Monday, February 6, 2017

Top 10 blogposts : memories of garden days past


It's a Top 10 post this time, and for some really good reasons. 
First, it's a new year and that just calls out for another look at some of the posts that were  published all these years ago. 

Second, 2017 is the 9th year since The Urban Gardener blog has been posting about everything green and garden-ly. And not just the plants, but also the birds, bees, bugs, butterflies and creatures in them. Any gardener would know that a garden is about much more than just plants, right?
 And there are some travel-stories for the garden-happy thrown in too, for good measure.

It may also help to keep in mind that I'm talking about more than one garden in these posts. Yes, I have 2 gardens (and help garden-souls to create more. It's officially called 'consulting' but it's pure fun for me!). One is more urban than the other, being in an apartment on a busy road (I know that makes me soul-sister to so many of my readers here!) .
The other one is
 where we do our farming but still qualifies as an urban garden because yes, it's in the city.
Just thought I'd remind all my new readers of this because you're going to be very confused otherwise with me talking about growing orchids on window-sills in one post and then talking about growing them tied to trees in the next! 


And finally ... but not the least importantly ... guess who made it to Toolversed's list of  Top 10 Gardening Bloggers!
Yesss! So exciting, right?! 
Isn't that an absolutely fabulous way to start the new year? 
2017, you're looking so good already!!!

So here goes, in no particular order, ... my favourite blog-posts picked from over 150 published here on The Urban Gardener. They may not be everyone's favourite choice, I know, but you have no idea how tough it was to pick them! Somewhat like asking a mother to pick her favourite child ...
And when you read them, do keep in mind that some of the old posts have photos which were clicked when I was an absolute raw beginner trying to figure out a point-and-shoot camera. 

I'm gradually replacing them with better pictures clicked with the DSLR that I'm much more comfortable using now (just one more unexpected bonus from blogging. I started photographing my garden in earnest only when I started blogging. And today, people are actually buying some of my photos. I love blogging! ). 
But, replacing all the old photos takes time. So not all the pictures are as good as I would like them to be and I cringe a bit over them, but I am still adding them here, hoping you will enjoy the posts and ignore the quality of those ancient photos. 

The Pink Cassia has to be one (just one of them!) of my favourite trees. Not just because it's so pretty but also because it's part of my Summer Sherbet collection. Some of the gorgeous summer-flowering trees of Mumbai on one of my most visited posts. I guess my readers can make out when I really love the topic. 

                              Read : Summer sherbet: Mumbai's flowering trees 


Summer is surprisingly one of the most bountiful times in the tropical garden. 'Surprising' because as roasting-hot as it gets in the coastal tropics, one would almost expect it to be the time when Nature pulls itself in and shuts the door. Instead, it's overflowing with flowers and fruits and the garden is an explosion of colour! Much like these heliconias.

                                                Read : Summer in the garden


This Black Kite (aka Pariah Kite) is the resident guardian of my garden. Since he moved in with nest, spouse and fledgeling in tow, the garden has seen a marked decrease in pests of the 4-legged and slithering variety! 
But what is it that drew them to nest in my garden. The tall coconut and teak trees? No ... it must be the bird-bath, I think. Just as the promise of water draws so many more to visit every day.

                                      Read: Once upon a bird-bath

and I just have to add this one! A friend asked me to post about birds and once I started adding the photos to the post, I was a bit surprised to see how many birds we are still lucky to have in our urban environment. They can definitely do with some help to retain a strong foothold in the city, though.

                                    Read : Mumbai's feathered citizens 


One of the most busiest times in the vegetable garden has to be during the Monsoon. If you've been a regular reader of The Urban Gardener, you must know how much I love the monsoons! And it's not only because how well the garden flourishes then.
This is also the season when we plant so many vegetables that we're in danger of overdoing it! So we have gourds and cucumbers and okra, beans and so much more growing and yielding like there's no tomorrow! 
                                             Read: Monsoon vegetables in Mumbai 


The slightly quirky and rather weird plants catch my attention all the time! They're just so much more interesting, don't you think? Like this awesome flower of the Canonball tree. Did those wriggly-looking staminoides catch your attention too?

                                    Read : The Weird and the Wonderful 


Every once in a while, we are charmed by something totally unexpected!
A butterfly, that creature of the great outdoors, ventures into our urban home. Possibly lured by the presence of indoor plants and the promise of nectar, or perhaps looking for a safe home to raise her babies. When this happens the magic is triple-fold. Flowers, butterfly, baby butterflies.

