Friday, December 28, 2012

Garlic vine, Thunbergia alba and Sprekelia

Garlic vine is a beautiful climber from bignonia family. The flowers and leaves emit garlic odour hence the name garlic vine. Botanic name of garlic vine is Cydista aequinoctialis. It grows very good in Karachi and Lahore. It flowers in fall and spring. In my experience it suffers from pests in fall specially mildew so you may need to spray it. It likes hot and humid so Karachi suits it better than lahore. There are some mature specimens growing for many years in lahore. 

garlic vine

Another shrub growing in winter is Thunbergia erecta var alba. It is white color version of common blue Thunbergia erecta. Flowers are small but tub shaped and abundant.
thunbergia erecta alba                                                         
Last but not least, sprekelia formosissima is flowering in winter here in lahore. Its common name is aztec lily and it is a bulb from amaryllis family. It usually flowers in spring but maybe it is forced so flowering in winter. A good choice for hot climate. sprekelia formosissima

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Winter growing vegetables

Sowing of winter vegetables in mild winter climates start from September and October while fruiting goes till February and March. Find below the calender for winter vegetables. Note that this calender is not for northern areas, only southern plains. Some of the commonly sown vegetables in winter include Broccoli,Potato, Onion, Lettuce leaf, Cauliflower, Turnip, Peas, Spinach, Carrot, Beets, Mustard, Coriander, Radish and mint etc. You can also sow tomato in winter if there temperatures do not go very low. You may have to place the plastic sheets over seedlings of winter vegetables at night specially in those areas where winters are cold like Islamabad, Peshawar etc.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Winter and Spring flowering annuals

Fall is the real gardening season in all climates where winters are mild. Southern plains of Pakistan are no exception either. This is the reason that major gardening activity is in winter in lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and other lowers plains areas. The plants which grow in summer in cool climates of UK and Europe grows in winter of lahore. This is the reason many winter annuals grown in lahore are actually summer flowering in cool climates. There are 3 main tips for these annuals
1- Feed DAP every 2 weeks in low quantity
2- Remove early buds to get healthy plant and then allow it to flower
3- Remove spent flowers to increase flowering

Do visit this link for all the spring flowering plants flowers . For sake of simplicity here i am listing most easiest to grow annuals only.
  • Petunia
Easiest and longest blooming flower. Single type is very famous. Comes in various shapes like star, picotee etc.
Flowering: December - May
Growth Ease: Very easy
Germination: Moderate to difficult
Sun required: Full sun
Famous series: Falcon F1 is winner. Ultra series (blue star, red star etc.) is good too .
You can see other petunia flowers on this blog here
  • Pansy
 Pansy grows in semi shade too. Flowers even for a child too. Long blooming period.Grows good  in pots too. Urdu name is banafsha.

Flowering: January - May
Growth Ease: Very easy
Germination: Moderate to difficult
Sun required: Full sun - Semi shade
Famous series: Magestic giants is good. Swiss giants comes on second number. My personal favorite is Mammoth.
  • Gazania
 A very beautiful annual from south africa. Very heat tolerant. Flowers till June and more.    

Flowering: February- June
Growth Ease: Very easy
Germination: Moderate
Sun required: Full sun
Famous series: Daybreak mix is good. Daybreak 2 is also good.
You can see other gazania flowers on this blog here
  • Dahlia
Both indian and pakistani dahlia are available. Pakistani is grown from seed and flower is single or semi-double. Indian one is grown from cuttings and  flowers are double and very large. Stacking is required.  Indian one needs more care than pakistani one specially in severe winter. you can buy cheap cuttings in october/november or buy small plants early in season. you can save tuber for next month while keeping it in soil. Not grown good from tubers in my experience.

Flowering: December- June
Growth Ease: Easy - Moderate
Germination: Easy
Sun required: Full sun
Famous series: In Pakistani dahlia, figoro and diablo are good. Indian ones, buy a plant with lots of side shoots.
You can see other dahlia flowers on this blog here
  • Freesia
 Freesia is super easy to grow from bulb and it is fragrant too. Check this post of mine for details

  • Ranunculus
Ranunculus grows from both seeds and corms. Plants grown from seeds have larger flowers than corms so i prefer to buy seed grown seedling from nurseries which is cheap. For growing it from corm check this post of mine Remember not to deep  plant the seedling of ranunculus in soil bed. The seedlings grow new shoots from much above the soil level. Also it needs to be protected from march rains.
Flowering: February- May
Growth Ease: Easy
Germination: From corm easy, From seed moderate to difficult
Sun required: Full sun
Famous series: The seed grown is asiaticus bloomingdale. Corm is probably different variety.
You can see other ranunculus flowers on this blog here
  • Aquilegia

