Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October in the garden

The Urban Gardener | Dendrobium Orchid
Come October and a gardener's mind turns to things colourful and bountiful. My garden is flourishing in a giddy cocktail of orchids in full bloom now.
Long pendulant spikes of the dendrobiums look best when the plant is mounted on trees, just as they grow in their natural habitat. The one in the pic above is slowly getting there; it's a first-time bloomer. A debutante!

I am constantly asked whether the mounted orchids are bad for the 'host plant' on which they grow. What they are actually asking is whether the orchids will steal the nutrition from the host.
Er .... no! Orchids are not parasites!
They (the epiphytic orchids, that is. There are plenty of terrestrial orchids which do not grown on trees) only use the host tree as a perch; some place to hang out and live their own life without getting in the way of their host.
The long network of roots that you see is just trying to stabilise the orchid plant, not working their way into the host to steal food!

The Urban Gardener | Cattleya orchid

Then there are the Cattleya orchids that are so flamboyant! Every bloom on these is a cause for celebration.

I have my Catts in pots mostly because I love moving them indoors when they bloom. Unlike the long spikes on the Dendrobiums and Phalaenopsis, the Cattleya blooms are bigger but are way more compact minus the long spikes.
Which is a blessing in our urban homes which are short on space.
Especially when those tight spaces are also inhabited by large, absent-minded humans and waggy-tailed pets!

The Urban Gardener | Cordia sebestena

October is also infamous for its hot, humid, steaming weather, especially in Mumbai. This is the time when I prefer to stay indoors or walk in shaded gardens, sticking to the cooler early morning times to do anything that demands the slightest effort. Which is why I find it so amazing that the birds are as active as ever!

This Scarlet Cordia is a huge draw for the Sunbirds which love its nectar. Seeing them zip around it so energetically makes me consider (and immediately reject) the idea that maybe I should be working out too.
Naaah! In cooler times, maybe.

The Urban Gardener | Dragonfly

If my garden is filled with hyperactive creatures now, the one they just can't beat for sheer energy is the dragonfly. And it's Dragonfly Season now, y'all! Have you seen swarms of them flying in billowing clouds? Don't you just love it?
I love seeing their glistening wings like papery, iridescent rainbows and their almost comical faces which seem to be grinning all the time.
What I love the most? The fact that they're busy hunting down mosquitoes!
Love you dragonflies!!!

And saving the best news for last, here's something else that I love. The Urban Gardener is honoured to be a recipient of the wonderful Golden Trowel Award, 2018 awarded to the top gardening blogs around the world!

A huge thank you to the editorial team at LawnStarter . Love being featured with all those amazing blogs in your list!

Motivation to blog more in 2019? Definitely!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Choices for a gardener

The Urban Gardener

So what's new in your garden this year?
Is that a bit late in the day to ask, actually? Well, never mind. I've always gone by the start of Spring as the real new year, so mid-Feb is not too late in my opinion.

This past one year saw me travel a LOT! Then we decided to jump headlong into yet one more new adventure (more about that soon!) which took me away from my blogging, though I had sworn that that was the year I would catch up with my 50+ posts a year.
There's still hope for 2018!

Which made me think this pic of the Striped Tiger butterfly on the Lantana would be the perfect one to lead into this post. Can you think of anything else as garden-y which travels all over the place? (I could think of several vines ... the Thunbergia grandiflora, for one ... which do that too. But I'm sticking with this).

And I love to think of how this much reviled weed has the birds and the butterflies and several more beneficial insects, in love with it! I wouldnt mind letting it take over large spaces just so long as it can get some butterflies to sit still on it.
That's a choice I would make, knowing full well that most of my farmer friends in our neighbourhood think I'm crazy!

Like these Red Pierrots! I have a Kalanchoe planted here and that probably attracted them here. Did you know that the Kalanchoe is one of their host plants? So if you see something weird going on under the surface of a Kalanchoe leaf, dont dump your plant yet. It's probably a Red Pierrot larva busy at work, eating healthy to grow strong beautiful wings.

I know! it's a tough decision. Your lovely plant or these oh-so-pretty butterflies? I very often choose the butterflies. Because a garden without butterflies is just not worth the name, don't you think? But then, the Kalanchoe in bloom is so pretty too!
Choices, choices ...

Some choices are forced on us. Up until a couple of years ago we didn't have a single squirrel in my garden. And this was amazing considering how many fruit trees we grow. The dogs always worked hard at chasing them away and the Black Kites did their bit too. Then, when our old dog, Salsa, died that was the end of the squirrel-chasing. The other dogs just weren't interested. The squirrels have taken over the garden now and I keep finding half-eaten passionfruit and chewed coconuts and other fruit littering the ground.

I always thought that I grew enough for both us and the animals but these squirrels have forced me to reconsider that! Again, not an easy choice because I grew up in a house where we would regularly find baby squirrels that fell out of their nests on the trees and promptly started taking care of them.
Tough choice then, to start thinking up ways to drive them away.

And there are some times when you can just sit back and enjoy the moment. Such as those serendipitous moments when a gorgeous scarlet-clad dragonfly, with the sunlight glinting off its wings, chooses to perch on a twig (in this case, a root from my Pink Cassia that toppled over last monsoon in the super-heavy rainy days) right in front of you.

Simple, pure enjoyment.
That is part of gardening too!

And, even better, the Pink Cassia that I love has started sprouting leaves again and is currently growing sideways, part of its roots in the ground and the rest sticking straight up in the air. It's too heavy to lift up so I've chosen to let it grow and bloom where it has fallen.
A funny choice to many, but I'm happy with it if my Pink Cassia is.

Happiness. Serendipity.
Sometimes great things happen when we just step back and allow them to. That's a part of gardening too.