You may have heard of people who check on their plants before they retire at night, or get up in the middle of the night, torch in hand, to see how a prized plant is doing.
plantlets that sprouted around the mother plant flourished when grown on crushed brick.
At our farm, we have a neighbour who tinkers with his orchids until midnight every night, and I thought it was only because, like us, he lives in Bangkok and wants to make the most of his visits to the country. But I learned he tends his plants until the middle of the night even while in the capital.
Another farm neighbour took us on a tour of his greenhouse at night, explaining that ``the atmosphere is different. There's a magical feeling in seeing flowering orchids at night.''
You may find these people eccentric, but to me it's natural. Plant lovers who do not have time during the day find it relaxing to be with their plants after a long day's work and the gruelling traffic jam on the way home. Then too, some garden pests are active at night, and examining a prized plant in the middle of the night could save it from being devoured by a snail or caterpillar.
plants that grow from this fishtail fern mature into different forms from the mother plant.
And yes, indeed, there's a magical feeling in seeing flowers in the garden at night, especially if you planted them yourself. What's more, some flowers exude their perfumes and are therefore better enjoyed at night.
Night or day, you have to keep an eye on your plants. By checking them regularly, you can avoid pest infestations which might necessitate drastic action later on _ use of pesticides or severe pruning, for example _ or could even kill a prized plant.
Noticing ants scampering up and down the trunk of a two-year-old sapling I had planted, I checked the leaf buds and confirmed my suspicion that the leaves had mealy bugs. These are small insects with bodies covered by a fluffy white, cotton-like substance. Unchecked, they can suck the life out of a plant. As the pests were confined on the young leaves, I squashed them with my hands until nothing was left. When I checked the tree the following day and on subsequent days, the ants were also gone.
When you see small ants on a plant, check closely as they are known to work in close partnership with mealy bugs. They act like shepherds, pasturing the mealy bugs on the tree, and in return these release honeydew that serves as food for the ants. Another tell-tale sign of the presence of mealy bugs is when plants under a tree look dirty with leaves covered with sooty mould. Hibiscus and roses are very vulnerable to mealy bugs, so be extra vigilant when you have these flowering plants in your garden.
Once your plants are infected, either remove the pests by hand, apply a cotton ball dipped in alcohol, or spray them with white oil, available in gardening supply stores. Avoid the use of pesticides whenever possible.
By observing your plants regularly, you also get to know their propagating and growing habits. Noppadon Na-ngern, owner of Tanawasri Fern Garden in Ang Thong, related that young plants had sprouted around a flowering plant he had in his nursery, but when he repotted these in good soil, the plants died. He next placed them on broken bricks, and the plants prospered. Now he has several of these plants growing in his nursery.
The seedlings, which looked like Impatiens although I have never seen one as tall as the mother plant, could have germinated from seeds, but Mr Noppadon also noticed that the stalk bearing the flowers becomes elongated until it reaches the ground, upon which a plantlet sprouts.
Mr Noppadon takes pride in his large collection of ferns, many of which mutated in his nursery, including a Nephrolepis fern with leaves up to two metres long. ``Plants that grow from the spores of that fern,'' he said, pointing to a hanging Nephrolepis falcata, or fishtail fern, ``develop into various forms so different from the mother plant. I've never seen one which grew to look exactly like it.''
So, what does he do if he wants ferns that look exactly the same as the mother plant? ``The only way is by plant division,'' he said. Nephrolepis ferns multiply into many plants and once they outgrow their pot they can be easily divided and repotted into different containers.
DARK DINER: This leaf eater is active at night.
WATCHMAN: By checking his plants regularly, Noppadon Na-ngern gets to know their propagating and growing habits.
About the author
- Writer: Normita Thongtham