Friday, 1 June 2018

Plant Visionz and Youtube: The beginnings to current

I love watching Youtube Video. I have learnt so much about food and culture through many independent content producers. Everyone share their hearts out to capture  the interest and attention of their audience. It is used in so many useful ways to share knowledge, show off crazy challenges and market one's business. I was encouraged by my ex-work mate, Mark at Mandai Orchid Garden to make videos explaining about plants and how to grow them.  I was rather hesitant initially mainly because I was not comfortable being in front of the camera. However, I saw that the culinary world was growing and more young people were joining the trade. Celebrity chefs were leading the charge and that influenced people to be like them. At that time I was supplying orchid flowers and herbs to 3 restaurant. This got me curious, how where they using the produce that I was selling to them? This opened a door for me to learn about the culinary arts. Everyone loves to eat so the best way to teach people about plants is through food!!!


In Jan 2012, I decided to have a try and video a mini tutorial on how to make plants more lush. Plant Visionz was not born yet so it was under my personal name: Hedrick Kwan

My first plant tutorial
After this video, it lead me to start this blog to review horticulture products as there are reviewers for many consumer products and simple straight forward info about how to grow plants in Singapore. This was my first article in March 2012: Pussy Willow During The lunar new year.  I continued to blog and made video as often as I could till my kids were arrived. Things changed in my life and had little time and energy. However in Aug 2012, I had enough of my boss and started Plant Visionz with a retired maritime exhibitor owner, Nora. She had the business knowledge and admin skills which I lack and she loved orchids. It was a perfect partnership.
Koh Keng Hoe, Singapore's pioneer orchid breeder is where Nora and I first met
Moving to Brisbane in 2015 has led me to come to a place of my dreams since graduating in horticulture from UQ Gatton in 2003. Not a day went by living in Singapore did I not dream and told those I met about how amazing Brisbane is. The wife and kids first relocated 6 months before I did as I had to finish up projects. Letting go the 'baby' in Singapore was very hard. If you have worked day and night for something you totally believed in and had to go because there was a bigger dream to chase with a time bomb (Visa deadline). Definiately easier said than done and so painful + tearful but I did!

Enjoying a road trip to Buderim waterfall with the kids
Coming to Brisbane, I had to start everything from zero. I am glad, I still maintained some links in the horticulture world to give me a feel of what the industry is like 12 years from my last stay.  Relocating and finding one's direction can be frustrating. I walked away from leading the operations of my business in Singapore to  find new ground to plough. I decided to study Cert IV in Training and Assessment with Axiom College. This will lead me to be a qualified vocational instructor  which was something I wanted to do after graduation. Back track to graduation in 2003, I missed the cut off date to apply for the programme to be a Teacher. Thus I told myself to come back to Singapore to gain industry experience and be better qualified to pass on my skills and knowledge to the next generation.

Posing with my first box of super hots bought at Inala markets when i was working as a Trainer

Nov 2015, I started Plant Visionz (au) to continue my work as a landscape horticulturist. To improve residential and commercial gardens. I had to learn how to use and maintain power tools such a Line Trimmer, Hedger, Chain Saw and Lawn mower. Previously in Singapore, all the work was done by hand tools as they were small but intensively planted gardens. To find customers in my local area, I listed my services on Gumtree and True local which was a passive method of getting customers which was a slow process. To get  some immediate income, I took on the role in direct sales for Penny miller. By distributing the catalogues in my local area, I got to see how people designed and maintained their gardens. Of course there were some which were horrendously unkept gardens. Each time I got an item order, I shared my work as a horticulturist and pitched to offer my services. I did manage to get a few clients and till today, 3 years on 1 client has stayed with me.

