Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lemongrass at Last

Two lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) seedlings found their way into my garden last week when I bought two plants from Green Acres.  During the last two decades of living here in California, this is the first time I owned a live lemongrass!  

When I was growing up in the Philippines, my grandmother always had a huge specimen of this herb in our backyard.  I can still remember how it grew so robustly in a seemingly shady space as it was situated between the banana plants and a dwarf jackfruit tree.  Whenever my grandmother prepared fresh-water fish and shell fish, which were so common in our diet back then, I always expected she'd ask me to get some leaves of the 'baraniw' (the Ilocano term for the lemongrass) for her.

From what I can recall, the plant prefers to grow in soil rich is organic matter.  My grandmother did not have to water her plant since it rained almost nine months per year in her garden.  In my case, however, I will have to compensate for the dry condition of the area through watering until the plants get established. 

During my growing up years, I never saw a lemongrass flower - which means that the only method of propagation for the plant I've seen so far is cloning.  However, I am prepared to see the effect of the different photoperiod on this side of the globe on the flowering of lemongrass.  It will be a good experience to grow this tropical plant in our Mediterranean climate. 

So far, the plants have been transferred into larger pots although I intend to plant one of them in the ground soon.

The lemongrass looks nondescript but the citrusy fragrance of the plant is not common at all. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sempervivum arachnoideum

Fig. 1   Sempervivum arachnoideum

One of the many succulents that are proliferating in my backyard is the Sempervivum arachnoideum -commonly called "Hen and Chicks" or "Cobweb Houseleek".  Every year when the temperatures start to warm up, they multiply by sending out runners that look like tentacles from within the overlapping layers of the older leaves. 

I noticed that the rosettes of leaves during the winter months (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2) do not show as much 'cobweb' and are not as tightly arranged as the Sempervivum arachnoideum in the hotter months. This could be an effect of lower light intensity and shorter photoperiod combined with sufficient soil moisture during the cooler months.  The plant tries to expose as much of its leaf area in order to maximize exposure to sunlight. The lose rosettes therefore could be a symptom of stress from insufficient.  On the contrary, under adversely hot conditions, the plant's natural reaction is to prevent moisture loss - and thus closing as much exit points of moisture as possible.

Fig. 2   Sempervivum arachnoideum: loosely-arranged rosettes and insignificant 'cobweb'.

Regardless of their seasonal behavior, Sempervivum arachnoideum in small containers look great.  I intend to grow more of them this way and give as presents to house guests. 
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