Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fiery Red Ginger - Alpinia purpurata

Of the ornamental gingers, the most popular among Malaysian gardeners and landscapers seems to be the fiery red ginger or Alpinia purpurata. Holtum once described this species as a ' herb like wild ginger can be truly an immortal'. This plant originated from the Pacific islands and the Moluccas.

I prefer to use this plant in the kambatik garden for 'semi-wild' areas or at fringe zones, which are partly shaded areas. In natural conditions it grows well on sandy rich soil.

Its beauty lies in its very long lasting showy red 'flowers'. Actually its real flowers are small white and are held together on a spike of red bracts (false flowers) sometimes one foot long, thus giving its distinguishing red appeal.

It has good commercial value in that it is being sold as cut flowers. Propagation is by simple division of the plantlets or fleshy rhizomes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


In the spirit of the Kambatik garden, we need to plant native species in our urban landscaping. The lack of native species especially garden shrubs in towns and cities may not be conducive to the conservation of our local wildlife especially birds. Thus we need to reintroduce these forgotten species into the urban environment because urban settings were previously massive jungles which have been clear-felled to make way for housing, commercial , industrial and highway allocations. For a native species that has a special charm and attraction for wildlife is the kemunting . Botanically known as Rhodomyrtus tomentosa, this plant produces fruits on daily basis. There are no seasonal fruiting periods and as such their berries are easily available to the birds all year long making germination possible at all times. This will certainly support the conservation of wildlife and the re population of our natural species which are hardy, less maintenance and less costly to purchase for urbanites.

Jam, jelly or juices can be made from its ripe berries. It has pretty pink flowers and makes it a likely candidate for house garden and parks. As an ornamental shrub it can grow to 1.5 to 2 meters high. Here in Sarawak the plant is also referred to as karamunting and is seen largely in coastal areas especially in open areas near beaches. It is not subject to serious pests and diseases problem. It can be propagated through cuttings or seeds.

It is interesting to note that his plant perform better when cultivated in house gardens than in the wild. At present not many nurseries in Sarawak keep stock of this plant, but I think this will change when the Kambatik identity spreads.


Ong Hean Chooi (2004) Buah - Khasiat Makanan dan Ubatan. Utusan Publications and Distributors Sdn Bhd. KL.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Piper sarmentosum ( Kaduk )

Note the tiny white flowers that are borne on short yellowish spikes that form on the leaves axils

Deep green, heart-shaped and glossy leaves of ' kaduk ' against a bark wall.

Continuing my series on ' kambatik species ' plant, today I'll touch upon a plat species from the piper family . It is a favourite of mine for the following reasons:

a) Provides a deep green wash to walls, fences etc . Its glossy leaves and white tiny and upright flowers add lustre to the composition.
b) Suitable for semi-shady locations around the house
c) Not a vigorous climber, therefore less maintenance work
d) Not prone to diseases and pests attack
e) Useful for edible landscaping portions of the house. When chopped into small pieces, the leaves produced aroma popularly used to make " kerabu" which is our local herbs mix giving it a 'peppery 'taste

Typical of the piper family, it has smooth-edged,heart shaped leaves. This plant is also native to Malaysia.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cocos nucifera ( Coconut)

Two days ago , I drove my Toyota Hiace van to Tanjong Batu , looking for a perfect candidate for the next 'kambatik species' plant- the popular coconut tree. Lucky me! the morning sun was some what cloudy and not heaty. Nonetheless, the pictures turned out good.

Cocos nucifera ( Coconut)
Coconut is one of the most useful of all plants in Malaysia because of its multiplicity of uses both for local and commercial purposes. It grows naturally in tropical Malaysia because of its climate and sandy beaches. It does well too in warmer sub-tropical zones like in some parts of Australia.

Since it is planted throughout the world, its origin is mere speculation. However the centre of origin points to the Islands of the Pacific or Indian Ocean.

My favourite species is however a cultivar called, the Malay Dwarf. Coconuts are excellent street trees ( although it has the tendency to lean). It is also best to plant them in groups.

Coconuts tend to be slow in establishing but once rooted deep after half a year, its subsequent growth is rapid. It needs well drained soil. From these pictures it is proven that they do not merely 'grow close to the sea'.

Coconut trees can grow to a full height of 5 meters - 30 meters , depending on the species or cultivar. In the picture above you can see that they can be bought in quite big size polybags at any good nursery.

Pix above shows The Malay Dwarf fruiting luxuriously.

In the Malaysian context, we should plant more of these trees because they are symbolic of Malay kampungs . Its swaying leaves( fronds) suggest a welcoming gesture and even if you need to leave the kampung , the leaves will keep swaying you goodbye.!In fact its their over topping graceful crowns above the kampung rooftops and other vegetation that makes it the hallmark of the tropics. Thus , I highly recommend coconut palms to make the kambatik garden authentically tropical.


1) Natalie W.Uhl & John Dransfield(1987) Genera Palmarium.Allan Press, Lawrencence, Kansas.

2) David Jones(1984) Palms in Australia. Reed Books Pty Ltd. Singapore)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Clerondendrum paniculatum ( Pagoda Flower)

This shrubbery I admire for its large compact scarlet red flowers which branches horizontally forming tiers like a pagoda. Locally it is referred to as pepanggil or just panggil. It is native to Japan and China ( East Tropical Asia). Being a clerondendrum genus, it likes very sunny position, deep moist and fertile saoil. It can reach to a height of 2.5 m. Grown in many kampung gardens in the Malaysian country side, it is believed to thwart people of evil. "An infusion of the plant is used for relieving stomach ache in Peninsular Malaysia" ( Ref: Paul P.K. Chai (1984) Some ornamental and Roadside Plants of Sarawak.)

For my landscaping projects I use it as an accent in a mixed border( especially for small shrubs planting) or in masses( as in beds). This species flowers continuously throughout the year. It can be propagated from cuttings and root suckers.
Pruning is recommended for regenerating growth and to promote branching.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

My landscaping marathon - just begun!

Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Laman Kambatik ,Thine name I give you!

Heliconia latisphatha - this is a recommended kambatik spp. because of its exoticness. There around 100 evergreen perennial species and hybrids in this genus. Excellent cut flowers. (Ref: Botanica,2004 ed.) This picture is from my eco-farm at Jepak, Bintulu.

Asplenium nidus ( Bird's nest fern) - This pan tropical, epiphytic fern colonises trees, rock faces and boulders in humid , tropical rainforests. The glossy green, thin, tongue-like fronds have wavy margins and a prominent, almost black midrib. They arise from a densely hairy crown in a radial fashion, somewhat resembling a bird's nest. ( Ref: Botanica,2004 ed.)

OK, I have got time this afternoon to write about my landscaping story. First things first. Up to this point in my landscaping career, I've developed a name for the Malaysian garden.

It is no secret for the people of Bintulu. I have planted the wordings depicting the Malaysian garden name on the southern part of my eco-farm. It is called " Laman Kambatik".

The journey has been long and winding. But it has not ended yet. It has actually began!!

But for a start , let me say that the journey has been mind taxing, time consuming, lots of financial investment involved and finally I have just begun to develop the branding.

The courage and the challenge I must myself is: If Indonesia has been able to export the Bali Garden overseas, like their batik, why can't Malaysia export it own brand of garden. Thus I am convinced that with a name to our garden we can continue the next step.

Thus I consider this later period in my life as the most important phase in my landscaping story.

Well, in the very mean time, let's enjoy these favourites kambatik plant species of mine. Of course, lot more recommended species will be shown on these pages as we go along.