Friday, June 26, 2009

My Herb Garden

These are some of the herbs in my backyard:

Love brushing my hands against their spiny and fragrant leaves.


Artemisias and Sweet Basil

A relatively new addition to the backyard.

Propagates easily by leaf cuttings.

Sweet Basil seedlings

Kala mints
They bear pretty little leaves and flowers but seemed to be aphid-magnets.

Brief as they were with me, they are much missed for their scent.

Lemon Balm
Propagates easily by leaf cuttings. I use the leaves to make tea that is almost verbana like.

Thai Basil

My Sun Lovers

Since I acquired these sun lovers about a month ago, they have been under my watchful eyes, watching out for any sign of discomfort, new growth and development. Having shifted the plants around my backyard for the past weeks, I believe I have now found the perfect sunny locations for each of them. And other than the red dragon (which may have been peed on by a stray cat last night), all of them are doing well, putting out new growth.

Group shot of the sun lovers

Am excited about the bigger traps that it has since developed.

"Red Dragon" and Drosera

The cephalotus has acquired a slight tinge of redness.


Silence is a precious commodity in this dense sovereign state where I live, and has to be earned.

I earn this silence and freedom from the clamour of urban living by getting out of bed before the neighbours and spending some precious moments alone with my plants every weekend.

But like Pico Iyer eloquently puts it so elegantly: "Silence, like all the best things, is best appreciated in its absence" and "the greatest charm of noise is when it ceases".


The Eloquent Sounds of Silence
by Pico Iyer

"Every one of us knows the sensation of going up, on retreat, to a high place and feeling ourselves so lifted up that we can hardly imagine the circumstances of our usual lives, or all the things that make us fret. In such a place, in such state, we start to recite the standard litany: that silence is sunshine, where company is clouds; that silence is rapture, where company is doubt; that silence is golden, where company is brass.

But silence is not so easily won. And before we race off to go prospecting in those hills, we might usefully recall that fool’s gold is much more common and that gold has to be panned for, dug out from other substances. “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by Silence,” wrote Herman Melville, one of the loftiest and most eloquent of souls. Working himself up to an ever more thunderous cry of affirmation, he went on, “Silence is the general consecration of the universe. Silence is the only Voice of our God.” For Melville, though, silence finally meant darkness and hopelessness and self-annihilation. Devastated by the silence that greeted his heartfelt novels, he retired into a public silence from which he did not emerge from for thirty years. Then, just before his death, he came forth with his final utterance – the luminous tale of Billy Budd – and showed that silence is only as worthy as what we can bring back from it.

We have to earn silence, then, to work for it: to make it not an absence but a presence; not emptiness but repletion. Silence is something more than just a pause; it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands. In silence, we often say, we can hear ourselves think; but what is truer is to say that in silence we can hear ourselves not think, and so sink below ourselves into a place far deeper than mere thoughts allow. In silence, we might better say, we can hear someone else think.

Or simply breathe. For silence is responsiveness, and in silence we can listen to something behind the clamor of the world. “A man who loves God, necessarily loves silence,” wrote Thomas Merton, who was, as a Trappist, a connoisseur, a caretaker of silences. It is no coincidence that places of worship are places of silence: if idleness is the devil’s playground, silence may be the angels. It is no surprise that silence is an anagram of license. And it is only right that Quakers all but worship silence, for it is in the place where everyone finds his God, however he may express it. Silence is an ecumenical state, beyond the doctrines and divisions that create the mind. If everyone has a spiritual story to tell to his life, everyone has a spiritual silence to preserve.

So it is that we might almost say that silence is the tribute we pay to the holiness; we slip off words when we enter a sacred space, just as we slip off shoes. A “moment of silence” is the highest honour we can pay someone; it is the point at which the mind stops and something else takes over (words run out when feelings rush in). A “vow of silence” is for holy men the highest devotional act. We hold our breath, we hold our words: we suspend our chattering selves and let ourselves “fall silent”, and fall into the highest place of all.

