Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dust storms

We have not had it as bad as the people of Rajasthan, who are seriously affected by the dust storms this week. And I am humbled by what they are facing.
Despite the fact that Uttarakhand is across the country from the state, we are seeing the results of those storms. I find this incredible. And that is why the weather tops my Six on Saturday list this week. Take a look
1. Haze. This is what we have been seeing for the last couple of days.

 And this is what the rainwater looks like:
Also, the rain does not really help matters. It does settle the dust for a bit. but then the winds rise again, and we get a layer of mud on everything.

2. Let's all go and kiss our long suffering non-gardener partners and other family members. The only thing that Mian really cares for in household stuff is a clean kitchen platform. And this is what he gets.
But I have a good excuse. The lavender was looking poorly, as lavender cuttings are wont to look. In this spot, right by the kitchen sink and under a skylight, I can keep an eye on them. The sage is doing well, the rosemary is ready to be planted out, and in the small steel katori  is a bulb of Garud Buti which I had given up on and surprised me by sending out a shoot this week.

3. Kiwi! For the first time, I  have fruits on my Kiwi plants! Eight fruits this year. And maybe, eight kilos the next? I do hope so!

4. Plums. The harvesting, slicing, freezing.

5. And worryingly, the mould. I am not sure what this is only on one tree and the first time I have seen it. We had some hail damage last week, I hope it is just a combination of injured fruit in warm humid weather and not a fungal disease. In the meantime, I am collecting and burning the well as fruits burn in 70% humidity. 
6. The promise of beans. The garden is dotted with sticks, twine and tepees like this one. They all support beans..A harvest of about 7 kilos feeds us for just less than a year. Right now, our kitchen ism out of beans and has been for a month, but I am strangely resisting buying some.

Please do go on over to The Propagator's blog and read the rest of the Six on Saturday!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

the pre-monsoon update

I have been away for weeks, and it is good to be back. Back home, back in the garden, and back doing the Six-on-Saturday post. Do join in if you can, here's the how-to.
So here is what my garden and I have been up to:
1.There has been a very hot spell which crisped several plants. Some, like this fuchsia will recover. But the plants that I had put into the wall I want to green will not return. More planting then.

2. On a happier note, the foxgloves continue to surprise me. Here is this enchanting little one that reminds me of raspberry ripple icecream.
It also reminds me of an azalea I covet. I saw it in Sikkim, it is white with splashes of the same red-purple that this foxglove has, and- i swear- smelt of raspberries. I did not steal a cutting because a) it was in my host's garden and b) cuttings don't 'take' when flowering is going on. I have regretted my prudence ever since.

3. Speaking of cuttings, remember the lavender cuttings I took last autumn? Only two survived, of which I gave one to a friend. Here is the one in my garden.
Have taken another six cuttings, and am keeping my fingers crossed.

4. It is bold, brash and looks like it was made of plastic. I almost thought I would not keep it, till I chanced to sniff it late one evening, and smelt the musky-fruity scent. It stays.

5. See how nice and tall these chrysanthemums are standing? That's because I managed to get my act in order and did some pre-emptive staking. Not early enough to be truly 'correct' , but better than my usual style of waiting until the stems break.

6. Not my favourite plants. Hydrangeas aren't. They are too brash (the mopheads at any rate), have no scent, and do  not shelter any insect/bird life. Nonetheless,  I  do have some in the shady patches, and I like the smaller, more 'normal looking' varieties. This white one is an example- look at those pretty blue centres!

This one on the other hand, is rather an overwhelming pink.

Saturday, May 12, 2018


It is not just roses that I will be showing you, but that is definitely the theme of the garden this week.
And speaking of week, the 'six-on-saturday' meme is hosted by The Propagator. In his words, it's "Six things, in the garden, on a Saturday. Could be anything – a flower, a pest, a success, a project, a plan, an abject failure – anything at all!" So if you want to find out what's happening in other gardens, do go on over to his blog!

1. The pink climbing rose has flowered! Again, this is ubiquitous around this area (each house has one) and it does not have much of what I normally go for in a rose. A bloom period of just two weeks (if one is lucky), no fragrance, and hard-to-reach pollen. But for those two weeks, I forgive it all the rest.

2. Another rose. This now, is worthy. Delectable colour, lovely tea fragrance, and deep purple (!) thornless stems in winter.

3. I just had one lavender plant, and it died last year .Thankfully, I had taken cuttings. Actually, I had taken 6, but just one survived. I am so glad it did.

