Wednesday, March 18, 2009

36 - 24 - 36 ! Hot ?!

Read that in degrees Celsius... and drag your mind out of a beauty pageant or the gutter, as the case may be. That's the temperature swing in Mumbai nowadays.
For those who don't want to do the maths, that's about 96- 75 -96* F !

Men look for reasons (other than the nudge-wink ones!) to stay back in their air-conditioned offices, women keep checking inside their freezers every half an hour and kids, well, kids always have a zillion reasons why they should eat ice-cream ... even in winter!

And in the midst of all this, are my Phalaenopsis orchids. They've been in spike since Jan. and now the initial nubs have lengthened into long, elegant stalks with buds on them. I think the green buds are going to be either white or yellow flowers.

For the first time, I managed to bring three of these phals in bud over to the apartment. They're normally kept outdoors in my other garden but I couldn't bear missing out on the fun of watching the buds grow every day. So I carried them on my lap all the way here and kept hissing at my husband everytime he drove into a pot-hole.
Considering the condition of roads in Mumbai, there was a lot of hissing done as each slim spike wobbled around dangerously like a drunken giraffe running the 100 m.

Now that they're here, my main job is to make sure that the window on whose sill I've lodged them, is opened just that much, enough to let in fresh air but not enough to make those greedy sparrows comfortable enough to flit in and snack on phalaenopsis sushi. Sparrows are weapons of mass destruction, I'm convinced of this.

This couple was busy building a nest right next to the air-conditioner unit. There was a tiny gap between it and the wall into which only a sparrow could fit. And in true-Mumbai style, the space for one sparrow soon became enough for Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow and a whole nest of little ones on the way. So far, so good. Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow made quick trips to the coconut tree conveniently close to their new home and got all the basics for their home.

Then, Mr.Sparrow started getting ideas. He thought of feathering his nest ... with my asparagus fern! I had been diligently training it over the grill outside my window, hoping to look out at green, delicate foliage instead of ugly buildings when along came the Sparrows and that was the end of that!

No way am I allowing them to feast on my precious Phals too. So in spite of the increasing heat , this window is closed to flying traffic.

I think the heat is getting to me ... I dont know why I'm feeling so aggressive and hostile.


  1. Leave it to those enterprising sparrows to find a way. They are a bird of opportunity throughout the world. Stay safe little orchids.

  2. 36°C sounds warm. Over here it is just about 30°C nice and pleasant.
    My (dragonfly) pond is getting plenty of avian traffic especially during hottest times. In fact now, there is almost a regular membership.

  3. Ahhhaaa ,
    I am normal ... I've been hissing at just about everyone ... its the heat I knew it ... over at our end of mainland too... conditions are as grim ... and lady... you think sparrows are weapons of mass destruction... have you been introduced to biological warfare by the name ,pigeons ... aaaaahhhh .... they give you all ...worms... poop... odour... and if thats not enough...ooodles of trash with love...
    Hey Sunita ... I love the thought of blooming phalaenopsis ... are they going to be white or pink ...
    Hey how about another suspense thriller... how long have Sunitas' phalaenopsis buds grown ... countdown to bloom day ...
    love the images ...

  4. Hi Sunita,
    Lovely to chance upon your blog, followed you from the comments left on Archana's blog. And its lovely to see someone passionate about gardening in the city - All i manage to grow in my balcony are some herbs for the kitchen, some Chinese bamboo and a fast growing mango sapling. Am bookmarking your blog!

  5. You know, Tina, its only in an apartment that one realises just how much of a nuisance sparrows can be. Its almost as if with the other birds moving out of the way, sparrows take over the world!

  6. Warm? Amila, its tongue-haning-out hot here. Adding to the miseries of the high temperatures are the heat traps that all our concrete buildings and roads create. And there are hardly a handful of trees to act as a buffer.
    I envy you your pleasant climate. And of course, your pond resort !