Heritage orchids @  Brisbane Plant Expo 2018

Today, I am always thank for the opportunities to work at people's garden and entertain through my talks about gardening about Orchids, Worms and any other plant related topics. Looking forward to what is ahead. A long road ahead before reach the same level of following as Costa Georgiadis

Onward and forward

 



Tuesday, 29 May 2018

My journey into the Million Scoville Heat Unit club

You definitely have heard of the Carolina Reaper and know it as the World's hottest chilli/ pepper at 1.6 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Did you know that there is a whole catalogue out there of super hot peppers that are way spicier than Chilli padi aka the Red Birds Eye chilli. My journey started in Nov 2016 when I was shopping at Carseldine markets. I saw a stall which was selling all sorts of chilli and I got curious. I started asking questions about them and learning more from the Grower: Darryn Malloy.
He introduced me to several types of super hot chillis he had on the bench and I remembered buying Red Ghost/ Bhut Jolokia and Chocolate habanero. I have always loved habanero tobacco sauces because it packed a punch. The Chocolate habanero was described to me as more aromatic. Thus I bought my first plant and began having a few slices in my food. I was so amazed by the BBQ/ Chipotle flavour that I was immediately hooked.
Chocolate habanero






I went regularly to the markets soon after that and got to know Darryn better and I bought a lot of his stock to eat and dry some seeds so I could plant more for myself. I also bought pods/ fruits of him to create sauces. As I grew these chillies, I love their taste and as I watch videos on youtube about people taking on ultra hot chillis,  began to see a link on how chillis can be a good bridge for young people to understand more about plants and horticulture.
Sauce experiment with Yellow scorpion Butch T + pineapple n Turmeric


As I continued growing these chillis in my balcony, I continue exploring their flavours and was addicted in a matter of 6 months. This lead me to start the first urban production farm at a friend's home. To convert a section of the garden which they are not using to grow my chillis n exchange for my experience in improving the rest of the garden. The urban farming concept was started by Curtis Stone (Canada) which is method I have asked myself for years. Why do we have to go so far out from the city to grow food. There is so much unused spaces available. The only way a venture is sustainable is that the people who put time and effort make a return to live on.
Original spicy not spicy enough...so add ghost pepper

During my trip in Sept 2017, I brought along some of the Aussie hot sauces and let my friends try them as well as the sauces I made. It was well received for both and that gave me the drive to bring super hot chillis to feed Singaporeans who are craving for spicier chilli at a reasonable price. After the trip to Singapore, I took part in my first chilli chocolate eating contest @ Murphy's Creek. There were only 4 contestants and I was 1 of them. It was luck that I won as the rest of them were not seasoned chilli eaters and this inspired me to really give competitive chilli eating a real go and have been competing in all the competitions in the Brisbane area. I use this avenue to increase my profile as a horticulturist as well as a chilli grower.



Beginners luck: Gyddeon with the challenge trophy


Sunday, 27 May 2018

I am Punk_gardener on Instagram

About 2 years ago, I embarked on a journey to explore other avenues to share and document my work. The first was to start and instagram account. I can't remember what was the initial user name but subsequently, I changed it to punk_gardener. The reason as you might have guessed, my gardening methods are unconventional and even at times against the grain. The base idea has always been Punk DIY. It started with Ian Mckaye from Minor Threat/ Fugazi. During the early 90s, no label wanted to produce Minor Threat's album nor help them do shows.

 

So he just went ahead and did everything himself to put his music, passion and message out to the as many people as possible. With sheer determination and grounding, Minor threat was known world wide and so was the movement of Straight Edge.

My instagram account is much like how I started this blog. To give bite size info about plants and gardens with the addition of family and more. The community interaction with others also has expanded my network to other growers.

So if you are interested to learn more about the local adventures I find in Brisbane, loves ultra spicy chilli, orchids and unconventional food and how I made them. Do follow me and I will follow back...




Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Planting a small garden strip

Small strips in the garden as the easiest project in the garden. However, it isn't just strip and plant on the original soil structure. Most of the time, the original soil lacks nurtients and may have weed seeds hidden within. Here are the simple steps that I use.

Original state of the strip


1.Strip out the unwanted plants and loosen the soil

2. Sprinkle compost, manure, NPK and worm cast evenly. This is to bring a well balanced nutrient mix back into the soil biota

Spread the mix in even layers
3. Plant! Here I am planting in a 3 row orientation. The plant, Rhoeo are great for such areas because they require little water and over time grow into dense mass where weeds are unable to grow.
4. Mulch it. I have used recycled wood waste which will breakdown over time to become compost. I have layed down small boulders between the rows to prevent Scrub turkeys from scratching up the plants and soil
Job DONE!