It often seems that the world is getting noisier these days: in Japan, which may be a model for our future, cars and buses have voices, doors and elevators speak. The answering machine talks to us, and for us, somewhere above the din of the TV; the Walkman preserves a public silence but ensures that we need never -- in the bathtub, on a mountaintop, even at our desks – be without the clangour of the world. White noise becomes the aural equivalent of the clash of images, the non-stop blast of fragments that increasingly agitates our minds. As Ben Okri, the young Nigerian novelist, puts it, “When chaos is the god of an era, clamorous music is the deity’s chief instrument.”

There is, of course, a place for noise, as there is for daily lives. There is a place for roaring, for the shouting of exultation of a baseball game, for hymns and spoken prayers, for orchestras and cries of pleasure. Silence, like all the best things, is best appreciated in its absence: if noise is the signature tune of the world, silence is the music of the other world, the closest thing we know to the harmony of the spheres. But the greatest charm of noise is when it ceases. In silence, suddenly, it seems as if all the windows of the world are thrown open and everything is as clear as on a morning after rain. Silence, ideally, hums. It charges the air. In Tibet, where the silence has a tragic cause, it is quickened by the fluttering prayer flags, the tolling of temple bells, the roar of wind across the plains, the memory of chants.

Silence, then, could be said to be the ultimate province of trust: it is the place where we trust ourselves to be alone; where we trust others to understand the things we do not say; where we trust a higher harmony to assert itself. We all know how treacherous are words, and how often we use them to paper over embarrassment, or emptiness, or fear of the larger spaces that silence brings. “Words, words, words” commits us to positions we do not really hold, the imperatives of chatter; words are what we use for lies, false promises and gossip. We babble with strangers; with intimates we can be silent. We “make conversation” when we are at a loss; we unmake it when we are alone, or with those so close to us that we can afford to be alone with them.

In love we are speechless; in awe, we say, words fail us."


"I can't think of anything worse than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, can't be silent with."

- excerpt from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Baby Rosemary

I was inspired to start gardening in September 2008 after seeing my friends' potted herbs on their corridor. And so I started with the thai basil, sweet basil, spearmint, kala mint, citronella and rosemary. A mighty bit ambitious perhaps, but I was fearless. Even started to propagate the thai basil, spearmint, kala mint, citronella and rosemary via cuttings. It was such an adventure, and having some fresh herbs to go with my salads made this process all the sweeter. Gardening was fun. Plants beautify the backyard.

BUT there came a turning point on 11 May 2009 when I immediately checked on my plants upon my return from a five-day overseas trip. The plants were generally rather ill-looking and overwatered. Was particularly distraught to find a rosemary cutting in a shrivelled state. This was the sole survivor of my attempts to propagate the rosemary, and there it was dying before my eyes. I immediately re-potted the rosemary, but it was too late. The media was wet and muddy right at the bottom of the pot. The roots had suffered, and the plant could not re-establish itself thereafter. That night, I went to bed feeling miserable. This episode made me realise that bit by bit, day by day, I had developed a love for my plants. They were no longer merely decorative items or something nice to eat. They had become part of my life. So whilst I have been slowly nursing the remaining plants back to health, I will always remember that baby rosemary as well as the beautiful citronella which also shrivelled away subsequently.

Slow Dance

A beautiful poem composed by a teenager with cancer...


Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

Do you run through each day
On the fly?

When you ask
How are you?
Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?

You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say,'Hi'

You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....Thrown away.

Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.

Iron Cross

Update - 20 Sep 09

Update - 21 August 2009. Two pots of iron cross in the trough. The first pot of iron cross is the one on the right.

Having been inspired by a lush corridor garden populated with begonias and many other plans, I couldn't resist picking up a pot of iron cross last night. It's such a beautiful foliage plant.

Garlicky Backyard

Been seeing some brown spots developing on my two potted plumerias plus there were some mealy bugs, so i decided to whip up a concoction of garlic, ginger and chilli for a wipe-down of the leaves and the stem last Sunday, June 21. A fellow plant lover told me that this works as a fungicide as well as a pesticide. I shall monitor and see whether it works.