  7. Rajee, a bit of hissing is to be expected in these trying times! Its a fact of life.
    Pigeons? Ugh! Why do these birds who're so nice at a distance, turn nasty in close proximity ?
    I just got my A/C back from repairs after they stuffed it full of twigs and nesting material. But so far they've left my plants alone. Which makes them okay in my books :)
    About the phals ... the one with reddish buds are a pink-purple flower. I think the green buds will turn out to be white or yellow, maybe with a bit of pink dots. I think.
    I'll post when the buds bloom open, okay?

  8. Hi Nandita! Hey, its great seeing you over here. I've stopped by your blog quite often and drooled over the yummy photos and even yummier food !
    What you've got growing is great for a balcony garden. Are you really sure about that mango sapling though? Just checking ;) Maybe you can turn it into a bonsai. Or plant it outside your building and watch it grow up to your balcony.
    What herbs do you grow?

  9. How lucky, Sunita, to have sparrows around your home. We have none here :( I've spotted them in other places of Chennai but not a single one here. Besides it was gonna become an endangered species few years ago. Thanks to people like you that they're saved!

  10. Matter of opinion, Chandramouli! When they're raiding and tearing apart my plants to do up their nest, they're NOT a bird whose continuation of species I'm too bothered about ! Otherwise, yes, their little antics amuse me and I keep drawing parallels to the common man on the streets of Mumbai.

  11. It is always exiting when one of the Orchids start to flower. I love the Phals they are like huge Butterflies. Their stems are so long and the buds so vulnerable, it does not take much to break it. It has happened to me. Are you sure you do not want to share just one bud with the sparrow family?? Would I? No way! In our area we do not have sparrows. We have native, noisy miner birds, we also call them Micky birds because they mime other birds calls. They are similar in their behaviour to sparrows, chase away all the other birds. Your story is cute about the sparrow family. A hurray for survivers. Here the temps slip a little as we go into autumn, around 27-28C to 22C at night just nice like this. Please show your orchid when it is in flower. Always enjoy reading your posts.

  12. I thought you were describing the coke bottle with those measurements LOL. Sunita your husband was probably the happiest man to get home after all that hissing ROFL . I thought that I was bad when my husband is driving, he always seems to drop into the pot holes on the passenger side of the car whenever am carrying something in my lap! Sparrows are such bossy pesky little things and afraid of no one. They have ruined many orchid buds for me. I am now trying to keep the wood doves out of the bedrooms, they have crapped and built nests in the spare room that I now have to close the shutters. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that your orchid will bloom in peace. LOL

  13. I grow mint, sweet basil, thai basil, tulsi and a variety of bay leaf, that my nursery sold to me as all spice. The mango 'tree' has been growing in a small pot since two years, and it stands at around 2 feet height now - and I don't think my building will permit me to plant it (haven't asked) - I'm just happy to see it in my balcony for now! We'll be moving to Bglr in some months where we'll have a spot of land around the house to grow stuff, may be I'll set it up in a huge container there! Getting inspiration for that garden from you.
    Where in Mumbai do you have a garden big enough for teak and coconut trees- visited by exotic butterflies and such - I wonder!
    Will be around often!

  14. Oh! Chill dear Sunita. I know Mumbai's heat saps the energy out of you, but let the color of the lovely orchids - which make me Green with envy - and the air-conditioning keep you cool this summer.
    That Giraffe thing doing a 100m had my imagination running have a way with analogies:-)

  15. You are so much fun to read about. I had no clue you could train an asparagus fern. They don't survive in my part of NC long enough to train. We had your temps last summer and I wanted to run naked all day long. Of course I did not. I don't have those good body measurements to make it worth anyones effort to look.

