Saturday, October 19, 2019

Garden Diaries: Desperate for Winter


“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I truly appreciate the sentiment of the quote above. During my travel abroad, I have seen the glory of autumn when every leaf turn yellow, red or orange. It is just a riot of colours and such  a lovely transition from summer to winter. In US , the celebration of Halloween also comes during the month and Pumpkins of all sizes are decorated.
Octobers in India are not like that. They are, however, lovely in their own ways. In India also this is usually the month of festivities of Navrati , Dussehra and then Deepawali. For me October is a month of sweet-winter sunshine, lovely mornings and planting of winter annuals. As long as I remember, we have been planting our seedlings in October for winter flowers.


But then, there is climate change. It is so real and obvious now that one third of the October is already gone and the monsoon is still around. The millipedes are still digging up my lawns and the clouds dutifully turn up every now and then. The impatient me , is desperate for the change of weather but the day temperature refuses to drop. In the sunny days, it is quite hot and the cloudy days are even worse. The mornings, though cooler than before, have not reached the level of typical October mornings.  The rains have overstayed their welcome and continue to flood my flowerbeds.

Yet, unable to stop myself, I have planted some asters, petunias and salvias so far and I am waiting for rains to go completely before I venture further with marigolds and calendulas, Pansies, Nasturtiums and daisies. I have also put seeds for some cosmos and cineraria and hope that the weather Gods will oblige a dip in temperature to make germination possible.

Luckily, despite the continued heat and rains, Mums are doing fine and finally Balsam is flowering.  Last weekend I also attempted planting some Geraniums in pots and I hope they survive the weather. Same day, I also planted my Petunia stars. It was a nice sunny day and then by the noon, the clouds started gathering. It rained cats and dogs for about an hour. Petunias (much like me) do not like their feet wet. But thanks to the rains, the bed was flooded. Luckily since then, it has not rained and plants have managed to survive the onslaught.

On one such humid Sunday, I found a golden oriole on a tree nearby. I had never seen this pretty yellow bird and was mesmerised by its appearance and its song.  The Green Bee eaters are always roaming around and the kingfisher is often seen in the afternoons on his usual tree. On one Sunday, in an hour, I found Coppersmith barbets, Plum faced parakeets, Grey Hornbill and even a Blue Roller.  But to make my heart glad, about a few days back my favorite family of spotted owlet flew back. The three of them are now often seen enjoying the sun on the neem tree. The other delightful news is about the peahen, who has chosen the roof of our guard room to lay her eggs. She is usually sitting there whole day and only steps down early morning to get some food.

For the waterlilies, our little experiment of burying 8 water tanks in the ground around fountain seems to have worked.   So far, it is only an occasional waterlity or two , but I do hope that in winter months, there will be much more beauty in my little ponds.
In absence of seasonal flowers, plants like Anthurium (Flamingo flower), Mussaenda and some kalanchoes are my saviours. They break the monotony of green and make the garden look happy.

October also turn out to be a busy month for sowing vegetables and filling up patches of hedge . Now that I will be travelling half of next month, I want to complete the work in garden a lot more impatiently. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Garden Diaries : Come September



“For all I can really do is
stand here
in September’s rain
savoring…
soaking it all in
slipping..
and simply
holding on to poetry
for dear life.”

        ― Sanober Khan, Turquoise Silence
September generally brings respite from the wreckage of rains and the news of upcoming winters. But not this time. Intermittent rains continue to bless the garden and usually the weather is warm and humid. Generally, this weather is good for sowing and thus I took my chance with some winter annuals. But then Rains lashed out on the seeds and ruined them. Mistake . Big mistake. Or should I say my impatience which led to this. But I think when you are a gardener you do at times make this mistakes and then you learn from them. So as of now, except from Mums, no other winter annuals yet planted. With some effort lawn grass has improved but much remains to be done.

Colours of Hibiscus
 There is very little colour in the garden except from Hibiscus – my showgirls of this dull season. I have five colours of Hibiscus and all are on bloom right now. They are found everywhere in Asia and are commonly used for various purposes. My mother in law use red hibiscus for Puja and I have tasted Hibiscus tea, which is supposed to be very good to cure/ control various ailments. Portulaca bravely continue to add flowers but frankly it does not charm anyone except our resident red wattle Lapwing.
Portulaca bed and our resident bird 

But then, a garden is much more than just flowers. Even though flowers remain my favorite element in the garden, today I will discuss about other plants. Last year I planted some herbs in my garden and was moderately successful in growing Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, Lemongrass and Carom. At the moment Basil, Lemongrass and Carom are growing like anything and the other two are not doing too well. Though till last month even they were doing fine. I keep on searching new use of these herbs in my kitchen. Mint (pudina) ,tulsi ( holy basil), curry leaves and coriander are anyway staples in any Indian kitchen garden, for our recipes can’t do without them. We are lucky to have Giloy creeper and some Aloe vera plants as well. In winters, I am determined this time to experiment with more herbs. The thing with herbs is that they are useful and it makes growing them even more delight.
Herbs - Carom, Basil , Rosemary and Lemongrass
Other than herbs, there are always some crotons which add to the delight of the garden. Recently a friend and me spent half a weekend discussing how to landscape evergreen crotons and coleuses in shades to add some colours. We have carried some of these plants with us from our previous city. One can count on these and plants like African Grass, Jade, Asparagus densiflorus,snake plant, money plant etc. to remain green and nice, whatever be the weather. That is why these are my choices even for indoor small planters, which I keep in my house as well as in my office room.


Though this month is not the best for garden, in terms of flowers, we already have dragonflies and butterflies doing rounds on remaining cosmoses and other plants. Snails and worms, which end up being dinner for the family of enterprising Hoopoe and Peacock also are in plenty. This year I learnt much about behaviour of the birds with change in weather. It is a pleasure to look for birds after rain has stopped.
I have four scented creepers in my house and at the moment all are on bloom. While Bela, Juhi and Chameli are all white scents , Rangoon creeper (madhumalti) adds colour as well as faint fragrance in the evenings.
I think the rains will finally stop by the end of the month and then the fall cleaning will commence in October. There is so much to look forward to in the days to come. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Garden Diaries: August (The Magical Monsoon)


“And at last it comes. You hear a patter…you see a leaf here and there bob and blink about you; you feel a spot on your face, on your hand. And then the gracious rain comes, gathering its forces—steady, close, abundant. Lean out of window, and watch, and listen. How delicious!...........the verandah beneath losing its scattered spots in a sheet of luminous wet; and, never pausing, the close, heavy, soft-rushing noise…”
~ John Richard Vernon, “The Beauty of Rain,” 1863

Finally, the Rain-Gods were happy. The city was blessed with beautiful rains, turning my garden into a riot of green shades. The flowers are damaged with incessant rain and wind and the weeds are everywhere. I wanted to work on my lawn grass before the rain starts but as many good things in life, it was delayed and well, now I will rush. There are some uneven patches which I would like to mend and the gaps in hedges which can be easily filled during rainy season.  With more rains came the millipedes and the problem of waterlogging in plant-beds. There was so much work in the garden to just clean and de-weed.
Adenium in Rain

Rains is a lovely period for a garden. You can grow almost all possible perennials and creepers. Rangoon creeper and Heart-leaved moonseed (Giloy) sprang to life with the touch of raindrops. The leaves have filled the bamboo fencing with our neighbouring house. The evergreen plants like money-plant and crotons are showing new leaves and rain lilies are the pride of the garden.
This weather made me lazy and for many days I did not even think about the vegetable beds. Finally we get an expert for treatment of soil and hope that by end of August, the kitchen garden will be ready to grow seasonal vegetables.
"Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans."
                                                              -Marcelene Cox
August turned out to be an interesting month for the birds. We are witnessing a baby boom in the garden as there are nests and eggs all around. The young ones of doves, pigeons, bulbuls are now learning the ways of the world from their elders and the baby peacock is all grown up. The pair of peacock and peahen frequent our garden almost every other day.  And the new adult peacock one day literally knocked on our glass door . It turned out it was charmed by its own reflection in the glass and perhaps wanted to touch the 'other' bird . It persistently knocked on the door and made a very fascinating sight . 


