Flora & Fruit



Camellia Sinensis (Orchid)           Coconut with many branches                          Barberton Daisies


                                                      Ehelamal                               Kaduppul

Nuware Eliya Flowers

Araliya (Temple Flower)

Anthurium                                                            Aster


Daily News Mon Apr 9 2007

House plant problems

WHILE many problems are related to insects and disease, most seem to be of an environmental nature.

House plants are all hybrids or species plants which grow wild somewhere in the world. Try to match the environment from where the plant originated from for the best success.

You may not be able to match every criteria for the plant, but every step you take towards the plants comfort will be a giant step towards keeping it healthy.

Temperature, humidity and light

Houseplants, even though they may be of a tropical nature would rather sacrifice a few degrees of temperature in the home than the moisture in the air which they need to survive.

Even though the plant may prefer a warmer situation, it comes down to the lesser of two evils, cool temps or low humidity. Heated rooms tend to be dry rooms, especially if they are heated with forced air, or fire.

Even rooms that have steam or hot water radiant heat will be somewhat dryer. Keep in mind that because glass is a poor insulator, the temperature near windows will be considerably colder. At night, be sure to close the drapes or move the plant to a warmer part of the room.

There are exceptions to the rule. Succulents being the most notable, which prefer warmer and drier conditions.

At temperatures below 60 degrees, African violets will stop blooming, and the leaves of Gardenias may turn yellow.

Leaf loss or yellowing is often caused by lack of humidity. The majority of houseplants do best with a relative humidity of between 50 and 70 per cent.

Plants create a certain amount of humidity themselves through transpiration through their leaves, from the soil, and even the pots if they are porous.

The more plants you have in a room, the higher the humidity will be, and if the closer the plants are together, the more they will be able to benefit each other.

Setting the pots onto a bed of small pebbles and gravel in a shallow tray will allow you to add water to the tray, raising the humidity without giving the plants ‘wet feet’.

Except for fuzzy leaved ones, houseplants enjoy a daily misting with room temperature water. Placing water filled vessels around the room will also add to the moisture in the room.

Do you talk to your plants? No.... don’t believe that they understand you, but plants breathe CO2 which we exhale, and in turn they exhale oxygen which we need.

Watering, just as feeding your plant differs greatly from season to season. Plants sense the natural shortening of daylight hours and may go dormant as they would in their natural habitat. This is usually a time when the amount of watering is decreased.

On the other hand, many plants actively begin to grow or bloom, so they must have more water, and be fed. While plants are dormant they should only a minimum amount of water each time that the soil becomes dry to the touch an inch below the surface.

During periods of active growth the plant should be thoroughly soaked as soon as the soil dries.

There are no hard and fast rules to watering, because every situation is different, according to temperatures, and soil types etc. It is better to keep a plant on a slightly dry side than overwatered. More houseplants die from overwatering than any other cause.

City water is treated with chemicals for your safety, however plants don’t like chlorine or fluoride, so it’s a very good idea to allow the water to sit in an open container for 24 hours prior to using it on your plants. This is enough time for the chemicals to dissipate and evaporate from the water.

Insufficient light usually manifests itself with pale foliage, lanky growth, and general lack of luster. When this happens you must do whatever you can to increase the light intensity for that plant.

This is usually rectified by moving the plant closer to the window, or moving it to another room with different light exposure. When you change the light for a plant, do it gradually to accustomize to the brighter light.

Plants will sunburn if they are put into too bright of a light after their skins have ‘tenderized’ from lack of light.

Plants should never be placed between a curtain and the window if the nights are cold, even if they are sun lovers. It is better to have a sheer curtain which will admit the light, and have the plant in the heated area.

Good cultural practices will eliminate many diseases and other houseplant problems. If insects and fungal diseases are a problem, visit a reputable nursery to find an appropriate chemical to combat the problem, and always read and follow the manufacturers recommendations for that product.

Many problems may be halted by removing damaged parts of the plant if they are detected early enough.

However vigilance is necessary afterward to make sure that you have completely eliminated the problem.

Flower of the week: Beloved Asters

THOUGH not the easiest to grow, asters are among the most beloved of flowers. The large blooms can take a variety of forms, and daisy- and chrysanthemum-like forms are common.

