Friday, June 27, 2014
Before I start on my monsoon photos, here's one last look at something that sings of Summer ... my bird-bath. Do you remember the most frequented area in my garden (by the birds, I mean)? It has been seeing feathered traffic like never before all summer long!
This pic was not clicked in my garden but I just couldn't resist adding it. That little patch of water dripping from a tap had put this bulbul in an ecstatic mood and he was singing his heart out. I love these Red Whiskered Bulbuls with their cheerful birdcalls! Have you heard it?
Pariah Kite (Black Kite) turns up for a sip-and-dip, the crows at once gang up to chase the kite away!
The bulbuls on the other hand, are willing to share if the space is big enough.
But the sparrows and finches are happiest when the whole flock joins in. The flock that bathes together, stays together?
Thursday, June 5, 2014
It's been a boiling, roasting season in Mumbai, hasn't it? All over India, actually (except those places which got some unseasonal showers ... so very envious!). Now, can we get express-delivery of the Monsoons, please?
I loved the mangoes and all those other super-delicious summer fruits , both in the garden and in the markets.
And I loved all those streets spilling over with wave upon wave of summer blooms .
And there were the last of the migratory birds.(how I love that Paradise Flycatcher!). But I'm craving some refreshing monsoon rain right now!
adult males in flight. Sheer poetry!
This one here is a juvenile male, I think. It's hard to tell because they look almost exactly like the adult female untill they transform into their pure white feathered form topped with a crested jet-black head.
I'm told that it is that blue ring around the eyes that differentiates the juvenile male from the adult female. I don't know if that's true but I'm hoping that this guy is going to come back next season in his white avatar.
This tall teak tree is one of his favourite perches. I guess it gives him the perfect look-out point.
He has definitely got the snakes on the run, though. This little Buff Striped Keelback was racing to reach the cover of a few scattered dry leaves and cautiously poked his head out to see if everything was safe before quickly slipping back under them when he spotted me with this huge lens aimed directly at him. (I don't blame him... my new 70-300mm lens intimidates even me sometimes!)
What's the bet that these birds have been waiting for the Monsoon as eagerly (if not, more) as us?
Maybe Summer could slip away incognito and leave this Common Jezebel to represent her. Seriously! Can you think of anything more Summer-y?!
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Sizzle and burn! Summer is crackling like a seething fire-cracker now, isn't it? Not my favourite time of the year. But then, I could make excuses for the spectacular blooms on almost every tree and in my garden.
It all started with the Red Silk Cotton bursting into bloom one day . Gangly, thorny, leafless branches sprouting massive red blooms almost as if by spontaneous combustion! And out sprang Spring!
The nectar-loving birds were ecstatic! So was I. I could now feast my eyes on the blooms as well as the birds. Sometimes good things come in 2-for-1 packages!
From there to Summer was just a matter of days and my Pink Cassias decided to follow almost immediately. Spike upon spike of tender pink globes unfurling into zillions of blooms that turned my tree into a rosy cloud!
And the Yellow Copper Pod trees ...! All over Mumbai, every street is smothered with these golden blooms . Masses and clouds of them, billowing and spilling over from one tree to the next.
One of the few 'cool' looking flowers now, the Walking Iris stands out for its white-blue flowers. Such an oddity in the midst of all my other summer blooms which look almost volatile in comparison.Almost as odd is its 'walking' habit. Plantlets grow near the tip of the flower stalk which then bends to the ground and take root there.With each successive generation the Walking Iris soon seems to travel all around the garden, one bending flower-stalk at a time.
This is also the time when my Phalaenopsis orchids are in full bloom. These may be called 'Moth Orchids' but when I look at my Phals, I see purple doves fanning the air with their wings and taking flight!
Summer sherbet: Mumbai's flowering trees
Red-hot summer days
A reluctant ode to Summer
An Indian summer
A summer-ful of fun
Springing into summer
Once upon a bird-bath
Mumbai: a time for blooming
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
By the way, do you know what I love even more? That they are so very easy to grow and bloom in Mumbai's tropical climate! I know the days are getting hotter and the sun is blazing something fierce, but when I step out into the garden and see my orchids blooming their heads off, I beam a huge smile at my orchid-alicious days.
