26
Jul
15

Experimental projects

Over the past month, I have started several experimental projects including growing of plants in plastic bottles containing nutrient solution (aquaponics), seed propagation, cutting propagation, air layering and grafting. Some of these have been practiced over hundreds of years; however, I am trying out some new probably untried experiments such as grafting persimmon (fruit) on to a flowering plant stock, growing tropical plants such as sapota and white pumpking (seeds from India), cuttings placed in plastic bottles containing some water until signs of roots appear and then placing them in soil, and so on.

In brief, here they are:

1. Aquaponics

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Simple aquaponics tools

The most important component is obviously the nutrient solution in which the plant has to grow. I selected a two part Hyponica pack (A, B) that I mixed in a 500-ml distilled water solution (1 ml of A and 1 ml of B), which I used to immerse the cleaned roots of plants such as tomato, mint and  perilla plants. The growth after a few weeks seem to be OK, but not as fast as in soil. I will probably increase the frequency of replenishing the solution to about 3 times a week.

For the container, I cut transversely a 2-liter green-tea plastic container and inverted the top half on to the bottom half. If the cut is at the right location, there is no need to tape or hold the upper half in place – it fits snugly on to the bottom half.

I have placed the containers in a shaded but brightly lit balcony.

I also plant to support the plants from the top (by tying them to hooks on the ceiling). Presently, the roots are dipping in the solution supported by branches that rest on the edges of the plastic bottles.

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Two tomato plants in nutrient solution

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Two mint plants flanked by tomato and perilla

 

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2. Air layering 

Rose of Sharon

I decided to propagate Rose of Sharon by air layering. I cut off the bark gently and on the exposed portion, wound around moist sphagnum moss, wrapped it over with plastic and tied it with plastic wire. I have no idea whether this will work; but its fun trying it out. Will report results next month.

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Air layering – Peach

The peach tree has not been given flowers so I decided to propagate it by air layering and pay more attention to raising the new plant (hopefully!) Again, will post results next month.

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3. Grafting

Persimmon on flowering tree – far-fetched?

I have taken a step into the unknown world – I had a Japanese flowering tree giving small white flowers with more leaves than flowers; I cut off the upper part, cut a notch into the center of the stem and inserted a wedged persimmon cutting and wound it up with some moist sphagnum moss to retain moisture. Let’s see what happens after a month.

 

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4. Propagation by cutting – 2 kinds of oranges

My friend Utiyama-san gave me some cuttings for two kinds of oranges which I promptly inserted into seed mix and covered up with a transparent plastic bag. Look forward to root germination in at least some of these.

 

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5.  Pineapple top

Carefully cut off the top of a ripe pineapple, removed the basal leaves to expose roots, and planted the top into potting mix. I am hoping that the outer leaves will fall off new leaves will emanate from the center and bring up a new pineapple plant.

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6. Propagation by cuttings after soaking them in water

Fig cuttings – some with buds

Took some fig cuttings from the tree in my garden and placed them in a 2-liter transparent plastic bottle for about 3 days when white dots appeared around the nodes – see the photo below.

 

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Fig cutting after three days with bottom end immersed in water

I put these cuttings into potting mix and will keep them for about a month or so. Will post results next month.

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Persimmon and pawpaw cuttings

Similar to fig cuttings, I also have pear, persimmon and pawpaw cuttings in bottle since mid July in plastic bottles. Not sure about persimmon but I hope to root pawpaw and pear cuttings.

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7. Growing from seeds

Mexican mango seed extracted

I couldn’t resist getting the seed out of a Mexican mango that I ate. Split the har shell and got out the inner seed; removed the black thin covering and disconnected the umbilical. Planted the entire seed in compost+ light soil and  covered it with transparent plastic to retain moisture. See photo below.

 

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Mango seed in compost + light soil

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Labeled, covered and stored in shaded location

 

 

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Avocado seed in water

This time I’m patiently going to wait until the avacado seed splits and throws out a root and leaves! I change the water every day after sticking toothpicks as above. After about 20 days, there seem to be results!

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 Avacado seed after twenty days

The root seems to be developing within and soon it should come out of the bottom. I wonder how the leaves will open out.

 

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California lemon

After consuming a large yellow California lemon, I planted the seeds and the lemon saplings seem to be growing. I have no idea whether it will grow to be a good lemon tree and give lemons – but I plan to use it as bonsai and as rootstock for grafting from lemon/orange trees.

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Sapota saplings from seeds

The Sapota seeds I brought over from India have finally germinated – planted them around second week of May but the seeds germinated only around July first week. Shows that every seed takes its own time!

