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Saturday, May 31, 2008

More pictures



The pink blossoms look beautiful but I
couldn't resist taking a photo of lan-
tana growing wild on the roadside.

Flowering tree of summer: Laburnum


Woke up this morning to see water, water
everywhere. Thankfully, the sun shone, so
the drying up did not take all that long.
The temperature hasn't come down; max 34
degrees Celsius with 75% relative humidity
(groan!). Despite the slush, there's some-
thing to keep the spirits soaring--the
flowering trees of summer. The hill on the
opposite side of our house is dotted with
red and yellow blooms. Throughout autumn
and winter it isn't worth a second glance.
Come May , and the first signs of resurrec-
tion cannot be missed.
This photo is one that I took this morning
but not from the hill I mentioned.This was
taken at Zoo-Narengi Road. Laburnum.:
Wouldn't anyone LOVE this yellow?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Periwinkle


Even in small spaces like mine,the
front-yard has its surprises. Yes-
terday, while I was trying to pho-
tograph a beautiful blue butterfly,
(mission unaccomplished, the pretty
thing was NEVER still), I noticed
this periwinkle blooming behind the
mango tree. I haven't been paying
much attention to this area because
I was hard at work: re-potting, re-
arranging and trimming my potted
plants. But seeing the bloom really
made a difference to my day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Names and Shapes

It's interesting to know about how
plants derive their names from peo-
ple: the dahlia is named in honour
of Andreas Dahl, an 18th century
Swedish botanist. The loganberry
after Judge James Logan, an Ame-
rican horticulturist who bred it
in the late 19th century, and the
greengage after Sir William Gage,
an English botanist who brought the
fruit into England from France.
Plants are often named after the
shape of their leaves or flowers.
A dandelion, from the French dent-
de-lion, which means "a lion's tooth".
Other plants named after their shape
include, from the Greek, aspidistra
(shield), delphinium (dolphin), and
hepatica (liver). From Latin we have
aster (star), gladiolus (small sword)
palm ( the palm of the hand).
Got these facts from an old clipping
I'd taken from a magazine ages ago.
Fellow Blotanists might enjoy reading
this.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Smooth stones and bromeliads

My potted area

Li'l white blossom


While taking a picture of the day lilies,
I saw this pretty blossom under the hi-
biscus shrub. As a child, I remember my
mother telling me that these plants grow
in moist soil. And we had these only in
one part of the garden but here they seem
to spring up everywhere. One can imagine
what quality of soil my plot has. In my
region, the north-eastern part of India,
this herb grows wild. The smell is pungent
but when steamed, the smell gets milder. In
my mother tongue it is called "rats' ears".
Although it is a common plant, there's some-
thing special about coming across the first
blossom of the year. It looked as if it was
trying to get a better view of blue infinity
and saying, 'Isn't life beautiful?'

Day lily



This is the first of the vibrant orange
variety to bloom. There's a whole row
waiting to burst into flames!

Monday, May 26, 2008



'But a weed is simply a plant that wants
to grow where people want something else.
In blaming nature, people mistake the cul-
prit. Weeds are people's idea, not nature's.'
Author unknown

Started the day with some weeding and got
some of these in my potted plants. These
are edible and called 'parrot's tongue' in
my mother tongue. Apt description, for the
leaves are no bigger than a bird's tongue.
The idea of taking a picture and posting
it later is a thought that stays somewhere
in the recesses of my mind. Later scoured the
net for an appropriate quote but did not want
to include anything that sounded unkind. After
all, these were 'weeds' only because they happ-
ened to be where only the ornamental should
have been.

Backyard scene



Created this little isle of stones,
shells and grass at the back. Grass
look pretty when they have white
lines on them. The smooth river
stones happen to be my favourite
garden feature and I collect them
whenever I get a chance. The starfish
was bought at a beach in Chennai and
the snail shells were once (not very
long ago), pests in my garden. I hope
snaily souls are at peace and will
forgive me for nipping them in the
bud and in bloom.
The mint-like plant in the middle
is in fine fettle now that it's its
season. But I'm bad with names so not
much of a help here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bamboo basket



A Dimasa basket I use for dried bay leaves.
The quantity of the leaves has greatly
diminished. Sometimes I wonder, do we really
relish them so or is it out of seeing
our mothers, aunts and myriad cousins use
them that we tend to not ignore them when we
cook?! Without these leaves, would the dish
taste insipid,lack zing? I really don't know.
A voice at the back of my cranium tells me
that the basket needs to be replenished.....
Anyway, I have placed artificial flowers
in the basket. These were bought at the
Thai pavilion at the annual Trade Fair held
held in our city.

