Archive for Botanicals

Dragon Fruit Farm

The first time I found out about the dragon fruit was about two summers ago. I was talking to P, who had just came back from a biking trip across Vietnam. He kept talking about how much he enjoyed eating fresh dragonfruit or pitaya. I had never heard of such a fruit and wasn’t sure how it should look. All I can imagine was something with scales maybe? Then I saw pictures of the fruits and was immediately intrigued by how beautiful and strange it looked. There are three types of dragonfruit – red flesh, red fruit with white flesh and yellow fruit with white flesh.

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The photo above of dragonfruit farm taken by tk yeoh of flickr. Notice how the fruits are wrapped in bags. Possibly to protect them from birds, bats, and other natural elements. Dragonfruit farming has been very popular in Asia, from the Philippines to Malaysia. They seem to grow pretty easy and are also grown in San Diego greenhouses. The plants are also available for purchase from Florida. Some day I like to make a trip to these farm and see the real fruit tree. Preferably at harvesting time!

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Agave in Landscaping

Agave isn’t just grown for it’s syrup. It’s actually a very pretty ornamental succulent that could liven up any yard. Especially yards in in the South West or Western part of the U.S. I came across these great photos of different varieties of agave used in landscaping in California from Sunset magazine. I aspire to have a dessert garden someday.

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“The light green leaves of a colony of A. attenuata contrast in this combo with the nearly black rosettes of Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’.” – Sunset Magazine. I like the contrast of green and deep purple in this garden.
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Lawn Alternative: Naturescaping

This year California may be facing a severe drought. Our heavy rain season starts around autumn and continues through spring. I can say this year’s rainy season was not so good. I think we had some cloudy winters, but not much rain. Mostly fog in parts of northern California.

nscapeConcerned homeowners and avid gardeners may want to look into finding ways to conserve water. But I have mostly desert plants that are in pots, so it won’t be much of a problem for me. My mom said she may cut down on what she will be planting this year too. The latest idea suggest replacing the common lawn and yards with native plants. This idea is termed “naturescaping”. These two front yards are good examples of naturescaping. Photos were taken by City Steward of Portland, Oregon.

There are many benefits for naturescaping and to growing native plants. A great landscape design practice also located in Portland, Oregon named Plant Native gave us 6 good reasons. They are listed below:

1. Low Maintenance – Native plants evolved to grow in local conditions and to predictable sizes. They do not require watering (except during establishment), chemical pesticides and fertilizers, or frequent cutting.

2. Public Health (lowers cancer rates) – Traditional landscaping uses large amounts of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, some of which are suspected carcinogens. During rains, these chemicals often run off into public water supplies. Traditional landscaping also contributes to air and noise pollution.

3. Saves you Money – The cost of maintaining a naturescape is dramatically less than that of a traditional landscape because a naturescape essentially takes care of itself. Naturescapes also save you time – and how valuable is your time?

4. Water – In the West, 60% of consumed water goes to lawns; in the East, 30%. This water diversion harms the environment, kills fish, and returns polluted water to our streams and rivers. It also costs you – on irrigation system installation and maintenance, and on your water bill.
5. Song Birds – Our song bird populations having dropped steadily – 5-10%, per year!, depending on the species – for the last several decades, and there is no end in sight. The loss is primarily due to habitat loss. Adopting naturescaping is critical if song birds are to remain.
6. Enhances Livability – An ecologically functional landscape offers so much more than a sterile, static landscape. It offers imagination to our children, and color, sound and wonder to all of us. It is cleaner, quieter and healthier, and may increase property values.

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Laundry with Soap Nuts

The last time I was in a health food store in Palo Alto (California) I saw a box of Maggie’s Soap Nuts. They were $10 for 4.5 oz box. I would try it if it was a bit cheaper. But better if they had free samples for customers to try first. At the moment I’ve been using commercial Arm & Hammer Essentials for my laundry and just add some borax for extra cleaning power.

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Photo of dried soap nuts from ECO-CAN news.

I’ve never even heard much about soap nuts and decided find out more about them. A few nuts can be placed in a cotton drawstring bag, then add to your wash. It can even be reused several times. Soap nuts are safe for washing silk, woolens and other delicate fabrics. Anything soap related to me is fun, especially ones that grow naturally on trees.

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Rooftop Gardens & Urban Farmers

A great way to bring a bit of nature into city living is having a rooftop garden. People usually think of rooftop city gardens as only being in New York City. Usually places used to hold cocktail parties. But rooftop gardening is nothing new, it has been seen in the Hanging Garden of Babylon to the Kensington Roof Garden in London , England.

The popularity of roof gardens have grown in many other cities in the United States as well. Even people in Vancouver, B.C. are joining in on rooftop gardening too. From hotels, restaurants to local organizations. I think that is a great use of extra space and a way to add a bit of green space. It may even help clean the air too.

englandrtgarden2Photo credit: Risc’s Rooftop Garden.

Another successful rooftop garden comes from England. The one pictured here is of Risc’s edible roof garden. The garden is complete with over 120 species of edible and medicinal trees, shrubs, vines and plants from around the globe. You can read more about the place here.

Rooftop gardens are usually seen as ornamental gardens, but the idea of growing your own food is gaining popularity. A great organization based out of Vancouver, B.C. by the name of City Farmer’s has a collection of stories about their work in Vancouver, Canada, and about urban farmers from around the world.

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Pomegranate Fruit & Leaf

Pomegranates are amongst one of the most popular superfruits. These superfruits are classified as fruits with very high antioxidant levels. They include blueberries, Acai berries, and goji berries. I remember years ago not many people heard of this fruit, let alone knew how to eat them. One summer I bought a huge pomegranate for my friend as a treat and she didn’t know how to eat it. The fruit ended up being part of her home decor.

pomeleavesNow you can find just the seeds (packaged in plastic containers) at the super market. It is commonly used in salads. The fruit itself consist of many small seeds. The colors range from white to deep red, and are called arils. I have found that the deeper the color, the more tangy the seeds. The ones my mom grows in her garden are very sweet. The skin is light red and the seeds are almost white to pink. It gets even sweeter when it ripes and the skin starts to crack a bit.

Just like the loquat fruit I mentioned earlier, the leaves of the pomegranate can also be used to make tea.  To continue reading this post, please go here.

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Loquat Fruit and Leaves

Loquats are one type of fruits that are first to appear in spring. While most other fruits don’t appear or ripen up until summer or autumn. The loquat tree is also considered to be an evergreen, as the leaves do not turn brown and fall, very much like citrus trees.

These fruit trees originated from China, but can bee seen growing in much warmer climates of the U.S., from Texas to California. Even in the warmer parts of Europe too. They are actually fast growing trees and very easy to propagate. The best part is that they are drought resistant trees. So this would be a great time to grow one, especially when water is scarce.

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As seen here, the photo of young loquats and leaves growing in San Jose, Ca. This photo was taken in springtime. The leaves are glossy green in the front but fuzzy in the back. And the fruit itself can be a bit fuzzy like a peach too.

The fruit is tangy to sweet. But it is delicious when it ripens and turn yellow. Loquat fruit and leaves have high concentrations of Calcium, Phosphorus, Iron, Potassium, Vitamin A and Ascorbic Acid.

The leaves can also be used to make tea. I have made tea with some of the dried leaves and the taste is very light.

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