Bleeding Hearts!

A friend gifted us this plant many years ago, and it makes its yearly appearance every spring in one corner of our garden. The flowers are beautiful pink and white and arranged in long pendants. The bleeding heart plant (Lamprocapnos spectabilishas other common names including “lady in a bath”.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Bleeding heart)

Please click on the picture for more options to see this photo on Flickr.

Begonia (at length)

Lacking any suitable objects to photograph today, I turned to the Begonia plant on the kitchen sill. These photographs all use long exposures (up to 50 seconds) and no flash, using nothing but ambient kitchen light.

f/11 19 seconds. Click on the photograph to see a larger version on Flickr.
f/16 22 seconds. Click on photograph for a larger version in Flickr
f/16 40 seconds. Click on photograph for a larger version.
f/16 50 seconds. 32mm extension tube used. Click on photograph for a larger version on Flickr.


The idea behind these photographs were ostensibly to test out the new shutter release cable I purchased a few days ago. I was also experimenting with the use of cool white LED lights and their effect on the overall white balance of the photographs.

Technical Details:
Nikon D7000 with Sigma 105mm f/2.8 macro lens
ISO 100
Processed in Adobe Lightroom 5.3
Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod with Giotto MH5011 head


Agave – the “fake” cactus plants

Agaves are commonly mistaken to be cacti due to their appearance – spiny thick succulent leaves etc. However, Agaves are not related to cacti or Aloe, with whom they share a passing resemblance. The agave plants are monocarpic, which means that they flower only once in their lifetimes after which they die. As the flowering cycle could be decades, some species of Agave are also known as century plants.

Agave bovicornuta

The photograph above is that of Agave bovicornuta from the New York Botanical gardens taken with an iPhone 4S and post-processed in Adobe Light 5.0.


Mirabilis jalapa – Marvel of Peru

I bought 4 tubers of Mirabilis jalapa (4 o’clock flower, marvel of Peru) at the Bloemenmarkt (flower market) in Amsterdam. I wasn’t expecting much from these plants, given that they are really for warm temperate regions and not the United Kingdom. To my surprise, they have taken well to the local conditions (even the miserable summer) we’ve had.

I’m not really sure what to do with these plants now that winter is soon approaching. The advice appears to be divided between leaving them in place with mulch and hope for the best year to digging the tubers up till the next year. Since I do have two in the ground and two in pots, I’ll probably try different methods and see which one works best! A proper scientific process!

Growing Indian Vegetables in the UK – Part 3

My previous two posts on the same subject commented on the germination, and growth of calabash and other indian vegetables in the UK. Unfortunately for us here in the United Kingdom, this was the wettest summer in the last 100 years. With lack of sunshine and lots of rain, many of the experiments I had planned to conduct on the efficacy of growing traditional indian vegetable came to nothing.

However, it was not all doom and gloom, and I’ve actually managed to harvest a few calabash (lauki, dudhi) this year (see picture below). The plants are now well over 10 feet long and have many young fruits on them (sadly, I think the winter will catch up and kill them before they get a chance to mature).

Lauki/Dudhi fruit about one foot long.

I have also had limited success with indian green aubergines (but not spectacularly).

Take-home lessons for 2013

At the end of the year, these are the lessons I’ve learned.

  • Start as early as possible with all Indian vegetable seeds (to give enough time to flower and fruit)
  • Use a heated germinator to maximise chances of growth. Germinate a second round of seeds a month after the first to use as backup
  • Keep the plants away from draughts, keep inside polythene bags to sustain growth
  • Gradually acclimatize to outside when all danger of frost has passed
  • Do not over water.
  • Plants such as Lauki and Karela are vigorous climbers and therefore need stable and strong support. They also grow really long (10 feet or more).
  • Once the first flowers appear, feed once a week with high potash fertilizer like tomorite.
  • Keep well watered
  • Beware of mildew (using a spray of 1tbsp baking soda with one teaspoon of dish washing liquid does wonders!)
  • Keep harvesting regularly to keep the flowers going.

You may wish to read the previous blogs on the same subject:

  1. Growing Indian Vegetables in the UK – Part 2
  2. Growing Indian Vegetables in the UK

Growing Indian Vegetables in the UK – Part 2

My last post in March on this subject dealt with the sowing and germination of often sought after indian vegetables that are difficult to grow under the temperate and wet conditions of the United Kingdom. This growing season has been one of the worst in the UK, with record rainfall and plummeting temperatures. As a result, the seedlings have had a long stay in the germinator and pots in a makeshift greenhouse. Ideally, the plants should have been out in their final positions by the beginning of May, but due to inclement conditions, they were only put outside in the beginning of June this year.

Lauki (Calabash) – The young plants have all survived the first growing phase, and were planted into plastic containers, with supporting stakes to give support to the delicate stems of the plant. Once the plants reached about a foot tall, they were trained on a trellis to enable their tendrils to twine around the support. The plants are in a sheltered place in full sun to maximise their chances of growth. The potting medium was one part topsoil, 2/3rds well-rotted compost and 1/3 grit to give good drainage.

Unfortunately, none of the ridged gourd (Turai) or bitter gourd plants made it to this stage, and died due to damping off disease brought upon by the unseasonal spring/summer this year. I have planted new seedlings using the methods described before.

Indian bottle gourd (calabash) plants. About 4 feet tall and flowering. The younger plants on the left are from a second round of germination.

The calabash plants are now flowering profusely. As with all members of the Cucurbitaceae family, the flowers are either male or female. In most members of this family of plants, that include courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers etc, male flowers are the first to emerge and can be easily identified by their absence of a fruit-like growth at the base of the flower. The female flowers appear a little later.

The female flowers are easily identifiable by the presence of a fruit at their base (as in the picture below).

These plants also branch extensively so it is a good idea to have a trellis or netting that allows for side shoots to grab and grow.

Now it is just an issue of wait and watch while the plant grows taller and hopefully produces decent sized gourd for consumption.

Additional Reading: