Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dracaena marginata - Tales of Bulbuls and Grasshopper

Dracaena marginata (Madagascar Dragon Tree, Red Edged Dracaena) is in much demand for landscaping as its red margins provide the vibrant colour. It is easily propagated from cuttings and thus can be used extensively.

This pair of Yellow Vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier) perched prettily on a curved stem of a Dracaena marginata

A few cuttings of different heights grown in a container makes a lovely ornamental specimen for enhancing indoor decors.

Grown under full sunshine, it takes on orangy hues. This long stem dipped down as it was not supported, triggering two side shoots at the top of the greatest curvature.

I saw this pair of Yellow Vented Bulbuls on a ledge enjoying an overview of the garden. When they were done with that they flew off ...

... to perch on this curved Dracaena stem.

When they have enough of this view, one of the pair flew off followed by the other.

and landed on the same ledge.

This variety of Dracaena marginata has more green to it. Just like the red variety, it makes a good indoor plant too.

A grasshopper crawled up a blade of leaf.

When it reached a part that is horizontal, it climbed up to the one above it.

 It then had a soft hammock to rest and dilly-dally away its time. This was very reminiscent of Aesop's tale of 'The Grasshopper and the Ant'.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Impatiens walleriana - Buzy Lizzie

My last post which on Argyreia nervosa (Elephant Vine), where I follow it skywards as it scrambled up the wall. For this post, I've decided to be more down-to-earth and shall feature one of my favourite bedding plants; Impatiens walleriana. It is extremely easy to propagate from cuttings. We simply pinched off any leggy stems and stick them into some potting material. Within a few days, it produces blooms as fresh as ever.

The moniker 'Busy Lizzy' for this plant is most apt as they flower almost non-stop. Masses of flowers are produced at low height, making them good bedding plants and excellent for use as ground cover.

Here in the tropics, it tends to wilt a little by late afternoon, so I plant them under the shade of taller plants such as this shrub of yellow Pachystachys lutea (Lollipop Plant, Golden Shrimp Plant). Here they thrive happily on partial shade and fitered sunlight. The Philodendron Imbe at the back slowly encroah on its space.

Peachy orange with dark green leaves.

Some have lime green foliage.

A variation is Powder pink flowers. This has sprouted in between some Caladium leaves.

A tiny Zizula hylax pygmaea (Pygmy Grass Blue) reposed contentedly on a leaf.

A juicy caterpillar of the Common Lime strangely ended up on this flower.

A grasshopper on Alpinia purpurata stem overlooking a bed of Impatiens.

 The Magdagascar Periwinkle complement them as low border plants for a grassy pathway to the pool.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Argyreia nervosa - Elephant Vine

Argyreia nervosa, or commonly called names such as elephant vine, silver or wooly morning glory. The flowers are reminiscent of morning glories and it is actually a member of the Convolvulaceae family. This includes the edible leaves of the water convolvulus, known locally as kangkong, which is delicious when stir-fried with shrimp paste (belacan).

This perennial vine is a robust climber and grow rapidly, producing large leathery leaves.

The young silvery shoots of this creeper can extend about a foot daily. I had nails hammered into this external wall, all the way up to the first floor balcony to help it to clamber up.


  Argyreia nervosa seems to have unlimited growth. Right after pruning, it grows quickly to cover up the wall and spill into the balcony.

Argyreia nervosa has a velvety texture. The new growth of this vine is silver and densely covered with fine, silky hairs, giving it the appearance of been silver-plated.

The silvery young leaf can be inserted between the pages of a thick book to obtain a well preserved pressed leaf. 


The mature leaves are heart-shaped and have a light velvety feel due to the presence of hairs.

The purple-lavender flowers add interest by breaking the monotony of the large background of thick green foliage.

The off-white sepals are frilly like delicate lace.


The trumpet-like flowers are produced at the vine tips. Hence for the blooms to flourish, I have to exercise restraint when pruning. Most of the time they are left to grow freely until they reach a state resembling the wilderness in my balcony.

Carpenter bees are frequent visitors.
The flowers of the Elephant Vine are thick with larger tubules to accomodate  the bulky Carpenter bees unlike  ... 

  the more delicate flowers of Thunbergia grandiflora.

Sometimes when the Carpenter bee is too large for the tubular part of the Thunbergia grandiflora flower, or just being clumsy, the flower gets torn and tattered. This is evidenced from the condition of the two flowers on the right.

Unlike the flowers of Thunbergia grandiflora, the Argyreia nervosa flowers are generally still in pristine condition after the 'rough and tumble' visit from the bees.

This is seen somewhere outside an housing area in Kuala Lumpur (Vasana 25) - a cascade of Elephant Vine flowers tumbling down a hill slope and retaining wall.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Sunbirds and Hibiscus

Wherever there are Hibiscus flowers, Sunbirds make a ubiquitous presence. For this very reason, I have lots of Hibiscus shrubs planted.

Realising that the flower was out of reach, ...

it inched its way up the stem.

When it estimated that it was near enough, it inserted its long curve beak into the base of the flower and drank long and deep of its sweet nectar.

Other critters like these small brown bugs find food sources from other parts of the flower.

This Sunbird straddled a flower stalk to get at the coveted sweet drink.

Another Sunbird did an upside down act for the very same purpose.

A contented male Sunbird chirping on top of a seasoned pole, streaked with patches of green and white fungal growth.
The electric-blue feathers on its throat shimmer in the sun, appearing blue to purple depending on the angle of the sunrays.


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