Bamboo planter



Not a very aesthetic-looking arrangement
but fresh zinnia cuttings from my small
flower-patch adds a splash of colour to
the corridor. I have never used this plan-
ter for what it was intended ; it's got
drainage holes at the bottom. I've always
placed a glass or a jar in the planter to
display blooms or foliage. Even though I'm
from Bamboo country, it isn't always that
you get to buy something as sturdy and as
spacious(?) as this!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hibiscus




I have three hibiscus plants but the third
one is not included in this post. It's dark
red and is a regular in many gardens around
these parts. The pink ones flower in profu-
sion and they do so for almost the entire year.
But the yellow one isn't as prolific. I sim-
ply love the colour. The tinge of red in the
middle makes it all the more beautiful.

Elusive butterflies



Spent some time chasing butterflies in
the garden. The small white ones, the
yellow ones and the splotched and mot-
tled ones were busy flitting and hover-
ing about the hibiscus flowers but were
never still ( wasn't the nectar sweet
enough?). Finally came across this one
on a guava leaf, seemingly oblivious to
my movements in trying to get her best
angle.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A luminous mutter of wasps
Through dry fern, the sun afloat
In the blue bird-sea above
A barbed wire fence, wisps
Of white on the barbs, as though
They had once snagged a cloud
And the burnt trees rubbing
Their arms together in whispers.

I have entered this moment.
It prolongs itself slowly.
I stand inside silence.
Now I become.

The luminous mutter of
Wasps at their taxed work
Echoes inside my hand.
The fragments of cloud on the fence
Tatter away in sudden wind.

These have moved one space away,
Becoming absence.
I am freckled with leaves.
The river slaps at
My limbs which it has refracted,
Tepidly gentle
Into deformities.

From 'Midsummer' by Dom Moraes

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bird view



On hot drowsy afternoons, when no souls
stir, birds come and spend some time near
the blackberry tree. I was Stealth pers-
sonified when I zoomed in on this bird.
The berries haven't ripened but I guess
the thought of an unending supply ( from
bird view-point) provides succour for
flights that might have been, otherwise,
fruitless!

A taste of summer




It's the season of the 'bael' now. Bael ( Aegle
marmelos) is native to India. The fruit resembles
the wood apple; it's green when raw but when it
ripens, the colour changes to yellow and then,
brown. It has many medicinal properties. The
flesh of the fruit is yellow, with several seeds.
It's sweet and aromatic and has a refreshing taste.
It's one summer drink that I make very often.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

String 'em beans!



Years ago I saw pictures in a gardening book
about how using string and stakes would be
beneficial in small gardens. At that time we
were living in a house with a biggish garden
and the thought of such innovation was, beyond
me. But look at me now. Good old string coming
to the rescue! Never mind that it looks as if
it isn't going to last. Looks can be deceptive,
remember?
Traditionally, this variety of broad bean is
sown in late July, in the north-eastern part
of the country. But one stray seed must've got
deeply embedded in the soil. In the process of
repotting or loosening ( I really can't say ),
the seed must've sighed with relief and got
down to germinating. Sprouting leaves, stem,
and now, tendrils going every which way- where
would I be without the help of sturdy string?
Beans on the table, that too, home-grown. At
the end of the year when I look back, I'll
surely be able to say, 'It's bean a good year!'

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ah,ginger leaves!



The first leaves this year, fresh from
the backyard- all set to garnish a dish
of fried chicken. A taste of heaven!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

'Mangosteoporosis'



My brother laughed when I told him that
my mango tree was stricken with 'mangos-
teoporosis'. The result is that it is a
drastically reduced version of its former
self and the anthithesis of the image that
one has of a mango tree: thick, gloriously
green foliage with innumerable branches,
home to myriad birds and small animals,
and a shady ground below.
Two years ago, when the March wind blew
fast and furious, a branch bearing about
twenty-five tender mangoes unceremonious-
ly snapped and fell down. I did go through
the 'why-my-mango-tree' phase which took
some time to pass. But as if that wasn't
enough, last year, right after the flower-
ing season, the wind wreaked havoc again.
This time it was another big branch. I sup-
pose that something must be lacking in
its innards that every time the wind
blows hard it has to break like a brittle
bone!
The betel nut tree, its immediate neighbour,
sways dangerously during a storm but as soon
as the wind fades to a whisper, it stands
unscathed--proud and tall again.
My mango tree will take some more years to
recover from the brunt and also to lend
more credibility to its name. A crow
family had religiously nested on its higher
reaches year after year. But now no bird
worth its glossy feather will deign to
build its Home Tweet Home. At least not
for a while.......

