Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I know very little about sunflowers but because it is an oil-producing plant with pretty flowers, I think it is worth some attention. My first few packets of imported seeds performed terribly. The plants were spindly and the flowers did not contain any viable seeds. Then I bought a robust plant already in flower in a local nursery. This produced some seeds and I raised several dozen plants successfully. However the percentage of seed set ranges between zero and 80%. I have not seen any pollinators. According to the textbooks, most cultivars are self-incompatible. I expect, by selection, to produce plants that are self-compatible, which should then have a high percentage seed set. Simultaneously I will eliminate all weak plants. We will see how many generations are needed to produce strong high-yielding plants for humid tropical conditions. A sunflower generation is about 5 months. An oil palm breeding cycle is about 5 years, so I will have done 10 generations of selection for sunflower in the time it takes to do one generation of oil palm. Sunflowers are way behind oil palm in oil yield per ha, which is why only a maverick like me will work on it. It's the challenge, you see; the horticultural equivalent of computer geeks starting up from a garage.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Review of Tropical Horticulture and Gardening

My book, Tropical Horticulture and Gardening, has been reviewed in Chronica Horticulturae, publi shed by the International Society of Horticultural Science. The review may be of interest to readers of this blog, now suspected to exceed five in number.

Tropical Horticulture and Gardening.
Francis S.P. Ng 2006. Clearwater Publications, Kuala Lumpur.

Review by Prof. Jules Janick in Chronica Horticulture Vol. 47 No 3 September 2007

This is a stunningly beautiful book. Its 361 pages are crammed full of over 1000 colored photographs taken by the author, a Malaysian botanist and former employee of FAO in Rome. The book contains 9 chapters: 1. Plant Domestication, 2. The Knowledge System for Plants, 3. Plant Form and Habit, 4. Ferns and Fern Allies, 5. Gymnosperms, 6. Flowering Plants: Monocots, 7. Flowering Plants: Dicots, 8. Garden Design, and Plants, and 9. Tropical Environment. The bulk of the book are excursions; chapters 4 to 7 are arranged by species within families, all arranged alphabetically, with rather minimal but incisive descriptions that include the origins. The prose is well written and the love of plants as well as botanical and horticultural expertise of the author shines through. The chapter on Garden Design contains images of famous gardens thoughout the world visited by the author. There are over 50 information boxes. This is a coffee table book on tropical plants and gardening that will appeal to temperate horticulturists who wish to get aquainted with the diverse garden flora of the tropics.