Mmmmhmm ... life is good!
Orchids like this Vanda (above) love the high heat, high humidity, bright sunshiny days that we grumble about. Maybe Mumbai was meant to be populated with Vandas. What a thought! Can you imagine seeing blooms like this all over the city?
Dendrobiums are some of my favourite orchids. Well, they all are, but dends (dendrobiums, as they're fondly referred to by orchidistas) are a bit more special, if you know what I mean. Because they will always make that effort to bloom and bloom with minimum care.
This is one of my favourite dends because it is one of the first ones I bought years ago. Free-flowering and with extra-long spikes of blooms (often multiple spikes), it can always be counted on to brighten my day. And to draw a lot of gasps from the unsuspecting stroller in the garden. It fed my orchid fever until I became like one demented, buying orchids wherever I heard of any available and price be damned.
And now the Phals are in full bloom too; those growing in my apartment garden (above) as well as those in my regular garden (below).
Eye-candy all the way to fill my days in clouds of orchid!
(And before you ask... no, my orchids are not a collection of purple shades. I just thought it would be interesting to compare the blooms of the various similar-coloured orchids ).
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Winter is one of my favourite seasons in Mumbai. There's a delicious chill in the air, the migratory birds come calling, the garden is filled with the more exotic vegetables and cool-growing annuals, the mosquitoes go away on their annual break... and I feel absolutely, exultantly alive !But there's just one thing missing. The butterflies.
In November, my garden is brimful of them and my days are so filled with butterfly-watching that it is my official Butterfly Season. Then, December brings the cool winds from the north which turn into shivery cold stings. And, all of a sudden, the butterflies are nowhere to be seen!Oh, I can still spot them in some of the city green spaces but not in my much-cooler garden (we are so surrounded by trees that our temperatures are easily at least 2-3*C cooler than the rest of the city ). And I have to wait for warmer days to get my butterfly-fix again. Until then, I'm going over my pics from Butterfly Season 2013 and reminiscing.
The lantana bush in the vegetable garden is the favourite hang-out for the winged rainbows. All the pics in this post were clicked within a couple of feet of it. In fact, I stood still for just a few extra minutes near it and this Common Sailor butterfly landed on my outstretched hand holding the camera and decided to check me out!
Can you imagine the state I was in? I was ecstatic that I had a butterfly on my hand, and I was struggling to get my other camera out so I could click it (I usually have 3 cameras when I walk around. 1 DSLR on my shoulder and 2 point-and-shoots in my pockets... yeah, I'm quite a sight!) AND trying to stay still enough so I wouldn't scare it off.
I think the pic above is proof that I managed to pull it off long enough, isn't it?
There's something about the Wavy Common Palmfly that reminds me of rippling water and shimmering glass. Do you see what I mean?And, for all its drab brown (chocolate brown, but still ...) exterior, this is a butterfly which believes in surprises. One flash of its wings and you'll see what I mean.
Take a look at this pic of the open-wing version here. Isn't it stunning? Especially the male. Electric blue, jet black and fiery orange ... imagine covering that up in drab brown !
This is such a tiny butterfly that I usually spot it only as flashes of blue flitting around. Another really easy way to find it is to look for it near any bean plants you may have growing in your garden . Grams - pulses- beans ... got the connection?
Its big brother, the Giant Redeye is a regular at my garden too but somehow I didn't spot it this time.
But if you ask me, this has to be one of our most under-rated butterflies. It is a very unassuming white but if you want to know where the Indian Sunbeam got its name from, you'll have to wait till it opens its wings. Isn't it magnificent?!
And I'm quite fascinated by its candy-striped legs too. So stylish!
The Grey Pansies are some of my favourite butterflies this season. They're large enough to spot easily, they're not skittish and will happily pose for me, and they have such a fun wardrobe! So many eyes on those wings. All the better to see you, darlin' !
And speaking of eyes ... take a good look at the Peacock Pansy! Now tell me that Ma Nature doesn't have a great sense of humour.