Knock Knock- Peacock 

The other day I saw a pair of Greater Coucal roaming in the lawns. The news of the month however,  is that on last Sunday morning, in the rain soaked garden, I was finally able to click the resident Kingfisher . And while my delight was still new, the very next day,  a full contingent of Kingfisher family, with four cute baby birds in tow,  was found frolicking in my garden . 


Oriental White Breasted Kingfisher
Monsoon sky is a sight to relish. Evening sky showcase so many hues of red and orange and then it turns into the deepest shade of blue-black. With the patterns of clouds changing every moment , I can sit and watch the sky for hours . Even in the nighttime , clouds play with the moon and stars and create amazing nightscapes. The only thing missing so far is a rainbow .  
Evening sky after rains 
I am not sure whether this is already the time to sow winter annuals' seeds or wait till the best of rains are over. Reason says it should be latter. My gardeners suggest that it is already time for early annuals like salvia and marigold to go for sowing . Chrysanthemum plants saved from last year are already up for their first round of pinching . I am also determined to try some new flowers in the upcoming winters. 
 Other than this and the need for always cleaning the garden beds , it is just the magic of monsoon all around . And when it rains, one can just savor the delight of it, preferably with the fritters of your choice. 


Monsoon and the display of green 

As wisely said – 
For after all, the best thing one can do
When it is raining, is to let it rain.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn, 1863

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Garden Diaries: July (Arrival of Rains)


 In the harsh season of the hot sun
Men and animals alike languish
While the pine burns
The cuckoo unlocks his voice and in quick accord
Both dove and goldfinch sing along

----Sonnet of the Summer Concerto Antonio Vivaldi

As if following an ancient calendar, clouds arrived in my city on the first day of Hindu month of Ashadh. Centuries back, Sanskrit poet Kalidas had begun his famous poem Meghdutam (Cloud messenger) by narrating arrival of clouds on this day. It rained well for two days, pleasing all of us around. The plants half burnt in heat, suddenly were suddenly brought to life, the lawn turned green and the rain lilies bloomed. Even the peacock danced more often than earlier.


The happiness was short-lived. After 2-3 showers, while the weather remained humid and sultry, there were no more rains. But the weather decidedly moved towards better and the rain soaked breeze stayed on till now. The temperature is down by several points and there is humidity in air. It might be very distressing for humans but humidity is great for the garden. Within days, Rajnigandha plants flowered and even the seedlings of Gulmehndi(Balsom) came out like magic.
After the rains 
The next two months belong to green-ness and the white scents. We have Juhi, Rajnigandha  and bela blooming and the entire garden is enveloped in green . Sadly this also means weeds in the lawn and there is no escape from that. A considerable time goes in weeding and weeding again. Scents of course make the air fragrant, especially in the evenings.
Rajnigandha- the fragrance of the rains 
The birds to seems to have found their voices back. In fact early mornings are full of their chirping. So usually around 6 am, I have koel singing on mango tree, Peacock screaming from far away and parrots talking all around. To add to this melody, I have put a metal chime on the frangipani tree in the centre of my lawn. The concerto is superb …that is if you have an ear for these unique garden melodies.

For flowers , I have nothing much to boast right now. Zinnias and Cosmos continue to delight and there are plenty of colorful Portulacas to add charm and colour in the flower beds. Now, here is the funny thing about flowers , it is very interesting how they spread geographically. Historically, tuberose or Rajnigandha is native of Mexico (Aztecs used it first to decorate their house ) and is now an integral part of every floral perfume of Europe( including supposedly Queen Marie Antoinette's perfume called Sillage de La Reine ) . It is also used extensively in weddings or funeral decorations in India  and so on. Even my petite Portulaca are native of  South America( Argentina and Brazil )and are now used all over the world . I have already discussed in previous post about the incredible journey of sunflowers across the globe . Talking of sunflowers,  I was worried that arrival of rains will be end of my glorious crop of sunflowers. But no- I still have plenty of them despite rains and more importantly, despite the families of parakeets. 

Portulaca beds
 Parakeets somehow, seem to be more interested in now almost-ripe mangoes and are always attacking them. At times they also drop the half eaten fruit for the benefit of other creatures of the garden you are not daring enough to go to the upper branches of the tree . 