I have about 5 to 6 Sapota saplings and will be happy even if two survive and grow well.

 

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Cutting propagation box

Since July/August is the right season for propagating cuttings, I bought a transparent plastic box and filled with with a mix of vermiculite/akadama soil/peat moss and planted a bunch of cuttings in the moist mixture. The box has a nice air-tight lid and I remove the lid and spray some water on the soil to keep it moist and air the cuttings.

 

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Collecting seeds

When this flower dries out, you can remove the petals and find arrow-head shaped seeds at the core.

Every marigold flower gives nearly a hundred seeds. I’m planning to have lots of marigolds and zinnia next year!

 

In parallel with the experiments, I have been collecting seeds especially of Zinnia, marigold, water melon, beans for the next year. I have placed this seeds in paper packets and labeled them; then put them in a plastic box and placed them in a refrigerator.

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Daily harvest

Meanwhile, my small harvest everyday continues; a typical harvest is like the above. Sometimes, there are more tomatoes and green pepper than cucumber and eggplants. I have also harvested beans, malkheiya, small radish, okra and corn from my office garden. The edamame however, were a failure. I think the plants or the soil properties were unfavorable. The edamame plants never grew to a bush – maybe I should have used more organic fertilizer.

July has been a fairly busy month with growing/propagating/experimenting. August promises to be better, as the results of the experiments should be out.

Have a great day!

12
Jul
15

from my home garden

May to August are probably the busiest months while I’m in Japan. I have three simultaneous activities going on – office garden, home garden, bonsai and experimental projects. I’ll show you what has bloomed and grown in my home garden in this period.

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Lily or yuri in Japanese

The roots are bulbs that can be removed after the flowering and stored in a cool place in the house to be brought back and planted in spring next year. I love flowers that grow from bulbs!

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Rose (bara in Japanese) in a planter

The only rose that bloomed in the planter this year! I need to take better care with this plant and prune regularly for more flowers.

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Hydrangea (or ajisai in Japanese)

I love these blooms; they look wonderful, require little maintenance and come up year after year faithfully. All I do is cut off well beneath the dead flowers every August and trim the bush.

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Hydrangea close-up

Isn’t she beautiful? This variety of Hydrangea is called Gakugei Ajisai in Japanese. The white flowers develop spots of red as days elapse. I propagated this plant through cutting and have another bush elsewhere in my home garden.

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Zinnia

This is the first time I have planted Zinnia. I must say the flowers are durable – more than a month has passed and they flowers are still intact on their stalks! I planted the yellow and white Zinnia together with marigold of a different variety (supposedly large blooms) but have yet to see a Marigold bloom. The slender leaved plant is in front of the Zinnias in the photo above.

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Fig (or ichijiku in Japanese)

The fig tree in my home garden has been giving me delicious figs – luckily the fig leaves are hiding the fruits from the birds, so the fruits are still intact. The harvest has just started; I think around August I should have about 30-40 figs.

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Cucumber (or kyuri in Japanese) flower

Constant rains and cloudy weather has kept the sun away and caused abnormal growth; my cucumber plants at home after yielding plenty of cucumbers suddenly had huge yellow flowers and no cucumbers. This is the first time I saw a flower so big.

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Flowers from my home garden

They freshen up the dining table!

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Morning glory – pink

The first of these flowers have come up on the net.  Have also planted a purple morning glory plant nearby. Within a month, I expect the entire net in front of the large windows will be a curtain in pink and purple.

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Morning glory – purple

The first purple morning glory has bloomed! The best part of these flowers is that around September/October when the plants are dead, you’ll find lots of seeds. Collect them, place them in a cool place and grow them next season.

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Morning glory – monotone

I planted a couple of these along my fence. When in full bloom, the entire fence will be covered with these flowers. You need to take care to lead them in the right direction every day.

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Rose of Sharon

Finally, the first of these flowers has bloomed belatedly. At the beginning of spring, I went into a frenzy of pruning and wielded my shears wildly. The poor Rose of Sharon plant became a small shade of itself – yet it has forgiven me and has started giving out beautiful flowers.

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Mixed collection from Karuizawa

On a recent road trip to Karuizawa with friends, I picked up several flowering plants including pink geranium, mini rose, margaret (?) and bulbous begonias that resemble the rose. The weather is much cooler in Karuizawa, so I prefer to place these in the shade.

Next post – experimental projects coming soon!

Have a great day!

