Saturday, June 19, 2010


The Monsoon is here! Season of moss and fern and everything green. Of lush verdant growth and moist cool days. Of receptive Earth, urging seeds to grow and plants to ramble.

All over Mumbai, Gulmohurs lay out a red carpet for the Monsoon. Everywhere I look I can see brilliant red swatches of colour painting the ground.
Red does seem to be the colour of the season. And it shows up so beautifully amidst all that Monsoon refreshed green.

My tardy Gulmohur alone seems to stick out as the last bastion. Late to bloom and stubbornly last to fall. I'm not complaining!

Long-forgotten Caladiums are now popping up everywhere. These were growing wild in a vacant plot of land when I persuaded them to shift to my garden.
I gave them a spot near the Vincas thinking that when the Summer blooms of the Vincas are done, the Caladiums would add their splotches of colour. But they seem to be very happy to grow side by side even when the monsoon winds have blown the Vincas all asprawl over the Caladiums which were cosying up to a young Geiger tree.
And as if that weren't enough for this picture of monsoon harmony, can you see the roots of the Dendrobium orchid (not in the picture) slithering down from the tree to join in all the fun?

One of the first things that I did was to make sure I re-stocked the water on the verandah with plenty of guppies and other fish to take care of any mosquitoes which have ideas of moving in and turning it into a maternity ward.

This is a large black jar which I had planted with some waterlilies and kept in the sunniest corner of my verandah. Unfortunately, the crows soon discovered this new watering-hole and with a couple of strong tugs, pulled out the interefering water-plants until they had clear access to all that lovely water.
It made no difference to them that there was a bird-bath kept filled with clean water just a few feet away. They obviously didn't want to mix with the hoi-polloi and staked out the jar as their own.
After several attempts at rescuing the poor waterlilies and several incidents of finding them tossed disdainfully to the floor again, I gave up. Now that jar is the pit-stop of choice among all the crows who fly in. Not the other birds, though. They, like well-brought up birds, prefer the bird-bath.

I keep a pot of bamboo behind the jar and I love seeing its reflection in the water. Somehow it looks just that little bit more eye-catching than the real thing. Especially when the fish weave in and out of the reflected leaves and sky. There's something a bit surreal about it.
I do add a couple of large leaves for the fish to hide under when the crows are on the prowl.

The Monsoons also bring a windfall, literally, for these Red-vented Bulbuls. This banana plant with a ripening bunch heavy on it, toppled over and before I discovered it, the bulbuls did. I found this pair feasting on it and looking a bit annoyed at being disturbed.

I dont know what they're grumbling about. They've been feasting all these days on the Carissa carandas, or 'Karonda' as they're commonly called here.


  1. Lovely pictures! I loved your description of the crows and their self-claimed watering hole.

  2. Very beautiful first image. Monsoon is also coming ahead in our city lahore. The gul mohar is looking outstanding. We also grow jangli Karonda here mainly because of fragrant flowers and lovely fruits.

  3. Am I first?

    Lovely, lovely post... made my heart burn with envy :)

    Delhi is hot, the gulmohars carpets have dried, bulbuls are drinking water from my pots - now I know they love bananas, I will try that!

    The crows don't try to catch the fish? The picture is surreal no doubt... before I read the description I was wondering what this one could possibly be :)

    The water droplets on Karonda look beautiful!!

  4. OOOh Sunita your rains have finally arrived. Ours has started and hopefully will continue. It is still blistering hot though. You need to banish those crows so that your water lily can grow in peace. I would have to stand guard with a stick for then LOL. It seems that our gulmohurs have made a pact on flowering after all the others. Like you I have just discovered a bunch of bananas that had been feasted on by both birds and monkeys. Have a great weekend!

  5. Forgot to ask you if you use the karonda fruit?

  6. I am traveling And within Uttarakhand rains yet to arrive fully. Great you within Mumbai enjoying rains. Have fun.

  7. Aaron, I wish I could see Malaysia in the monsoon season. When I visited last year, it was in the peak of summer. Very hot and humid but so very beautiful!
    I think you would love the ripe Karondas even more. Have you seen them? They turn purple and when you squish them you get this absolutely realistic blood-like juice, very sour but even more fun to play pranks with! ;D

    Thanks, CG. If they didn't amuse me so much I would've hated those crows!

