Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bougainvillea: Let me grow

I bought a Bougainvillea plant when it was less than foot tall. Surprisingly it had lots of flowers. My assumption is that , it was a branch that was cut off and planted in soil and grown using rooting hormone. Not sure if Bougainvilleas can be propagated this way, but when I bought it that was my first impression.



 I have never been attracted to Bougainvilleas because of the paper like appearance of the flowers but my wife loves them. And when she found the exact color she wanted, it ended up in my balcony. So without much ado I started looking after this guy.

I did not notice any growth for the first few weeks and the sapling looked like it was dying. But my wife was pretty firm that we needed to keep it and get it back up and growing. With those marching orders, I started attending to this guy more often. I added organic compost in very small quantities and shifted it to a grilled space that I have outside the bedroom window. The plant gets a lot of sunlight and within a week I noticed some new growth. With adequate watering and the sun, it was going to be a flowering plant within a week, right. Wrong.
The bougainvillea loves the water. I mean it loves the water so much that it forgets to flower. It just grows leaves, leaves and more leaves. After some Binging it looks like the Bougainvillea needs to be reminded that its purpose of existence is to flower and not just to create leaves.
What the Bougainvillea needs is moderate or limited watering just to make sure that the leaves do not droop. Continue this for a week and you will notice the buds forming.


Once you start the limited watering schedule Bougainvillea realizes that the human race is trying to drive it towards extinction. Suddenly it wakes up and says 'I will fight back the humans and make sure that my race rules'. The only way it can achieve this is to produce flowers, unlike Genghis Khan.

And with that, I present to you, pictures of my beautiful Bougainvillea flowers that present an amazing view for those that look up from the ground floor.  I hope to cover part of the window with its foilage and beautiful flowers. I have really started to appreciate the plants attitude developed a special respect for it.





By the way, what we think are the flowers of the Bougainvillea are not actually the flowers. You can find more information here. Now that I have usupaethified(instigated) the plant, I am expecting my entire complex to be covered with this foliage after the Bogainvillea invasion.

Coming to the overall maintenance of the Bougainvillea, I would say this is an EMG plant. It doesn't expect you to take much care of it. It provides your balcony garden with wonderful colors. If you are in a balcony you would need to prune it a bit so that it does not occupy all the space. I am yet to experiment with the pruning and shaping the plant. Will update later once I get some results after pruning this guy.

In the meanwhile why dont you go to a nursery near you and find out if you can get yourself a Bougainvillea sapling and have some fun.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My first SMALL project

I have been fascinated by the world of Bonsai. It is a very involved form of gardening. Will definitely take a lot of time and effort to make things small :).
One variety of Bonsai I wanted was the Gulmohur. Imagine the red carpet of flowers growing in your Bonsai garden.

Image Source: EBAY

Tried to start the gulmohur from seeds, but was not at all successful in getting it to germinate. The seed's coating istoo hard. Where did I find seeds for the Gulmohur? Bangalore is full of these trees and you should be able to find fallen pods on the roadside almost anywhere. I found mine in Indiranagar. I did not soak the seeds last time and will be trying again one more time soon after soaking for 48 hours. However it looks like the Bonsai will take many years to develop from seed. So, now I am looking on the roadsides for a sapling that can be Bonsai'ed within a shorter time.
The other variety that I was looking at was the Cassia(Red or Yellow). Same case, seeds are too hard and I did not soak them. When I was looking for saplings for this one, a watchman who was curious to know what I was doing spending so much time on the roadside near his house, found one for me in the home he worked in.  Next day I was back with a pot and soil to his surprise. He did not realize how serious I was.
I was also really wanting to learn the art of Bonsai ASAP. Did not want to let this sapling grow beyond a point where I could not make it into a Bonsai. Here are some pictures of the sapling.






And here is a picture of the mother tree.


Wish I had a better one. (picture that is)


This is what I am expecting the tree to look like(smaller version ofcourse) in some time.
Cassia Roxburghii
Cassia(Yellow)




Some close up views of the flower.



After a lot of googling and questions some blogger friends, I finally found out about Sunshine Garden Botique.



