Friday, July 17, 2009

Monsoon gifts

It's been raining in Mumbai, and look...! Caladiums! Popping up all over the place and letting the raindrops roll off it in big, fat, silvery blobs. These were growing wild and I got a few of them for my garden. It really livens up the shaded spots under my big cashew trees where nothing else seems ready to grow.

Something else the rains brought up ... mushrooms. The locals seem to love this and the lady who comes to clean my house always takes these home to cook. I was worried whether they would be poisonous but she doesn't seem to be any the worse for it!

I love this ruffled fungus which has sprouted in the most unexpected places. For a change, this is one fungus which doesn't throw me into a panic and reach for the neem oil.

The wind and rains were not too kind on this honeycomb though. I found it lying under one of the coconut trees, soaking wet and totally unappetising - looking. But the texture and pattern is so interesting, dont you think?
I keep wondering about the different variations in pattern though. While some of it has the standard hexagon-shaped thin walls, the rest has round thicker walls. Maybe some bees decided to innovate? Do you think the queen bee threw it out because she didn't like the changes?

This is one of my favourite rainy season plants, the Dendrobium crumenatum. It's the weather fluctuation from summer-hot to monsoon-cool that triggers the blooming. The flowers are very fragrant but short-lived which is very unusual for an orchid ... and a dendrobium at that ! They normally last and last for weeks on end.

This is a closer look at the Dendrobium crumenatum, also called 'Pigeon Orchid'. What an odd name, right?

Now do you see why?
Those buds look exactly like pigeons, don't they? Upside ones, maybe, but still isn't it such an apt name?

I was surprised to see these Karondas (Carissa carundas) still in fruit. Have you seen these before? They start off as pink and white but ripen to a dark reddish purple. They taste almost acidic but kids love it. When ripe, the juice is a thick, blood-red liquid and the source of many pranks with children smearing it everywhere and pretending to be bleeding (and giving their moms mini-heart attacks!)
Birds love it too and I saw a Bulbul fighting with another to get first pick of these fruits.

Something else that I didn't expect to see ... this wild creeper is invasive but I don't mind it so much because the Common Pierrot butterfly loves it . These flowers are tiny and almost hidden under the leaves but the Common Pierrot manages to find them.

These maidenhair ferns are another monsoon favourite. They show up at the slightest hint of rains and take over all the walls, rocks and cracks. I love their delicate laciness and wish they would stay around the whole year. I've tried potting them up but it looks like pots are the only place where they refuse to grow ... at least for me !

No, this isn't some mountain landscape but the bark on one of my cashew trees with moss slowly taking over. I think it is beautiful! My cashew trees are old but the moss makes them look like the grandfather of all cashew trees!

These little wildflowers crop up every year with the onset of the monsoon. They are a bit rain-worn now after the heavy rains we've been getting but it looks like this little bee still likes them just the way they are!
By the way, does anybody have any idea what they're called? Please let me know if you do.

Finally... this has to be the ultimate sign that summer is long over. Gul mohur petals lie scattered all over my lawn and road, under the trees and over the rocks ... like a red carpet for the Monsoon and all the gifts it showers us with.


  1. Beautiful pictures!
    Oh, how I wish we got yearly rains we could count on.
    I can see a flying bird in your Pigeon Orchids.

    Your honeycomb definitely looks like two different kinds of bee/wasps have build upon it. Bees on the left and wasps on the right. Too bad it feel down.

  2. Ooooh la la Sunita what a lovely treat....candy for the eyes. Missed your posts and am glad to see you are back. Our rainy season is late and am getting very worried. That Dendrobium takes my breath away! And oooh that maidenhair fern reminds me of the resurrection fern in Florida. They are so delicate to look at and very moody when moved. Have a great weekend!