  16. Trudi, I'm partial to Phals too. Its strange, I have hundreds of dendrobiums but only about 10 phals and yet when a phal is in bud I'm so excited about it.
    Share a bud with Mr.Greedy? No way! If I'm not careful, he may peck off my hair next to line his stupid nest .
    Enjoy your cooler climate, Trudi. I really envy you that. And yes,I'll definitely be posting when they flower:)

  17. Helen, surprisingly the sparrows leave my orchid buds alone in my other garden where they are kept outdoors all day. There I only have to worry about crows who pull the potted orchids out of their pots. Not to eat them, but searching for bugs hiding among the roots.
    Aaah! pest control gone haywire!
    Wood doves in your bedroom? They must really feel at home at your place to be trying to move in with you :)

  18. Thats a good blend of herbs, Nandita. did you grow them from seed? All Spice is a big tree isnt it? Anyway, you seem to have a very fragrant balcony!
    Mumbai seems to have space to accomodate everything, except play grounds for kids. It even has leopards in it so what are a few teak trees ? ;D

  19. I know, Green Thumb... but rising temperatures always make me flare up too. Its possibly some metabolic thing but I wilt in the heat :P
    Has summer caught up with you in Saharanpur too ?

  20. Anna, what a daring beat-the-heat idea! Come to think of it, you may just be raising the temperature for everyone else around. Let me know if you ever try it out :D
    About the asparagus, this is the Asparagus racemosus I think (not sure). It looks exactly like Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengerii'. The only difference is that it is a climber. (It's highly valued in India, for the medicinal qualities of its rhizomes.) I really wanted a thick curtain of this asparagus screening my view of the building opposite us. Its been undergoing renovation for so long that its become a real eye-sore!

  21. poor bird - it had high hopes..

    but i was intrigued by the nudge-wink ones mention. i thought the wink had gone out of favor many years ago, except of course with bollywood and sarah palin..

    the nudge i understand..I thought Bombay is better off on that!

  22. strongly disagree with the "me stay back in a/c" bit ... most people i know wont stay back even for the a/c :) especially when there are better options like swimming pools or vaccation on top of tall hills :) worst case, men always have the option of walking around in just a pair of shots!

  23. forgot to mention - pretty good shots of the bud :) and congrats

  24. Maddy, I'm assured by my 16-year old son that winks are still trendy. I dont think it'll ever go off the 'in vogue' list as long as there are 16 - year old boys around. And 35+ men who think they're still 16!
    And don't get me started on the nudges ... it is literally a sore point for me.
    Better off? Mumbai can be as la-di-dah or as rural-hick as you could ever expect !

  25. Thanks about the photos, Sandeep.
    About the a/c, when the option is that you leave the chilled confines of your office to slug it out on a long-distance train, riding jam-pressed against half the sweaty population of this sweltering city for an hour or more ... which would you choose?
    Aargh! You just have to mention swimming pools and hills, dont you ? Mumbai doesnt have hills within easy reach. Oh, they are there but to get to them you'd probably have to sit in a traffic jam for 3 hours first, with the sun mercilessly beating down on your car-roof, while you slowly broil inside.
    Your worst case option makes me picture Mr. P from the flat opposite us, with his recession-challenging paunch ... truly the worst option, Sandeep ! :)

  26. They do seem to want to take over the world Sunita! Sparrows are the most common birds where I live, and they're here twelve months a year. I'm glad our sparrows are not so bold and leave my plants alone.

    I suppose they have fewer materials and good places to nest in an urban area and can become more bold and pesty.

    I love your post title - very attention-getting!

  27. I'll look forward to seeing blooms on your coveted orchid, Sunita. Those temps sound quite wonderful to me at the moment :) We had bright sunshine today for the vernal equinox, but the wind was still frigid.
    That's one enterprising sparrow you have there. It's too bad your fern lost the fight :(
    Happy spring Sunita! :)

  28. Hi Linda! Its almost like something out of a sci-fi movie, isnt it? Imagine hordes of sparrows taking over the world!
    I think they were emboldened by my relative inactivity against them.
    But I'm curious, how do they survive winters in Chicago?

