Friday, May 28, 2010

Summer snapshots : Here comes the sun

I can't help but brighten up every time I see the Geiger tree (Cordia sebestena) in bloom; they're so vibrantly cheerful, aren't they? And they're in bloom almost year-round here in Mumbai, but they're absolutely spectacular in Summer.
Big clusters of these fiery orange flowers really zing up my garden. What's even better is that all this extravagance is a great magnet for Sunbirds and butterflies. And for me.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer snapshots : one for the road

Boiling hot summer days mean an enterprising bird must stoke up when he finds the chance.
A small rivulet, formed when 2 hosepipes snapped at their joint, soon became water-on-tap for this lucky crow.
I guess he got even more lucky with complimentary appetizers thrown in. That green seedpod of the Michaelia champaca is so conveniently within beak reach.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A drop for the Sun

Tiny drops of water mighty bath-tubs make!

It's the peak of Summer here in Mumbai and the brain-broiling Sun has been merciless on just about every living creature (not counting the flowering trees , they seem to be loving it!).
I have my natural rock bird-bath filled up as usual and it has been seeing rush hour from sun-up to sunset. All the birds from tiny spice-birds to the Pariah Kites come here for a quick sip-and-dip to cool off.
Then, yesterday I saw the strangest sight.

On hot summer days I make sure that I water the orchids early in the day. I had stopped to hose down a nearby banana plant too and was getting on with my work when a slight movement caught my eye. I turned slowly (I've found out the hard way that quick movements usually result in lost photo-ops) to see that the 'rain' I had created had just turned into someone's water-park ... in the nicest possible way !

There was this tiny little sunbird slipping and sliding, whirring her wings and wiggling her belly among the tiny little drops of water clinging to the banana leaves.

If you've seen water on banana leaves you'll know that it doesn't drain off in a wet patch like it does from other leaves. It clings to it like tiny little silvery drops , defying all laws of gravity. And every once in a while a couple of tiny drops roll together to make a big fat blob.
And the Sunbird (I think it was a Purple Sunbird but it's not easy differentiating the female Sunbirds) had found this readymade waterslide created just for her enjoyment.

You should've seen how much fun she was having! She would slide around, soaking in all the drops of water, and every once in a while she would stop to look around nervously.
I was worried I would frighten her off so I didn't move in too close. Plus, the chain-link fence separating us was a major barrier that didn't make for easy photography. Still, I did manage to click a few snaps and these are the better ones of the lot.

Her splashing about did advertise the presence of cool water to other birds too. A curious Paradise Flycatcher showed up to check out the action but fled when she saw me.

A male Purple Sunbird wandered by too but by the time I had got my camera ready he was already in a neighbouring property and was busy gorging on nectar from an Ixora. (I added this photo to give an idea of how pretty these birds are. You can see just a glimpse of the metallic gleam of his feathers. But do check out more photos here and here. )

The female Sunbird though was still splashing in her bath and I could almost imagine her glee. It was almost as if that water, just a few drops though they might've been, was like a magnet gluing her to that spot until caution prevailed and she flew off refreshed.

Which got me thinking that maybe I should do this more often. Those few drops on a leaf might just make a world of difference to a parched bird in Summer when the temperatures leap fierier than ever. And will, hopefully, make those flying jewels stick around more in my garden.

Maybe you could do the same? It doesn't take much, as Indian Homemaker can tell you ... a shallow bowl of water is perfect for the smaller birds. If you place it among a few shrubs or potted plants, that will make them feel safer and more confident that they can linger. And I'm sure the Sunbirds would love to slip-slide on some wet leaves. Not much to ask for, is it?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The warm hues of Generosity

Yes, I know I didn't post anything the last couple of days as I'd said I would, but there's a really good reason why... the postman rang! And when I saw the big, book-sized envelope, I whooped, "Yes! yes! yes! its here... finally!".

You see, Phillip from Dirt Therapy had announced a giveaway some time back and guess who won? Me!
I never win anything. Not even lucky dips . Oh wait! there was a plastic ruler which I won when I was in the third standard, but that's it. But you see what I mean, if even that had to stick in my memory like a red-letter day?
Yet, here I was winning an absolutely delicious offer of the most drool-worthy colourburst of a book by Tom Fischer, appropriately called, 'The Gardener's Colour Palette' ! Phillip's own beautiful garden could've been the perfect advertisement for that book!