I was lucky enough to become a butterfly farmer, sheltering butterflies from the egg to adult butterfly stage, more than once and this was one of my favourite posts about it.
                                       
                                          Read: The butterfly farmer
 

Have you ever seen a teak tree? It has to be one of the most impressive trees that we have. Tall, strong and looking as if it will be here forever. Its leaves are as massive as the body of a small child. Yet it can still throw up a few surprises.

                                              Read: Forest giants in urban gardens

And for all those who believe that you need a greenhouse and all kinds of complicated techniques to grow orchids in the city... not if you live in the tropics! As you can see by those ugly window-grills in the background in this picture, this is one of them. Proof that orchids do thrive ... and bloom ... in the city. Mumbai city, at least.

                                                 Read: Growing orchids in the city

And, my favourite season in the whole long year ... the Monsoon! It makes my soul sing to see the garden so green and happy. No wonder that I have so many posts about it! 

                                             Read : Transitions and deja-vu 

So there you have them ... my pick of the posts that are just a bit more interesting to me for one reason or the other. Oh, there are more. If I were going for Top 15, I would have definitely included Garden Tea-Party ... butterflies invited ' and 'November Lullaby' and, of course, 'Growing food for my table' . Oh, and I would just have to have 'Remembering Butterfly Season' . But let's stick to Top 10, okay?

And now, in anticipation of Spring 2017 and a whole new year of garden adventures, here's one last post for you.

                                          Read: A Sense of Spring

Now, what about you? Do you have a favourite here? I'd love to know!


Monday, October 31, 2016

October garden musings


Goodbye October, it's been lovely to have known you. Happy Diwali and a happy New Year to all those who are celebrating it now.
As for those who are not celebrating, my wishes go out to you too ; we can all use reasons to celebrate, don't you think?

 Too much travel and a lot of work commitments have kept me from blogging as often as I would have liked. But then, travel is a wonderful thing and I never say "No!" to it.
A bit of work, a bit of pleasure and lots of gardens at the end of it. Mmmm.... maybe I should change the title of this blog to 'The Travelling Gardener' !



Coming back home to my gardens is one of the sweetest pleasures. Do you head to your garden first thing when you get back from a trip? I do!
Which plant is flowering? What new fruit is ready for harvest? What new surprises is my garden throwing up?

Incidentally, did you see the multi-bloom Red Ginger in the first pic? That was a Surprise with a capital S! I've never seen one like that before, with multiple flowers (inflorescences, if you want to be technically correct)  sprouting from a single one.
I've seen little plantlets sprouting from a Red Ginger flower, looking like over-eager babies raring to race before they can walk, but never more flowers from a single flower! What a bonanza!

And it looks just like a sparkler, don't you think? Just in time for Diwali.

The butterflies are coming in too. Not in droves yet as they usually do every year at this time (Remember Butterfly Season and the Butterfly party ? That happened in October - November too). But, I'm giving them time. November is not here yet.

In the meantime, there are still a few butterflies flitting around and posing for photos . But till they show up in crowds, I'm making do (that's a funny term for 'thoroughly enjoying', isn't it?) with the petalled variety. My dendrobium orchids!



Monday, November 30, 2015

Growing orchids in the city

Growing orchids in the city? ... impossible! Or so I was told.
Until, I just had to show them. Cattleyas with ruffled pouty lips in a five-petalled haiku.
City-grown and city-bloomed, with no greenhouse or misting system in sight.
Just plenty of good ol'-fashioned sunshine reaching past plant-laden window-boxes and beaming on even more orchids on my window-sills ...
And moist, humid coastal air. Plus, a neighbour's leaky AC unit drip-drip-dripping onto my lucky orchid plants ...
For every sceptic and nay-sayer who says it can't be done, a mammoth Cattleya orchid that blooms its heart out in a flourish of gorgeousness. Right here in the city, in an apartment window jostling against a bustling road.
Mokkaras and every Vandaceous orchid blushing a healthy happy hue. Of exuberant pinks ...
...and sun-dipped yellows.
These are the Vanda days. Of warmth and light and bounteousness all around. No skimping on anything!
Phalaenopsis are amazing! Smashing every preconceived notion of how they should grow and that too, so cheerfully.
From brightest fuchsia to palest pink, Cattleya or Dendrobium. All tropical orchids, all city-grown among the rough and tumble of traffic and noise and pollution. Thriving, blooming, thrilling... point proved! 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Travel: More floral artistry in Zurich


So did you get an eyeful of the glorious flowers that Zurich's florists dish out in my last post?
I do have one more florist whose work demands to be featured too. I was overwhelmed by the gorgeous plant and floral art created by Regula Guhl and her team at ' Blumenbinder ' on Oberdorfstrasse, Zurich.

