Monday, December 28, 2009


Another year whispers to its close. Mellow nostalgia tints the air. All that was bright and fruitful now shushurs a quiet completion.

"Our job is done, our days were long ... now let's rest," murmurs every vine and grass.
So the Sun beams a tad bit dimmer and Night lingers that much longer. And the Earth turns down the music of crickets and birdsong, pulls up a blanket of dry leaves to cuddle under, and breathes a contented sigh.
It's time to dream now. Of days gone by ... the exuberance of Spring , the carnival of Summer and the giddy excitement of the Monsoons.
Dream of triumphs of bounteousness. Smile at challenges met.
For a new year awaits in the wings. Impatiently, excitedly. Filled with more dreams and even more Hope.
Time enough to welcome it. But first, let's dream.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A walk on the wild side

So I found myself a new orchid. Found growing in the wilderness that adjoins my vegetable patch while it's lying fallow, waiting for the next lot of seeds to burst into life. Isn't it beautiful?

And then there was this beauty. I really fell for its bell-like shape and clusters of flowers...
ummmm..... hold on a minute! Can we re-wind please?

Oooops! Sorry ... okay, I exagerated a bit (a lot?) . That first photo, like the second, is not of any exotic garden bloom. They're common wildflowers ! They spring up all over the place here in Mumbai and are religiously weeded out.
If they were just a bit bigger and a lot tougher to grow, I think they would've found their way into every gardener's wish-list.
As it is, the poor Lindernia crustacea (first and third photos) has been relegated to a wannabe status. As pretty as any orchid ... if only someone would look at it long enough to realise it.
And the pretty pink Boerhavia diffusa has been burdened with the most unfortunate tags of 'pigweed' and 'horse purslane'. Have you ever heard of anything more unfair?

Some wildflowers are lucky. Like the lantana. Pretty, a riot of colours and big enough to flaunt it. And the birds and butterflies love it too. Which more or less guarantees it a ticket to any garden, don't you think?

Then there is this very pretty blue flower which looks so much like a Skyblue Clustervine.

But while the Skyblue clustervine reaches for the skies and billows over fences, this little look-alike carpets the ground with tiny blue dots. Perfect groundcover!
During the monsoons, this is one of the plants I rely on to hold on to the little bit of soil I have in my garden before it is all washed away. Who cares if it is wild or even a weed (*gasp!*) so long as it's helping me out and looking so pretty while doing it!

And meet Cinderella. I don't know how and why this little wildflower came to be called the Cinderella weed but Synedrella nodiflora has to be one of the most commonly seen wildflowers in Mumbai's concrete jungle.
Incidentally, cinderella seems to have hitch-hiked all the way here from tropical America. One of the original hippies? The pumpkin coach seems to have been dumped long ago anyway.

This flame-red Ixora is native to Mumbai. I've seen it growing wild all over the place on my way home.

And of course, they force their way up from small cracks between rocks. Which looks quite spectacular considering that everything else refuses to grow there. The contrast bewteen the grey-black stone and the fiery blooms have to be seen to be truly appreciated. I quite like their pointy-shaped buds too.

Which brings me back to wondering ... when does a weed stop being a weed and get appreciated as a garden flower? Is it when they are big enough to be in your face, instead of slightly shy with teeny-tiny blooms ?
Or is it when they become too tough to grow? Maybe in another Hardiness Zone?
I've seen photos of what gardeners from other countries call weeds. Believe me, there are more than a few that I would love to have growing in my garden.
Just as I'm sure that this Vernonia cineraria below must be intriguing for some gardeners out there. Just don't tell them it's a weed here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

King of the garden

A shrill whistling screeeee! announces the arrival of the King.
Crows bristle, rodents run for cover, and snakes slink away and hide now that someone new has taken over the top spot on the food-chain in my garden.
Behold the Black Kite alias Pariah Kite! Pariah is too ignominous a nickname for the King of my garden but the tag of Black Kite seems to be shared by other birds too so I'll just stick with Pariah Kite.

The Pariah Kite is one of the more commonly seen birds in our city. Seen from far, that is. If you look up at the sky, chances are that you'll see at least a couple of Pariah Kites sailing across Mumbai. Lazy swirls high across the skyscape soon transform into a powerful swoop when they spot something interesting.
They've learnt to adjust to city life and will just as soon scavenge as hunt, I'm told. I find that a bit sad for a bird that is obviously primarily a hunter. But city life can be tough on birds too.

Last year the royal couple looked over my garden and decided it would do to bring up their new heir to the kingdom. They moved into their penthouse suite on top of the tallest coconut tree and set about cleaning up the neighbourhood straight away.

Housekeeping is definitely not their strong point because their nest has to be one of the sloppiest I've ever seen.
But their hunting! I've seen them fly with snakes in their talons and then transfer it to that of their waiting mate. In mid-air!
Of course, the fact that I was standing below them and if they had fumbled in their passing-the-parcel act, a very angry 'parcel' would've landed on me, makes my blood freeze.
But my garden is suddenly more clear of thieving rats and other nasties than it has ever been. For which mercy I would happily crown the Black Kite Emperor of the garden .

Of late, they seem to have become more confident of moving in close even when I am around. Or maybe it's just the irresistible lure of my birdbath. Whatever it may be, it seems like the heavens are a bit closer when they choose to come down to earth.
Doesn't he look majestic? He's got such an imperious look in his eye.
Oh... and I like his trousers too.

A quick scoop of water and it's back to duty. Master of all he surveys and making sure every creature in the vicinity knows it.
Don't miss that wicked beak and huge talons. All the better to rip and rule!