Good luck Fillmore! Attempting a mini durian plantation

Fillmore wrote to me some time ago asking if I could send him some durian seeds for his garden. It took a while due to my own dry spell of good durians. Either the seeds had been frozen before (and therefore no longer reliable), or they just didn’t look like good seeds to grow (see this previous post if you need to know what this means).

Anyway on a recent trip back to durian motherland, I managed nothing short of a heist to bring this back for personal enjoyment. It was only one box but soooo delightful. It was a Mao Shan Wang (Musang king), which had large and little seeds. I selected six of the largest, packaged them and sent them off to Fillmore in the Philippines by registered parcel post.

The durians. MSW's from Malaysia.

The durians. MSW’s from Malaysia.

Here’s what Fillmore had to say…..

Hi Stinky Spikes!. . . . I am so happy to let you know that just received yesterday afternoon September 9, 2014 all six (6) durian seeds you sent me via Hong Kong. At that time i just recovered from a fever and colds, but upon seeing the durian seeds, the fever just disappeared. I now planted it in some pots filled with top soil to grow. Are those seeds of the precious Musang King variety? Again, a million thanks to you for those seeds, I will pray that you will always have good health and more blessings to come. Again, thank you.

He got them on the day of the mid Autumn festival, how auspicious! I hope that you’ll invite me for fruit if they grow into trees 🙂


2 Durian Saplings are Thriving in Bristol

Durian Sapling in Bristol

3 year old Durian Sapling in a Bristol Flat

Thank you Chris for sending us a photo of your durian sapling (btw, definition: sapling = young tree) which is absolutely beautiful.

Notice that its grown very tall (would you say 1 ft a year Chris?) and the leaves are very well formed and lush green.

A note from Chris on his Stinky Spike:

“This Durian sapling is about 3 years old. I planted the seeds from a fruit I bought in China Town, London. Because I am in the UK and winters here are cold, I germinated the seeds on a heated pad, like the ones they use for reptiles and amphibians. I now keep the growing tree near a radiator (which other plants seem to hate because it dries them out!), but I water it often with luke warm water from the kettle. I also planted it in ericaeous compost (I think normal potting compost is too rich for durian plants). All in all, it seems to tolerate my drafty flat in Bristol much better than expected!”


Chris, I have a few questions for you (hope you don’t mind!):

1. Did you start off growing this tree in the same pot as you have now or did you transplant it from a smaller pot?

2. I notice that the leaf tips turn brown, mine does too, any idea why? (is it natural?)

3. When your plant grew, did it lose any of its initial leaves along the way?

4. Did your plant grow from the base and is there a rough-ish texture along the initial stem?

5. Why is there a mirror beside the pot? Is this to reflect more light onto the leaves?

6. How long do you intend to keep it in your flat before you think it needs to be planted outdoors?

7. Do you intend to attempt at making a durian bonsai?

8. Do you love Durian fruit?

I am really looking forward to seeing Chris’s photos on his Durian Sapling’s sibling, which he donated to the botanic gardens of Bristol. Apparently, it is thriving in a heated greenhouse and is in better shape!

It would be pretty amazing if suddenly Bristol could become a European durian hub. But its going to be tough to beat the variety we have here in Malaysia 🙂

Weird Ads featuring Durians

Usually when I’m traveling, I don’t really take notice of all the ads around just because there are so many of them screaming out for attention. My mind just learns to ignore them after a while and my eyes may wander over it but my brain usually doesn’t bother registering. On my way down to Singapore 2 weekends ago, I was in the queue at immigration and while waiting for the passport scanning to take place, I scanned the area for anything else to look at apart from the immigration officer. That’s when I saw this ad.