It was just down the road from my hotel  and within strolling distance from the other florists that I had blogged about in my last post (which makes me believe that perhaps Zurich has no idea how much of floral riches it has, waiting to be discovered!).

I was walking off a particularly satisfying lunch when I saw a couple of very fashionably dressed ladies leaning in and ooh-aahing over something.

Then I moved in closer and discovered that it was oooh! ... simply drool-some !
"Pelargonium," one of them was whispering to the other.
Was it? I have no idea, I had never seen this plant before. But I do know that if I had been living in Zurich longer I would have grabbed this large pot of pink happiness for myself.

Here's a closer look so you'll know just what I mean. (And if you know its name, do tell me)

Then I got a clearer look at the space which had been hidden from view till then and found a whole profusion of potted plants and bunches of flowers ... hydrangeas and morning glories and geraniums and poppies and even an exuberantly blooming hibiscus.
It was so beautifully arranged and displayed!
If you don't believe me, check out the first photo in this post and then tell me that you aren't drawn to all those little plants, full of blooms and each in its own little bark pot.
That is so clever! I love the look of bark around a pot. So infinitely more attractive than ugly plastic pots. I really must try that with some of my own plants at home.

On second look, the bark,  like the cane basket, was more like a cache-pot into which the original pot was inserted to make it look prettier. Guess what? It worked!

But there's something about the flowers here. They look ... happy! I cant think of a better description. Well-cared for, happy and displayed to their best advantage. I love places that lavish so much care over their plants.

So I had to meet the people who were responsible for this. I went in to find Regula and her team busy in prepping whole bunches of flowers which some of them were arranging in large buckets and placing some against the wall.

Of course, I had to tell them that I'm a plant addict and flower-junkie too. Just standing in that room with the fragrance of hundreds of flowers wafting from every side and seeing huge clouds of blooms smothering every available inch of space, was sheer heaven!
So Regula took a break from her work to listen to my excited gasps of how exquisite everything was and Angela, one of the lovely florists there, gave me a rose to sniff ... and laughed delightedly as my eyes grew wider.
I swear that rose smelled divine! I forgot the name of the rose (me and my non-existent memory!) but if you take a look at the photo above, you can see it, I think. The white roses in the bucket on the floor ... heavenly!

But I didn't want to distract Regula and her team much longer so I wandered back outside to gasp over the potted plant display all over again. Take a look...




When a display like this can take the attention of a little kid away from an ice-cream, you know it has to be simply awesome, right?
Love, love, LOVE these!!! Wish I could have brought all of them home.
Or better still, I guess I'll have to work on finding great reasons to return to Zurich and sinking myself in botanical ecstasy all over again.
Yep! That sounds like a great plan to me ...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Travels with The Urban Gardener : Meet the floral artists of Zurich


This is a post which is long overdue. Way, way over past overdue, actually.
Sometimes Life tends to gleefully over-ride each and every good intention (there goes my a-post-a-week plan!) and then cunningly dump so much work and other stuff on one that we don't even realise until too late that "hey! hold on ... this isn't what I had planned!".

So, I had a year-ful of work and then all of a sudden, it was time to travel! I tell you, no one can travel like a gardener can. Especially when it's a gardener who has her senses overloaded with plants and blooms that she'd kill to grow.