  29. Hi Kerri! Imagine that, I'm dying for a cool breeze here and you're longing for sunshine .
    My asparagus was stripped leaf by leaf by those nasty sparrows but already a new spear has come up for the next shoot, so there's hope yet! :)
    er... here we're already in the middle of summer, Kerri (and I'm not saying that to tease you). I hope Spring catches up fast with you.

  30. Hi Sunita, I was googling to find out how to grow phal orchid at home, mainly in Bangalore where I stay, I found ur truly inspiring blog.I m must say ur orchid, grown in Mumbai has given me a lot of confidence :). I have got few phal keiki recently , yes they r as tiny as 2 inch leafspan. All this while I was thinking if B'lore is suitable for growing phal( temp 30 to 20c ) , I have kept them in my south balcony(no green house) , no direct sunight. I have only charcoal and small brick pieces as growing media, is it good enough? I m nt getting bark anywhere here. can u suggest how can i grow the keiki till boolm.
    ...and thanks for ur blog, it truly raises my hope...

  31. Hi Rupa, I'm glad you liked my blog.
    Here's the good news ... you dont need a greenhouse to grow orchids in peninsular India (unless you're living up in the mountains).
    Nor do you need bark. Coco peat is a good option when the plants are small and when they grow bigger you can repot into a mixture of charcoal and broken terracotta tiles (unglazed roof tiles) rather than broken bricks. Just make sure that the roots don't remain soggy wet for long and that water doesn't accumulate in the crown of the plant. Both lead to nasty diseases which you dont want happening to your precious plant.
    Keikis with 2" leafspan will take a bit of growing before they reach blooming stage so right now I think you should concentrate on getting them to grow healthily. Fertilise them regularly, at least once a week with nitrogen-rich fertiliser (not urea please) will give them the necessary spurt. "Weakly, weekly" is the advice given in all orchid books regarding the fertilising of orchid plants.
    By the way, I dont really follow what most books advise... they were written mostly for growers in colder, drier climates. In the tropics, we can afford to water orchids every day and in the evening if so inclined (which is considered sure death according to all the books and all the members in various online orchid forums).
    Incidentally, since Bangalore is not as humid as Mumbai, your plants will appreciate a spritz of water once in a while . You could place them near a water feature if you have one, or keep a small bowl of water near them.
    There is a lot of good advice (as well as ridiculous myths)on the Net. Read it all but try to adapt that advice to your own local conditions :)
    Hope this has helped a bit and not confused you more. You can mail me (you'll find my address on my Profile Page) if you need more info.

  32. Hi Sunita

    U r soooo right abt all the websites!! they indeed say something that is not so right in our country, specially in our condition. for example they wll say water every 10 to 15 days, but here i found my charcoal media gets dried every alternate day!!!
    I m happy that u r syaing all good things abt the conditions that I have provided and guess what, though they have only 3 tiny leaves each but I can c new roots growing..:)
    Yes humidity is a porblem here , hence i have kept them on try with a thin layer of water in it, NO, the botton of the pots r nt in touch with water.
    Thanks again and I wll get back to u if I need any more help...:)
    Can I post u my orchids photo? actually they r my 1st orchids and an "expaert veiw & comment" will b just gr8...:)

  33. Rupa, congratulations! If you see new roots its a sure sign that you've got a happy plant :)
    By the way, you may want to check the medium before you water. Sometimes the medium will look dry on the surface but if you insert a wooden skewer or pencil into the pot (gently, try to avoid damaging roots) sometimes you'll find that it is soaking wet inside.
    Do you use a clay or plastic pot ? That influences the need for watering to a great degree. Plastic keeps the medium moist for a much longer time.
    About the photo, can you send me a link to it in a photo storage site like Flickr instead? As a precaution, I dont open mail with attachments. I hope you'll understand ...
    And Rupa, I'm no expert on growing phals, you know. But I'll definitely pass on whatever tips I can :)


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