Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nine O’clock Flower

Portulaca (12)@10-00

When I was growing up in the kampong, my mother’s favourite flower was the moss rose or Portulaca Grandiflora, which she called Kow Teem Fa in Cantonese (九点花) or ‘Nine O’clock Flower. She said that the flowers would start to bloom at 9 in the morning. I have never checked the accuracy of this statement.

The moss rose is a very easy flower to grow. It can be propagated by two ways. Firstly, by seed that can be collected from plants that are already growing. It can also be grown very easily by taking cuttings. To do this, cut off a small stalk that is not flowering or about to flower and place it in the ground. They will grow and multiply very quickly (see photo below).

Portulaca (10) - young plant

The moss rose, sometimes call rose moss, can be planted in pots. In fact you can buy them from the nursery in pots. But I think it is best to have a patch or cluster of significant size to give a carpet effect. A big patch of brightly coloured moss rose is really a lovely sight to behold.

We used to have a huge patch of the red variety growing in the front yard of our kampong house near the main road. Passers-by liked to admire our flowers and pluck them.

Red and pink are the most common colours found in Singapore. But I have also seen white and yellow ones in the nurseries. They usually bloom in the morning and close in the afternoon. They need plenty of sunlight.

Today, in my garden, we have a pot of this lovely flower. After nearly half a century, I finally decided to check the accuracy of my mother’s statement and took a couple of photos for you to enjoy.

Portulaca (7)@9-00
This photo was taken at 9.00 am

Portulaca (9)@10-00
This photo was taken at 10.00 am. Hey maybe we should rename it 10 o’clock flower eh? :)


aiyah nonya said...

This few days the sun is not that bright in the morning. Maybe that is the reason for it blooming late.
Plus take in to consideration the change of the time zone to 30 minutes forward during the 80's.
So, during your mother's time it might be correct.

Btw thanks for visiting my blog and the tip.

Lam Chun See said...

Oh yah hor. There was a time change to synchronise with Malaysia (in 80's?). Anyway, I just kidding about the name. Of course not expected to be so exact.

Shilpa. said...

Hi, I came over from Chris' blog, so this is my first visit. I really like the idea of your blog, since I do miss the good old days in S'pore (err, Im not that old, born in late 70s). I enjoy looking at the old photos you've posted here and going back in time. Thanks for sharing them!

peter said...

Chun See

Thanks for helping me recollect my Cantonese roots. Since the passing-away of my grandparents in the late 60s, I have failed to "practise" my dialect and to remember those Cantonese beliefs and practices. You remember the festival of "Fairies and Bulls"? or the flower that is purple in color and is used to make the dye for Bak Chiang?

This can be quite embaressing as I believe speaking dialects make me Chinese, albeit the government thinks otherwise. When I was in Hong Kong some years back, I tried my Cantonese in a "Yum Cha" place. Guess what? I ordered "Kopi" from the waiter and he starred hard at me and kept asking me what was that? Another time I asked a passer-by if he knows the nearest "Mata lew". She starred at me. I guess you know that the Cantonese also incorporate Bahasa into their spoken language.

Sad to say when the government banned "Man In The Net" soap operas on TV, that was the last time I ever had a chance to practise my Cantonese.


tigerfish said...

I did not know these flowers are called "9 o'clock"...shd just call them 太阳花..but again 太阳花 is already "licensed" to sunflowers...
9am looks like rose, 10am looks like carnation...:D

chuck said...

There is a kind of flower which only bloom at around midnight and only for a couple of hours. The Teochew call in 'kheem huay'. I always wonder why it bloomed only at night and for only a short period. Anyone care to enlighten me?

zen said...

I agree to the Speaking Mandarin as a unifying factor, but still believe in maintaining the ability of speaking our own dialect. The reason is quite simple. It is our root. I used to tell my wife that her brother keeps on speaking only Mandarin and English at home, his son would one day forgotten that he is a Hokkien, in fact he is unable to speak his own dialect now. I would not be surprised if one day his son would ask his father what is actually Hokkien. When I visited China, I made sure of seeing Guangchow, and although I didn't go to Nanhai, my ancestors' home town, I did see the other towns and its suburbs - mainly agricultural. However, I had the satisfaction of seeing the place where my ancestors came from although scenically the place is nothing to shout about.

