Friday, December 14, 2012

Caring for Frangipanis

My frangipani (otherwise known as Plumeria) is one of my favourite plants. I got it from the nursery about 8 or 9 years ago when it was only about half its current height. Back then it was only a trunk with 2 branches. We put it in a dark coloured pot right outside our front door which is north facing, which in our case is very sunny and sheltered from the wind, so it’s in a very warm position.

Vistors to our place at this time of the year always marvel at how well it’s doing and how much they love it. This is probably because so many have tried growing them but have been unsuccessful. The flowers give off a lovely sweet fragrance at night in the summer producing a real tropical atmosphere on those warm summer nights.

A couple of years ago we noticed it had stopped flowering and didn’t seem to be doing so well so I concluded it must be root-bound and needed re-potting. The leaves also seemed to be under attack by some kind of parasite. So after hunting everywhere for a bigger version of the same style of pot I undertook the difficult task of getting it out of it’s existing pot and into the new one without damaging it.

It’s deciduous, so I waited until it lost all it’s leaves and then at the first sign of new growth I repotted it making sure I used a good quality potting mix. It didn't flower much the first year after doing this but this year it’s getting ready to bloom all over.

One thing we’ve learned is that the plant will not branch off and produce new limbs unless it flowers first. And it won’t flower unless it’s happy in it’s position and getting enough nutrition. So we feed it with slow release 'plant food spikes' which we just poke into the soil. Each new limb has the potential for growing a flower head. The picture at the top shows one flower head which can produce as many as 40 individual flowers. They only produce a maximum of one flower head per limb, per year.

So my objective has been to encourage as much flowering as possible. My frangipani is now a 12 pointer and 8 of those 12 limb ends have produced flower heads this year, which I think is the best it’s ever done, so re-potting it has certainly helped.

What this means is that next year it will grow 8 new limbs meaning that next year it will be a 20 pointer, each with the potential to produce a flower head.

This photo (left) shows how after the flower head has formed, the limb that has flowered then branches off in 2 directions. You can see 2 new limbs beginning to form at the base of the flower head. Next year each of these limbs which might grow several inches long, in turn has the potential to flower.

Some of our female friends, particularly the pacific islanders like to pluck off one or two flowers and wear them in their hair.

It really is a beautiful plant — if you can get it to grow right.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Home grown vegetables helping to save a life

Speak to anyone who grows their own vegetables and they’ll usually talk about the satisfaction they get from growing their own vegies, the convenience of being able to pick it fresh whenever they want to, and some of the cost benefits they may have experienced.

But this past week and a half I have come to appreciate more than ever before the amazing health benefits of growing your own fresh vegies, particularly silver beet and beetroot which are both high in iron.

A friend of mine “Joe” has been in hospital fighting for his life after a virus which had attacked his heart left one of his heart valves practically destroyed and needing replacement. He’d been told by the doctors if they didn’t operate within the next 2 weeks he could die.

Unfortunately his haemoglobin level had dropped significantly and as he’s one of Jehovah’s Witnesses he couldn’t accept a blood transfusion which is what they normally give in that situation. And they can’t operate until they get his red blood cell count up to around 100. So suddenly my garden with a good crop of iron-producing fresh vegetables came to the rescue.

We filled a flask of freshly squeezed silver beet and beetroot juice (using the root and the leaves), mixed with 2 green apples, a whole lemon (without the zest) 2 carrots, a leaf of cabbage and a handful of parsley, then rushed it over to the hospital.

His wife and family got their own juicer and started giving him regular doses of freshly squeezed juice, high in iron, which has been steadily building up his red blood cell count.

We wish him well and are hoping for the best. 

Hang in there Joe!

UPDATE (as at Jan 21, 2013)

After a rigorous routine of freshly squeezed juices, Joe's Haemoglobin level was built up from 56 to 113. It was a slow process but Joe was finally able to get the heart surgery he needed and is now on the road to recovery. He’s convinced the juices helped and is now a fresh juice convert.

Thank you to all for your thoughts and prayers.