Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ficus Religiosa Seedlings

 Ficus Religiosa, the tree under which Gautama Buddha is said to have become enlightened, is one of the trees I've wanted for a long time. Although I visited many nurseries around, I didn't find any seedling, sapling or big plant of ficus religiosa in Vancouver area. So, in winter I ordered 100 seeds of this wonderful fig and I started from seeds some plants.

Buddha head under Ficus Religiosa seedling
Buddha's head under Ficus Religiosa seedling

The common names are: “bo-tree fig” “sacred fig” “aswattha fig” and “peepul fig". Although my religion is Orthodox Christian, I respect everyone's religion and I really wanted to have in my house one tree considered a sacred-tree in both the Buddhist and Hindu religions.
Ficus Religiosa is not only decorative, it is used in traditional medicine for many disorders. The roots, the fruits, the leaves and the young shoots have been used for years for the treatment of ulcers, stomatitis, asthma, skin diseases or to heal wounds. Also some said that are good for lumbago, gout and to promote digestion, in the tratment of diarrhea or gastric problems. I didn't try any of these, but I'll keep in mind some of their potential medicinal uses.

Ficus religiosa seedling after germination
Sprouted Ficus Religiosa

The sacred fig makes a good houseplant or bonsai.  It seem to be a slow but easy way to grow them from seeds, in 5 months having just 10 cm high. They need lots of light all day and high humidity, so, I started the seeds in mini-greenhouse under the artificial light.


Ficus religiosa seedlings after 2 weeks
Ficus Religiosa seedlings after 2 weeks

I planted them in perlite  (instead of organic soil) to maintain the high humidity and to avoid dump-off.
The seedling has sprouted shiny after 2 weeks and was growing really slowly, reaching only 1 cm high in one month.   

After another month, it has appeared another set of leaves to the seedlings, and the seedlings reached 3 cm high.

Ficus religiosa seedlings after another month
Ficus Religiosa seedlings after 6 weeks 

This was the moment when we decided to change their inorganic soil with a mix: perlite, turface, peat moss, and garden soil.   So, we took some small bonsai pots and planted the seedlings to them.

Ficus religiosa saplings - 4 months old
Ficus Religiosa saplings - 4 months old

The seedlings have been growing very slow, and not all of them survived after replanting. Anyhow,  this is how are looking the most resistive of them after 3 months.

Initial sets of leaves were rounded and I was worried about the seeds ordered, but my concern is gone, once I saw their last sets of leaves which have the clearly heart shaped leaves and smoother sides like the leaves of the Ficus Religiosa trees.

Ficus Religiosa seedling with heart-shaped leaves
Ficus Religiosa seedling with heart-shaped leaves

It is still long way until the trunks and branches will be covered with power bark and the trees will produce fruits...but we have patience! And since I don't need twelve Ficus Religiosa seedlings, I was planning on keeping two-three home (spare in case that something happened to one) and leaving whatever else sprouted to be sold. Let me know if are you interested about them.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Herb Butter with Mint Scented Pelargoniums

My favorite Herb Butter recipe is one inherited from grandma, with chopped mint scented pelargoniums (geraniums) leaves. It is really simple, but the taste is amazing:

Just cream / soften one stick of  butter and blend in 2 tablespoon chopped fresh scented leaves of mint scented pelargoniums. Optional add one tablespoon of lemon juice and few gratings of lemon zest. I use to portion them  in small pieces, peanuts-shaped and to place them on pelargonium leaves, especially when I want a decorative presentation.
Herb butter is great to be served after stand few hours to absorb the flavor of the herbs, then may be chilled or frozen up to 3 month.

Herb Butter with Mint Scented Pelargoniums Leaves
Herb Butter with Mint Scented Pelargoniums Leaves

I used also fruit scented pelargoniums leaves (especially citrus scented ) to make herb butter, but I prefer to feel the mint aroma into aperitifs .  At this time, I have in my garden 3 different mint-scented pelargoniums, which are a delight to grow.  One of their basic flavor is mint, but each of them has also other overtones: rose, lemon, cocos, chocolate. We are growing them outside in spring, summer and autumn,  in Vancouver's mild climate (in winter we bring them inside to protect them by winter frost).