Lam Chun See said...

Welcome Shilpa (and Tigerfish). Glad you enjoyed reading my nostalgia stuff. GMY is about 1.5 years old now and I have post more than 140 articles; including some by guest bloggers from as far as Scotland and England.

I noticed that you, and Tigerfish and Nonya liked to blog about cooking and food. For a start, you may want to check out these 2 articles from last year.

Our Daily Bread.
Traditional Food Packaging.

Lam Chun See said...

I had a Hong Kong colleague who migrated here about 20 yrs ago. He said that within a few months, he already acquired some of our local Cantonese which just came out naturally when he spoke to his HK friends; and which they found baffling and amusing; e.g. pasar.

Sad to say, even though both my wife and I are Cantonese, my kids don't know this dialect. Even when they go to Ipoh, they speak English or Mandarin with their aunts and cousins. I admire my M'sian nieces who can speak fluent Malay, English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

tigerfish said...

Hi Chun See, I am interested in techno stuff and travel too! But need to eat before I have the strength to talk technology and walk my travel :D
You just made me hungrier by looking at the "chuei kwey" , the "or peh" wrapped ?char kway teo?, and those banana leaves otak and nasi lemak!

Victor said...

Didn't know about this flower until now. So in many ways, the moss rose or the rose moss is similar to the morning glory - another common local flower which I remember we studied about in primary school (nearly 40 years ago). The morning glory also opens in the morning and withers away by the afternoon. It commonly comes in purple colour.

aiyah nonya said...

The dye used in bak chang - It is called Bunga Telang in malay. The english for it is butterfly pea flower. It is also used for the nonya kuih Pulut Tai Tai. It is a wild plant. The last time I saw this plant was in Sentosa.

Shilpa. said...

Halo Chun See, thanks for those links! Oh dear, I realised I am old enough to remember attending several kampung weddings and seeing opeh leaves in my childhood! I'll take my time to read your delightful articles.. I'm sure I'll find lots to reminisce about!

Don't know if you know the book called Singapore Architecture by Robert Powell (2004). I have it and enjoy seeing our old buildings (some of which no longer exist), especially now that I'm so far away. Sigh. The price to pay for progress, huh?

peter said...

Aiyah Nonya

Then you must come to Kew Drive. My neighbourhood has these shrubs growing widly over his fence. No wonder I see all the Bibeks making a beeline for those flowers early in the morning

zen said...

The so-called moss rose, reminds me that this type of flower was my mum's favourite. We had it planted in our compound. If not for the care of our kampong maid (part-time helper, salary about twenty to twenty five dollars per month) looking after these flowers, I was quite sure we could not see them blooming. We boys, even my sister, talked only but never looked after the plants. Surprising we were able to plant some red roses, when someone took back some saplings probably from Cameron Highlands, what lovely flowers. I understand yellow roses were hard to plant in Singapore, so musch so, that my office colleague who loved yellow roses so much that he specially ordered a bouquet of this flowers for his bride-to-be on his wedding day. He must have love the song: the yellow roses of texas.

Cool Insider said...

Interesting and educational piece there Chun See. I didn't know that a common flower has such fascinating history and background. BTW, do keep those posts coming at I am in the midst of brainstorming something to inject life into heritage blogging - any ideas certainly welcome!

Lam Chun See said...

Hey brother. I must object to your statement; "We boys, even my sister, talked only but never looked after the plants".

Among the 5 siblings I was the only one interested in gardening. In fact, I always felt fed-up being the only one to water the plants, clear the drains and cut down the wild (and very fast-growing) shrubs and burning them. Not easy to burn freshly cut vegetation. Must let them dry for a few days first, and then start a strong fire with old coconut husk.

Not sure about the yellow roses you mentioned, but I was the one who bought the tubers of the yellow 'cheok yeok' (chrysanthemum?) from our 1970 trip to Cameron Highlands and planted them.

While in complaining mood, I was also the one who bothered to bathe the dogs. You, of course had a full-time job to bring in the income, but the other 2 jokers never help one.