    Thanks, Muhammad! Here in Mumbai and in several parts of Maharashtra, the local women use bunches of Karonda blooms and fruits to decorate their hair. I was a bit stunned at first when one of my helpers turned up decorated like this but it does look quite nice once you get used to the idea that they're using fruit in their hair. Well, if one can use flowers, why not fruit? :)

  8. Always first, IHM. It doesn't matter where you start to count from, does it? ;D
    You have my heartfelt sympathies. Mumbai is beautiful now (once you get past the flooded roads).
    Yes, bananas do seem to be the perfect lure. You may even get a couple of butterflies joining in on the feast. Some like the Common Baron (yes, there is actually a butterfly going by that unwieldy name) enjoy over-ripe fruits.
    So far, no the crows don't seem to be inclined to seafood. I think they just want to drink up and fly before my (very disinterested) dogs make a meal out of them!

  9. What a joy your garden must be. It sounds glamorous even in the rainy season. Wish I could say that of our rains.

    I like crows - they are so clever and quite compelling to watch. We have lots of them, too, to go with the rain.

  10. Helen, the monsoon has started and yes, in the lull between the rains it is very humid but it is cloudy and sometimes windy too and such a blissful difference from those long hot summer days. Love it!
    I've given up growing the waterlilies in that jar, Helen. I'm planninga bigger lily pond like yours. There is an old unused water-tank which is much larger and deeper. I want to waterproof that and convert it into a lily pond. I'll be e-mailing you for help and advice, okay?
    Monkeys! You have visiting monkeys? Wow!
    The karonda is very rich in vitamin C as I keep reminding myself every time I overindulge like a little kid ;)
    I've heard of people making wine and pickle with Karondas. I've also heard that much of the fruit sold as preserved cherries here are actually Karondas in sugar syrup! But as for me, I prefer it straight off the tree, into my mouth :)

  11. The karonda looks delicious...I'm wondering what they taste like?

    I used to live in Santa Barbara and my favorite time of year was February when the Jackaranda trees dropped their purple flowers all over the ground. Anapamu street was tree lined and the road seemed magical with it's lavender carpet!

  12. As always, the most beautiful pictures - caught on camera, and painted in words. The fruits in the last pictures are so luscious, and the green the first picture is so luxuriously lush.

  13. Uttarakhand! Hobo, I've been yearning to make a trip there. Lucky you!
    And yes, lucky me for being able to soak in the rains :)

    Oh Stephanie, that really made me smile :)
    There's nothing glamorous about my garden at all as my aching back and mosquito-bitten arms and mud-caked feet will tell you.But in the rainy season, ESPECIALLY in the rainy season, it is a magical place where anything can happen ;)

    Hi CG! Its so good to see you here again :)
    The Karonda is firm and sour. Eye-scrunching, lip-twisting sour, actually. Just the type little kids love!
    But if you happen to bite into the seeds in the centre of the semi-ripe fruit (in the photo) it is so bitter. So I end up nibbling around the fruit. And once it is ripe, it turns purple-black and softer and when you squeeze it a bit, a blood-red tart juice flows out and the bitterness of the seeds don't bother one anymore.
    Oh yeah, and it stains like crazy!
    I love the Jacarandas too. I have one in my garden but now that all the trees have grown it doesnt get enough sun and doesn't bloom much anymore.
    I really wish I could see Anapamu street just the way you described it. It sounds heavenly!

  14. Thanks, Raji :)
    This is one of my favourite times to indulge in photography. Everything looks so green and lush that my garden looks very pampered with zero effort on my part.

  15. Sunita, this is gorgeous! You have an amazing talents and have captured the beauty of the monsoons perfectly.

  16. Thank you, Anu! :) But then the monsoons make everything so utterly, impossibly beautiful that I can't claim any credit here.

  17. We too got a bit of that monsoon this year! YAY! We usually aren't blessed with it but this year's an exception and I hope this trend continues..
    Rain does magic to our plants doesn't it? I see it very well in your lovely photos.
    I too recently bought a lotus paying a hefty price only to be cruelly pulled at by the danged crows. I exactly did the same thing as you - placed a water dish few feet away. Those nasty crows would dunk that dish with biscuits as well as this container! The poor lotus did sprout three or more leaves even after the crow attacks, but eventually, the baby gave up and more dirt got deposited by the nasty crows, algae partied in it and the lotus went to heavens! [Sniff] I wish I could find a way to avoid the crows and grow lotus or lilies again...

  18. That really was a bit of luck, wasn't it Chandramouli? I hope you get plenty of rain every year too.
    Those crows are too clever. No matter what we do they always find some way around it!