Chocolate-Mint Scented pelargonium
Chocolate-mint Scented pelargonium

"Chocolate Mint" has three lobed large leaves with one big brown splotch in the center of every leaf. The foliage has a pungent minty scent with chocolate undertone. (if you like chocolate with mint aroma, for sure will love its taste). It is a large and vigorous growing plant with blooming lavender flowers which may grow several feet height and width.

Cocomint Rose scented pelargonium leaf
Cocomint Rose scented pelargonium leaf

"Cocomint Rose" has a very decorative leaf with a leathery green texture. The leaves are deeply divided and have a rose-mint scent with coconut notes. Cousin of it,  the "Variegated Mint Rose Scented Pelargonium" is a showy plant with deeply divided  aromatic green-grey leaves and small white flowers. The leaves emerge with yellow cream edges that fade to white - the plant looks similar with Lady Plymouth variety, but the foliage grows larger and has a different scent with lemon-minty tones.

Variegated Mint Rose Scented Pelargonium
Variegated Mint Rose Scented Pelargonium

I'm still waiting to grow the real mint-scented pelargonium known as Peppermint Geranium or Pelargonium Tomentosum. I ordered some seeds from South Africa over the internet and I'm very curious to grow by myself this variety with a powerful aroma of fresh mint ..., but I'll make another post once the seedlings' velvety foliage will grow enough to occurring mint-fragrance.

Now I'm just happy that the summer begins and my plants will grow with rapidity, giving me the possibility to use them in abundance in cooking and flavoring dishes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Katsura, the moon-tree

Katsura tree is the giant tree existing on the moon according to a Chinese legend. Same motif of the moon-tree exists in Japanese folk tales, also occurring in  "Hagoromo" - a Japanese play, in which  "Katsura tree is a kind of laurel supposed to grow on the moon".  

Cercidiphyllum japonicum - the moon- tree, Katsura tree
Cercidiphyllum japonicum - Katsura, the moon-tree

Katsura tree has one of the most colorful and attractive foliage. Its leaves are heart-shaped which emerge reddish-purple in spring, are transforming in medium green till summer and turning in gold, orange and red in fall. What I like more at this tree? Although it is not an aromatic tree, the fallen autumn leaves have a great smell of burnt sugar with cinnamon and ripe apples notes. Most of the nurseries' katsura trees are male trees, which are more upright. The female trees are more spreading and in spring are bearing tiny reddish flowers which are transforming in clusters of small seeds during summer season. 

Cercidiphyllum japonicum - Katsura heart - shaped foliage
Cercidiphyllum japonicum - Katsura heart - shaped foliage

Named "Cercidiphyllum japonicum", the common Katsura grown as ornamental tree is a deciduous tree with a dense and rounded habit which grow a large canopy in the wild (can reach 40-45 m high) but it is also very common as bonsai.  The seeds are great to be collected in late fall and need light, warmth and moisture soil to germinate. A walking alongside Katsura's  trees alley  from Stanley Park and an inspirational moment made us to sow some seeds gathered last autumn in our minigreenhose (artificial light and temperature around 20-24 degrees celsius).

Katsura branch with leaves and seeds
Katsura branch with leaves and seeds

The Katsura trees are grown not only for decorative purposes. Its hard wood it is used to make chess-boards and Go-boards, and hand carved pieces of furniture.

Going back to the Game of Go origins,  the traditional Japanese Goban (Go-board) was made from Kaya (Torreya nucifera), California Torreya (Torreya californica), Hiba (Thujopsis dolabrata), Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Kauri (Agathis), and Shin-Kaya (various varieties of spruce).

The changing color of leaves during the year is somehow associated with its name. This is why Katsura name was given also to an Acer Palmatum tree with a wonderful spring color.
"Acer Palmatum Katsura" is a cultivar which grows very quickly and its green-orange with redish margins foliage is a favorite of many people in spring, which turns in yellow green in summer and in burning red in fall.

 Red Fox Katsura tree

Anyhow, the  decorative Katsura trees are common near the open spaces for kids to play in Vancouver's parks (I'm still thinking what the reason behind it... could be the candy smell of the leaves in fall or the heart-shape of the foliage)
It is also very popular in garden landscaping in British Columbia, many cultivars being available  in nurseries.

I was amazed to find a cultivar with red foliage year round named " Red Fox Katsura" - its leaf-burning foliage looks really stunning and maybe one day one of these magnificent  flame trees will  became a flame-bonsai ;-) 

We are very fortunate to have a female Katsura tree in one of our friends backyard which provided us access to gather many of this tree seeds.  Let us know if you want to buy some of them (pay by Paypal, ship next day worldwide by regular mail). 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lovage, a tasteful ingredient

Any time when I'm cooking chicken soup with minced leaves of lovage, a traditional European herb and spice, I recall watching my mother making many dishes with it. Actually, some of my mother's recipes have a little secret tasteful ingredient ;-) behind them named Leustean (the Romanian translation of Lovage). It is said to be an aphrodisiac - hence the "lovage" name meaning is "love-herb" in many languages: levistico, liveche, lyubistok, lubczyk, liebstöckel.

 Lovage/ Levisticum officinale leaves, a tasteful ingredientLovage (Levisticum officinale) is a wonderful perennial herb with unique flavor, a combination of strong celery flavour with a note of anise which lends an amazing flavor to soups, biscuits, salads, meat, potato and tomato dishes. Believe me, it let a wonderful aroma in your dishes... and if you didn't try it until now ... you shall give it a chance.

lovage/ Levisticum officinale seeds

The "Lovage" plants grow up to 2m tall and have similar appearance to celery. You can use it much like you would celery but with a lighter quantity since it does have a stronger flavor.

Every part of the plant is edible - leaves and stems are heavy used as a scented herb, roots may be used as a vegetable and the seeds as a powerfull spice! It can be used also as tea ingredient, having tonic and antiseptic properties.

The plants are flowering in early summer, making large seed stalks after the yellow-green flowers are passing. We use  to gather the seeds when they are ripen, actually when turn brown. The leaves can be harvested since spring to late autumn, when will dye back to the ground. I know, lovage is excellent fresh but it can also be dried or frozen, so, until spring when the plant will regrow, over winter, can be used dry or freeze leaves, roots and seeds (the plants ae growing in spring from divided roots, too).

lovage/ Levisticum officinale seedlings started from seeds

We use to have few old plants in our garden but every year use to start new plants from seeds gathered last fall. The seeds may be sown 0.5cm deep; germination is in 10 - 14 days (or sooner if you sow them in a greenhouse); then the seedlings may be transplanted into the garden 50 cm part... it is not a small plant even if you trimming its leaves regularly.

Lovage/ Levisticum officinale - old plant

It is great to have this traditional spice around here, in North America... and most important ... my favorite  salads and soups are really yummy when I use such a tasteful ingredient.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fruit -scented pelargoniums

If you are not yet a scented pelargonium enthusiast ... for sure their scents will make you easily to love them if you are lucky enough to touch and smell  any fruity scented pelargoniums ...

In some of my previous posts, I already told you about citrus scented pelargoniums: which are growing naturally in form of a column like  Pelargonium crispum (Frensham Lemon and Citronella) and  Pelargonium Citrosum: (Prince of Orange and Citrosa) and  also about coconut scented geranium aka pelargonium grossularioides or Pelargonium parriflorum.  All of them have small and smooth leaves and strong, crisp scent.

Fruit-scented miniature garden with Apple scented pelargonium / geranium
Fruit-scented miniature garden with Apple scented pelargonium / geranium

This year our collection of scented pelargoniums, geraniums was enlarged with  few more varieties: Pelargonium Odoratissimum 'Apple' aka Apple scented geranium; Pelargonium "Pink Nutmeg" and Pelargonium x Fragrans " Tutti Frutti". All of them seem to be prolific bloomers, being covered with  white or lavender blossoms all the spring and the summer.