Lam Chun See said...

That just gave me an idea for another post. Kampong-style gardening.

Victor said...

Wah so grouchy, better stay clear. Is your 55th birthday round the corner, Chun See? Never mind lah, always look on the bright side - can collect CPF liao mah. And is this what they call a classic case of "washing dirty gutters in public"?

Pleeeze lah, it's so long ago. If it's your interest then you do lor. Shouldn't be complaining.


zen said...

I really appreciate Chun See who always tolled without complaining, but frankly we saw him taking good care of the dogs. Perhaps, the gardening part I overlooked. But there was one thing the other siblings also overlooked was that my father who liked farming got hold of me, because the others were too young to do menial work, to help him clearing a piece of leased govt land, near to Chun See's godmother farm, next to the river (sei kai hor). The clearing of wild grass, plants and foliage was really taxing. After the clearing we needed to dry and burn these plant remnants. We planted egg-plants, banana trees, chilli plants etc. Apart from the hard clearing work, the rest were quite enjoying. That was why when we tolled no one knew and when we sat down and relaxed the whole world was watching.

Loh said...

Nice reading you blog. I found this site with regards to our time zone. Looking at it, the time could be more than half hour ahead of actual local time.

Interesting reading too. Cheers!

zen said...

Many old folks, formerly from kampong are now dwelling in flats. They sometime plant vegetables or flowers at the grass verge near to their flats. At my place, I notice some leisurely folks plant a variety of flowerly plants (including red roses) in a small plot of land near a coffee shop. They really have green fingers. So when Valentine day comes, young guys should approach these oldies for permission to pluck some roses for their girl friends. Don't need to spend money going to the florists.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks Loh for that interesting bit of input. Does that mean my mum was right afterall?

zen said...

Talking about trees and plants in our garden city, credits must go to the National Park people. Once a visitor from Mexico went to my wife company and he marveled at number of trees, plants and flowers in Singapore and remarked that he had never seen so much greenery. Also I brought a young friend from Miwauki to the botanic garden and he visibly captivated by the beauty of the park, especially the orchid sector. I think he brought back good memory of Singapore.

jeri said...

Chuck on 27 March 07 asked about a plant that blooms in late evening for a couple of hours. We call it the 9 o'clock because that is when it starts opening. It has large yellow blooms that slowly open and seems like it is happening in slow-motion as you actually see each step of the opening process. It is not the Portulaca/Moss Rose that Lam Chun See was talking about. No answer was given to Chuck's question. Does anyone know what the plant is called? It re-seeds itself each year. My grandchildren love to watch the blooms open.

Lam Chun See said...

Hi Jeri. Are you referring to what the Cantonese call 'king-fa'? If yes, my wife definitely knows the name. She was so fascinated by it that she actually videoed it.

Jeanne said...

I found this site by accident. Someone gave me seeds for 12 O'Clock flowers. I was trying to see what they look like, where they should be planted. I thought the 9 O'Clock's would be similar. I saw zen's post from Mar 2007. He mentioned that sons / people, may soon ask - what is 'Hokkien' - as the language is being spoke less and less. I wanted to let him know, if he doesn't already, of a wonderful church in Singapore that has a Hokkien service. It's New Creation Church - Awesome church that preaches the Grace and Truth of Jesus Christ. The senior pastor is Pastor Joseph Prince. The Hokkien pastor is Pastor Mark Ng.
Please, if you haven't been to one of the Hokkien Services, please go one time. You will be BLESSED... by God.... in Hokkien.
Romans 5:17

Newton said...

In Kerala State in India this flower is known in the vernacular language (Malayalam) as "Ten o'clock flower" or simply "Ten o'clock". In fact, I found this site by googling for "Ten o'clock flower" in order to find out the scientific name. And yes, it is very easy to grow and very beautiful.

nightingale said...

Hey, I am from Vietnam and wanna share with you this information: in my place, we call it Ten o'clock flowers. I was so surprised by reading your entry and felt happy seeing many people also like this kind of simple but beautify flowers. Welcome to my entry about this Cheers!!