Although a cool climate plant, it grows very good in semi shade and shade and flower is the most beautiful flower you will ever ever ever see. It is mostly germinated in murree and brought to lahore in winters. You can get seedlings easily at cheap price in start of season in October - November.
Flowering: February- May
Growth Ease: Easy
Germination: Difficult
Sun required:Shade - Semi shade
Famous series: N/A
You can see other aquilegia flowers on this blog here
  • Anemone
Another easy to grow from corm. Although it is grown from seed too but i never tried it from seed. Very easy to grow and flower. Check this post of mine for details

  • Hyacinth 
Hyacinth is another fragrant plant for cool climates so an annual here. You must try hyacinth in glass jar which is super easy to flower. Check this post of mine for details

Other easy  to grow winter annuals include Cineraria (Good for shade), Dianthus, carnation, Salvia(Red is good for our climate), Verbena, alyssum, hollyhock, calendula, phlox etc. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rare Morning glories on my terrace garden

I love morning glories because they are easiest to maintain,pest and disease free and they flower in the poorest of soils. Not to mention they are easiest to grow from seeds as well. Japanese morning glories are the uniquest of all and they have very beautiful rare patterns. Here are some of these i grew from seed and they all are growing on my terrace in pots and some in soil bed. All are grown from  seed.

This is Carnevale di venezia. Not truly a Japanese morning glory but a different one.

This is front view of my terrace covered with "Milky way" morning glory.
This is Japanese morning glory navy blue with white strips growing in pot and reached on the 2nd floor terrace.
This is Japanese morning glory FUJI NO SORA growing on my terrace in a pot.

This is another Japanese morning glory with crimson blue color flower having white strips
This one is also with white stripes but not very prominent in this picture.
I am happy to see seed pods forming for some of these morning glories. Would love to grow them again next year. I hope you would try some too :)

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Butterflies of Lahore - Indian Fritillary

Indian Fritillary Argyreus hyperbius is a not a common butterfly of Punjab. It is originally a butterfly of cool climate and northern areas, migrate to southern plains in winter.
Indian Fritillary Argyreus hyperbius
I captured this butterfly in Spring in Lawrence gardens lahore, it was on a Helichrysum paper flower

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Flowers of Rose cactus and Dwarf white bauhinia

There are two unusual plants i saw recently, both blooming in late summer here. Both were blooming profusely. It is a delight to see some new perennials flowering in the summer heat of lahore. Here they go.

Rose cactus with botanic name Pereskia grandifolia is basically a cactus but a tree flowering cactus. It can attain a height of more than 15 feet and an equal spread. The main attraction is its beautiful flowers. Apparently they look like camellia but they are not.
rose cactus Pereskia grandifolia

Another uncommon flower is this Bauhinia (Kachnar). Generally we have only one white bauhinia which is Bauhinia Alba and it does not bloom in summer here. This white bauhinia is dwarf and starts blooming at an early stage when only few feet high. The main advantage is, it blooms when no other bauhinia is blooming. This is dwarf white bauhinia possibly Bauhinia acuminata
dwarf white bauhinia Bauhinia acuminata

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Flowers of Ivy Gourd, Desert petunia and Firecracker

There are many shrubs and plants which suit very well to the hot climates like lahore but very under rated. Perhaps they are common but the beauty of these common flowers is not given the appreciation which they deserve.

Take for example an Ivy ground flower. Although not famous as an ornamental plant for its flowers but just take a look at its flower which is as pretty as it goes.
ivy gourd flower

Another plant having unusual blue color and blooming in the high summer heat is desert petunia. Not related to petunia but flower shape is similar to petunia and it is very heat tolerant as well. Botanic name is Ruellia brittoniana
desert petunia Ruellia brittoniana

Another plant and one of the few which flower in summer months of lahore is firecracker flower with botanic name Crossandra infundibuliformis. There are two more colors of this beautiful flower that i know of, yellow and purple.This one is orange and flowers very early of age.
firecracker flower Crossandra infundibuliformis

This post is included in Macro monday hosted by Lisa's Chaos. Do visit here blog for other fabulous macro shots

Monday, August 27, 2012

Butterflies of Islamabad - Clouded yellow butterfly

Another butterfly which i captured during my visit to Rose and Jasmine garden Islamabad was clouded yellow butterfly Colias croceus. It was sitting on the rose bush not on the flowers. Because roses are not good pollinators hence not attracting much butterflies. Roses of this garden were very ornamental though. I did not see this butterfly in lahore but it can be found in lahore i guess. Here is my picture i took:

Clouded yellow butterfly

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Giant Crape-myrtle, peacock flower and katsagon

There are lots of flowers in bignonia family which are ideal to the climate of lahore. Some of them are heat loving and flower profusely in hottest months in summer. Some of them are still blooming in monsoon. Let us have a look.
Giant Crape-myrtle with botanic name Lagerstroemia speciosa It is elder brother of common Lagerstroemia indica shrub, but it is a tree not a shrub. It flowers when only few flowers are blooming due to intense summer heat.
Giant Crape-myrtle

Lahore is full of these trees and they add beauty and bright colors. Flower color changes with age.
Lagerstroemia speciosa

Another common and heat loving flower is peacock flower with botanic name Caesalpinia pulcherrima. Flowers for lots of summer months with bright orange flowers.
Caesalpinia pulcherrima

This one is a bignonia family tree with large leaves and yellow flowers. Common name is katsagon while botanic name is Fernandoa adenophylla
Fernandoa adenophylla

This post is featured at Lisa's Chaos so visit her blog for more gorgeous macro shots.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sunbird on my terrace garden

Humming birds are not common in lahore, pakistan while sunbirds are common here. I did see a humming bird moth in Lawrence gardens but we will have to be content with sunbirds for now on. This sunbird is a regular visitor in my terrace garden. Mostly after seedspods. In the below pictures it is after spent flowers of senecio vine.

These spent flowers will be used probably for his nest although they are source of food maybe. Attracting sunbirds is very exciting and there is another blue one very pretty on my terrace often but very fast to be caught on camera. Will post soon as i defeat his pace.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wild flowers of Punjab - Sodom apple, bindweed

This is Apple of sodom or calotrope with botanic name Calotropis procera is a wild flower of Punjab. It has succulent foliage and flowers in almost whole summer in open sun.

Bindweed with botanic name convolvulus arvensis. A very common weed in Punjab. A ground cover in full sun. Self sows. Foliage is different than that of morning glory.

Ipomoea nil chocolate. This is a type of Japanese morning glory with a color not very common. It is also called chocolate rose silk. These vines grow good in our extreme summer heat. I am growing more than 7 colors of morning glories this summer and will post pictures as soon as they flower.

This post is included in Garden bloggers bloom day, a gardening event on the 15th of every month at May Dreams Gardens

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Growing Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea in warm climates

There are not many bulbs capable of flowering in the summer heat of May and June in lahore. When temperatures are over 100F very few plants grow well. Society garlic, Tulbaghia violacea is one of these. From garlic/onion family, this south african bulb is very heat tolerant and a perennial in warm climates. It grows from a rhizome just like most onions and garlic do. Flowers are fragrant though some people do not consider the scent to be pleasant.

This is how the rhizome looks like.
tulbaghia rhizome

The planting depth around 2 inches deep so that the shooting points are just above the soil. I plant whole rhizome into the soil leaving just the tips above. It flowers only after few months of planting.
tulbaghia violacea flowers

It does go down in monsoon rains which shows that it does not like much water although drainage is good in my soil bed. It does not need protection in lahore winter and becomes dormant for a short while. It multiplies fast.

There is another tulbaghia which is tulbaghia fragrans, also a fragrant tulbaghia. It has same mauve flowers but flowers are little different. It also comes in white form. The name tulbaghia is derived from Tulbagh a town in south africa.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Love in a mist, dwarf morning glory, double daylily

It is early summer here in lahore but weather is still not hot because of recent rains. This is the reason most of spring annuals are lingering into the summer. Here are some of the flowers blooming in my small soil bed these days.
First is Dwarf morning glory, convolvulus tricolor is finally in bloom. I tried several times to grow it last year but could not succeed. This plant i sowed in November and it flowered after 5 months of sowing. Seed germinated very quickly. Plants are low growing and leggy. Must pinch them to have more shoots and more flowers. Flower is smaller as compared to tall morning glory but maybe because i let it flower too soon instead of establishing it a little further. Flower lasts a day only. Better grow it in masses.Cultivar is Royal ensign blue.

dwarf morning glory convolvulus tricolor

This is Nigella damascena, love in a mist. A close relative of Nigella sative a common herb with local name Kalwanji. Plant is leggy and needs support. It was a sow and forget plant. Just scattered the seeds on soil and that is it.
Nigella damascena love in a mist

