Monday, December 15, 2014

Ally, Beth and Charlene - my 3 chilli plants

I started planting chilli late last year. It's Dec 2014 now, so it's almost a year since I saw them grew from dormant dry seeds in a paper packet to the tall living fledgling plants bearing fruits now. I have three main chilli plants, let's call them Ally, Beth and Charlene, all of them in the same planter box. I wanted to give a "Best chilli plant 2014" award to one of them, so let's do a short review of their history.

Chilli flowers - 5 white petals and giving a very minty scent when it bloomed

When they are just dormant seeds, Ally, Beth and Charlene managed to shrug of their sleepiness when submerged in water, and wake up to become seedlings. That might be just normal routine stuff, but there's a small percentage of dormant seeds that do not actually 'revive' upon adding water. They are dead from the start. To be able to survive the transition from seeds to seedlings is a miracle by itself. I also tried growing tomatoes from dried seeds, but my entire batch of tomatoes didn't make it. A full pack of tomato seeds with 100% mortality rate - total wipe out!

When Ally, Beth and Charlene are young seedlings. Picture taken before the 'Massacre'.

Once the first leaves start growing, Charlene began this growth spurt. She's always taller than the rest. If you are to place a bet there and then on which plant is going to bear chilli fruits first, Charlene will be the horse to bet on. She has this potential in her to do so. On the other hand, Ally is the weaker one. Her roots didn't grow deeply, so a gust of wind will blow her off. There's this incident called the 'Massacre', where I have to (reluctantly) remove the 30+ seedlings, discard them and replant the stronger ones so that they can grow taller. Ally, Beth and Charlene are the survivors. The rest of the sisters are discarded. I don't know why I chose Ally actually. She's a black horse? Ally is so weak and fragile that I'll need special care. I thought she wouldn't be able to make it but she did eventually. Strong survivor, she is.

From left to right: Ally, Beth and Charlene. Notice Charlene is taller than the rest.

Not only did Ally survived, she thrived. In the months that followed, Ally overshot Charlene, who is so far the tallest of the group. In Ally's growth phase, she overtook Charlene's height and started flowering. Chilli's flowers are small and white, 5 petals in all, with a characteristic minty smell in the first few days of its bloom. The flowers don't last long. In about 3-4 days, it'll wither and drop off. For every 5 flowers, maybe 1 will have its stigma retained behind. That's a sign that I know a fruit is bearing from the flowers. Of the three, Ally is the one that bore the first baby chilli fruit. Tiny green little tooth that grows longer and longer, eventually turning red when ripe. If you did bet on Charlene to bear fruit first, you'll have lost! The weakest starter, Ally, became a strong finisher.

The 4 chilli fruits by Ally. One (the extreme left) had matured and turned red.

Charlene, ever the fastest grower, had another growth spurt somewhere around Aug/Sept. Now, she's almost as tall as me, with its leaves at my eye level. Charlene however, despite her tallness, is the last to flower. She didn't flower until the Ally had 4 chilli fruits, one of them actually matured and turned red. Charlene, till now, did not bear any chilli fruits.

From left to right: Ally, Beth, Charlene. I'm not joking when I said that Charlene is almost my height. Look at how tall she goes!

Did you notice I didn't talk much about Beth? She don't have this volatile growth stop-start phase. She's been growing steadily upwards all the way since she's just a seedling. She's the only one without the growth spurt and so she's also the shortest between the three of them. However, about a month or two ago, she started flowering and bearing 2 twin baby chilli fruits. Unlike Ally, who had about 4 chilli fruits now, Beth's transition from flowers to fruits is just slow and steady. Beth's a little slow in growing, but she'll be there surely. Not exactly spectacular, but someone you can depend on to show up and get things done every time.

But if you were to criticize that Beth is slow, perhaps you should look nearer to the root of the problem. I had grouped 2 other plants together with Beth, all within the same space. No wonder Beth didn't grow fast. Unlike Ally and Charlene, which are planted as a stand-alone, there's a lot of competition for resources for Beth. Now if you consider that new information, it's very decent that Beth can grow and produce 2 chilli fruits. Very very decent, given its circumstances. Without that competition, who knows if Beth can outgrow and out produce her two sisters, Ally and Charlene.