 

11
Jun
15

restarting my office garden

Since returning to Japan beginning of May, I have re-started my office garden after a lapse of more than two years. The plot was in rather good shape, thanks to the landlord who had maintained it free of weeds. I dug up the ground, mixed compost, levelled the soil, fixed a gate to the fence and generally strengthened the fencing. After some work, one of the four square-foot plots looked like this:

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Square foot plot ready for planting

After about 10 days, I planted an assortment of vegetables:

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First square-foot plot with assorted veggies

These included corn (8), tomato (2), cucumber (4), eggplant (4), chilli (4) and Okhra (8). I reduced the number of tomato plants, as I plan to reproduce more tomato plants from the two plants that I bought and planted.

This is what it looked like two weeks later:

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Two weeks later

First row facing: Okhra and marigold

Second row: Eggplant and chilli

Third row: Cucumber and tomato

Fourth row: Corn

 

Here is a snapshot of the second square-foot plot:

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Second square-foot plot

I planted two rows of French beans (16), one row of Eda mame (8), and one row of peanuts (8).

Here is how it looks two weeks later (today):

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Two weeks later

Beans are looking good, and so are the eda mame plants. Peanuts (last row) haven’t grown as well as I expected.

 

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Third square-foot plot

On the third square foot plot, I planted three red/white Indian pumpkin that I cultivated from seeds, four water melon saplings and two Mulukhiya saplings (these are full of nutrition and make great soups). I plan to use the remaining two rows for saplings grown separately from seeds at home.

Here is how the plot above looks two weeks later:

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Two weeks later

I planted seeds of small radish in two lines in the third row and they have started coming up well. The radishes will be harvested within a month after planting the seeds.

In the last row, I planted carrot seeds. Nothing has come up yet.

 

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Fourth square-foot plot

While the plot above looks as if a typhoon has run through it, in reality, this is how the first two rows of sweet potato that you plant initially looks like. After watering them plentifully for a few days, the leaves perk up and stand erect. See next photo taken after a week.

The first two rows in the foreground are sweet-potato saplings (16) (they are sold in this condition; look rather pitiful!). In the next row, I planted Indian eggplant cultivated from seeds (8). In the last row, I planted two tomato (large) plants and two wax gourd saplings. The remaining space is for tomato plants that I will reproduce.

Here is what it looks like two weeks later (today)

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Two weeks later

A dramatic change in the sweet potato plants – they are all standing erect and are healthy. Compare the photo above with this one to see the difference.

Finally, here is an overall view of the entire plot:

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Overall view

I’m generally pleased with the growth (except for peanuts and okhra). I’ll probably change the fertilizer for these two kinds of plants from bat guano to some other.

That’s all for this post, folks. I’ll take up my home garden and the flowers blooming there in my next post.

Have a great day!

18
May
15

Back to my home garden in Japan

After four months in India, I am back furiously at work to spruce up my home garden.

Here are some flowers in bloom:

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Dianthus or Nadeshiko in Japanese

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Two colors of German Iris

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Azalea or tsutsuji in Japanese                                           Spiraea or Kodemari in Japanese

A few of my bonsai creations:

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Maple or momiji in Japanese – hoping it will turn red in autumn

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Lemon – hoping that some lemons will turn up some day!

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Assorted – Pine, yesterday, today and tomorrow (white and purple flowers) and another flowering plant

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Another German Iris – couldn’t resist clicking and sharing this photo with you

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Geraniums in full bloom

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Scented geranium

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Yesterday, today and tomorrow in full bloom at the fence – excellent aroma

More on vegetables and my office garden in the next post!

Have a great day!

25
Apr
15

revisiting my balcony garden in bangalore

I am in Bangalore, India, since the last four months. When I returned, my potted plants watered by the watchmen at the apartment where I stay  were in bad shape. Over these four months, with tender loving care, I have brought them back to good health! In the meanwhile, I visited Lalbagh on Independence day and came across some glorious flowers! Here are some samples.

 

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Flowers forming the Red Fort in New Delhi

 

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Fruit plants on sale were tempting, but since I was to stay for a short period, I resisted

 

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Shanka Pushpa or Butterfly Pea

I’m growing them for the first time – I like the shape. They grow profusely and also yield seeds, which I plan to take to Japan.

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Jasmine – star shaped and delicate aroma!

Before the second spurt of flowers in this plant, monkeys plucked off the buds and threw them away! Pure mischief.

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Closeup of the jasmine

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Periwinkle

These flowers grow profusely in March/April in Bangalore. Miss a day’s water and the leaves curl up – water them immediately and they are healthy again.

