Gardening Stories – Keeping Volunteers

I’ve already mentioned in a previous post my propensity for hanging on to weeds or volunteers, as I prefer to call them. It only got worse as I became interested in ornamental gardening. In the past, I used to claim that I only planted edibles and medicinals, but ever since I did my first barter and got Vietnam rose and wingpod purslane, I started hankering after flowers.

After that, I did another barter wherein I got different lilies, mayanas (coleus), turtle vine, bleeding heart cadena de amor, pink polka dot plant, hibiscus, alocasia, and a few others I can’t recall right now, and my interest in ornamentals grew.

I never used to care about philodendrons and pothoses, but, now, I want to collect them. I guess I’ve been bitten by the plantita bug. I never considered myself a plantita before. I was a gardener, a wannabe backyard farmer, but not a plantita. I didn’t know a caladium from a calathea. I only very reluctantly kept indoor plants because I already sucked at housekeeping; it just wouldn’t do to add to the already long list of chores I habitually neglected.

But now, I’ve become a convert. I fell asleep the other night with visions of split and variegated leaves swimming in my mind. Last week while driving around Eastwood, which is landscaped with many ornamental plants, I kept on wanting to stop and ask the nearest guard for cuttings. I think from now on I won’t go out without my pruning shears at the ready. You never know when you’ll encounter somebody willing to let you snip from their plants.

This means that while I used to hesitate about yanking out volunteers on the chance that they’re edible or medicinal, now I also often choose to leave them alone for their ornamental value.

Syngonium with a kind of grass with tiny white dots for flowers. Planning to use grass for indoor flower arrangement, our allergies be darned.

I had this plant with pretty heart/arrow-shaped leaves spring up from the base of my potted lemon tree. I thought it would nice to keep it around. I asked for help identifying it in one of my gardening groups, and I was told that it was syngonium. Invasive and often considered a weed, it was now getting popular as an ornamental. Sure enough, in my gardening barter group, many have asked for syngonium in exchange for what they were offering.

There was also this kind of grass that grew under my starfruit plant. It had tiny purple flowers that were so pretty I didn’t have the heart to yank them out. When the blooms were gone, somebody yanked them out, but I don’t think it was me. And then there was this other weed that looked like creeping charlie (and might actually have been creeping charlie); it grew at the base of my kumquat. It’s gone now too. I should have repotted them or used them for decoration because they didn’t stay very long for some reason. I wish I had at least taken pictures.

Of course, I still have white and purple vincas (periwinkle) growing in the cracks of the garden wall. I leave those alone. My mom actually bought a vinca with fuchsia flowers, so I might get a cutting to propagate with and I’d be on my way to a veritable collection.

And then there are the ferns. I know next to zilch about ferns, which is funny because there was one point in my teenage years when I wished my name was Fern instead of Ivy. (Did that make you think of hanging pots of English ivy and Boston fern?) Anyway, I used to just yank volunteer ferns out, thinking unless they were fiddleheads, which would be great in a salad, I didn’t really care to keep them. Now that I’m more or less certifiable as a plantita, I’m repotting them and nurturing them to a thriving state. I actually gasped in dismay the other day when I found whole, already lush fern plants in my mom’s pile of garden discards.

Dill with fish fern(?) and oak fern(?)

Right now, I have what I think is a fish fern? I thought it looked like a sword or a Boston fern, but then I found this, so I’m thinking it’s most likely fish fern or pakong-alagdan (both edible and medicinal). I also have what I think looks most like oak fern, but, probably not. Anybody care to enlighten me?

Oak fern(?) with dragon fruit plant

I have other volunteer plants that turned out to be papaya, sambong, and crown of thorns. Obviously, I kept them. Every morning, I go out to¬†see what new plants have found their way to my yard. It’s one of the delights I derive from having a garden. There are plenty, of course. All that sprouting and budding and fruiting… it’s all pretty exciting. Let’s not even get into the fascinating creatures that choose to hang out there. Or the mushrooms! They’re always thrilling to discover. (That’s not just me, right?) Unfortunately, all that have appeared in my garden had rings around their stems, a sure sign that they were poisonous. Still, I’m glad to have these things for however short a time they get to stay.

Toxic cuties ūüėÄ

There are also volunteers I kept that turned out to be duds – in my opinion, anyway. On the grounds of our church’s former location, we used to harvest wild cucumber from volunteer vines that grew everywhere. Our old chapel was such a nice place. We planted mango, chirimoya, atis, mulberry, sapinit, and santol among other things around it. We’d been there since 1995, but a couple of years ago, our landlady decided to use the property herself – and then proceeded to change her mind several times. Unfortunately, we were long gone. Going back to my original track though, I thought I had the wild cucumber vine growing in my garden. I let it grow and flourish and… well, fester. It was so invasive, and it never flowered or bore fruit. I finally had the sense to get rid of it. In any case, I’m still here wishing one of the bugs and birds would accidentally gift me with a wild cucumber or a wild passionfruit.