  3. Hi Carla! Great seeing you here.
    Can't really count on the monsoons, Carla. This one of 2009 gave us quite a scare arriving so late. All our water supply is dependent on it so you can imagine how important it is for us.
    You're so right ... that honeycomb does look like the work of two sets of architects doesn't it? :)
    I haven't gone over to TWF in some time ever since my desktop is out of commision and I'm forced to use my laptop instead :P

  4. Hi Helen! And I've really missed posting too. I'm a bit handicapped because my desktop is not working and I just cant get my laptop to do what I want it to. Today's post was a miracle (and the product of resignation to the fact that I'm not going to get to work on my beloved desktop anytime soon). I really don't know how I managed to publish it without deleting my entire blog!
    There are a lot of orchids lining up to bloom and be blogged about soon. Dendrobium season is coming up here.
    Talk to you soon!

  5. Wonderful rain gifts and the drops look most appetizing. I think the bee honeycomb might be a section for eggs and a section for honey? Maybe? Can't help you with the id on the plant. The carissa fruit is nice. I've never seen it before.

  6. Hallo Sunita
    Tolle Photos!
    Natur ist immer wieder ein großes Wunder.
    Hier, in Deutschland haben wir auch so etwas wie Monsoon. Ständig Regen, dabei richtig warm, so bis zu 29 Grad.
    Schau mal bei mir, auch hier gibt es wunderschöne Blumen.
    liebe Grüße Dörte

  7. Hello Sunita,I just love all the pictures and textures that they show. I am like you a little cautious of mushrooms that I am not familiar with. The Maidenhair ferns are so cute I love them.The dendrobium has such pretty little blooms. Queen bees may be just fussy enough to change their minds ;-) Wonderful pictures.

  8. Hello Sunita! So nice to hear from you, and to catch up with your 'doings' :)
    As usual, your posts are a so enjoyable! I'm enchanted with your child-like delight in your natural surroundings, and you have a wonderful talent for describing and sharing these things with us.
    What a wonderful holiday you had in such a beautiful, peaceful setting. I'm very happy that you were able to get away with your family and relax for a while.
    My mother grew maidenhair fern in Australia and it was one of my favorite things in her garden. So delicately beautiful!
    Love that blushing pink fruit and the little white pigeons. I'm glad you're now enjoying the refreshing relief of the monsoon rains. Here, we've only had little tastes of summer. This morning was one of them, but this afternoon we're back to gray skies and rain. Bah humbug! Bring on the sunshine!

  9. Loveley rain, what should we do if it did not show up.

    In my corner of the world it is dry by now, but the rain will show up to morrow I think.

  10. Sunita, thank you for sharing your beautiful post today. I am overjoyed to see your dendrobium orchid. There are so many blooms. I only came to know the name today. I have this orchid with me but unfortunately, it has produced only one flower each time it blooms. Next time, I'll check for the 'pigeon'. By the way, the gulmohur flower looks like the flame of the forest flower.

  11. Thank you for sharing Sunita! Rain brings life. And it is gardening that has taught me to appreciate rainy days :)

    And I love your Pigeon Orchids. They are beautiful!

  12. Beautiful photos. I love the orchids. I have only ever seen one that was fragrant and have never found it again. The pigeon flowers were cute.

  13. Mmmm...what a delicious monsoon post...and a different "take", from the usual grumblings about flooded roads and potholes!

    I really enjoyed this.

  14. Tina, I never thought of that! Maybe you're right... they must've used a different pattern for the nursery.
    The karonda fruit is often boiled in sugar syrup and substitutes cherries in pastries, etc. I've even heard that some people make wine with it.I must try that out some time.

  15. Dorte, thanks! When do you get your rains? I tried commenting on your blog but wasnt able to. Beautiful blooms, Dorte. I'm so envious of them. I've never grown them before.

  16. Thanks, Lona. The textures interest me too. Especially since I started photographing my garden for my blog, I keep my eyes wide open for unusual textures and patterns. Isn't Nature wonderful!

    Kerri, you overwhelm me! I could never have as many flowers in my garden as you seem to have in yours every season.
    I almost laughed out loud when I read about your statement about your rainy summer. Different perspectives! I would've killed to get some dark clouds while suffering through our miserably hot and sunny summer.

    Signe, its so good to hear from you. You said it! What on earth would we do without rain? But you speak as if its an almost daily event . Or is this your rainy season too?

  17. Hi Autumn Belle!Is your orchid kept in bright light? Sometimes lack of light will affect the flowering. Or maybe there isnt much variation in the weather. My orchid flowers only when the weather changes from hot to cool. Or maybe it needs to grow a bit more. My orchid is almost 20 years old. It started off as a 4-cane plant which I had planted in an empty lamp. I have never repotted it but took it off the lamp-post and hung it instead. it continues to flourish!
    The gul mohur or Delonix regia is also called Flame of the Forest by some people. The other one is Butea monosperma. Both look flamboyantly gorgeous and flame-like, I totally agree.

  18. Thanks, Sandy! I love the rains too but I think you knew that from my post ;) When do you get your rainy season in Hong Kong?

    Thanks, Jessica. You might want to look out for this Oncidium orchid called Sharry Baby ... it has a chocolate scent!Or so I'm told by growers. The Acampe orchid is also mildly fragrant.

  19. Glad you liked this post, FlowerGirl :)
    This is of course the gardener's point of view. I suppose if I had to face those potholes and flooded roads every day, my enthusiasm may have dimmed a bit.
    But I seriously doubt it! ;D

  20. I've been cross with heavy rains on my garden over the last few days but this post makes me wish we had monsoons.

    The honeycomb really is very interesting - and the carpet of red petals looks delightfully cheerful. In fact, I enjoyed all the photos here - and the descriptions!


  21. Beautiful pictures and narration. It's like having a glimpse into an enchanted fairyland! Agree totally with Flowergirl's comment - it's so refreshing to read a celebration of the monsoon, rather than the usual complaints!

  22. What a fabulous botanical tour!
    It would be nice to get a guided tour in your garden. Monsoon is having its effects in my garden too.

  23. Hallo Sunita
    normal regnet hier im Sommer nur sehr wenig. Dieses Jahr ist alles anders, warum, ich weiß es nicht. Die Klimaverschiebung wird es sein.
    Leider kann ich diese Pflanze nicht nach Mumbai senden, sie würde dort nicht wachsen, sie braucht den Winter mit Frost, damit sie im folgenden Jahr wieder austreibt.
    Ach ja, die Tauben auf dem Kopf sind hinreißend!
    Ich kann jetzt alles lesen, dank der Übersetzung.

    liebe Grüße Dörte

  24. Hi Sunita,
    As always love your pictures ... the maidenhair is my sure shot fav. and you are right about the never like to grow in a pot ... I have enjoyed trying to grow them at home since childhood ... its my fav.-fav.-fav. plant in the whole wide world :)... just yesterday I spied them on a wall ... and Iam all ready to go get them ...

  25. Hi Esther,it's great seeing you here! Heavy rains can be a bit too much of a good thing if one doesn't also have blistering-hot sunny days that make one long for it.
    Glad you liked this post! :)

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. We (me & wife) too love gardening, In our house in Chennai we have a roof top Vegetable garden.
    Moreover we love weather watching, reporting and Forecasting.
    You can follow us in
    Our site


  29. Wonderful views of your lovely India and garden. You know I LOVE the caladiums and count on them in my shady spaces, too. Their big leaves holding the droplets are an added dimension of their beauty.

    We are having our fair share of rain and like you the fungus that crop up everywhere is truly unique. So many sizes, shapes and forms. I certainly don't know which are poisonous either.

    I especially like the orange carpet noting the end of summer for you.

    All delightful blooms in this post, Sunita. It is a joy to visit your lovely garden.
    Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

  30. I agree... they do look like pigeons :) :) Colourful Floral blog!

  31. Sorry everyone, I've been having trouble with my internet connection for last few days so all your messages (and mine) got held up.

    Kamini, this fairyland comes complete with its own fire-breathing dragon! ;D
    You should just see me when those nasty crows rip my orchids out of their pots and toss them down to be used as a toothpick by my brainless dog.

    Amila, I can just imagine your garden now! It must be at its lushest best. What is happening at your dragonfly pond now?
    That guided garden tour ... you're always welcome :)

  32. Dorte, I hope I got the translation of your message right. We're feeling the effects of the climatic changes too. Later monsoons, colder winters, hotter summers... its not very pleasant.
    Your plants are gorgeous but you're right, I doubt whether they would grow in Mumbai. So I'll enjoy them in your garden blog instead :)

  33. Rajee, I absolutely love the maidenhair ferns too. I see them waving their delicate fronds on my walls and rocks and all over my garden during the monsoons and wish like anything that I could carry their beauty indoors too. I think I may have to set up a misting system in my house to get it to agree to move in!