Fruit-scented miniature garden with nutmeg scented pelargonium / geranium
Fruit-scented miniature garden with nutmeg scented pelargonium / geranium

The "Apple" scented pelargonium , as the name suggested, has rounded, slightly crinkled leaves with a strong apple scent. It is a spreadable plant and has tiny white flowers on long, sprawling stems.

Pelargonium Odoratissimum / apple scented  geranium flowers
 Pelargonium Odoratissimum (apple scented)  flowers

The "Tutti-Frutti" variety is a compact growing plant which has a delightful fruity-spicy scent. Derived from P. x Fragrans ( similar with "Old Spice" variety), this plant has small, soft and crinkled leaves and is a delightful dwarf scented pelargonium variety.

Tutti Fruity scented pelargonium flowers and leaves
Tutti Fruity scented pelargonium flowers and leaves

The " Pink Nutmeg" variety has rounded, fan shaped leaves with nutmeg-spicy flavor and a slightly chocolate undertone beneath the nutmeg fragrance.

Pink Nutmeg scented pelargonium flowers and leaves
Pink Nutmeg scented pelargonium flowers and leaves

All of them are sweet-smelling evergreen perennials sensitive to over-watering which love to be situated in a spot where the morning sun is generous with their leaves.  If I'm thinking more, all of them are spreadable plants with a lot of leaves and with no stem, so it is best to keep these charming plants arranged as miniature gardens (don' t you like to see a fruit scented saikei ? ;-) ). It is really intriguing the way they smell when you brush any fruity scented leaf.
I like to add more varieties of scented leaf pelargoniums, geraniums to my garden, even some of them are difficult to grow in Vancouver's climate. Their leaves can be dried and used in potpourris or placed in sachets, so I'll dry some of the trimmings for my next projects.

I love to discover by myself the scents of their leaves and their aromas,  and to "play" with their leaves; to whirl one or two fruity scented leaves with sugar in a blender to get instant flavor in my teas and to brush feathery against their highly aromatic foliage every morning to release their sweet scent that encourages me to breathe deeply and to enjoy their blossoms...

Fruit-scented miniature garden with Tutti- Fruity scented pelargonium / geranium
Fruit-scented miniature garden with Tutti- Frutti scented pelargonium / geranium

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Annual Plant Sale of Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society

At the  2011 Annual Plant Sale of the Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society was a great pleasure to admire the vivid colors of the blooming pelargoniums and geraniums.

 2011 Plant Sale of Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society
The event was held at the  Floral Hall of VanDusen Garden (5251 Oak Street at 37th Avenue) in Vancouver. It was a lot of work to organize such an event, but the result was rewarding.  Although Saturday the weather was so capricious with a lot of showers and wind passages, including two ice-storms, the visitors arrived in groups and took home most of the plants from the show. They were pleased to buy true species plants and to obtain a lot of information about the plants and  how to care each variety based on their needs.

Plant Sale of Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society blooming geraniums at 2011 Plant Sale of Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society The winner of our miniature agrden at 2011 Plant Sale of Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society

One of the most pleasant "tasks" of the show was to prepare, three weeks before, one miniature garden in a bonsai pot for our hourly door prize with a regal pelargonium with a lot of flower buds. (as we told you last month in our article 2011 plant sale of canadian and geranium society. ) Unfortunately its flower buds still waiting to bloom (was such a cold weather here in Vancouver this spring) so last week we decide to bring other miniature garden with a  blooming red geranium for the hourly raffle prizes. The plant is an "Eric Hoskins" zonal pelargonium- hortorum with dark zoned leaf and tuft red flowers which will bloom all the summer.

The first drawn winner of  the raffle tickets was really happy to take home the "mini-garden prize"...  and to take care of it for long time.  Congratulations !!!