And isn't it pure genius?! Scary eyes on the top of its wings to startle any would-be predator. So cool!
These are just a few of my regulars in the garden. I think I'll keep the others to post another day. Till then, stay warm and think of the butterflies...
Updating to add a link to a post on butterflies from November a couple of years ago : Garden Tea-party: Butterflies invited
and this one posted later but about a much-loved November b'fly: Blue Oak-leaf on a Pink Cassia
and lastly, this one, just because I love the butterflies in it : Of Tigers, Crows and Handmaidens
Sunday, October 27, 2013
I'm a happy gardener these days. All the hard work in the vegetable garden has paid off and my table is loaded with the fruits and vegetables we grew. Which is a real relief when I read in the papers about the spiraling prices.
We usually grow a lot of veggies during the monsoon season but this year was a strange one. The Monsoons hit us before time and continued battering the city and elsewhere almost non-stop for close to 2 months. And, I don't think we saw bright sunshine until August. So unusual! I've never seen anything like it in all the years that I've been farming.
Now, I love the monsoon season with a passion. But such a strange season got us a bit worried because all the vegetable seeds we had sown at the start of the monsoons either got washed away or the little seedlings just rotted away. Only the really tough local varieties survived (just about. And that's a great reason to grow local, heirloom varieties if you can find them)
The beans were the first to yield and they did so abundantly. With a whole-hearted largesse that makes you glad for such simple, easy-to-grow vegetables.
I don't know why more people don't grow them in the city. What you see here is the yield on a single day from just 2 plants! And that too, at the start of the harvest before the plants came into their full yielding potential.
And the peppers were full of green berries too. Don't you love the way those pepper berries are packed tight? It looks even prettier when they ripen.
If you have a banana plant in your garden, then you're set for several meals. In fact, almost the entire plant is edible one way or the other. It's not just the ripe fruit which you can enjoy as a fruit or dessert. The unripe fruit , the inflorescence and the pith of the pseudostem, all make great ingredients and feature in several of our regional cuisines.
Oh, and you can use the large leaves as a plate and compost it after your meal. No washing up! How much better can it get?
This is another plant from which we got a surprisingly good harvest this season. I'm not too fond of bitter-gourd as a vegetable but I have to admit that it does look pretty. I love the leaves and the simple but eye-catching bright yellow flowers.
Heck! I think we're doing it an injustice by confining it to the kitchen garden!
And I love how tenacious it is. The bittergourd vines can latch on and climb and smother any surface in a cloud of green almost overnight.
Interesting texture, don't you think? And they're very good for you. There are all kinds of reports of it helping to regulate blood-sugar levels.
Every once in a while, a few escape our eyes (well, it's a green veggie on a green plant, after all) . And this is what we find. A glorious warm sunset-orange rind and blood-red arils that rival the pomegranate in glossy, brilliant red-ness.
Definitely prettier than tastier ... to my eyes, at least!
This one I like, though! The Red Amaranth is grown in my garden round the year.The tender leaves and stem are rich in iron and its grain is increasingly being recommended too for its nutritional value.
This season, however I didn't get around to sowing its seeds. But guess what, some of them volunteered to show up anyway. In the stoniest, weediest part of the vegetable garden!
hmmmm.... I wonder if my garden is sending me a message here? "Don't bother weeding and cleaning"?
But here's my story, all those weeds are left undisturbed on purpose. Some of them are butterfly and pollinator food, you know. That tiny blue flower to the left? The Red Pierrot butterflies love them. So, now you know.
And how could I leave out the Carambola? This tree is just beginning to mature but I love how profusely it is bearing fruit on almost every inch of bare space! This is definitely my kind of tree! Low on maintenance but high on yield.
Wait, there's more. But I think I'll keep those for another post. Maybe by then I'll have more pics to share. Of the tomatoes and other veggies which are growing and soon to yield any day now. Can you see me smiling?
In the meantime, here's a pic of cherry tomatoes from another harvest. Get growing your own food, everyone. It's not so tough. And it's definitely fulfilling. Also, tastier and healthier than the fruits and veggies you'll buy in the market.
And, if each one grows some, we'll all have a table-ful.