A plum face parakeet going to attack a mango 
 Interestingly the first day of showers also brought a pair of Black-rumped Flame back and a bunch of little green bee-eaters to my garden.  The flameback or the woodpecker in layman words are beautiful birds and have found a place in Amla tree. There are many younger birds around, including a little baby peacock, who roams under her mother near the hedges and pond. There are several nests with eggs or little birds in them. I even had a cuckoo nest with blue eggs but duly warned by a bird-enthusiast, I never dared to go too near.

Black-rumped Flame back 
This month among the surprised pleasures in the garden – I had two plants of Blood lily (football lily) which suddenly flowered. And just after that, an adenium of dark maroon colour flowered like never before.
Adenium 
I am praying for more rains in the days to come so that I have lilies and more fragrant flowers. I am also determined to grow some vegetables this time. Let’s see what August has in store.  

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Garden Diaries- June (Sunny days)


Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly.    
                   - Pablo Neruda 
No, the light was not wet at all, in my part of the world. It was dry and blazing sun. Comparatively, the garden was silent – as the birds and squirrels were too hassled with heat. Yet the month of June arrived and is almost half done.

 Yellow was the dominated colour this month. The sunshine was bright since early hours and there were plenty of Coreopsis (Tickseeds) and Cosmos all around the flower beds. Even the hedges were turning yellowish green with the mercury rising to 46 degrees. Of, course there were Amaltas flowers spreading a carpet of yellow on green grass every morning but none of these were the crowning glory of the month. The month fairly and squarely belongs to my sun-enchanted, tall giant Russian Sunflowers. Even when I got the seeds, I was not sure how tall they will be. By the time flowering started, the plants were a good 7 ft  tall and had a thick stem to support multitude of big flowers …….and then, they bloomed.

 Sunflowers, in all their golden glory, are a happy sight to behold— they can brighten up a dull day for me. I always fancied a bunch of sunflowers in a tall vase by the window. But in my childhood, we mostly had smaller varieties of sunflowers, which were easy to grow and gave plenty of flowers. Few years back when I was passing through north Karnataka on a work assignment, I saw fields of sunflower plants. They made an incredibly beautiful sight. It was like a flood of yellow for miles together. Since then, I wanted to grow big sunflowers in my garden. This was my first experiment with Russian Giants and I am elated with the result. There is so much to admire about these lovely flowers.  The multipurpose plants deliver healthy snacks (seeds), useful oil, and attract numerous birds and bees. But that is not all, they have a fascinating history and legend as well.


I may be happily growing them in South East Asia today, but like potatoes, tomatoes, and corn, these sunny plants came from the Americas, though the commercialisation happened in Russia first. Evidence suggests that the plant was cultivated by American Indians in present-day Arizona and New Mexico from about 3000 BC. Some archaeologists suggest that sunflower may have been domesticated even before corn. It was used traditionally as food, medicine, dye, and oil. Spanish conquistadors exported it to the rest of the world (i.e. Europe) by around 1500. For next three centuries, the plant was spread all over Europe and was mostly used for decoration in vases. Talking of decorative sunflowers, it is difficult not to remember the famous Van Gogh paintings of sunflower in a vase or The Painter of Sunflowers, the painting by Paul Gauguin.


The credit of bringing these flowers to Russia goes to Tsar Peter the great. It is believed that he first saw sunflowers in Netherlands and was so fascinated by them that he took some back to Russia. By the 19th century, the country was planting two million acres of sunflowers every year. In 2018 also Russia remains the top grower of Sunflowers, followed by Argentina and China. Interestingly, evidence suggests that the plant got widespread approval in Russia not by the insistence of the Royalty but by the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church exempted the sunflower seed oil from the banned oils during the month of Lent.
History came to a full circle when Russian immigrants to USA in the 19th century brought back highly developed sunflower seeds that grew bigger blooms, and sparked a renewed interest in the native American plant. The native North American sunflower plant has finally come back home after a very circuitous route around the globe. Today in many states of US, they have sunflower competitions to measure the biggest ever flowers.
Talking about the global spread of sunflowers, thanks to space-gardener astronaut Don Petite, who is famous for growing zucchini and Broccoli in space (at International Space Station), Sunflowers also reached space. Well, Mr. Petite came to an amusing (yet true) conclusion when the flower did not turn out as big and grown as its cousins back on earth. He concluded that “plants are like people. They are intrinsically lazy and, they only put out as much effort as the environment requires.” I could not agree more.
Ah, Sunflower! Weary of time 