Beth's dependents. There's 2 other plants grouped together with Beth, competing for resources.

So back to the question: Who should I award the "Best chilli plant 2014" to?

Ally? Because she's a survivor, growing against the odds and eventually flowering and producing the greatest harvest of chilli fruits way before the rest?

Beth? Despite her circumstances, she plodded on steadily and surely, though growing shorter than the rest, started flowering after Ally and produced 2 twin baby chilli fruits before long?

Charlene? The fastest grower among the three (almost as tall as me now), for always pushing ahead and gaining the greatest height so as to get more sunlight? But she's the only one who have not produced any chilli fruits...

I couldn't decide. How could I? Everyone is unique to their own specific circumstances and each has their own way of handling the adversities of life. I scrapped off that idea and thought no more of awards. All of them are winners, in their own right and in spite of their own circumstances.

Did you also try to award the "Best chilli plant 2014" to somebody? It might not be the same award title, because there's various names to it, like "Most successful person 2014", or "Made the most money 2014" or "Most incredible networth grower 2014" etc etc. Perhaps you should consider scrapping it too. There'll always an Ally, a Beth and a Charlene among us.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...

Trust a butterfly who will give his chilli plants pet names!?

All girlie names some more!

Now I know chilli flower is white!

I learned something new today :)

la papillion said...


HAHA, I never really gave them names until this blog post, but from hence on, they will really be called Ally, Beth and Charlene!

Why are they all name of girls? I seriously don't know. It's just sort of natural for me to name them in a feminine way. I guess La papillion is a feminine name too LOL

Or perhaps I'm really a feminine kind of guy. Not the macho, chest thumping sort, but the quiet, book-reading, art drawing sort ;)

Sillyinvestor said...

Hi LP,

The message behind the story is clear. Also thank you for the effort. U know what I mean.

Of the three flowers, which do you think is happiest? It doesn't matter isn't it. The grower enjoy it. ;p

I think some has misunderstood what I really feel or try to say. But it's doesn't matter. I appreciate your post. Nice !! Have a great day

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Perhaps you should follow up with another blog post to clarify :)

Which is happiest? I don't know. That's like awarding the best chilli plant 2014 all over again! Nah, no need to know :)

You take care, bro :)

Investopenly said...

LP : Wah, you really got green fingers wor! The chilli flower looks pretty cool.

So, what is your next plant? tomatoes? lol

My 15HWW said...

Hi LP,

Beautiful story and I enjoyed it.

Is there really a need for external accolades to be showered upon us? It's amazing how we humans are such suckers for fleeting fame. =p

I guess we are who we are. All of us have unique circumstances and we are just doing our best to survive and thrive!

Condolences to those who didn't survive the Massacre!

la papillion said...

Hi Richard,

Ya, it's tomatoes :) I need to try it again to see if I can do it :) Anyway, there's a hope that I don't have to buy tomatoes for consumption haha

la papillion said...

Hi 15hww,

Thanks! It's not fictional, the story is really true :) But of course, I need to embellish it a little to create emotional resonance.

Hiaz, I still feel bad about the "Massacre" :(

SS said...

Hi LP,

Thank you for the wonderful recount of growing your chilli plants.

Perhaps it's me who tend to humanise things. I could almost picture your chilli plants as three ladies growing up, where growth = career advancement and bearing fruit = having children.

I must be crazy. Haha.

la papillion said...


Hehe, the good thing about stories is that it can represent anything you essence, the story stay the same, yet it grows with you. This kind of stories are timeless and everything you read it, it'll give you different meanings.

You see what you want to see :)

Rolf Suey said...

Hi LP,

This is a interesting post. Sidetrack abit, by the way, my daughter name is pronounced as Charlene though spelling different.

Thanks for taking care of her.

She is not that tall anyway.. haha..


la papillion said...

Hi Rolf,

Whatr a coincidence! I will take care of Charlene! :)

LOL, tall might not be in terms of height ;)