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Half a pumpkin



While on to pumpkins, I committed the cardinal
sin of not taking a picture of this home-grown
one before I cut it into half. I suppose growing
vegetables in the confines of small spaces brings
out an exaggerated sense of achievement. Which is
why the picture part completely slipped out of my
mind. Posting the one taken later, halved. The
effect,Halloweeny.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The promise of a future!



There's something wonderful about waking
up to a vegetable bloom like this pumpkin
flower on my bamboo grove. It definitely
puts the zing into my morning. By tomorrow,
or by noon, it will have wilted, leaving no
trace of having once been connected with any-
thing floral. It'll be reduced to either
a blob or mass, depending on the weather
before it gently lands on the ground.
But no matter how short-lived, vegetable
blooms fill me with joy. Other flowers
burst into song and fade away but vegetable
blooms signify fecundity and the promise
of a future!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Brown butterfly



Found this brown beauty resting on the
dappled shade of the bamboo leaves. It
was about eight o'clock but the sun was
already strong.

The Bamboo Curtain



When we moved to our new home a decade ago,
we planted bamboo all along the boundary
wall. Living up to its reputation of being
the fastest growing plant, they shot up and
then the laws of the forest took over. Wood-
land wonders appeared in our backyard.....
Itsy-bitsy spiders wove miniscule webs; myriad
ants made little mounds near the roots and
went about the serious business of crawling!
Black and yellow wasps bore precision round
holes on the stems and went into hibernation!
Dry leaves fell, rotted, and turned to soil
food. Then in the midst of the dense green,
the doves came to nest. And they kept coming
year after year. The moorhens came too, making
a nest where the foliage was the thickest. This
made me feel like the ( earth ) mother of all
that I survey.

But if birds come, would snakes be far behind?
I saw one gliding about the grove, rather majes-
tically. On any sunny day, lizards ( the ones
with a tinge of red on the back ) bask, loath
to move. And we thought that the bamboo would
be just a hedge! I still marvel at what we got
in exchange!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gone forever

The computer crashed recently and some
of my earlier garden pictures are gone
forever. Some garden scenes can never
be re-created, I feel. The bigger plants
do not look much different despite the
seasons; it's either the flowers or the
fruit, or simply green leaves...But sea-
sonal flowers bring about that big diff-
rence particularly in my little space.
Usually, I don't grow the same flowers
every year, or maybe not in the same
spot. Which is why the sense of loss
is deeper. Looking at one of the pictures,
I had marvelled at the utter lack of
symmetry. Taken from an angle that included
the steps leading to the house, the tiny
rockery, nasturtiums in a blaze of yellow
and orange, ferns, palm and bougain-
villiea, another yellow patch here---
the picture had an 'untamed' look about
it. Wild beauty that I must create again
this winter!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Zinnias

My zinnias were growing tall and spindly so
I trimmed some stems today. I know, I know, I
should've done that much earlier. Anyway, I
put some of the blooms in a bowl of water
and placed the bowl on the kitchen table.
They sure look pretty!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

East-side neighbour

There's a wall that stands between me and
my eastside niighbour. It isn't high enough
to be unscalable but because of it we haven't
really visited each other. The entrance to
their lane is way out and both of us have not
made a conscientious effort to step into each
other's homes. It's so much easier to talk
across the fence. And starting with family, the
house and the garden, we must've discussed
everything under the sun! The lady might be
watering her plants and I might be pottering
about the garden but we stop to take a moment
and sometimes more to catch up!
It's been over two years now of keeping up the
relationship. On festive occasions, we exchange
home-cooked goodies and garden produce is what
we gift each other. From my side it's blackberries
and mangoes in summer, tomatoes in winter. Depending
on the time of the year, it's bananas and sweet,
ripe papayas from her. Sometimes it's a bunch of
freshly unearthed dark green coriander with little
clods of soil still stuck on the roots. Oh, to
get the smell of fresh herbs ( haven't I practically
grown up with that?)one can't wait to garnish the
lunch-time fare that's already on the table. Bless
her!
Like I said, there's a wall that separates our
respective plots. But when it comes to being
neighbourly, there isn't any barrier between
us..........