Double daylily is not a common sight in lahore. They are expensive and not easy to find. Only private collectors buy from abroad. This is a named one but not sure which one it is.
double daylily

Last but not least, This pink aquilegia is blooming under the neem tree. It is obvious from the picture that plant is not in very good health. But what else can you grow under a neem tree? Some mildew or fungus affecting it. Very pretty macro though.
pink aquilegia columbine granny bonnet

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Butterflies of Murree - Common four ring butterfly

Continuing the Butterflies of Pakistan series, the next few posts will be covering the butterflies of Murree hills including Nathia gali, Bhurban and pipeline track near donga gali. The first one to start with is Common four ring butterfly with botanic name Ypthima huebneri. It is found in  mostly Asia, including Burma, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Singapore.
This photo i took in Nathiagali main road near the bazar.

Ypthima huebneri
This butterfly is easy to capture and i also found it on the pipeline track near donga gali. Most of the times it is not found on flowers but just enjoying the full sun, gathering heat from the sun rays with its opened wings.
common four ring butterfly

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seed germination tips

Growing from seed is an addiction. Only those who are into it know the joy of successful seed germination. Here are some tips for successful seed germination. I hope other members will also contribute. Note that these are general tips, some seeds need special treatment.

1- Large seeds germinate easily and quickly as compared to small seeds. Large seeds can be soaked in water to let the moisture penetrate into the seed for germination.
2- Examples of large seeds are morning glory, sweet peas, bauhinia etc. Examples of small seeds include poppy, petunia, buddleja etc.
3- After seed is germinated, seedling will lean towards sun so keep changing the direction of container so that it remains even.

Sowing depth
Larger the seed, deeper it will be sown. Smaller the seed, closer it will be to the soil. Very small seeds which can not be handled through fingers are mostly surface sown. Surface sown means just place the seeds on the soil surface and do not cover. Very light sprinkling of coco-peat or peat moss is beneficial in most cases.

Sowing time
For spring blooming annuals, seed is sown in september-November
For summer blooming annuals, seed is sown in February-April
For perennials, seed can be sown either in September-october or in Spring (March). The optimum temperature for germination of most seeds is around 20C. Extreme heat and extreme cold both are not good for sowing seeds.

Sowing Medium
Whether it is soil based medium or soil-less medium, it must be well drained. If water stands, seeds will rot. This is the reason most seed germination mixes include sand as sand improves drainage. For precious seeds, vermiculite can be used. Following mixes are successful in my experience:
- 30% sand, 30% garden soil, 30% peat moss
- 50% peat moss, 30% leaf mold, 20% sand

Somewhere i read 50% sand and 50% leaf mold but not tried yet. IF using vermiculite you can use top few inches of vermiculite while bottom can be filled with good soil mix having some light fertilizer. It is not only cost effective but also logical. Vermiculite will help in germination of seeds and when roots will develop and reach bottom they will get fertilizer.

Note that seeds do not need any fertilizer for germination, strong fertilizer will burn the seedling or seeds might not germinate. Best bet is add very little leaf mold. Another option is whenever you water your seedlings, add 1/6 strength liquid fertilizer in every watering.

Before sowing the seed, water the container or soil bed thoroughly. After hour an hour, sow the seeds. After that keep the soil moist but not damp. Always use spray gun to water, the one which hair dressers use. To keep it moist and not damp, there are few options. First, use moisture meter to check the moisture, most PH meters come with moisture meter. Second, check soil color, it will tell you whether you need to water or not. third, you can check the container weight but it is more successful in clay pots as plastic pots are already light.

Try bottom watering the seeds and seedlings. There are few ways to achieve it. First, sow in peat pots and place them in 1 inch of water, the water will automatically flow up. Second option is, sow in plastic seeds trays with bottom holes. Place the seed tray in water so that the water is half an inch over the tray from bottom. Soil medium must be light to achieve that. Check bottom watering on internet as well. There are self watering trays as well and they are best for this purpose

Prevent Damping off
In hot and humid weather mostly in monsoon and some times in march april, seedlings suffer from damping off. In this disease, seedlings fall flat. Try sprinkling cinnamon powder on the surface before sowing seeds and improve air circulation. There are some commercial anti-fungicide as well.

Which container to use
Remember clay pots need frequent watering as they dry out quickly. plastic pots retain moisture so less watering is required. I prefer plastic pots as i lost lots of seeds due to dry out problems. In spring sowing plastic containers help less watering. In fall sowing, clay ones are also OK as weather is not harsh. I never had the problem of air circulation in case of plastic pots.