My mom who has actual in-ground soil, not just paved space like I do, has a more lush collection of volunteers. She has is-is (ficus¬†ulmifolia), kapok (Java cotton), and akapulko (candle bush) among other trees. I happen to think those plants are a boon to have. Is-is leaves can be used as sandpaper and scouring pad. I also recently learned that its berries are edible. Meanwhile, kapok is a source of cotton, and akapulko is known in these parts as a remedy for skin issues. Back in the ’90s, my dog Maggie developed mange from an airborne virus (not mites, according to the vet), and somebody advised me to bathe him in boiled (and cooled, of course) akapulko leaves, flowers, and bark. Maggie’s skin cleared almost immediately.

It really does pay to keep volunteers in many cases. What about you? What volunteers have you been blessed with? Did you keep them? Or are you brutally committed to weeding them out? I’d really like to know.

Foraging the Garden – Mustard Greens as Natural Decongestant

I have insane allergies that seem to have gotten worse as I got older. These days, my nasal passages can get so swollen that I can barely breathe. I think I may have chronic sinusitis, but I haven’t gone to the doctor as I’m true to form. As many Asian comedians would say, Asian moms are the last people to go to the doctor. So, I’m dealing with it my own way and keeping myself away from the antibiotics that I’m sure to be prescribed.

My really bad allergies strike about once a month. That’s the time when my immune system plummets and I have to purposefully boost my health so I don’t get debilitated. I’m not exaggerating. You can’t do anything when you’re forcefully sneezing every 10 seconds, or if you have pains bothering you. If I’m not careful, I can get a really severe asthma attack or a nauseating migraine attack. Or both. Since the best defense is a good offense, I usually take more supplements as well as apply and diffuse essential oils to¬†ward off these potential episodes.

Unfortunately, sometimes I forget to be conscious of dates and I find that I already dropped the ball on going on the offensive, giving my allergies the chance to attack with a vengeance.

Home Remedies for Stuffy Nose

When my nose is seriously clogged not only by mucus, but by inflamed blood vessels as well, I have several go-tos for breathing aids.

1. A hot liquid – This could be a drink like herbal tea or some kind of citrus juice, or soup (preferably Korean). Inhaling the steam also helps, of course.

2. Chili in food¬†-That would explain the Korean soup preference. I love spicy food, but, other than pickled peppers like pepperoncinis and banana peppers, I don’t really eat chilis straight. I just season with them or use them as condiments. I’ve found Sriracha¬†to be very effective.

3. Wasabi – Blessed was the day I discovered this Japanese horseradish paste! I love what this can do to my nose. I remember an episode of “The Nanny” wherein Fran Fine tried it for the first time. With a more dignified non-nasal voice, she said, “Gee, you know that mustard really clears up the nasal passages. I like it. I wonder how (nasal voice back) long it’s gonna last.” That’s right; the relief that doesn’t last very long, but those few seconds of normal nose-breathing are gold when you have a stuffy nose. That’s why I like having a tube of wasabi paste on hand.

4. Mustard greens – Bearing the same component (allyl isothiocyanate) in wasabi that causes that nasal burning (and clearing!) sensation, mustard greens are both delicious and stuffy nose-busting.

The Wonderful Mustard

Mustard is getting the spotlight in this post because it’s my favorite vegetable, and as long as I remember to plant seeds at regular intervals, I always have some available in the garden.

I consider the mustard to be all that as a plant. It’s peppery, crispy, nutritious, and biblical! I feel it’s extra special because Jesus talked about it. ūüėÄ In any case, the following are some of the established benefits offered by mustard greens in case I haven’t swayed you over to their fandom.

  • They have loads of health-promoting and disease-preventing phytonutrients.
  • They are rich in vitamins A, C, and K and have sufficient vitamin B-complex for it to count.
  • They are a great source of various antioxidants – carotenes, flavonoids, indoles, lutein, sulforaphane, and zeaxanthin.
  • They have plenty of dietary fiber while also being low calorie.

Studies have found that regular consumption of mustard greens helps protect the body against various ailments and diseases, including arthritis, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and certain cancers.

Mark and I are kind of addicted to the things. He used to like pickling them and having them on standby in the fridge for a side dish or a snack, but he has cottoned to my lazy ways, which involve plucking leaves from the plant and eating them straight like a common garden vermin, lol.

—————-Arugula/Rocket Salad—————-

I’d love to have other peppery, decongesting vegetables in my garden. I’m going to try watercress and nasturtiums, but I don’t think they’ll thrive in my climate. I do have arugula, but its bite stays in the mouth and doesn’t blaze up to the nose the way wasabi and mustard do. That reminds me, I have wasabi radish seeds that I should have another go at. The first seed sprouted just fine, but something ate the seedling, so I have to find a safe place for my next try.

What about you? What’s your favorite vegetable? What decongesting tricks do you want to share? What do you frequently forage/harvest from your garden? I’d love to know.

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