Email: plantvisionz@gmail.com for Free Quotes to achieve your gardening dream.



Thursday, 9 June 2016

Rock Garden by the hill

This is by far the most strenuous build I have ever done. This garden is at the back of the house and has 2 layers of terraces. The owner wanted a garden which didn't need to be mowed yet looked pretty. After much discussion between rock and hard wood mulch, the rocks won. Reasons being
1. They are heavy and don't need to be topped up over time
2. Looks better as a rock garden
3. Scrub Turkey!!!! What are they? Click this link! They wreck the hard work you put into the garden and they are protect bird!

The biggest challenge was moving the stones which were a total of 4 tonnes up hill! Who needs cross fit programme when gardening give you that exercise.
Materials up this hill
Stones went uphill

Construction process

1. Laying down the barriers to prevent weeds from growing
Cardboard
Weed mat and large stones around the boarder to hold the edges down and prevent the small stones from falling over

2. Adding the stones. The larger ones went on first then the finer ones to fill in the gaps
Laying of stone

Path had to be leveled for smaller stones to stay in place when walked on

3. The plants chosen had to handle bright conditions with no direct sunlight contact. The best way describe is semi shade condition. Initially, I chose Grevillea as they were natives and didn't need much care and were flowering plants. After the rocks were laid, these plant didn't fit the scape. Thus the following plants were chosen.
a) Alternanthera Purple Splash
b) Azalea indica
c) Rhoeo
d) Pony tail plant
The arrangement was to alternate green and purple colour

4. Circle section was planned to have benches and chairs. This area has to be pleasant to walk on, sit and relax. Ergonomics was the key to this area. The chairs and table had to be arranged for ease of movement. The large stones below was to serve as an  anchor for the chairs and benches. The small gravel was chosen because they cushion and conform to the steps taken on them. They also fill the gaps in between the border stones.
Looks inviting doesn't it?

Gravel for feet comfort

Comfort when you sit and move around
5. Softening the "tomb", prostrate rosemary was planted to give the overhanging effect and give off a good aroma when you rub when with hanging out at this area. A garden that interacts is inviting.
Before

Prostate rosemary on the edge to overhang

Contact me via email: plantvisionz@gmail.com if like what you see. Free quotes and will do my best to work within your budget and dream.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Tropical rainforest section of Mount Coot-tha



Mount Coot-tha Botanic gardens is a must see attraction for Nature lovers and plant enthusiast. There is a vast collection of Cacti and an extensive collection of Aloe vera types, tropical plant in a done, ferns, in situ native plants and tropical scapes and more. I have often visited the gardens and most of the time wonder around the aloe collection because I enjoy visiting the tropical dome as it reminds me of the plants that are commonly grown in Singapore. Last year, a new extension area was built with a kids playground over looking another water pond. The kids love the playground and I get to hang out with the beloved plants.
Do you see the little bees?
This visit was special. I met up with a German friend who also love plants to go for a wander together. This was the perfect time to explore the densely planted section of the Exotic Rainforest section and the conservation zone. It was a cloudy day and the humidity was high. Quite similar to that of Singapore with a threat of a thunder storm. We walked into the dense 'jungle' with no clue of where we were heading. I like to be pleasantly surprised by the landscape. A native beehive greeted us soon after we entered through the visitors center entrance. The are stingless native bees that are not honey producers but play an important part in plant pollination.

The walk was at a comfortable pace with gradual slopes and dips. What captured us was the waterfall scapes that were within this section. Pictures speaks a thousand words.....




We kept walking uphill and wanted to view some native plants. However when we consulted google maps, it was a longer walk than expected so we back tracked to the National Freedom Wall. This wall pays tribute to those who gave their lives for peace in Australia. It was a solemn place to visit to see the dedications from schools and organization as well as the names of the service men who layed down their lives for this country.