Top 2 techniques for germinating difficult seeds
There are 2 techniques which i use:
1- Soon after sowing the seeds, pack the container in a polyethene bag which must be transparent so that light goes in. When you see the seed germinated, gradually acclimatize the seedling with outside temperature. Open it daily for few hours then increase it and then after few days remove it. This one i use mostly for very small seeds.

2- This method is applicable only for those seeds which are large and can be handled individually. Does not apply to very small seeds. place the seeds between moist sheets of cotton (which is used in wounds) and place them somewhere bright. just when you notice the cotton is starting to dry, water it through sprayer. This is a variation of famous Zip-Lock baggie technique for germinating seeds.

In my opinion, October is the best time to sow all perennial seeds, as the plants get established before the intense summer heat. If you sow in spring then seedling will have to go through strong summer heat. However some seeds including bignonia family seeds, passifloras, hardenbergia etc. needs temperatures into 30's to germinate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Winter lilac, Buddleja Asiatica in my garden

Winter lilac, Buddleja Asiatica is a very fragrant buddleja suitable for growing in hot climates. It flowers in spring here in lahore and possibly other warm climates. Another species of buddleja, Davidii does not like very high temperatures, thus, do not grow as good as asiatica. Although Davidii has advantage of flowering in summer off and on where as Asiatica flower only once in an year strictly once. I have this asiatica specimen in a large container garden on my terrace and honey aroma fills the air. Enjoy the pics.

buddleja asiatica

winter lilac

You must prune it soon after flowering for good flowering next year and a neat growth habit. Unlike davidii, It flowers on an old wood. It is normally propagated from cuttings.

This post is included in Today's Flowers, do visit there to see other flowers blooming all around the world.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kitchen gardening - Punjab government project

This is another good initiative by Government of Punjab for the promotion of kitchen gardening in Punjab. The chief minister deserves appreciation for that. Although the free vegetable seeds distributed by Punjab Government were not of very high quality (at least which i sowed) but they are going to right direction.

I am sure many of the gardeners from Punjab will go ahead and start planting the vegetables. Note that Government is not only providing free training to interested persons but also sharing 50% of cost in case of a plastic tunnel for vegetable farming on home scale. Keep it up!!!!

kitchen gardening punjab free seeds

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kitchen gardening - which vegetables to grow in summer

Here are some of the vegetables which are grown in summer in lahore, karachi, peshawar and other similar climates. The best time to plant these vegetables is from February 15 to March 31. But you can plant/sow them any time between March and May depending upon the type of vegetable.

For seeds, mix old manure or leaf compost & soil in 1:4 and for seedling transplant or mature plants in 2:5.Prepare a soil mix which is loose, doesn't compact and drains well for example if you water them in large volume it should drain completely in 1 minute.. if the water is standing then add small quantity of sand in it. Mix well with well rotted manure which has no smell..
  • Okra (ladyfinger) - Bhindi بھنڈی  Suitable for pots as well. Sown in February for April crop and then again in June/July for September crop. For successfully growing okra (bhindi) check this link
  • Bitter gourd (karela)    کریلہ
  • Mint (pudina) پودینہ Suitable for pots as well.
  • Aubergine/ Egg plant (brinjal) Baingan بینگن. Suitable for pots as well.Does well with well manured soil, but be careful not to over-water or over-feed. 
  • Bottle gourd (lauki) کدو, ridge gourd (tori) توری and green gourd (tinda) ٹینڈا Sown in March and April for End May crop. Then again in June/July for September crop
  •  Tomato ٹماٹر Suitable for pots as well . For successful tomato growing, check this link
  • Spinach پالک
  • Capsicum Suitable for pots as well
  • Cucumber کھیرا That includes hari mirch and shimla mirch. They love heat. Sown in February and March for crop in April
  • Sweet Peppers شملہ مرچ Suitable for pots as well
  • Radish مولی
  • Cabbage بند گوبھی

Monday, April 2, 2012

Rose Show 2012 Lahore

Rose show 2012 was held at Royal palm golf club Lahore, Pakistan. It started on 30th March and ended on April 01, 2012. There were many beautiful English roses displayed over there. Not much gardeners over there but roses itself were so pretty. Some roses were hybridized by local expert gardeners. Floribunda, tea roses, ramblers, creepers almost every type was there. But not much miniatures were there. It was not a pure rose garden, just few beds having lots and lots of English named roses. Many were David Austin roses. Pink iceberg was a winner in terms of flowers. Double delight was exotic. Here are some of the roses from the show.

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