CIMB Durian Advertisement

The are funny thing about this ad is that it is by a company that has chosen to copy another company’s advertising campaign. Specifically, a local Malaysian bank – CIMB-  that is following in the footsteps of HSBC’s advertising. Well, sort of. Thing is, the HSBC ads are just a lot smarter and the ads and the copy happens to make sense. The CIMB ads however, all come across a little bit cringey (the claims!) and the copy is just plain weird. I’m not really sure what the message is behind the ad but it is always fun to see a really provocative fruit featuring prominently. One durian… one bank? I wonder if the people who dislike durian will find this ad a turn-off…

You get the picture a lot better when you see the HSBC advertisement, which then puts everything into perspective. A lot more subtle and thought provoking… featuring many durians and other interesting activities that interest a general viewer. Also seen at Singapore airport, the HSBC ad reads “HSBC recognizes that people value things differently”

HSBC Advertisement featuring Durian

HSBC Durian Advertisement

If you’re travelling around Asia, you’re bound to see these ads. Look out for them and its fun to think about what their intended message is…

No more Tauwa for SW

SS No. 1 Brown Tips

SS No. 1 Brown Tips

Oh dear, Oh dear. There I was telling you how healthy SS No. 1 is and how well its doing. SS No. 1 has still got many challenging stages to get through to survive. It all started with my observation of the tips of the leaves turning brown, an indication to me that something was going wrong with this little plant. First it was one leaf, then in a span of a few days, I noticed that several leaves started having their tips turn brown too. Concern turned into alarm as I realised that I might have either a spreading infection in this plant or that something was killing it. Turning to my book “What’s wrong with my plant” for advice, I read that in many plants, leaves turning brown gradually but not due to bugs consuming it or sun burn is an indication that there is a remote problem, usually the roots.

Oh no! The roots! How would I be able to tell if it is a root infection or perhaps my own folly of over-watering? I spent a dreamless Saturday night mulling over my possible actions and its consequences. On Sunday morning, I had made my decision and broke the news to SW.

“You’re going to have to help me today,” I said ” the little Tauwa durian plant looks rather ill and we have to dig it up and check its roots.” Before SW could protest, I added ” Go look at it, it really doesn’t look well and I’m not sure what’s wrong”. With that, SW went to have a look at the little durian plant and indeed solemnly agreed that perhaps it wasn’t looking its best. What shall we do about it, he asked.

SS. No. 1 in Troubled Waters

“Hmm, perhaps we could attempt a change of soil environment, I suspect that something’s up with the soil, maybe fungal or bugs or perhaps it is just too wet and the soil isn’t able to drain because of the fancy pot we put it in…”

Well we shook the soil off and attempted a round in water but I think you can tell that it’s going to be a futile rescue. Well SS No. 1 has already had its first near death experience an this is the second so let’ see how it goes.

Durian Plants Stinky Spikes Family

It’s about time I let you in on a little secret. Stinky Spikes No. 1 isn’t alone. That’s right. All along, I’ve been worried that SS No. 1 may not make it and in a subsequent durian session, SW and I collected more durian seeds (which fit our criteria for suitable growth) and decided to have a go at germinating them too.

Stinky Durian Seeds from the D24

Big Stinky Seeds of the D24 Durians

This time, the seeds weren’t from a Tauwa tree, but a rather delicious D24. Common enough I hear you say, yes, its true. D24 is very commonly found and quite consistent in flavor and texture, a much loved and dependable favorite of the Durian world. However, it is a hybrid and being one of the most successful ones around, we figured it to be a tenacious specie of the lot and therefore worth a try.


From our last Tauwa experience for SS No. 1, I decided that I had learned something. Out of the 2 seeds I had brought home and treated in exactly the same fashion, only one germinated successfully while the other simply withered up, turned black and underwent necrosis in the exact same pot.

Pondering upon the what’s and the why’s led me to suspect (as I have mentioned in previous posts) that SIZE does indeed matter. The bigger and more symmetrical of the 2 seeds germinated while the other one which was flattish and sort of slightly mis-shapened didn’t develop… (see above para).

Hence, this led to the ultimate conclusion that seeds should be BIG, ROUND, FULL and FRESH!

Another important criteria was the cleaning and removal of the remaining flesh and the mild sterilization to ensure that mould and other germs don’t beat the germination process by consuming the entire seedling before it has a headstart in life.