As we exploration continues we stumbled into cluster of bats hanging up a tree branch. They looked very real from a distance but upon closer examination. They were holding musical instruments shaped like a leaf. I was puzzled what the artist was trying to show case. Bats make music to catch their prey? The saying goes  "As Blind as a Bat"....not deaf...hmmm?!

As the wander continued, I finally arrived at a location which I have noticed from a distance each time I drive the Western Freeway. What was this tower that stuck out like a sore thumb like up close. There were no information about what this tower was for. It was made from solid concrete lined with these patterns made from metal.  My German friend said it was the ventilation chute for the legacy way tunnel.


The plants from these sections didn't catch my attention  during the exploration except for the following:

Varigated leaf burgmansia which was a first for me
Heliconia chriswick ( I love large bright red varieties, so majestic and hot)

Salvia unknown which has a spicy aroma. Im sure it can be used in cooking.
Do feel free to comment about my post and greatly appreciate if anyone can ID the Salvia for me.

More pics here

Read about the Japanese and Bonsai Garden here



Sunday, 17 January 2016

Compot your kitchen waste

I saw this product sold at the 2015 Brisbane International Garden festival. There were lots of innovative gardening wares and this product especially caught my eye.
 
A garden on a composting bin


Here are the points 
  1. Simple, just open the lid and throw everything in
  2. Hidden within the garden, did a hole and insert into the ground 
  3. Cooked food waste can be added. This was the clincher many compost bins manufactures do not encourage this
  4. Small and light, exporting them to Singapore would cost less and customers are happy to carry it while they shop
  5. Smell is kept at bay
  6. Push a lawn mower over it when its flushed to the ground
  7. You can grow sprouts on the lid. This is exactly in line with the motto of Plant Visionz  

Me and Vicki
I talked to Vicki, the inventor of this product on how to use it. She demonstrated how the lid opens and exactly what to do. She even included a little cups of worm eggs. She said the worms do live in within the soil. I was a little surprised. I agree they are best in compost so my argument is at rest. I believe black solider flies (BSF) would be the main composting organism. 

Buried 3/4 and covered with mulch

Kitchen waste of all sorts even animal bones and dairy
I took the pot home and found a spot in my compound that has the worst possible soil and it was in a corner of the fence. The ground of was hard and after much digging, I could only insert 3/4 of the pot. It actually should be placed flushed to the soil level so one can actually mow the lawn over it. I added all the kitchen waste I collected at home that included stale bread, vegetables, fruit and chicken bones. I added the worm eggs as well and left. This step took about 30 mins as digging into the hard ground was tough. In looser soils, it should only take 15min to set it up.

Bush Turkey!!!

3 days later, I found the soil around the pot exposed. The family of bush turkey in my neighbourhood found this pot of 'food'. I was very upset because each time I had to heap the soil back in , they would come and scratch it up again. I complained to vicki about this and she said it was a good sign. The turkeys are doing the work of loosening the soil in this area. It can be daily chore to push the soil round the pot but the hardwork is done by them. 

Black Solider fly lava in the compot
Over time the materials in the pot decomposed and sank down. I did notice  flies in the middle of the day when there were fish scraps were left on the to level. When I opened the pot up to add in more scraps, I only notice the BSF lava in there and no earthworms. Maybe the scrub turkeys ate them. There was indeed little smell on the days I went to add more scraps. This was at a 3 day interval. What was left were bones and black mush. You can take them and bury into the ground but I place them into the worm bin for another round of digestion by the worms.



I can't find much fault with this product. The plastic is of good material that it does not crumble in the hot Queensland sun or moisture. There are several optional attachments available so one can grow a garden on the lid.  This items sells at AU$31.50 for the set Im using. It can be mail anywhere within Australia. Click here for the webstore . Self collection is possible for those in Brisbane northside. For those in Singapore and are interest in this, Plant Visionz is now collating pre-orders. The price is not confirmed but will be posted on the website in due time. 
My video demo will be posted here soon. Subscribe to Plant Visionz channel on YouTube to be informed of the latest video updates.