have been far busier than I am (and far more consistent too). They are great to have around as they pollinate my plants, ensuring the production of fruits and seeds in my plants.

Water lilies (Nymphaea sp.) are bee magnets. They never fail to capture the attention of these busy bees. This black bee appears to be a stingless bee, perhaps Heterotrigona itama, as IDed by a beekeeper friend.

This bee appears to be of the Ceratina genus, often known as the Small Carpenter Bee. It has nice yellow markings on its face.

2 bees using the same flower as a source of nectar. I'll never run out of water lily seeds as long as the bees keep visiting.

My Damask rose is also pretty attractive to the bees, and to me as well. The bees hover from one fragrant flower to another, collecting sweet nectar and pollen. However, I'm not sure of this bee species though.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


The humongous family of flowering plants collectively known as orchids have been one of my favourite families of angiosperms since childhood, though I've only started collecting them since 2 years ago. With hundreds of genera and thousands of species in the widespread Orchidaceae family, orchids come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, colours, and growth habits.

These Dendrobium hybrids are very easy to grow, capable of taking full sun. They flower quite frequently compared to other orchids, and the flowers are relatively long-lasting. Usually, Dendrobium orchids will produce new offshoots after flowering ends, while the mother plant slowly dies. These offshoots grow quickly to flowering size and the process repeats.

This is an unknown Vandaceous hybrid. It is a very vigorous grower and blooms every month without fail. Sometimes, new flower spikes are produced even though the old ones have not faded yet. It is a very hardy plant, able to take the scorching heat and neglect without problems.

This beige Phalaenopsis (Moth orchids) was a gift from my mother. The venation and colour of the flowers is rather unique compared to other Phals, which are often shades of purple, white and orange. These are much more finicky than the other orchids though, since they dislike direct sunlight and excessively wet medium. They are slow growers and usually take a year to rebloom.

This Oncidium (Dancing Ladies) is also an easy plant to grow. It is very free-flowering and the cute yellow blossoms do resemble their namesake. Unfortunately, snails love munching on the flowers, so I have to hunt them down at night to prevent them from leaving holes in the blossoms.

Spathoglottis (Ground Orchids) are one of my favourite genera of orchids. They produce many colourful and long-lasting blossoms frequently, are hardy and problem-free, and can be grown in normal soil. While the flowers themselves are rather short-lived, the flower stalk will continuously produce new ones daily for months.

This white Cattleya is also a favourite orchid of mine. While it grows rather slowly, though faster than Phalaenopsis, the flowers are worth the wait. The huge, white blossoms produce a lovely fragrance, but only last for a few weeks.

On a separate note, I'll be going to college to further my studies this Jul, so I may cease being active again. I'll miss my plants a lot haha.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Some Like It Wet

Sorry for the long absence from blogging. I've been both busy and lazy, waiting for my SPM results and spending more time in Facebook gardening groups. Nonetheless, I'm back and hopefully will be active again.

Recently, I've been interested in growing flora of the aquatic kind. I've always dreamt of having a lily pond  and thanks to a generous fish-rearing friend of mine, I've acquired a pretty large, used tank to fulfill my fantasy. Thanks to my parents and gardening friends too, I've got quite a lot of aquatic plants from my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur and Sg. Buloh nurseries.

Water lilies (Nymphaea sp.) are a must-have for any pond, with their lovely, colourful flowers and iconic lilypads. These are tropical day-blooming water lilies, with flowers that open in the day and close in the evening. They produce a mild fragrance and are attractive to bees, which have help pollinated some of my flowers. Once pollinated, the flower stems will sink into the water and the flower heads will curve upwards. In about a month, the fruits will burst to release hundreds of tiny seeds to the water surface.

Finally, after about 5 years, my crimson night-blooming lily (Nymphaea 'Red Flare') have bloomed. The lilypads have toothed edges and are bronze in colour. The fragrant, crimson blossoms open at night and close in the morning.

The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), a sacred flower in Buddhism, is also a popular aquatic plant with edible tubers and seeds. After a long battle with voracious caterpillars, both my pink and white lotus are flowering again. The large, round leaves are superhydrophobic and attractive in a way too.

The water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) is a very invasive and fast grower which floats on the water surface. They have extremely tiny and drab flowers, but the lettuce-like leaves are the attractive parts. They reproduce asexually very quickly, so I have to toss some away from time to time to prevent them from crowding out the pond. However, they are beneficial since they remove excess nutrients from the water, thus limiting algae growth.

The mosaic plant (Ludwigia sedioides) is another aquatic plant with attractive foliage. The leaves float on the surface of the water and are arranged in a mosaic-like pattern, hence the common name. They have yellow flowers, but mine has yet to produce them.

Marginal water plants produce a nice contrast with water lilies and other floaters. The bulltongue arrowhead (Sagittaria lancifolia) on the left have elongated leaves and small white blossoms. The water canna (Thalia geniculata) on the right have canna-like leaves and grows very tall flower stalks with cute, purplish flowers.

Here's my tank, which I've spent days arranging and adjusting the plants in. I'm also rearing red swordtail fish inside the tank to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. They've even bred and produced plenty of fries. Seeing them swimming around the plants, I feel tranquil and relaxed. 

Until next time!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Sticky Situation

I've always been an avid collector of carnivorous plants, since I've been fascinated with them since I was a child. While the spectacular Nepenthes have always been a focus of mine, sundews of the genus Drosera are also one of my favourite plants.

One of the largest genera of carnivorous plants, sundew species can be found worldwide, with sometimes pretty jarring differences between species, as they are extremely variable in terms of shape, size, colour and growth habit. The glistening dewdrops that give them their common name sparkles in the sun, attracting unsuspecting insects with sweet secretions and leading them to a very nasty surprise. As the prey struggles to escape, it gets stuck in more sticky mucilage, and finally dies from either exhaustion or asphyxiation. The plant then digests it and absorbs the nutrients for growth.

Drosera intermedia, a very easy and fast-growing sundew. It tends to produce plenty of seeds and offshoots that it may end up being a weed in collections. Recommended for beginners.

Drosera spathulata 'Pok Fu Lam', also a very hardy and vigorous sundew. Like Drosera intermedia, it is also recommended for beginners due to ease of cultivation.

Drosera capillaris 'Long Leaf', yet another vigorous grower that is easy to cultivate.

Drosera tokaiensis, also a good plant for beginners due to its hardy nature and fast growth. It tends to become a weed in collections too.

Drosera filiformis var. tracyi, a green and tall form of Drosera filiformis. It produces tall, upright leaves and are good at trapping flying insects. The new leaves unfurl like fronds of a fern from the base of the plant.

Drosera burmanii, an annual tropical sundew that is easy to grow. It is one of the fastest sundews, with tentacles that can curl around a prey in a few seconds. In cultivation, with enough nutrients, it may behave like a perennial instead.

Drosera adelae, a sundew endemic to Queensland, Australia. While it is easy to grow in the tropics, it is quite susceptible to mealybug attacks.

This isn't a sundew, but rather a rainbow plant (Byblis liniflora), though it certainly does resemble them. It is an annual plant, thus producing tons of seeds before they die. The seeds are difficult to germinate as germination is triggered by bushfires in it's natural habitat. However, diluted bleach can be use to dissolve the seedcoat instead to stimulate germination.

By the way, I've been busy with driving lessons for the past few weeks, and now I've finally received my driving license. No need to pester my parents if I want to go anywhere anymore, haha.