Who countest the steps of the Sun 
Seeking after that sweet golden clime 

Where the traveller's journey is done
                    --William Blake 
Coming back to my own garden, the flowers started very slowly and then there was an unparalleled bloom of yellow all around, with one plant supporting as many as a dozen flowers. Well, it went all fine, till a pandemonium of parrots discovered their location and then the nightmare started. The flock ruined some plants within seconds till I drove them out. Luckily, I have many more plants which survived this vandalism. Incidentally, each sunflower's head is made of smaller flowers. The petals we see around the outside are called ray florets. Sunflowers can self-pollinate or take pollen blown by the wind or transported by insects. The flowers not only look like the sun; they need a lot of it. And what is more, they track sun-  a behaviour called heliotropism.  The flower buds and young blossoms will face east in the morning and follow the sun as the earth moves during the day.

What is even more interesting is that these amazing flowers are nature’s prettiest demonstration of famous Fibonacci sequence,a set in which each number is the sum of the previous two (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, ...). This sequence is nature’s favourite as it is found in everything from pineapples to pine cones. In the case of sunflowers, the tell-tale sign is the number of different seed spirals on the sunflower's face. If you count the clockwise and counter clockwise spirals that reach the outer edge, and you'll usually find a pair of numbers from the sequence: 34 and 55, or 55 and 89 , I think it is so because the nature strives to accommodate maximum possible spirals in the available space and this sequence is the most efficient way to achieve this.


Now, before it appears that my garden had nothing but sunflowers during the month, let me quickly add that to break the monotony of yellow all around, my brave little Zinnias continue to provide a colourful spread. They are impossibly pretty and even in this terrible heat give a glimpse of meadow like scene – with butterflies fluttering on them.



This month was exceptionally cruel for poor birds. Global warming is absolutely real and the temperature was soaring – making poor creatures of my garden, queue up to the water pots I have kept for them. In the afternoons, the sight is so dramatic when birds of various species flock together to jump in the water pot for a quick splash. Even my favourite owlet family is often seen near these water pots.

It is almost middle of the month and yet, no showers. Monsoon has actually arrived in other parts of India and I do hope it reaches us soon.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Garden Diaries- May (It's May, it's May, the month of great dismay)


Glorious Amaltas- the Golden Shower
              
                “Summer has set in with its usual severity.”
                                                       --Samuel Taylor

The sunshine is bright and blazing almost whole day. Even a sight of shade provides some relief to the eyes. Birds are always looking for the bowls of water to splash in and the plants get dried up however much we water them. Well, it is the desert land and you cannot expect an easy summer. This month and the next is harsh to get by for the birds. Even local newspapers appeal to put water for birds and set up birdhouses on trees. The usual chirping comes down from 9 in the morning till late evening (barring some parrots of course who continue to engage with us in a battle of wits over ownership of raw mangoes – Needless to say they win).
 
Parrots  attacking raw mangoes

Earlier this month, on a Thursday morning – the sky was pale blue with no clouds in sight, weather was getting warmer and as usual, this peacock came to our garden. It happily ate its daily staple diet of the bird feed and insects, took a stroll around flowerbeds and suddenly, it was dancing.  Oh, what a performance it was. No words can suffice to that display of colour and I guess contentment (which no doubt came from a good meal). And this is how, ordinary Thursdays turn magical in the marvelous month of May.
Dance Performance in the Garden

AA Milne wrote somewhere that “I regretted that the loveliness of May was lost for so many in the clamour of elections when the only 'issues' which really mattered were the apple and cherry blossom, the budding flowers, and the fresh pale green of birch and beech.” 