So there you have it, the choicest round, heavy, largest seeds we had from the pack.

Durian Seed Looks like Nose


Just to illustrate this point further, here’s an example of a seed to avoid taking home to germinate. I thought this seed looked so peculiar, it resembled a funny looking nose with indentations on each side and of totally unbalanced proportions. A seed like this would probably not have the right supplies of food stores and wouldn’t be an optimal candidate for germination.


Observation: This time round, I paid more attention to the possibility that bigger seeds might yield bigger and healthier plants. I’m glad to say that this hypothesis isn’t far wrong and big seeds do certainly yield bigger plants from the very start.

Anyway, here’s a brief starter glimpse into the germination process and in the next entry, I will feature the Stinky spikes plantlings themselves.

Durian seedlings

The 3 D24 Durian Seedlings

D24 seedlings sideview

D24 seedlings germinating side view

Top view of the D24 Stinky Spikes, SS No.2, SS No. 3 and SS No. 4

Notice how large these stems are, literally splitting the seed open.

Side view of the 3 D24 Durian Seedlings

This photo provides you with some perspective of the size of the seeds and you can see how strong and firm the stems are pushing down into the cotton wool with its singular tap root probing for the water. The stems are almost as tall and long as the seed itself.

D24 Durian seeds germinating 4 in a box

4 D24 Durian seedlings germinating

Top-Side View of the 4 Durian Seedlings germinating in the box.

Notice that 3 have prominent roots and stems already, while the seedling on the top right looks healthy but fails to produce roots. This seed had developmental issues and failed to develop further although it did absorb a lot of water and always appeared to be about to germinate.

Updates on Baby Durian Plant Stinky Spikes No. 1

Stinky Spikes Durian Plant No. 1

Stinky Spikes Durian Plant No. 1 (SS No.1)

It’s been a while since I updated you on the progress of the durian plant named Stinky Spikes No. 1 (or SS No. 1 for short).

SS N0. 1 has grown somewhat but not quite at the rate which I would think befitting for a tree. Then again, it might just the the species of our little plant, it is a rare Tauwa, otherwise known as a “old tree” in local speak, ot a tree which has been cloned and hybridized by farmers for optimal growth and fruiting. This little durian plant is sure taking its time. To be fair, it has grown somewhat, the crown of it has exceeded the height of its pot, but it still looks quite fragile and tentative to me. Not sure if I ought to be doing anything else right to make it speed up.

This little plant already gets a fair amount of water, you can see that the soil is rather wet and soggy. At first I was concerned that perhaps the roots didn’t like a too wet environment. These rainforest plants do need well drained soils, but then again, SW rationalized with me that the forest floor is shaded and does get heavy monsoon showers which makes it soggy and often waterlogged. Don’t durian plants survive there too? Yes, I suppose they do. So, my watering hasn’t stopped, and SS No. 1 gets watered just like all the others.

You can see that it’s leaves are nice and green, and there are some new fresh leaves that are about to open up at the top. I have it on the balcony but not directly exposed to the sun, it is still somewhat shaded although I’ve been thinking about whether it ought to get at least a few hours of blazing light a day just to dry up the surface of the soil.

The reason why I haven’t been putting it out in the sun, if you recall, is because the last time I did that, I accidentally fried the baby leaves, which turned a complete brown and died. The dried up dead leaves are still present (although you can’t see them in this phot0) on the inside, which serves as a reminder to me that you can’t expose anything that young to too much of anything or it’s going to get killed before you know it.

One of the problems I’ve been having is with the little black flies which look like gnats. They’ve taken up residence in the soil and flit around the plant in the daytime, night time I think they reside in the loose soil. I’m not sure how to get rid of them, I’ve been trying to kill them (manually) and also attempting to scare them away by using citronella, none of which have been successful. Am now thinking of new ideas to get rid of them, including the use of fire (candles, not anything larger) and see if the flies may also be attracted to water (death by drowning). I apologize to any of the buddhists reading this site, but I would like to keep the plants bug free and in as much of a controlled environment as possible.