 4. The star jasmine is very far from reaching its  peak, but how could I  not show off the very first flower?

5. The persimmon trees are abuzz. They are flowering now, and the bees dote on them. So do I

6. We have started eating from our garden. There is lots of arugula, the peas have been processed and frozen, we get two strawberries a day, and yesterday we pulled up the self-sown corriander for  their seed

Saturday, May 5, 2018


Another Saturday, another Six-on-Saturday post. Hosted by The Propagator, this is a fun show-and-tell of gardeners. Do head on over to his blog to  see the other posts!

Finally the bloom period begins .Clearly, I need to plant more early-spring plants, but now I am luxuriating on all that is going on here.
1. Foxgloves. I started with three plants given by a friend. These self-seeded, and now I finally understand what David Culp means when he goes on about vertical accents in a garden. I just had round shapes before- now having these exclamation points here and there really makes a difference to interest level. But don't believe me, take a look

And because they self-seeded, where I  just had mauve before, now I have a spectrum from mauve to lime..sometimes on the same spike. Happy with this!

2. Speaking of lime..There is an old lemon tree on the property and every year it would give one or two lemonss which would pass unnoticed. Last year I tasted one and was shocked. They are sweet! I have never tasted a Meyer lemon, but Mian tells me that is close to what it tastes like. Not a bit of tang, just sugar. And so I hired a chap to dig up the area around it, mix in manure, and lay pipe that would take the kitchen sink overflow to the tree. I also took a friends advice and removed much of the fibrous root tangle that had developed over time. And then I limbed it up and deadwooded.
And now? It is full of bloom. We need to wait and see how many of these blooms actually translate into fruit, but it is good to see the old tree abloom again.

3. I have written about my spatrangi rose, but it is at its peak now. And so here are photos. Lots of photos- peach, pink, orange and the whole plant

4. Cupani. Not much of a show this year which is why you only get a closeup. But the fragrance! Lovely to have in the house.

5. Old rose. Not sure what the variety is, and is fairly ubiquitous here. But I love it and its faint tea fragrance.
6. Sedum. It flowered!

And would have flowered even more, but a hen came by and systematically decimated the plant of its buds.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Coming of age

It's Saturday, and you know what that means. Today is when The Propagator hosts his 'Six on Saturday'- a meeting place of gardeners who show the six momentous things that are in their garden today. A bit of boasting, a  bit of confessing, a  lot of fun.
And here are my six:

1. HoneysuckleS!
I have shown off the honeysuckle I planted around my house so many years ago. This is the star of spring, and never lets us forget it. In case you have forgotten what it looks like, here's a pic.
 All these years, I  have also been keeping an eye on a honeysuckle plant that suddenly appeared near the spot where I later built my compost toilet. And now, it has flowered. Lovely, aren't they?
The scent does not have the same knock-your-socks-off quality that the porch honeysuckle has, but is faintly sweet and almost musky. I love it!

2. Sweet Williams.
 When I moved here, I inherited a small clump of dianthus.I fell in love with  its clove+sugar fragrance and have been dividing and taking care of it since. I also sowed a packet of very dark dianthus 'Sooty'. And so I had two.
Last year, for the first time I sowed seeds. And now, I have four types!
My original had a deep pink colour, and sooty is a velvety liver. The 'new' ones are a speckled deep pink and a speckled salmon. I was first not sure I liked the salmon- had a urge to smoke it rather than caress it. But now I think it has grown on me. What do you think?

3. Jasmine buds! Three years ago, a dear friend gave me a star jasmine plant after I admired hers. All these years I have nursed this plant. And now I am rewarded

4. Colour schemes.
Since becoming a fan of Gertrude Jekylls, I have been trying to keep in mind her admonitions to not have garish colour clashes in the garden. It  is still a work in progress, but slowly, I see my garden getting there
I inherited these roses too, but planted the iris. I think they look good together! And in the bed but not photographed yet, are more in the same grey-purple-pink scheme. There are geraniums, cheddar pinks, foxgloves and Himalayan balsam. Sounds a bit of a hodgepodge, but it actually does work well.

5. Donuts.
When I photographed the rose and iris bed, I noticed this.

Another sign of age, but not as heartwarming as beds coming together, or creepers beginning to bloom. This is the dreaded donut of neglected rhizomes. Post flowering, in the monsoon, I need to have a iris dividing orgy. It will be nice to replant them so that they form drifts of colour like Jekyll advises.

6. Cheer.
These little birds come visit us every spring, just around when the aphids arrive. And they are so good as they eat all the bugs on the fruit trees! Watching them probe and snack on the aphids and white flies that plague me is a joy. And it helps that they wear those absurd little masks- like children playing bandits.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Elephants and memories

I am not sure where this story begins.

