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The shrubby peacock flower
Published on: Sunday, May 09, 2021
By: Eskay Ong
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MEET any true lover of plants and in all probability, he will tell you that he is worried that his small, lovely tree may grow too quickly into a giant, much like what happened in the fable “Jack and The Beanstalk”.  

And the fear may linger on even after being assured that although it may take fifty years or more to grow a true giant, it may take only 50 minutes to have it felled and brought down to earth, which is sad but true.

That such feelings genuinely do occur is a fact.  It isn’t so much the fear of the legendary monster or sweet angel climbing down from heaven and breathing down your neck, but more so the worry about your tree growing too rapidly to be easily brought under control.

In small compounds, the presence of gigantic trees, however ornamental they may be, is sure to present the owner with a headache as big as the tree.  Even neighbours do often feel worried when they see gigantic trees sprouting up just next door.  

Questions have often been asked about their ability to withstand the tail effect of typhoons occurring in the surrounding seas, and concerns have been expressed about the chances of big branches falling and hitting something.

These are sane questions, and the worries realistic, in particular, in places that are compact, confined and crowded. 

Unless there is a well-disciplined and regimented programme of maintenance to keep the size of trees in check, or if the area where the tree is to be planted is a vast tract of land, then it is necessary, and wise, too, to think twice about growing huge ornamental trees.

Otherwise, it may be beneficial to consider planting the medium or smaller trees such as flowering bushes or shrubs which are quite like trees but which are considerably smaller in size.  

There are many varieties of small trees, shrubs and bushes that are widely used for ornamental planting, but certainly, one of the most popular varieties is the Peacock Flower, or Caesalpinia pulcherrima.

The peacock flower – a 

fantastic blooming shrub


In reality, not many garden shrubs can be called fantastic, much less a whopper of a bloomer.  But in the case of the peacock flower, the shrub is not only fantastic, but it is also a terrific bloomer.  

Where other trees or shrubs are barren, the peacock flower usually remains in a state of continuing bloom.  This is why it is usual to find the shrub in bloom virtually the whole year round.  

And this is the reason which turns other seasonal bloomers such as angsana or golden shower green with envy considering the fact that these trees tend to remain green throughout the year except for very short spells of bright yellow flushes.

Among the reasons for the popularity of the peacock flower, its small shrubby size is certainly one great attribute that draws in growers and other gardening enthusiasts. The plant tends to remain small and short even after about ten years, and generally, mature specimens stay at about 2-3m in height.  This means there is little problem as regards size of crown or root spread. With these attributes, it is common to see the plant being grown on road sides or narrow traffic islands, as well as in small gardens.  

And there is virtually nothing to worry about the shrub growing through your roof and into the sky, or the roots spreading underneath your house.

Another reason for the peacock flower being so widely accepted is its good flowering habit. Blooms open continuously almost the whole year round to brighten up and colour the scenery. 

The arrangement of the flower buds on each stalk of inflorescence contributes to the incessant blooming habit. And together with the wide spectrum of colours to choose from, the peacock flower is certainly a flower that is worth cultivating.

Peacock flowers are woody plants, and for this reason, they are very tough and rugged. They can withstand quite a bit of neglect and rough treatment, and ultimately, they can only do two things – grow and bloom.  

This is the stuff that dreams are made of, and for many gardening enthusiasts who are into peacock flower cultivation, such dreams may keep them in a daze for an appreciable period of time.

Apart from the production of lots of colourful blooms, peacock flowers also produce seeds in abundance in the many pods that hang around and decorate the plant.  

However, these are usually obscured by the more brightly coloured flowers that come in red, pink or yellow, or a mixture of such colours.  

Unripe fruit pods are flat and green which merges well with the overall foliage colour, but ripe fruit pods tend to dry up and turn dark brown or blackish in colour. They subsequently split open to release the seeds which germinate readily and grow on to start a new cycle.

Planting the peacock flower

Some gardeners say that trees need 50 minutes to plant, 50 years to grow, and 50 seconds to fell. Eye-opening figures indeed.  In the case of the peacock flower, the time required is proportionally shorter.  

The actual planting, excluding the time consumed in pre-planting preparatory works, takes less than half an hour.  

The preparatory works, such as preparation of the planting hole, procuring the right type of topsoil, fertilisers and manures, and the right planting material, usually takes much longer. And chopping down a diseased peacock flower shrub does not take more than five seconds.  

Such shocking figures should open up many eyes as to the ease of destruction but difficulty in cultivation. Translated into nature’s green cover, it can therefore be seen why the wanton rape and violation of forests must never be tolerated.  

While such deeds may fill up a few greedy mouths and pockets, the end result is that their destructive means serve only to accelerate climate change which is bad for everyone, regardless of whether they are rapacious loggers, plant lovers, or the typical gardening enthusiast.

While planting a few shrubs of the peacock flower may contribute in a small way to grow a little carbon sink, enriching the atmosphere with a little oxygen, and creating an attractive and picturesque scenario, the fact is that it helps to remove a few idle hands from congested areas in the city, thus keeping social distancing and other aspects of S.O.P. alive during this time of Covid-19 pandemic.

In areas where the soil is poor, it is normal to prepare planting holes of diameter one metre and depth one metre as well. This is the ideal size for many trees and shrubs, but in actual situations, the planting hole is just dug to a size that is only slightly larger than the root ball of the plant.  

Such a standard of work is usually done by workers when the boss is not watching, or when he is having a quick snooze.  

Although fertile, friable and well-drained soil is preferred, it does not mean that the peacock flower is unable to thrive on the poorer types of soil, such as the light sandy soils, or heavy clays.  

So, the question of soil suitability is not that critical a factor in determining the success of the cultivation.  Rather, it is the standard of maintenance that is important in ensuring that you get to see the blooms the whole year round.

Many nurseries have young saplings for sale in polybags of various sizes. These saplings may range in height from 30-90cm, while the larger ones may be about 2-3m tall.  

Of course the larger plants can be used to create an instant garden but considering that the price is always very steep for large specimens, only those who are prepared to dig deep into their pockets, are able to lug them home.  

For those who have only a shoe-string budget, it is recommended that they go look for some seeds that can be collected somewhere and then sow them.  

Seedlings come up very quickly, and if they kept warm and moist at all times, it is possible to see young shoots pushing up through the germination medium within 10-21 days.  

The rest of the work is just a breeze, with the taller seedlings being separated and grown in various containers until they are ready for the final setting which is either on the ground or in some form of containers such as plastic or clay pots.  

If the number of seedlings are plentiful, you may be in for a windfall as the extras may be sold for a few well-earned bucks, as highlighted in the last few articles.  

The extra bucks may be thought-provoking and this may be tempting enough to get your mind cracking about how to double or even triple the sale so as to be able to rake in more. If this does not fire up your aspiration, then I do not know what will. This shows the power of a simple but rewarding win-win channel that is there for all to grab a bite or two.

Jom, it’s now or never!

- The writer may be reached 

at [email protected]


 

A shrubby peacock flower. 

A flower inflorescence always opens its last flower at the apex.  

A reddish pink flower.  

 

A pure yellow flower.

 

A reddish yellow flower.

An immature fruit pod is flat and green.

The leaf structure of peacock flower.





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