Monday, January 16, 2012

finding Happiness in the garden

I had no idea my garden was so trendy! The colour of the year is blooming itself silly in my garden.
Oh yes, feast your eyes on the most cheerful, vivacious colour ever. Tangerine Tango is what Pantone calls it. I call it Sheer Pep!
Doesn't it just put a zing in your soul and a swing in your step? They definitely got the Tango part right. Electrifying!

I think if Happiness had a colour, this would be it. Not the insipid pale-pink kind of happy.
No way! this is the in-your-face, ecstatic to the core, bursting-with-happiness, beaming-from-ear-to-ear, hopping and skipping and dancing, vibrantly giddy kind of happy!

And I'm finding all kinds of variations on the theme all over. Don't you just love this pop of colour? Ornamental Musas have a way of being eye-catching even in a garden crammed with colour. But put them in the midst of green foliage and wham! it just pulls eyes to them instantly.

Any plant which is a butterfly and bird-magnet as well as being low-maintenace, ranks very high on my list of must-haves in the garden. With the lantana you get all this plus cheerful colours too.
I have a wild lantana bush growing in the middle of my vegetable patch . It's grown and grown, like the legendary porridge in the magic pot, till it's spilling all over the place. It takes up a good 10' x 20' (or more ... definitely more) of the space but I'm a bit indulgent with it. After all, it's the perfect spot to lurk near in hopes of clicking butterflies. So I let it grow wider but not taller. I keep it pruned (or rather, hacked) to a controllable 6' height or I would have a lantana tree blocking out afternoon sunshine from my orchids.
The one in the photo above, however, is more well-behaved and is bred to stay humbly close to the ground. And I lovvve that colour!

The Pagoda Flower (or Clerodendrum paniculatum) is another burst of colour for the garden. I love mixing it up with shorter plants and then again, it looks great in masses of its own kind too. Like wave upon wave of orange-red fireworks.
Now picture that against a grey stone wall. Or even a stark white-washed wall. Or with a green grass backdrop ... so dramatic!

Oh, and the butterflies love them too. Do you really need any more reasons?

Need more of the 'shake-awake' factor?
If anything shouts "Drama!", it just has to the Anthurium. This one doesn't exactly fall into the Colour Trend of the Year category, but really ... does it need to?!
I love the glossy, brilliantly-hued spathes that sizzle their way to centre-stage each time. Every time.
And know what I love even more? That they're low-maintenance! At least in tropical gardens, they are. And their blooms last and last and last. Perfect for the busy gardener who juggles a hundred chores every day, don't you think? Happiness!

If bright colours are the trend this year, this must be in the Top 10! I love the uber-bright, soft as a powder-puff bloom of the Wax Jambu. I love the fruit too (naturally!) but the flowers are a great taste of yumminess in store.
Did I say taste? The flower is edible too, as any little kid in tropical lands will tell you. It has a slight sour tang which makes it too tempting to leave alone. I remember raiding the Wax Jambu trees in my childhood garden and nibbling on the blooms. My mom never objected because she loved it too. In fact, I think she's the one who introduced me to this tangy flavour.
The squirrels did protest, though. Long and loud!

It's not just colours that make me happy. Growing my own food puts me firmly on that path too. But it's a bursting-with-pride kind of happy.
Leafy greens are some of the easiest edibles to grow. So are the leafy reds. Doesn't the red amaranth growing among the green palak look festive? Especially in Mumbai with the mellow winter sun gleaming on them? Perfect holiday colour!

This Common Sailor butterfly doesn't have the brilliant colouring which seems to be favoured this year.
Or does he? Once he folds his wings you just might be surprised. Take a look here .
Hmmm.... maybe he's a pirate?

A bit drab, did you say? But then, butterflies embody the Happiness factor in any garden (or anywhere else for that matter). Even a sober Grey Pansy butterfly basking in the winter sunlight is enough to make my click-happy fingers tremble with excitement. Love those colours against the vibrant green of the lantana and banana leaves!

And I love those fake eyes on his wing-tips, goggling at the world. Brilliant! Any attacking bird would be misled into going for those 'eyes', giving the butterfly enough time to break free and escape. I love it when the underdog outwits the bigger, tougher adversary!

But if you want to find pure unadulterated happiness, take a tip from this Psyche. She stuck her whole head (not just her proboscis) deep ... way deep ... into this Vinca, immersing herself wholeheartedly into the moment. Until ...

..... aaaahhhh! BLISS !!!