Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cute Nibblers

Sunny winters ensure that to escape the cold dark indoors I spent more and more time outdoors; at least till the frigid sun less days are not here. There is always something happening and so you do not get bored even for a single second. Just yesterday I saw - what I then thought to be a strange bird but google told me that this brown headed Barbet is fairly common in India - this cute birdie helping itself merrily to the Guavas. Guavas are one fruit in my garden which, to my utter helplessness, are reserved for the winged; I seldom get to enjoy the lovely fruit as the birds always beat me to it...not that I mind. I very carefully tip toed to shoot it with the camera, but it was blissfully unconcerned with my presence. It must have been after a few minutes that I looked in the direction of Guava tree to find that the Barbet had now been replaced by a Bulbul. Like the Barbet, Bulbul was relishing the same Guava and didn’t mind me taking a few snaps in return for allowing her an unrestricted access to the Guavas.I was wondering on the wonderful cooperation that goes on in nature - Bulbul,Barbet, all eating the same Guava one after another. As I turned my gaze again towards the Guava tree, I saw the visitor number three - A squirrel. I do not know if this was mutual cooperation or she bullied the bulbul away, but here she was nibbling the left over Guava which was still hanging to the tree branch. I was out for almost quarter of an hour and so much happened on a single Guava tree. At other occasions I have noticed other welcome culprits like parrots who satisfy their appetite on the Guava tree leaving me with the half eaten fruit to gaze on but the satisfaction of watching nature in perpetual motion is all worth much more than the ‘loss’.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Moving on...

Life moves at a very interesting pace when things happen in the garden. I have planted the seeds which i had stored in last season. The beds are ready. Today we had the first fog of the season, quite prematurely in fact; fog is not to be expected before mid December here. Spinach is growing in plenty and that must be the situation everywhere in this area because a lot of my neighbours have asked me if i can use some Saag - a pureed spinach preparation, commonly eaten in North India. After a long time I had the luxury of visiting local nursery yesterday. The nursery owner had - to my utter surprise - brought in some Tulip bulbs, along with Irises and Hyacinths. I had been dying to grow Tulips here. All the lovely blogs, even some of the Indian ones, feature their gorgeous Tulips. I do not know if they will grow in my climatic conditions but i will have the satisfaction of having given them a try. Besides the exotic ones i also got some Marigolds. I plan to plant them between the Mums, so that when, by spring it is time for Mums to wither, the Marigolds would be in bloom. And then there was this little birdie tip toeing her way around the garden; I haven’t seen it before but was completely enamored by its furtive walk. The bird was obviously happier on the ground as it made no attempts to fly despite my presence there. The pleasant outdoors in North Indian winters are capped by these unexpected bonuses. Things are picking up slowly. Winters have begun and till now the temperatures are cool and comfortable. The days ahead will see the mercury plummeting further and one will need all the will power to get up and get going....but the prospect seems inviting to me:-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back to blogging

Last three months have been stressful. This monsoon saw an unprecedented increase in incidence of Malaria, Dengue and unexplained fever, keeping me too busy with professional obligations. Thankfully, with the advent of healthy season (winters) things are better now and I have time for both myself and blogging. Not much change in the garden except that the winter vegetables are growing. It is the most enjoyable aspect of this season that I get to enjoy homegrown vegetables – infinitely healthier than anything sold in the market. In another significant development, the eucalyptus trees in the garden were cut off by the people from forest department as they posed a threat to the residence. It always pains me to see a tree being cut, and it was even worse to see that happening in my own backyard, but I had little say in the matter. One of the trees was leaning dangerously towards the house and had to be cut. The other was also perceived to pose some threat hence removed. Sometimes seemingly bad things are for good; now, at least, I can sleep in piece during thunderstorms.The stumps are looking unsightly. I am still thinking on as to how to give them a prettier look. Chrysanthemums have started blooming, formally indicating the advent of winters. It is still around 3 months to spring and by all indications there is going to be a very frigid winter before that. Life will mostly be indoors and I will have the posts of all my blogging friends to keep me warm.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hail Monsoon

It had been an uncomfortable last month; june was exceptionally hot. Looking at the burning landscape made me feel that it had never rained here. Whenever I read the posts of my fellow bloggers from south India, where the monsoons arrived earlier, it felt as if they are some distant lands where rains happen and clouds are a phenomena seen in foreign lands or geography books. Then it happened. Yesterday morning I woke up as usual expecting the strong morning sun to greet me, but the darkness around had me befuddled. It was a completely overcast sky waiting tensely to open up.And open it did. It poured. The rains were heavy and continuous for at least 6 hours – something rare for this place – yet within an hour after they stopped; the Earth around me was quite dry, signaling its remarkable absorptive power on account of absence of rains for so long. Thankfully, yesterday was not an isolated munificence on the part of rain Gods; it has been raining continuously since yesterday night. It is music to the ears to be sleeping cozily with the sound of raindrops on the rooftop interrupted only by an occasional thunder. The parched earth, the thirsty birds, the drying plants, the heat paralyzed me…we were all waiting for this moment, and it’s finally here. May it rain the way it should and the way it has not for the last few years, so that all the miseries get drowned in the cleanest water from the heavenly abodes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Butterfly garden

My most pleasant memories of childhood were those of a nearby garden with lots of beautiful flowers and butterflies flitting around. 1980's in Delhi used to be the good old days of flowers, parks and less crowd; a fictional dream in the nowadays urban life. The pleasant dream, which it was to be in such gardens, got drowned in the sea of urban chaos. But getting posted in a small city with a big house was an opportunity to live up that dream again. I started planting flowers without any conscious attention towards attracting butterflies. Gradually, as the garden evolved, so did the kind of life forms visiting it. It was this year, my sixth with the house and its garden, that I got a whole lot of butterflies gracing the place. Watching these magically beautiful insects, I felt like reliving my childhood dream. Inspired, I thought about consciously making the place more butterfly friendly. I surfed the net for making an ideal butterfly garden but the information was either woefully inadequate or of places having a very different flora and climate from mine. So, it was by sheer chance that I got some of the right kind of flowers for butterflies and felt like sharing my experience here: The first and foremost requirement for a butterfly garden has to be the plants which attract them. Lantana being the universal favorite, tops my list! Pentas, a shrub with small star like flowers, too attracts a number of butterflies to the garden. Single petaled Dahlias were an interesting package this spring. They seemed to hold a very special place in the butterfly heart, as I could find two, three, and at times even four butterflies sitting together on a Dahlia rosette! And mind you, the big gorgeous double Dahlias had no takers as far as butterflies are concerned!! Helichrysum blooms too were always surrounded by butterflies and this rare Silverline butterfly visited this garden only once and had its eyes set exclusively on the paper like bloom, leaving aside fancy ones like Roses and Amaryllis. Verbenas, acting as a perfect host, too had groups of butterflies looming around for nectar Sunflower and Gaillardias, the summer annuals, welcome the butterflies even in scorching summer months Buddha belly plant whose virtues I have discussed before also, brings butterflies to my garden almost throughout the year Then there are those plants on whose leaves caterpillars thrive. There are hundreds of these horrible looking butterfly precursors gnawing away greedily on the leaves of plants they set eyes upon. These include Amaryllis, Lemon,Radish and host of others, a classic case of beasts molting into beauties. These things have voracious appetite. They reduced the leaves of a full lemon plant to skeleton in a matter of day! Another point that came across for a butterfly garden was an absolutely zero use of insecticides. Last year too I had the same flowers but the butterflies were absent. This year I decided not to use any insecticides, mainly because of the horrible things I had read about them. An unforeseen bonus was the sudden increase in the number of butterflies, though I had to tolerate some extra, nasty, mosquito bites.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cherry Blossoms

This spring I tasted a different kind of bloom, thanks to my blogging friend Geek Gardener and another generous gardener Thomas whom I met on Orkut. Thomas was kind enough to send some seeds from the wonderful place, Kerala, where he lives. It was around one year back that he sent a scrap about having couriered seeds of tomatoes,beans,bitter gourd and brinjal. The seeds turned out to be of excellent quality and the lovely tomatoes which grew out of them are the tastiest and juiciest I have ever had. Geek Gardenerfrom Bangalore gave the seeds for cherry tomatoes. A lot bloomed for me this spring, but these cherry tomatoes in four different shapes were unlike anything I ever had. They were very different from tomatoes I had seen in real. In fact, my friends and neighbors were quite amused to see these little, shiny tomatoes, a sight they were not used to. Cherry tomatoes are not very common in my part of the country, though, thanks to the plethora of cookery shows, things are changing. I had a lot of them growing but didn’t have much idea on what to do with the pretty harvest. Googling for recipes, and with a little improvisation I prepared this salad, which was a little sour but was praised by my guests; a part for the novelty and a part for the health benefits.Blogging is so good, healthy and…tasty too!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Sackful of Potatoes

We have all learnt something new and inspiring from our fellow bloggers. I, for one, have to thank one of the posts by a very talented amateur gardener, Jamie, for this bountiful harvest of potatoes, I got in a sack. Here, in my city, we use and reuse these flour sacks for carrying wheat flour. I bought four of them from my local flour mill. The guy was quite amused at the alternate use I was going to put his flour sacks to. After filling them with soil I sowed potatoes in it, and it was with the joy of a high school student whose science experiment has come right that I greeted the first potato shoot. One has to keep the top margins of the bag rolled outside, so that when the shoots are around 8-10 centimeters long you can unfurl it and add more soil/compost. I face a huge termite problem, and as a result the potatoes sown in the ground fail to grow properly. Sowing potatoes in a sack circumvented the termite problem effectively and as a bonus I did not have to worry about water logging either.In a matter of three to four months, the potatoes were ready for harvest. Here is a comparison: On left is the potato harvested from ground and the right one is out of the flour sack. Imagine a life without potatoes, without all those seductive French Fries and Potato chips...scary, to say the least. No wonder, my daughter feels that I have hit a jackpot by being able to grow the starchy tuber in a sack.

Monday, March 15, 2010


It is beauty and blooms all around. Such is the magic of Spring that there is a breath taking outburst of colors and fragrances in the surroundings. But like everything else in life, even this goodness comes with a catch. There is a profusion of bugs out to spoil the spring party. With the official spring invitees, come the gate crashers. There are the mealy bugs, the aphids, and a host of others whose names I do not know but do wish to, so that I at least know where my curses are going. What appears like a beautiful criss cross venation pattern on the leaves is actually the handiwork of leaf miners. After a healthy gap of two years the Mango tree is showing the promise of a bounty, but here also the bug has been quick to grab the spoils; so much for organic gardening! The usual practice is to secure a cellophane sheet around the tree stem which will prevent the bug from crawling up the tree but these slimy creatures seem blessed, as despite my best efforts a good number still manage themselves to a treat. Here some near cousin of Aphids, whose exact credentials I do not know, has marched a whole army on my mustard plant. I am a mute spectator to the plight before the combined insect might. All kinds of life activity are on the increase. The bugs, bees, birds, butterflies…they are all there, even the viruses are having a hay time. A nasty bout of flu left me with a slightly bitter spring taste. Winters do bring in their own set of problems but they are definitely healthier than any other season. In spite of these problems spring remains a season to savor, and a garden full of flowers is a joy forever…


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