  34. Hi Rakesh, how interesting! When you say that you love weather forecasting, are you personally involved with working on it?
    What vegetables do you grow? Growing on the rooftop in Chennai must be tricky in summer. How do you manage?

  35. Meems, I'm sure you wont be surprised when I thought of you immediately when I saw those caladiums growing wild and I just had to have them in my garden ;)
    Caladiums really are beautiful, aren't they? Somehow they're very underrated here in India and I've seen many gardeners clearing them out of their garden. Maybe they're too easy to grow here!
    I think I'm noticing newer types of fungus growing in my garden this year. I dont know why it is happening but I'm thanking my lucky stars nonetheless.
    I love the Gul mohur too. I have both the orange as well as the deep red flowering trees but I'm bit partial to the red one.

  36. Thank you, Evergreen Tree (what a great blog name!). I'm glad you liked The Urban Gardener :)

  37. Sunita,

    thank you for the tour through the garden, so many beautiful photos and lovely commentary. The maidenhead ferns are one of my favourites: they add such a luscious green to the drabbest of places, so delicate too. And the pidgeon orchid is very pretty. I'm excited by your promise of posting more orchid flowers . . .

  38. Wow Sunita! These pics r gr8. U do hv an eye for details. Thanks for sharing.
    Ur pic made me like fungi for once :P

  39. What a lovely welcome to monsoons :) Loved the pictures, loved the descriptions that you have added :)

  40. Beautiful! I can almost smell the fresh rain and new growth from here!

  41. Hi Sunita, for me too it is a treat when the monsoon arrives with new special growth in its tow. The hive looks really odd, like always there are two possibilities, new workers, globalisation! And again two possibilities it goes on and on LOL! Interesting and fun. We have to native bees hives on our house. The bees are tiny and begnign, non stinging! I love the spray of orchids. They really look like tiny, white fairy pigeons.
    I like fungi with their odd shapes and colours. Some are disgusting looking and have a name I do not want to mention, they need lots of neem oil. Carrissa rings a bell somewhere but I do not know this fruit. I must be packed with vitamins and other goodies, the birds are not silly! It is good to leave little butterfly weeds, I do not like manicured gardens just for show like produced en masse on the schicky schnicky GoldCoast.
    Love the delicate maidenhair ferns, yes Sunita I think they do best in situ, so I must say they are toughies. I adore your wonderful, old cashew tree. Gul mohur has the same flowers as our Bauhinia galpinii. Has yours butterfly leaves? I enjoyed your Monsoon and hope we have one this year. The forcast is a very dry spring as "El nino" is hoverig around.

  42. Stunningly beautiful pictures, Sunita. I just discovered your blog and it it absolutely riveting. I so admire what you can grow in that climate. Although, I guess those Monsoons may not be a completely positive experience. What a gorgeous blog.

  43. Ancel, I'm so glad you enjoyed this post :)
    The maidenhair fern are so lovely, aren't they? In one of my earlier posts I had added a photo of a snake-skin suspended from a rock in my wall. This is more or less the same spot where those ferns are growing so lushly now. I shudder to think of what else is hiding behind those fronds!
    Oh yes, I'll be adding lots of orchid photos soon. The orchid season is just setting off now. I can just see them gathering all their strength to bloom.

  44. Hi Swaram! I'm glad you found your way here. I hope you'll come back often to check on what's new.
    Thanks! I'm so glad you liked my photos :)
    And I know exactly what you mean about fungi! Its nice to meet one you don't feel like annihilating ;)

  45. Hi IHM! Thanks, glad you liked it. I wasn't sure how many Bombayites would agree with me ;)

  46. Mmmm, yes! Urbanfieldguide, you're absolutely right.... the scent of rain on scorched earth, and that of a hundred herbs in a hurry to grow, fresh leaves popping open... exquisite!