You’ll also find a wide variety of colors including white, creamy yellow, pink, red, blue, lavender or purple, often with yellow centers. Varieties range in height from 6 inches up.

They do well in beds and borders, and are a favorite as cut flowers. Since they are prone to disease, avoid planting in the same location year after year. In dry weather, water by soaking the soil; don’t sprinkle the plant.

Keep faded flowers and yellowing foliage pinched off to encourage new blooms. These fragrant flowers will bloom from early summer to late summer and are resistant to deer.

Disease free plants may be dug and added to the compost pile at the end of the season.

Daily News Apr 2 2007

Steps to an ideal Rock Garden

If your property has a slope dotted with interesting or weathered rock formations, you have an ideal spot for a rock garden. If nature hasn’t provided you with the ideal location, all you need is a few loads of topsoil and some rocks. If you must bring in your own rocks and soil, start small. The job may be bigger than you think.


Rocks native to your area will look natural and will be the cheapest and easiest to obtain. Large rocks with irregular shapes look interesting in the rock garden, but keep in mind that you’ll need smaller rocks, too. Limestone is a good selection.

The rock is soft and porous, allowing moisture to seep through, and some determined roots will be able to make their way through the rock. Limestone usually has depressions in it that can be filled with dirt for planting mosses and lichens.

Set the rocks in the lowest, front part of the garden first and work upward. Shovel enough soil around each rock to anchor it firmly. You may need to bury half or more of each rock.

After the rocks are in place, let the soil settle around them for a few days, then take a look from a distance to be sure you like the layout before adding plants.


There is an endless variety of plants to choose from. Low growing perennials are the best, but since many of those best suited to rock gardens bloom only in the spring, consider strategic placement of summer-blooming heaths, heathers, herbs and annuals to add color during the rest of the season.

Some purists feel that a rock garden should contain only those plants which grow naturally on rocky slopes in poor soil.

Most rock gardens, however, are not located in cool climates with long winters where these plants do well. When selecting your plants, make sure they are right for your climate and exposure.

Rock Garden Care

Think of your rock garden as a collection of potted plants, and tend them accordingly. Loosen the soil in each area occasionally with a small garden fork. Most rock plants do well in poor soil, but the occasional addition of manure or compost will give them a boost.

Routine care will include cutting back any leggy plants after flowering, clipping off dead stems and foliage, and dividing any plants that become root-bound or too large for its space. Check for insects and diseases regularly.

Slugs may be especially pesky because they enjoy the shelter found among the rocks. Never let weeds grow in the nooks and crannies. They will easily crowd out plants in small areas.

Flower of the week: ‘Araliya’ the sacred temple flower

ARALIYA is also called the temple flower because it is often used as temple offerings and is planted near temples. In India the tree is a symbol of immortality because of its habit of producing leaves and flowers even after it has been lifted out of the soil.

The Temple tree originated in tropical America and it is not certain whether it was introduced in Sri Lanka by the Portuguese or much earlier.

The ladies depicted in the Sigiriya frescoes appear to be carrying flowers very similar to those of the Araliya. If they are in fact meant to be Araliya flowers then the tree would have been introduced 1500 or more years ago.

With its gnarled branches, long leaves and distinctive flowers, the Araliya is easily one of the most common and identifiable trees in Sri Lanka.

The flowers which appear in clusters, again at the end of the branches, are scented. The petals are waxy and the centre of the flower is usually a different colour to the rest of it. For example the white flowers generally have a yellow centre.

There are many varieties ranging from deep crimson to orange to white. The flowering season is from March to May but throughout the year the tree usually produces flowers.

The scientific name is Plumeria obtuse which it gets from the 17th century French botanist Charles Plumier.

It is commonly referred to as the Frangipani after the famous fragrance created by Muzio Frangipani. In Sinhala it is known as the Araliya and in Tamil as the Arali or Perungalli.

DN Mon Mar 26 2007

Flower of the week: Zinnias - If you grow them butterflies will come

Zinnias will reward you with bundles of colorful blooms in the summer provided that you give them rich, loamy soil in a sunny place. Don’t over-water! Zinnias like hot, dry weather.