Maybe it begins when my sister was in primary school, and was instructed to write an essay on the Circus. 'Elephants are my favourite', she wrote.  'No', said her teacher. 'You must write that clowns are your favourite.' I am not sure what happened next. Maybe, as is likely, she decided that professing a love for clowns was one of those school rules that a student is expected to follow.

What  I do know is that she never stopped loving elephants. 'They have kind eyes' she always says.
But maybe this story does not begin so long ago.

Maybe it begins when she had a baby, and those two would call themselves Mamma and Baby elephants.

Maybe it begins in another place altogether. Maybe it begins at our house in Chatola when Mian and I decided that we were all growned up now and should have Real Art on our walls. We kept our eyes open but quickly became unhappy with the art that we came across. But what does this have to do with elephants?

Maybe this is a very short story, and begins just last summer, when the baby elephant suddenly became a young woman and went off to the USA to do her PhD.

It was around this time that I became addicted to Arati Kumar-Rao's website and her lovely photos. And there was one in particular that struck me hard, at that time when my niece was leaving her nest. It was a image of two elephants, a Mamma and a Baby, walking off together. I knew that if anything would help my sis through this time of saying bye to her baby, it would be this image.

I wrote to  Arati then, but somehow it never happened. I got busy, the logistics of it all was too much, and the photo never made it to my sister.

And so I got very excited when several months later Arati announced that she has opened an online store. I went there and scrolled through the images, but the mamma and baby were not there. I reasoned that as artists do, she might have reserved some pictures for a book or an exhibition. Rather than make her feel forced to share it with me, I did not mention it.

Instead, Mian and I found one that we decided was of the two of us. It's being titled 'Together' could only be an good omen. And even more months later when a payment I was waiting for finally came in, we bought it.

'I've sent you a little gift', she wrote. I expected a postcard and got all excited about it.

Instead, along with our print was the mamma and baby one that I had coveted so much for my sister. It is then that I began to cry. See, it is not just that a full-size, autographed, fine art print is a truly magnificent gift. It is that nearly a year later, she remembered the one I had asked about in one email and took the trouble to get a special print made. The extent of this generosity is overwhelming.

Fast forward a few more months and I visited my sister. 'I  have a friend', I said. 'She is a spectacular environmental photographer and she has sent you a present." And then I told her the story. After I finished, I unrolled the print and showed it to Acca. 'It is us!' she exclaimed, and then she wept.

I might have said this before, but I am truly blessed with friends.
It is also difficult to know where this story ends. The main story is about my sister and her magnificent gift, of course. But when I returned from that visit, I took my print down to the framers. It is 8X11, I said confidently. No madam, said he. And proved it. Arati had sent us a larger print.

Spoiled rotten, I am

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Colour and Scent

The garden is waking up. Wherever I go, I am welcomed by fragrance. And since it is Saturday when The Propagator hosts Six-on-Saturday, his weekly show-and-tell, here are six bits of my garden today.
1. Iris! Last week, I exulted about the first few flowers. And now they are all in bloom. Not the kumaun iris, but the other two- the lavender and the smoky one- each have a distinct fragrance. Here are photos

2. Honeysuckle : I have planted this at all four corners of our house,and I am so glad I did. Right now, I am sitting in my bedroom and writing this. Every time there is a breeze, I smell  the honeysuckle. Absolute bliss
3. Greed. Well, let us call it planning. Remember the magnolia whose first flower I was so enchanted with last week? Well, now I have decided that one is not enough. I am making more. There were four remarkably convenient branches for layering, and that's what I have done. If all goes well, next
monsoon, I will have not one,but FIVE magnolias!
4. Red rose: I have spoken of the rose outside my bedroom wall before, but here it is in full blossom. Not scented, sadly. But the colour is almost enough.
5. As for this rose, I am not keen on the colour, but the fragrance  is  classic ittar of roses. For that, I would give it space even if it was fuchsia with ochre stripes!
6. And Project.
I have this wall. It is lush with ferns in the monsoon, but the rest of  the time it is just meh. I planted some succulents,but they look forlorn and not happy at all. And yes, there are thistles.

But now, I hope to  change that. Am planting what may be a bergenia,but again may not  be.It grows wild here and I love it.
And I am also planting this, also a wild flower.I have no idea what it is,but I lubs it  I do. Can anyone identify this?

If you want to participate in this rather fun thing, here are guidelines.