  47. Trudi, that's a fantastic explanation for that hive ... globalisation! :D
    I've never heard of non-stinging bees though! I would've thought that was their raison d'etre! (apart from making honey, that is)
    Those orchids are so short-lived. I see buds one day, blooms the next and the next day there's nothing left! Maybe that's why they're fragrant. They have to capitalise on that one short day!
    Fungi are fun,aren't they? Not the nasty ones but the quaint, eccentric harmless ones.
    I'm not sure about the karondas but I'm sure they'll be high in Vitamin C. They're so acidic sour!
    I totally agree with you about not liking manicured show gardens. They look so uptight! Almost constipated!
    Yes, the gul mohur (Delonix regia) flowers do look like that of the Bauhinia but the leaves are feathery and delicate. They look beautiful even when the tree is not in bloom!
    Do you have a regular monsoon season like we do, Trudi? I just wondered since you're in the sub-tropics too.

  48. Thanks, Steve! Yes, we're very lucky that so many plants grow so well (and with not much effort)here. But guess what? I'd love to grow temperates! sigh... we always want what we don't have, don't we?
    The monsoons can be very dangerous like any force of nature but it is absolutely vital for India. But that's not why I love it . Its that feeling of rejuvenation that I love :)

  49. Hi Sunita,
    My dragonfly pond is looking pretty good. You reminded me that a dragonfly post is overdue.

    BTW, Have you heard about this hotel in Kerala?

  50. Super monsoon gifts, Sunita. I would love to visit to your garden once.
    I miss the yummy mushrooms we used to get at my parent's place during this time of the year. The store-brought ones don't have any taste compared to those. :-)

  51. Beautiful series, I like your shot of the pigeon orchids. And I also noticing that the closer you get to your subject, the better the images and compositions. It indicates a natural flair for macro photography. This is just a thought.

  52. Amila, yes, your dragonfly posts have been missed. I just wondered about them because I dont see them zipping around in the rains.
    About your link, I think I'll have to wait till I get my desktop back in action before I can see which hotel you're talking about. (I'm still stuck with my laptop and guess what? I cant get it to highlight the link to copy and paste. I know ... I'm such a dinosaur! :P)

  53. Bindhu, did you use to cook those home-grown mushrooms? How interesting! Do you have photos of what they look like? Maybe you could post about them someday on your blog? I'd love to read more about it.
    I've only eaten the store-bought ones but still love them. So the news that the home-grown ones taste even better is definitely interesting.

  54. Thanks Thomas!
    I do know that I prefer the way the close-ups look (which is why you'll see so many of them rather than longer views of my garden in this blog!).I really have to get the hang of taking non-macro photos.
    Of course, this confirms my suspicion (and my husband's accusation) that maybe I'm not far-sighted enough ... I'm not good at seeing the broader picture! ;D

  55. Beautiful Sunita! Gorgeous post I really want to dive into my computer and feel the moist air and smell the wonderful flowers.



  56. Tyra, what an idea! Maybe we should persuade Bill Gates or some like-minded soul to come up with a computer which will let us reach in and experience what we're seeing.... sigh! Till then, I'll fill you in on all the monsoon activity here ;)
    I love the scent of earth that has been freshly rained on. It is so full of promise!

  57. Its official now! The nearest I have come to taste the monsoons this year is through your blog, my place has been labeled 'drought affected'. The stunning photographs make me long for the beauty of a full blooded monsoon - though a tad less than the kind you get.
    Karondas are one wonderful vegetable. I cook it with all the spices added and its bitter-sour taste tingles the taste buds at exactly the right places.
    Wish you a safe and lovely monsoons...

  58. GT, that's terrible! Maybe you should make a quick trip to Mumbai to get a quick fix on the monsoons this year. But right now we're bone dry too. After being soaked and marinated for so many days, it looks like the rain gods are taking a break. So we have sunny days with big clouds promising rain before slipping away. I'm hoping it'll pick up again soon.
    I think its time I posted more often. Just as soon as this machine lets me. I miss my desktop!
    I had no idea karondas were used like a vegetable! I cant believe what I've been missing all these years. I can just imagine the melding of flavours. I've got to try this out. What spices dpo you use? Garam masala or something milder? How do you get rid of that slightly bitter tang of the seeds? Or do you de-seed it first?
    The most innovative use of the karonda that I've seen are the Maharashtrian village women using it as hair decoration . They roll their hair up into a 'bun' and place the karondas along with other assorted foliage and flowers around that. I keep telling my maid that she is a walking garden and she laughs.