Cut them frequently to encourage branching and to prolong blooming. Resist the urge to line plants up singly as an edging; zinnias are more appealing as an irregular mass of bright colours.

The flowers have a range of appearances, from a single row of petals, to a dome shape, with the colours white, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, purple and lilac.

Be aware that zinnias dislike root disturbance. Harden them off gradually by setting flats outdoors for a few hours each day.

Transplant carefully after weather is reliably warm, trying not to expose the roots. Water seedlings upon planting but infrequently during summer. When growth resumes, give them a light application of fertilizer.

The hairy leaves of zinnias are prone to powdery mildew in humid areas and during late summer and fall, when dew is heavy.

Space plants to give them adequate air circulation and avoid overhead watering, which spreads the mildew spores. No one will notice if you have removed infected leaves before filling a vase with an assortment of festive zinnias.

Zinnias excel as cut flowers; their rigid stems hold long-lasting blossoms that don’t drop petals. They are especially favoured by butterflies, and many gardeners add zinnias specifically to attract them.

Grab a camera: 12 tips to take better garden pictures

*Shoot early in the morning. Follow this tip and you will take better garden pictures all season long, guaranteed. The light is softer early in the day, and flowers and leaves often have dew or raindrops that can add interest, especially for close-ups.

*Mornings are also ideal for low wind. There is often no breeze or wind early in the day, which cuts down on motion-blur to keep your flower and garden scenes sharp.

*Bright, sunny afternoons are the worst time to take pictures. That’s because the sun casts contrasty shadows that look black, and the harsh light washes out flower colours. However, another good time for pictures is in early evening when the light becomes soft and warm again.

*Calm, overcast days also let you take better garden pictures. On such days, the bright white sky acts as a huge reflector, intensifying leaf and flower colours. Just be sure to compose your pictures, so that you crop out sweeps of white sky.

*White sky can confound your camera’s light meter. This can make the subject of your picture look too dark. If you leave the sky out of your composition, you will avoid this problem.

*Use a tripod. It’s difficult to keep a camera completely steady without a tripod. Hand-held photographs, especially those taken in lower light conditions often suffer from “camera shake.” The result: blurry pictures from camera movement.

*A tripod makes a great tool for better composition. Even with cameras and lenses that have “anti-shake” technology, using a tripod forces you to slow down and take more time to compose and frame your pictures.

*Weed and groom your garden before taking pictures. Things your eye skips over in real time - dry twigs or faded flowers, or a hose left on the grass - are very distracting in a photo, so look carefully before you press the shutter.

*Fill the frame with your subject. Get in close for a great picture of your perfect peony, and keep your background as uncluttered as possible. Don’t put flowers smack-dab in the middle of the photo. If your subject is in shade, avoid bright backgrounds.

*Focus on what it is that drew you to take that particular picture. Most people try to get too much into a single photo. Emphasize your subject and crop unnecessary details out. Keep asking yourself: What is this picture really about?

*For a fresh take on your garden, try different view points. We all get used to seeing our own gardens from particular places. To break out of the predictable, get down low to photograph low-growing plants, or take a stepladder or shoot from an upstairs window to look down a garden bed. Try photographing from behind or even in a flowerbed.

*To take better garden pictures, use lines in the landscape to suggest depth. Cameras turn three-dimensional subjects into flat two-dimensional photos. A common pro trick to add depth is to use lines in a scene on a diagonal.

Take better garden pictures for planning:

*Take lots of photos through the season. This is easier than ever with digital as you don’t have to worry about the cost of film and developing.

Go out every two to three weeks. Then use the photos to keep a record of what you like - such as great plant combinations - or to assess areas that need improvement.

*A panoramic view is useful for visualizing change. Stand in one spot and take two or three different garden photos, making sure each frame overlaps the previous one slightly.

* Then you can tape your prints together for a complete overview of the garden.

* Even better, with a photo-editing program on your computer, you can ‘stitch’ digital pictures together to create a single image.

* Blow this picture up, print it, and cover it with see-through tracing paper.

You can draw on the tracing paper to help you visualize landscaping changes, such as what your garden will look like when young trees have grown taller.

 F R U I T

Mangosteen                                    Rambuttan                                        Duriyan