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I got bulbs of the lovely pink flower from Japan and planted them here. I forget the name – Zachyrantes or similar sounding name; this spelling did not give me any hits on the net.

 

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Bougainvillea

Just started turning red. I expect several more bunches of red at the corner of my balcony over the next few months.

 

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Plumeria

I grew this plumeria from seed, but I’m going to give it away to a good home. Let it grow big and yield beautiful aromatic flowers!

 

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Aloe Vera

A friend recommended the gel from this plant as after shave, and by golly, it is good. I plan to grow this in Japan as well, and make natural shampoo out of it.

 

All for now! I have to pack and leave for Japan. The next post will be from Japan.

Have a great day!

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29
Dec
14

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

05
Dec
14

Summer and autumn

Work dominated this period and I was unable to post over the past few months. I hope to make up for it through this and subsequent posts.

Firstly, the water melon in planter raised my spirits initially but brought me down with a thump!

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Water-melon in planter

It grew well and I rigged up supports and a plastic sheet to support the water melon. Unfortunately I made a small mistake – I did not cut a hole in the plastic sheet! I remembered this and rushed into my garden at night because rain had fallen that day. I was too late – see the photo below.

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Spoiled!

Water had already accumulated and the bottom had become rotten. Lesson learnt – never forget nature. It can rain any time and make sure you protect your plant well.

I cut out the offending part; the melon was developing into a nice pink color. I removed the seeds and had preserved them for the next year. Another lesson I learned is that although three to five flowers developed into fruit, you can probably grown only one melon in a planter since all the nutrition will taken up by the growing melon. Ah well, there’s always next year and better sense will prevail.

Let me run through summer’s offerings quickly.

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Eggplant, tomatoes, and green pepper

I had a good harvest of tomatoes and eggplants last summer, but green pepper was/is extraordinary. Although it is 10 degrees Celsius outside, the green pepper plants are still thriving. I picked about eight or so yesterday and don’t have the heart to pull them up and dispose of them.

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Formosa Lily and Wisteria

The Formosa Lily turned up unattended at various locations around my house (this one is at the entrance). I picked up hundreds of seeds, and am waiting to try them out in India next year.  I love the Wisteria too, with its delicate fragrance. I have two small Wisteria trees in my garden; though the flowers look good, the leaves grow so furiously during the growing season that you need to trim them almost every day; else they will take over the garden.

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Hosta or Plantain Lily (called Giboshi in Japanese)

The Hosta with decorative green leaves and bunches of white flowers were in abundance too. The tomato plant in front is in a planter. I have two varieties of Hosta planted in the same bed. The other variety has colorful foliage.

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Morning Glory

The Morning Glory flowers grew all over the fence. I am afraid they dropped seeds into my neighbors’ gardens and they should have plenty of morning glory plants next summer – I’m not sure whether they’ll be pleased or displeased.

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Figs

My fig tree gave me great joy this year. I must have harvested about 25-30 delicious figs through autumn this year. I had to cut a lot of the branches since my garden is quite compact; in the process, I must have reduced the harvest.

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Ginger Lily

My favorite summer flower is the Ginger Lily. The fragrance, especially when the wind blows on summer nights is, divine. I plan to dig up some roots and give them to several of my friends. I have already planted them in about three places around my house. They just keep multiplying!

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Hibiscus

My friend, Toyama-san, gave me a potted Hibiscus in summer. It gave a pretty nice flower; the season for this plant is short. I moved it inside the house as soon as the weather turned cold. I‘m hoping it will survive the winter in Japan.

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Red Spider Lily (Higanbana in Japanese) and Sweet Olive (Kinmokusei in Japanese)

These flaming red flowers grow only in a particular time of the year in Japan; they are found planted near graveyards. They plant them on graves because it shows a tribute to the dead. The bulbs are considered poisonous and keep away pests.

The Sweet Olive tree on the right side blooms with bunches of golden flowers and gives off a fragrant smell. This is probably the largest tree in my garden. You can also see the Rose of Sharon (pink flowers) to the left side of this tree.

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Japanese anemone (shumeigiku in Japanese)

These pink flowers grow on long thin stems and sway gently in the air. I have had these for more than 8 years now. They bloom dutifully every year without needing much care.

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Toad lily

Here are a bunch of toad lily plants that prospered in autumn. The individual flowers are very colorful and good to look at. The plants do multiply and spread very fast every year; so I need to remove the excess and control their growth every year.

That’s all for this post, folks! Have a great day!




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