For all the tropical abundance in my own garden, I yearn to grow plants which are more suited to temperate climates. Which is why a walk in Zurich (or Munich... or Salzburg ... or ...)  can turn my face this way and that, trying to saturate my vision with all the gorgeous blooms on display. It was Spring when I reached there (peak of summer here in Mumbai, who would have guessed?!) and all the trees were bursting into bloom in delicate explosions of colour (but more about them later!). And, in the little and not-so-little florists shops all over the city, colours were running riot.
I loved it! And I went up to all the florists I could talk to and felt as if I had met a kindred soul in a foreign land. And we chatted about colours and textures and fragrances and all the delicious details that true flower-lovers and growers love to explore.
Ohhh, the sheer joy of it ...!
It was at Limmatquai in Zurich that I met Fritz Schneiter. Under the arches that shelter a host of trendy restaurants and shops, cutting a rainbow-swathe across the grey cobble-stones was a sea of colour; blooms of every hue possible. (So perfectly apt that this florist shop  is called 'Blueme under de Böge' ... Blooms under the Arches! )
And behind them, at his workstation was this very genial looking man quietly at work . He soon strolled over to see which blooms had caught my eye. And I told him, "all of them!". 
We got talking about my blogging and my garden in India and my tropical flowers and how much I'm in love with his flowers. And he handed me his card, smiled and told me, "mail me some pictures of your flowers".
I hope you will read this some day, Fritz. This one's for you!

And for you, my dear readers. I hope you enjoy the floral buffet  that I'm posting for you; tulips, roses, hydrangeas, irises, peonies, poppies ... don't you just love them all?!




Thank you, Fritz. I did enjoy our talk and the flowers . Here's to you!


There's something about the streets of Zurich that act as a catalyst. Those grey cobblestones and grey skies act as the perfect counterpoint for the floral displays pulling the eye from across the street, drawing one to go and take a closer look to see if those flowers are really as gorgeous as they look. And they invariably are!
I saw these plants displayed in a small lane across the road and I just had to go check them out. Such an interesting shop! I never did discover its name but I loved it for these gorgeous peonies. And the very aesthetic displays.



Can one sightsee a city through its shops? I know many who would quickly nod their heads in agreement. As for me, I loved discovering Zurich through its florists shops. Can't wait to go back and find all the others that I missed!

(p.s. This post had to be cut shorter than expected due to a malfunction in my good ol' trusty PC where I store all my photographs. I had intended to add one more  exquisite floral artist but that will now have to wait for another post. Until later ... :)  )


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grow vegetables for the flowers

When was the last time that you looked at a vegetable plant and sighed in delight over its blooms?
er ... did you ever notice the blooms?
If you didn't, don't worry, you're not alone. Not many people ever bother to really look at a vegetable plant, except when they are hunting for a veggie that they can harvest (or looking for a pest that has got to the prize before they could). But, next time, take a good long look and you will discover that quite a few of these blooms could get the plant into the ornamentals category, if not the edibles one.
For instance, this okra bloom. The way the okra (ladies fingers / bhendi) blooms pale golden and so prolifically, especially in the tropics, could easily make it a favourite.


And this bright yellow bloom of the cucumber is just as pretty. Dotted along long rambling vines, it makes a very pretty picture, doesn't it?



Here's a closer look. Now do you see what I mean?



This one is so very eye-catching, isn't it?! The bloom of the Ash gourd is just as bright golden as its fruit is pale silvery grey-green. Such a contrast, right? And compared to the other gourds, this bloom is really big. 
Did you know that like the blossoms of the pumpkin, gourd flowers are edible too? Imagine having hot batter-fried gourd blossom pakoras on a rainy, stormy evening!
(Do make sure that you select the male flowers for this and leave the female flowers to carry on with what they do best ... create little baby gourds, of course!)


And there's no doubt about it that the best part of the bitter-gourd is its flower. Seriously!
Okay, quite a few of you many not agree with me (my husband included. He loves this knobbly bitter vegetable with a passion! ) but just look at it. Now picture a canopy of these golden yellow little blooms scrambling over a trellis or screening an ugly view. Very ornamental, isn't it?

 Bok choy! You didn't think it would have such pretty flowers did you? Well, neither did I! In fact, my daughter was so taken in by these blooms that she insisted that I save them and dump the green leaves.


If you think that there is an overdose of yellow blooms in this post (there is!), it's time for a change.  Have you ever seen the flower of the Red Amaranth? Take a look at this up-close-and-personal view!
I know that one is expected to keep pinching off the flowers to prolong the harvest period but when I see this I'm forced to think twice about pinching it off.

But the veggie bloom that takes the cake and the cake-stand for sheer uniqueness has to be that of the snake-gourd (padval)! Have you ever seen anything else quite like it???
This one I most definitely would grow! What about you?