March 2009


The extremely fragrant Telosma cordata goes by many names such as Chinese Violet, Tonkin Creeper, Cowslip Creeper, Pakalana Vine and 夜来香 (roughly translated from the three Chinese characters as fragrance comes during the night). A member of the Asclepiadacea (milkweed) family,  the Telosma cordata is grown in many parts of tropical Asia not just for it’s alluring fragrance but also for culinary purposes as well!

The flowers of the Telosma cordata are greenish yellow in colour and comes in clusters.  Although not particularly stunning in terms of colour, the flowers more than make up for it in fragrance, a mixture of green and aloe notes which is extremely strong during warm and humid nights.  The main active compounds in the flower’s fragrance were found to be geraniol (found in roses) and ß-ionone (found in violets).  I was told that the essential oil from the Telosma cordata is used in the creation of the world famous perfume, Chanel No.5, thus sharing the mantle with another famous ‘perfume plant’, Cananga Odorata a.k.a Ylang Ylang!

There is an ancient Chinese story which tells of  a troop of fearless warriors who seized an enemy’s castle.  At dusk, a hypnotic fragrance came wafting through the air, dissipating the aggressive feelings of the warriors as they inhaled the aroma. By the next morning, the warriors were so subdued that they were forced to abandon the castle and retreat.

This fragrance came from none other than the Telosma cordata! 🙂

Now for the culinary part!  The flowers of the Telosma cordata are typically fried with eggs in the form of omelettes or boiled in soup which can be found in several South East Asian recipes.  The cut flowers are usually sold in  markets wrapped in banana leaves.  The flowers are not only fragrant but nutritious too as they are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins A and C.

The Telosma cordata is a climber and loves the sun so do prepare a sunny spot with lots of space for it to climb and it will reward you with it’s wonderful perfume for years to come!

Propagation of the Telosma cordata is usually by softwood stem cuttings or simple layering.

Telosma cordata

Telosma cordata

Mint is one of my favourite herbs in the garden as it is a very vigorous grower with many culinary usages.

What you will need:

1)  A very sharp knife or scissors and make sure the blade is sanitized to prevent any pathogens from infecting the potential cutting or plant.

2) A healthy plant to take cuttings from.  It is my personal practice to do cuttings from plants that have been watered at least 30min before so as to ensure maximum hydration of the potential cutting(s).

3) A small glass of plain water with neutral PH.

What you need

What you need

 

For the cutting, ensure the cut is made around 1/4 inches beneathe a leaf node.  A slanted cut is preferred as some believe this can enable more water to be absorbed by the ‘rootless’ cutting  due to a bigger surface area.  Some rosarians even advocate the practice of  cutting underwater (the stem, not the rosarians :P) to prevent any air bubbles from entering the freshly cut stem, thus preventing water from being absorbed efficiently. 

How to make the cut

How to make the cut

Immediately after cutting, place the freshly cut stem cutting into the glass of water and you’re done! 🙂 
Chocolate Mint Cutting in a Glass of Water

Chocolate Mint Cutting in a Glass of Water

All you need to do now is to change the water inside the glass at least once every two days til you see the roots, which will take roughly about 3-4 days, depending on the type of mint used.  Vietnamese mint (a.k.a laksa plant in Singapore) cuttings can take root within 24 hours!
Pretty simple.  Isn’t it? 🙂

Belonging to the bignoniaceae family, this beautiful shrub-like tree is also known as the Dwarf Jasmine Tree and  peep thong in Thailand.  Radermacher kunmings can be grown in full sun to filtered light with average need for water and fertilizer.  If grown in a pot, this ‘tree’ can be pruned and maintained at a height of 10 ft or less but if planted straight onto the ground, it has the potential to reach the height of 20 ft! 

Although the dark green foliage is already a beauty by itself, the clustered light pink trumpet flowers with orange throats were the ones who took my breath away as they have this most exquisite fragrance that always remind me of fine cologne!  Another thing I like about the blooms is that I do not need to wait til evening time  before I can smell their wonderful perfume,  unlike plants like Brunfelsia Americana which I will discuss in my future posts. 

Propagation of this plant is usually via cuttings or layering although layering is the preferred method.

Radermachera ‘Kunming’

Radermachera ‘Kunming’

It all started with an innocent visit to the herbs section of Cold Storage at Kovan Mall, and perhaps a bet from dad too.

There I was staring at a packet of immaculately packaged mint and thought to myself, “If only I can grow this in my garden, that would be so nice!”.

Since young the garden has always been the domain of dad and I’ve never thought in my wildest dreams that growing those so-called “western” herbs such as spearmint, sage or thyme is even remotely possible in Singapore. However, my curiousity got the better of me that fateful day and I got myself two packets of mints (the $0.77 a bundle “common mint” and the $1.95 per packet “gourmet mint”).

When dad saw those mints and knew what I planned on doing with them, he shook his head and said that there is absolutely no way I can root those cuttings and chided me for throwing money down the drain. That made me even more determined to make sure my “investment” did not go to waste and I immediately placed some cuttings in a glass of water and the rest in a pot (sadly, the garden snails devastated those within the first two nights ), in a sorta kiashu (roughly translated as scared to die) Singaporean style.   

In less than a week, roots started to appear and I transferred the rooted cuttings into two seperate pots and placed the pots on top of a plate of brine each (to keep those slugs at bay).

Not only did the cuttings survive, they thrived and that gave me the confidence to try other herbs such as thyme and rosemary and the rest as the saying goes, is history.

What I want to share with fellow gardening newbies with this story is that in the world of gardening, perseverance, a willingness to experiment and venture with an open mind is important. In gardening, the journey and not the destination is what matters! 🙂 

Here is a pic of the ‘mother’ plant that gave birth to the many cuttings that were given out to friends over the past one year.

spearmint1