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Selangor and Federal Territory Gardening Society’s latest book has lots of practical information, writes Stephanie Choo

I CHUCKLE as I read the introduction of the newly-released book by the Selangor and Federal Territory Gardening Society. Dr Arlene Ngan, the chairperson of the society’s book committee states she has yet to see anyone sporting “green fingers”.

While the term refers to people with the ability to grow plants with little effort, it is actually the devoted, laborious and calloused fingers that create and maintain a beautiful garden, large or small,  over a period of time.

Much can be gleaned from this second publication of the Gardening In Malaysia book series. Written by experienced practising gardening enthusiasts, the first one was Flowering Plants. Volume 2 is titled Annuals, Ground Covers And Herbs.

The book was launched last week at the society’s annual dinner held at the Royal Lake Club, Kuala Lumpur. The cosy affair was made extra special with a good turnout of members and  guests, and the society’s patrons, Tan Sri Dr Chong Hon Nyan and wife, Puan Sri Chong Eu Ngoh.

Lam Peng Sam, a past president of the society and former columnist for New Straits Times, co-wrote the book with Dr Tan Swee Lian, the society president, the late Dr Anthony Santiago, Deve J. Kunaseelan, Puan Sri Suguna Arumugam, Lina Santiago, Mansor Puteh, Salmah Sodhy and Wong Wai Ching. Other contributors include Woo Kum Wah, Janet Yap and Datuk Dr Mahani Mansor.

Some 40 popular annuals, ground covers and herbs are covered in the first few chapters. The botanic name, common name, place of origin, botanical description, uses, propagation ways and cultivation methods of each plant are described in an easy-to-read manner.

The section on cultivation offers practical instructions on how to grow plants successfully — from the sunflower (scientific name: Helianthus annuus) to the ground-hugging Spanish Shawl (Dissotis rotundifolia) and the zesty ginger (Zingiber officinale) — in the hot and humid tropics.

Although annuals mainly flourish in full sun locations, petunia cultivars also fare well in filtered light places. The Common Rue (Ruta graveolens) can be grown here in semi-shade locations with little maintenance despite being a native of the Mediterranean region. Ground covers with flowers and colourful foliage, like the Flame Violet (Episcia cupreata), is a beauty to have in our gardens.

Sweet Honey Leaf (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni), a “healthy” alternative to sugar is a short-day plant of determinate growth. The plant grown here can only reach to about 30-40 cm high before it flowers, so the leaf yield is low. Early flowering hinders progress of stevia cultivation in this country.

Several interesting home remedies, other personal experiences in the use of some local medicinal herbs and why we need to eat colourful fruits and vegetables everyday are unravelled in the book too.

There are nuggets of wisdom on growing mediums such as charcoal and sand, the different kinds of soil, how to improve soil quality and the importance of drainage.

The Selangor Gardening Society (as it was then known) was founded by expatriates long before Merdeka. It became defunct in 1950 due to a lack of local support but was reregistered in 1967 by a group of garden enthusiasts. The late Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui was invited to be the society’s first patron.

As the society’s initial project, the founding members — Lam Ramaswamy Vengdappa and the late Kurup Gangatharan — led by its first president, Tan Sri Salma Ismail, took the responsibility of labelling the trees in the Lake Gardens (currently known as the Perdana Heritage Gardens) at their own expense!

Details on the society and book at or send an email to



Guest-of-Honour Lam Peng Sam (left) and society patron Tan Sri Dr Chong Hon Nyan at the event.

The book explains how flowers like the Spanish Shawl cab be grown in our tropical heat.

Forty beautiful annuals are covered in the book’s first few chapters.

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