  59. Amila, this is very frustrating. I just cant get to watch that video except for the first couple of seconds . From the few lines of lyrics in the box in the top right-hand corner, I can tell this is going to be an ingenious one. Maybe it's the Kerala hex but I just cant watch the video.

  60. Dear Sunita,
    A joy to read! Thank you. Your celebration of the monsoon season really touched my heart. Also leaving the wild flowers for the butterflies and bees lets me know we are kindred spirits. You see the "real" beauty!
    Fungus are interesting and some are very tasty! I too am careful.
    Wonderful tour of all the glories in your area.
    Thank you for the walk with you and your camera.

  61. Amila, that was incredibly funny but, ummm... no, that's not the Kerala that I saw . I bet those lyrics were written by a resident Keralite :D
    How on earth do you manage to find these videos?

  62. Sherry, kindred spirits indeed :)
    I'm so glad you enjoyed my monsoon garden.

  63. Beautiful pictures and lovely blog !

    check mine :

  64. Hi Kuluth! Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed my blog. I'm off now to check yours.

  65. What an amazing paradise you have there...full of colour and beauty and, most importantly, wildlife :)

  66. What an exotic treat, looking at all the beautiful pictures on your blog. And water, lovely. In Seattle, we are just surviving a major heat wave, the gardens are dry, very dry...

  67. Hi Sunita, I just read that Caladiums are poisonous to dogs. I just brought one in myself and while looking for planting material found that my pet could get into trouble because of the caladium. I noticed in one of your photos that you have a German Shepherd. Have you had any issues?

  68. TML, I dont think you'll have a problem unless your pet is still in that puppy stage when they like to chew on everything in sight. The only time I've seen my dogs ever trying to eat foliage is when they have digestion problems and then they head straight for a mouthful of ordinary grass or some leaves of the Petrea plant. Otherwise, plants are just something they like to roll on :)
    However, if this is still worrying you, maybe you could keep your pot of caladiums somewhere out of reach? Maybe on a table?

  69. Thank you, Wildife Gardener. I assure you my garden is just teeming with wildlife ... including a couple of cobras and some Russells Vipers too!
    I could've done with fewer of the latter though ;)

    TIG, its so good seeing you here after such a long time.
    Somehow heat-wave was never a word I would've associated with Seattle. I hope you pull through soon. Do you get a regular rainy season like we do here?

  70. Beautiful photos. I love the orchids. I have only ever seen one that was fragrant and have never found it again. The pigeon flowers were cute. Send Gifts to Pakistan

  71. Thank you, Zafran. Actually, there are several fragrant orchids, including a chocolate-scented Oncidium orchid. I've never seen or smelt those but I'm told they're widely available in some of the orchid nurseries.

  72. I brought an orchid home recently from Sulawesi and it looked like your Dove Orchid. It is fragrant(slightly scented) and grow best tied to a coconut trunk(slightly shaded). It may be a different orchid for in Sulawesi they called it the Coconut Orchid.

  73. Klangite, I just did a search for coconut orchid and found a red-coloured bloom showing up on Google. Is that the same one you're talking about? This was a Maxillaria though and mine is a Dendrobium.
    My Pigeon Orchid is fragrant too. I love scented blooms!

  74. Thank-you, Sunita, for doing the search.I think the lady in Sulawesi identify this orchid wrongly. It looked exactly like the pictures you posted. She gave me two baby plants to take home and I have tied them to the trunk of my lime tree. However,it would be nice to have that red-coloured bloom too! If you love scented blooms you should try growing the Rangoon Creeper;blooms in 3 different colours(white,pink and red within the same flower stalk) and so sweetly scented (a gardener's dream)!


Hi, hope you enjoyed reading this post? Tell me what you think about this post; I love hearing from you.
But please note ... if there's a link in the comment, it will not be approved for publishing (sorry, but I'm getting way too much spam with links).