I did have my doubts whether I would ever get to see this book considering the continents and oceans it had to cross and then there are ever so many slippery fingers who would be handling it . So you see, I was absolutely elated that I had been proven to be a pessimistic ol' so-and-so.

As I hastily signed on the postman's receipt, my first impulse was to rip open the envelope as I usually do (patience is definitely not my forte). But one look at it and there was no way I could do that . See what I mean?

Now why do I never think of such perfect finishing touches?
Phillip, that envelope will never see a dust-bin. It has gone into my stash of sentiment-alia.
As will this lovely note.

And the book? Pure magic!
The text was an absolute revelation. Fluid, almost lyrical , and filled with word-pictures that paint profiles of flowers I've never seen before so vividly that I could swear they're literally bursting out of the pages. The text pulls you in until you just don't want to surface from that colourful painting.
Tom Fischer, I wish I could write half as hypnotically well as you.

I love the easy-to-refer layout showcasing essential information that you don't need to wade through a lot of text to find. And the addition of recommended companion plants is perfect!

And the photos! The book is crammed with such luscious photos that make me feel like I'm in a bubble of concentrated colour. Each photo makes me sigh over them and many make me wish I could pick up my roots and settle someplace where all those lovely blooms will grow for me.

We don't go by Hardiness Zones in India but I should think mine would be Zone 10 like Florida. And I'm so relieved to see that this is one book that hasn't left out the tropical gardener. There aren't that many choices for us here, but still, they're there and many more than I expected. Many of them are plants I've never been sure would grow in my climate zone. And I love the chance to add more colour to my garden.
But I think that would be the only negative thing I can say about this lovely dreamspinner of a book : not all the plants shown here will grow in my garden.

And the verdict? Dont wait... go buy this book! And I wish I could see the change in your garden after you do. I'm already plotting on a lot of changes in my own.

Thank you, Phillip, for being such a generous soul and not hanging on to this book for yourself. I doubt if I could've been so altruistic.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Summer snapshots : Purple jewels

This wild Ipomoea (I think it is called Ipomoea carica ) is seen clambering over every available inch of space ... over sand, rock , tree or building... and blooming its head off so exuberantly!

In Mumbai this creeper has taken over vast stretches of untended land and roadside scrub. Can you imagine seeing a whole sea of mauve and purple flowers beaming at you? No wonder it's called Coastal Morning Glory!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Summer snapshots : Twice as nice

The Magpie-robin is one of the most interesting birds in my garden. I wonder whether it is his double-barrelled name that makes him work twice as hard and sing twice as fluidly as any other bird who comes visiting.

I often see him hopping around on my lawn, head perked at an angle, alertly scanning it for bugs. He loves my birdbath and is a frequent visitor, flying in for a quick feather-ruffling dip before flying up onto the cashew branch above it and settling in to treat the whole garden to his latest compositions.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Summer snapshots : currying favour

The blooms of the Curry Leaf plant (Murraya koenigii) has a besotted bee busy tring to ... well, curry favour.
Incidentally, the blooms actually smell a little pungent. Just the way Indians love their curry!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Summer snapshots : cashew like it

My cashew trees are now adorned with hundreds of golden fruit and their quirky (but oh so tasty!) nuts dangling outside the fruit.

I'm not too fond of the fruit (or cashew-apples as they're called). It leaves an unpleasant aftertaste and stains like crazy. Some people prefer to eat it with salt but I think the Goans seem to have found the perfect use for it... they make a heady liquor called 'feni' with it.

The nuts of the ripe cashew-apples are sun-dried and stored to be roasted later. But as for the tender green ones... who knows, they may just end up as the parrots' breakfast.
Bon appetit!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Summer snapshots : crowning glory

Purple threaded with gold to cloak the Queen's Crepe Myrtle. That's about as majestic as you can get, don't you think?

Welcome to my new 'Summer snapshots' series of picture-posts . The summer-induced exuberance in my garden and all over Mumbai has filled my album with so many photos which I thought you'd like to see. So here they are ... enjoy!
I hope to post regularly so do check in often.