They have a large collection of Bonsai, Bonsai accessories and pots and decorative items for the garden and home. They also conduct two day course on the art of growing Bonsai. Not sure if it is going to be enough, but am sure will be a decent starting point. They have classes in the middle of July. Will hopefully be able to attend it. Will keep updating on the growth of this sapling and its way to being Bonsai'ed.(fingers crossed)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Easy Maintenance Gardening - EMG

One of the questions I have from a lot of my friends is that
"I started off but it was really difficult to maintain the plants."
"It takes too much time off my weekends to take care of the plants".
"I bought these plants with so many buds but within a month they stopped flowering"
"All these garden bloggers make gardening look like a full time job. I mean think about it, NPK, fertilizer, compost, peat, moss, cocopeat, medium, neem, the trendy organic stuff, drainage, soil and last but never the least a recent addition to my list, Panchagavya"
Initially I too felt the same way. I bought and lost many plants. But as I developed a greater interest in tending to my rooted friends, I realized that container plants require more care than we think they do. On further discussions with my friends I realized that they were mostly buying roses, hibiscus or maybe even in some extreme cases orchids. Obviously, these are beautiful plants to have in the house and you are tempted to buy them from your nursery where are displayed in full bloom. But you should realize that this is like a demo of some software which works amazing, looks amazing, but when you buy the full version #$*&!!@.
Dont let these things scare you away from getting these wonderful friends into your balcony.
For those who are interested in starting off without much effort but need a colorful garden, do not worry solutions are not far away. You can spend minimal time on maintaining the plants also impress your better half with your 'beautification of the house' skills at very less cost.
With the number of apartments on rise in Bangalore, I really would like to see many more balconies with pots and plants. I am starting a series on creating an easy to maintain garden. Balcony or not.
Am calling this series EMG series. 
So let us get started with one of my favorite EMG plants in my garden.

The Pentas or Star Cluster is a beautiful plant that blooms in clusters of about 20 flowers. Each flower has five petals.  For those who are familiar with Ixora(Tamil: Vrikshi) and the small problems of growing it in your balcony, this is a great replacement. 
All you need to do it get these into your balcony from the nursery in various color combinations and you are going to see the clusters of flowers almost throughout the year. These are very hardy plants and require moderate watering and care. You can prune them down once in a while and they will go dormant for sometime to grow some foilage and then start flowering again.  The clusters usually remain fresh for a week and then start drying slowly. Just cut the branch just below the flowers to keep the plant looking good. These flowers are apparently very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Since I have a balcony garden in a concrete jungle, I do not have the opportunity to see either of them. But if you are terrace gardening have some space on the lower floors, I am sure you can attract the butterflies. These colorful plants will definitely be a great addition to any garden.


I did notice that a lot of leaves dry out. Not a cause for concern(unless there are too many dry leaves), but you can maybe increase the watering a little bit. Remove the dry leaves carefully and the plants look healthy again. 
For those who are looking at decorating a window sill or a small area with some sunlight, a dwarf variety of these plants are available. These grow to less than a foot in height and you can control how big you want the foilage to be.
If you have some time.
You can buy Bio-Farm Organic Compost from any supermarket and add a couple of spoonfuls every fortnight. Just apply it on the top of the soil, and dont let the water flow out from the top of the pot. This will help keep the plant healthy in the longer term.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

War

This post is two weeks old. Work & plants have been keeping me busy and havent been able to update much. Been noticing a lot of mealy bugs and white files around my plants. Mostly focused around the hibiscus, but spreading around to roses too. This has affected the flowering in all my hibiscus plants sparing one. How am I handling these bugs.
1. High pressure spraying of water almost every morning to help stop the mealy bugs and whiteflies from relaxing in the sun throughout the day.
2. Neem oil mixed with a few drops of liquid soap in 1 litre of water and spray atleast once a week.
3. Some panchagavya twice a week to help the plants fight these bugs on their own and constant observation.
4. 2 pieces of garlic and few green chillies ground and diluted in a litre of water.
Frustration point: One day there was so much infestation that I mixed all these solutions together and sprayed together.

5. Bought a few marigold plants as companion planters. Wanted to grow these from seed but needed plants to get the bugs out of the way. Read somewhere that Nasturtiums also help in keeping whiteflies away. Looking for these plants/seeds. If anyone knows where I can get these in Bangalore please let me know.

Here is a picture of one of my hibiscus with the bugs living happily every after.

To finish the blog post on a positive note, I had one hibiscus plant that escaped the bugs and one which I had pruned recently. Learnt that pruning helps the hibiscus flowering. Am getting one flower a day from this plant, and waiting for many more to come.