As every year, The Annual Plant Sale and Show of the Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society was a great opportunity for all the participants and visitors to see a wide variety of common or unique pelargoniums and geraniums, and to add some of them to their collections.

 blooming pelargoniums at the 2011 Plant Sale of Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium Society

Blooming pelargoniums and geraniums at the 2011 Plant Sale of Canadian Geranium and Pelargonium SocietyIt is hard to compile a list of the geraniums and pelargoniums varieties existing at the show... for sure many of them I feel have been breakthroughs, plants uniques, plants you absolutely must have, plants that made the genus better due to their succeeding selection, plants with subtle or pungent scents: apple, cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, rose, lemon, fruity, old spice...

I wish you were there to see and smell them...  It has been an unforgettable experience.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Scented bonsai Marie Thomas

Update: 20.06.2011

Scented pelargonium Marie Thomas blooming bonsai after 5 months of training in cascade style
Scented pelargonium "Marie Thomas" after 5 months of training in cascade style

Scented Pelargonium (Geranium) "Marie Thomas" is a very good plant to be trained as cascade bonsai  - this is our opinion... based on the results seen in the next photos.

Scented pelargonium Marie Thomas cascade bonsai with flowers

Scented pelargonium (geranium) Marie Thomas flowers

Its harmonious growing habit with  small mid-green leathery leaves having a vanilla-rose scent make this cultivar a good plant for hanging baskets and because are drought-tolerant plants that bloom repeatedly all the summer - it is also suitable for xeriscaping. This plant may be kept indoors but our plants are already trained to stay outside in Vancouver's climate. They started to bloom  and during the summer they may became large plants with dozens of light, lavender flowers if are left untrimmed. The bees, butterflies and birds consider them an unique attraction...

Scented pelargonium (geranium) Marie Thomas flowers and leaves

As you already know, we prefer controlling their size and shape, keeping them in bonsai pots and pruning during the growing season.  The trimmings can be utilized in potpourri, scented sachets and cooking - (believe me - you may enjoy one of the best scented sugar if use their leaves to flavor sugar). 

Although it is not a common variety of scented pelargonium/ geranium, most people grow them for their aromatic and persistent/ evergreen foliage. It is an overlooking fragrant plant which make a nice addition to any house (when is kept indoor) or scented garden.

Don't you like such an edible scented miniature bonsai?  
Scented pelargonium (geranium) Marie Thomas trained in cascade bonsai style

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Mother Day to all Mothers of the World

My mother sent me a picture with her garden and like always she has an  unbelievable scented garden full of  flowers.  When I was child I thought that her wonderful smile made her flowers to bloom all year and I'm happy that I was raised with affection and patience to love plants in her "House of the Ever-Blooming Flowers". The weather was more friendly in Europe... in Vancouver seems to be a spring without end this year and  my scented pelargoniums still waiting warmer days to bloom ...  I miss their flowers so much!

Blooming rose scented pelargoniums in my mother garden
Blooming rose scented pelargoniums

Mother's Day is celebrated all over the world to honor our Mothers, although the dates and months of Mother's Day differ from country to country. In Canada and in my native country, the Mother's Day  is celebrated in the first Sunday of May.
Happy Mother's Day to our moms!

Mother's Day gift - accent plants in oyster shell
Mother's Day gift - accent plants in oyster shell

Mother's Day gift - accent plants potted in oyster shell

Mother's Day is the occasion to pay rich tributes to one of those persons who have had a great impact on our lives, a person whose love and care knows no boundaries, a person who does everything to keep us happy and joyous.

Mother's Day gift - succulents potted in oyster shell

The custom, in Canada,  similar to all customs in the countries that celebrate this day, is for men and children to give the women in their lives (mothers, wives, sisters and teachers) flowers or gifts.

The idea that the female teacher is the equivalent of a mother figure prevails and sometimes they receive small gifts on this festive day, too.

Special for this event,  the children from our neighborhood will offer some little attentions to their mothers and their teachers. Helping them to do these small arrangements with accent plants and moss in oyster shells was a great way to bring them pleasure and to escape from our daily routine. 

Mother's Day special gifts - accent plants potted in oyster shells

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers of the World!


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