 If I think of the Indian Summer alternative to English apple and cherry blossoms, it would be definitely yellow Amaltas (Golden Shower tree) and red Gulmohar (Delonix regia). Yes, election talk even here overshadowed every other real issue. But for anyone keeping his/ her eyes open, it is difficult to overlook the beauty of trees turning the brightest of yellow and red. In India, it is typical to line up the streets with these trees. They flower simultaneously and make such a delightful sight in summers. For me, these flowering trees of Amaltas and Gulmohar and the cuckoo singing on the mango trees are two most endearing sights of Indian Summers. I feel lucky to have many Amaltas and Gulmohars around my house .
जियें तो अपने बग़ीचे में गुलमोहर के तले,
 मरें तो ग़ैर की गलियों में गुलमोहर के लिये
May is not a very forgiving month for flowers but then you have some brave hearts. I am specifically partial to Zinnia- which bloom from summers to monsoons with great gusto. This time we are particularly lucky with Zinnias. We have all possible colors and shades in them and they provide a delightful respite from the dearth of colour in my flowerbeds otherwise.
Colors of Zinnia
My giant sunflower plants are now much taller than me and are full of promise. Buds are already opening and I do hope to see the most beautiful shade of yellow in the garden. Meanwhile, birds are building nests all over the house – inside the hedge, behind the ACs, over the telephone box and of course, in the shrubs and on the trees. Many nests also have eggs. The family of Grey Francolins (Teetar) gleefully march with their latest generation, reminding me of the old film song (Teetar ke do aage teetar ……). In the wild mulberry tree, I have noticed a small nest built by a robin and you can see blue eggs inside. I have been warned by a birder friend not to go very near the nest, in search of a good photograph, as that might attract predators to the nest.

Two happy updates from last month- my owlet family has a new addition too. The junior is very shy and hardly steps out of the tree hole but like all kids, it is curious enough to peep now and then. The eyes are still white, unlike parents and the little one is exceptionally cute.
Baby owlet i.e. Ullu Ka Pattha
Also in my little waterlily pond, we have finally got another colour. Most adorable shade of peach pink which melts my heart every morning. I wish the pond was bigger to accommodate more of these waterlilies.

By the way, some Mangoes have survived too, despite vicious continued attacks from parrots and pigeons. Now they are big enough to be used for pickles, chutneys,panna and all such delightful recipes which taste of summer and we are taking full advantage of them.

While the city regularly faces evening thunderstorms followed by some raindrops, by the morning it is again hot. Hope June will bring some real rain showers.
New colour of Waterlily( Nilopher) 



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Garden Diaries – April ( Hope is in the Air)

                             


"O Day after day we can't help growing older.
Year after year spring can't help seeming younger.
Come let's enjoy our wine cup today,
Nor pity the flowers fallen."


                           -  Wang Wei, On Parting with Spring


Yes, it is April and the spring is very much over. In fact, it has left us in the end of March itself when the flowers started withering and the sunshine became sharper. Now, almost in the middle of April, I see all the portents of Indian summer around me. Neem trees are flowering, Amla tree is showing new leaves and most importantly, Mango blossoms have turned into small raw mangoes. In my part of the world, it is not easy for mangoes to ripe peacefully.  First you have pandemonium of parakeets who find them irresistible – though half the times they just peck the fruit and play with it rather than eating it - and then almost every second evening, there is a thunderstorm making little raw mangoes fall. Well, as of now I still have some kairi (raw mangoes as they are called in Rajasthan) on the tree and I do hope they will survive all this.

Brave little Amiya/ Kairi still surviving Birds and Thunderstorms

But before we go any further, a word (or two) about my garden diaries. The inspiration came from Katheleen N Murray’s My Garden in Wilderness. It was such a delightful read, suggested to me by my friend Rajneesh. The joy of growing a garden is something only a gardener can understand. You are so fascinated by the changing scene in the garden- the first flowers, the attacks by birds, the swarming of bees and the never-ending weeds that you end up talking about it all the time. In my case, I found almost all my google searches and social media shares were turning to be about my garden. Like Ms. Murray, I am sure, I would like to read about my Jaipur-garden-experience again in future and may be re-live the joys and anxiety of a gardener. So the diaries are primarily for my own future reading. I am putting them on my blog, because this is where I write about things dominating my thoughts including gardening. I have earlier also written about my love for gardening and even my Gardening genes , my childhood summer days with Khus scented siestas and waking up with Cuckoos song .
So here we go – I hope to come up with monthly editions of my garden diary. Suggestions (on gardening) and comments on my post are welcome, as always.

