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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Butterfly pea

Deep blue flowers with light yellow markings peeping out dense light green foliage. This is another flower which attracts butterflies of the winged variety.
The blue butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea)is more common than the white one. It is a perennial, herbaceous vine mostly grown on fences. The leaves are pinnate with 5 to 7 lobes and give good foliage.
The botanical name Clitoria relates to the shape of the flowers which are almost 2 inches long and borne singly. The term ternatea comes from Ternate, a cone shaped island in Indonesia.

The flower is typical to the pea family (Fabaceae/ Leguminosae). Its shape has inspired some of the regional names. It is called Butterfly pea, blue pea vine, mussel-shell climber, pigeon wings in English; Aparijita in Hindi and Gokarna or less commonly Shankhpushpa in Marathi.

I grew this plant from seed. It requires moist soil with partial sunlight. It grows very fast and flowered within the season. It is flowering again after taking a rest from the blooms during the monsoons but is mostly covered with light brown pods. Some of them keep popping to scatter the black seeds. The plant has to be constantly pinched back to encourage growth.

I found some interesting uses of this plant.
Extracts from the root and the flowers have a range of antimicrobial activity and is used in ayurvedic medicines. The extract contains biologically active peptides called cliotides which have potential to be lead compounds for novel antimicrobial and anticancer agents. Wow!
It is used to strengthen hair, improve eyesight and enhance immunity in Thai medicine. In fact in eastern Asia, butterfly pea extract powder is readily available for consumption.
The roots fix nitrogen, hence it is used for improving the fertility of the soil.
In Burma the flowers are dipped in batter and fried . The pods are edible when tender. I have not across any recipe which uses this, but maybe it can be cooked the same way as beans.
The flowers can also be used to color food; grind the flowers with water or milk to get blue or with little lemon juice to get red color. Of course very few recipes call for blue color. Someday I will try this. Till then I prefer to watch the butterflies!
Happy Gardening

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Bleeding heart vine

This post is about a plant which keeps flowering regularly in my garden. White, almost yellow flowers with a blood-red frilly corolla with the stamens jauntily peeking out- yes this is the Bleeding Heart Vine, Bleeding Glory Bower or Bag Flower botanical name Clerodendron thomsoniae (Family Verbenaceae).

It can be grown in pots as a bush or climber The medium should have good drainage. This is one of the rarer flowering plant which can be grown in less sunlight. It gets only an hour's direct sunlight in my garden. It flowers sporadically throughout the year with maximum blooms in summer.
The double colored flowers grow in cymes of 8-20, the outer calyx is usually white gives a striking contrast with the red corolla. Add to that the big, dark-green, heavily etched leaves and you have a real show piece.
Notice that the buds do not give a hint of the beauty within.

After the flowers mature the balloonous calyx turns darker till it is almost purple. At this time one can see a black fruit containing black seeds with an orange lining. I have yet to try growing this plant from seed- action for the next seeds which are formed!

I recently found that this plant is a close relative of the glory bower/ wild jasmine (hindi sankuppi) which is grown extensively as a hedge plant in India. I remember seeing this plant very often in my native place. It has white flowers with purple stamens protruding out.

Of course the bleeding heart is more showy and does not fail to turn heads when in bloom. Green, white and red all in one plant! Just make sure that you prevent people from plucking the flowers and making your heart bleed!

Happy gardening!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Greetings for the new Year

The new year has started.
Many green resolutions made- to be more productive in the garden, to be regular with the spraying, to carry on the struggle with some veggies (coriander harvest still eludes me), to post more regularly and most importantly be organic.
So let's see, what do I have in my garden at the present?
Tomatoes- cherry toms, second flush of flowers has started; tumbler variety has started ripening
Chillies- still not producing, all the flowers are falling off, some leaves too, have tried giving higher PK but..
Mint- peppermint and spearmint
Indian spinach- transpanted few days back
Brinjal- white, flowers have started but no fruit yet, keeping fingers crossed
Ridge gourd- single fruit developing, have covered it with a polythene bag to prevent pests
Okra- ceylonese variety seeds from geekgardener, they are ridgeless, hope that they are without spines too; transplanted two each in three 15 L containers two weeks back
Leafy veggies-green and red amaranth
Roses- repotted with fresh soil and compost, waiting for the blooms to start
Collection of other flowering plants- pentas, periwinkle, amaryllis lily, ginger lily, jasmines, to name a few.
A few pictures to start the year...

Adenium- a natural bonsai

Amaryllis Lily

Blue Butterfly pea called gokarna in marathi

Happy gardening!