  19. Hi Sunita! Monsoon feels like an elusive enigma not available to the less worthy people of North India. Here we are seething in heat and the weather has been oppressive enough to push me into a creative paralysis. It has been quite a while since I did anything worthwhile other than the routine work which Government of India pays me to do. But your monsoon post seems to be having a revitalizing effect on me and I am going to take this weather head on.
    Hope you have a lovely monsoon minus the flooded roads of course:-)

  20. It appears that our rainy season is finally over and sunny skies ahead at least until the end of the month. The fall, winter and spring rains we get always provide for such lush greenness in our valley... no monsoons in our Pacific northwest, but lots of rainy day. I hope you will not get flooding.

    The Caladium is stunning! stands on its own. Sunita, we wish you a wonderful week ahead.

  21. The Karonda looks beautiful and send some rains to Delhi too.

  22. GT, looks like a quick visit to Mumbai is called for. But the monsoon seems to be playing hide 'nd seek with us. After a couple of days of rain, it is clear again except for a couple of drizzles. So unlike our usual monsoon days!
    Anyway, I hope to read a new post from you soon :)

    I hope we will be spared the flooding too, Di. But my garden is on a slope so it won't affect us.I'm quite jealous of your fall, winter AND spring rains! I wish we enjoyed such bounty.

    Mridula, all kinds of rainy weather spells winging their way towards you. I hope Delhi cools down soon for you.

  23. Nicely narrated. Keep up the good work.

  24. Sunita, I use a Canon DSLR which is now outdated by at least two versions, called D350 with a 70-300mm zoom lens. But if you want only zoom then there are a lot of bigger point and shoots available with a lot more zoom. Hope this helps a bit.

  25. Lovely lovely post Sunita! Ahh..the stories you weave around the awesome pics... just irresistible :)

  26. Beautiful pictures! I love to visit your blog to get a happy feeling, Sunita! The greeneries, birds and the way to capture them...beautiful!

    I never knew red vented bulbuls eat bananas! They seem to nest in our garden often but have seen worms in their beaks!

    I love the karonda fruit with raindrops, the best! Is it a mango variety? Feel like plucking and eating!

  27. Mridula, thanks for the info. That has really got me thinking. And plotting! ;D

    Thank you, Priya. Glad you enjoyed this post :)

    What a lovely thing to say, Sandhya! Thank you.
    I think they were experimenting with exotic cuisines. I usually blame bird-damaged fruits on the crows so I was a bit surprised to see the culprits here.
    Karondas are not mangoes. They're much smaller, about the size of a gooseberry (amla). I think you can easily grow it.It's quite an easy plant to grow.

  28. Hi Sunita,
    Monsoons sound just wonderful right about now, as our weather has been terribly hot and humid--high 90's every day and no rain lately. I still love to be outside in the garden but I have to admit, I must water with my garden hose immediately after putting in new plants. I try not to waste water in excess...but when adding new plants they always need big drinks to get them started. A string of big rain storms would be most welcomed here right now!! The red on that tree makes my eyes's so bright and beautiful! And I agree with you about the reflection of your bamboo in the is surreal to look at. Hope you don't get more mosquitos than your guppies can handle! Thanks so much for your nice was nice to hear from you;-)

  29. Beautiful caladiums! They are one of my favorites. Thanks for visiting my blog recently.

  30. It was lovely visiting your lush monsoon from our chilly winter Sunita :) I did enjoy seeing and hearing about your tardy Gulmohur and the story of those determined crows!

    I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but one of my dreams is to visit India one day...a distant dream at the moment, but I still hold it! What do you think would be the best time of year to visit around Mumbai?

  31. Wow everything looks so green and lush, it reminds me of spring here. ;)

  32. Hello Jan, it's so good to see you here again!
    Your words echo exactly what I was saying a month back. Though, I was moaning about temperatures soaring way over 100*F mark. Obviously that is a time to try and tide over in my garden. I cant dream of putting in new plants then. So you're luckier than you know.
    That gulmohur is really bright red, isn't it? Can you believe its not Photoshop-ed?
    I'm hoping that the dragonflies will help the guppies out. and give me some great photos too ;)

  33. Thank you, Jackie. I've just rediscovered a fascination with foliage plants. So the Caldium works beautifully for me.

    The internet is fantastic, isn't it Heidi? Come over any time when you want a break from cold days :)
    I hope you can make your dream come true soon, Heidi. I think you'll enjoy it here. Mumbai is great in winter (or rather, our version of it!)when it's pleasant and not sticky like it is in summer(April, May). Personally, I love the monsoons but there's no way you'll be able to move around and do touristy things then :D

    That it is, Racquel. And it's just beginning! If we're lucky we'll have another 2-3 months of garden-boosting monsoon season.


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