My waterlilies
 Back to April , it is not the prettiest month in the garden. In Jaipur where I live, it is getting hotter by every passing day and the beautiful days of seasonal winter flowers are long over. Luckily, I was prompt enough to grow seedlings for my sunflowers, Zinnias, Celosia and Cosmos in February end and that's why the flower beds are now full of neat rows of plants …and a hope of flowers very soon. In fact Zinnias are already showing early blooms. Of course, I had to pinch many buds so that the plant  grow better and thicker , but I do have some flowers here and there .


Buds on Bela plant
However, the flowers which make my heart dance with joy these days, are none of these seasonals. It is our good old Bela – also called as Mogra or Motiya in India and Arabian jasmine elsewhere. Interestingly the botanical name Jasminum sambac is supposedly derived from Sanskrit word Champak. The fragrant white flowers, are loved all over Asia. It is national flower of Philippines and also Indonesia. In China it is used in Jasmine tea and in India, it is used to make gajras- the flower ornament for hair. Just a handful of these in a room can fill the room with intoxicating fragrance. The variety I have in my garden in the creeper and it is full of flowers every night. I keep them in my flower bowls, on my office table and even next to my pillow.
Surprisingly, the heat is suiting my herbs. Carrom, Rosemary and thyme are all suddenly full of life. I am growing lemongrass for the first time and even that has responded pretty well to summer.
Amla tree showing new leaves 
 “And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 

                                                  -― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

A delightful scene change in April is bursting new leaves on all trees. There are new leaves all around. I saw the Amla growing new leaves for the first time and it is beautiful.  My lone Frangipani, the centerpiece of my lawn is full of new leaves. In the mornings it is full of chirping bulbuls, mynas, parrots, magpies, cuckoos and of course, squirrels. It attracts a lot of bird and squirrel activity around it partly because   it is in the center of the lawn and partly because I put bird feed and water in terracotta bowl under it. Most of the bird feed however is either taken by squirrels or a pair of Yellow-wattled lapwings ( Titehri in Hindi ) – who are always present in the garden.

Fragrant Desi Gulab
Few plants of  Desi Gulab  are thankfully giving some flowers. They add to the aroma of morning breeze full of mogra fragrance and also add some colour. The Indian desi Gulab or musk rose (Rosa moschata), a very fragrant rose variety, is closely related to the Damascus rose  that originated in Persia. It produces small flowers with pink petals. The petals retain their delicate fragrance long after drying. I dry some of these and use them in my recipes too.

Other than my seasonal Kochias and Portulacas , there is nothing much to plant in pots . Some Adeniums were flowering till now but nothing much to add colour. In the climbers, I have a Rangoon creeper (Madhumalti ) full of pink and white flowers and then there are couple of Bougainvilleas . Not much flowers in Bougainvilleas this season as the plants were recently planted.
Rangoon Creeper i.e. Madhumalti



While the other birds – pigeons, doves and bulbuls seem busy all the time either collecting food or collecting straws to build nests, the peacocks scream early mornings and evenings – perhaps hoping for a rain-shower. They even provide us with an occasional dance performance in the lawn after a heartful meal of bird feed and well,  insects from the waterlily pond.

Mukund during his morning performance


 The only bird who seem to be ill at ease with summer heat , like me,  is the family of owlets who live in a tree hole nearby. The heat seem to be bothering them so much that these days they make appearance even in day time. The one owlet (I have named him Peetaksh-the one with Yellow eyes) usually see me off when I get into car for office. On Sundays also, it often peeps out of its hole and occasionally in late evenings even daringly come to the water bowl for a sip or splash.

It is too hot to stay inside all day -Peetaksh
As I look at it, April is a month full of hope. Hope of ripe mangoes, hope of sunflowers and hope of surviving the green lush of the lawn in the heat. More than anything, hope that the May will be kinder to the garden and its beings. As someone said - April is a promise that May is bound to keep.


Flowers in April -Zinnias, Cosmos and an occasional Rose