Monday, July 17, 2017

About Town

Just a few pictures from some of my park and garden stomping grounds around town, the result of the most recent walks taken in spite of the sticky heat.

In the garden of the Tomb of Najaf Khan and his daughter Fatima

A close-up of some of those blanket flowers (Gaillardia aristata)

A sea of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)

White crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) at the tomb

One of many varieties of Citrus in the tomb garden

View towards the Bara Gumbad or "Big Dome" in Lodi Gardens

A beautiful glazed tile jālī or screen at Lodi Gardens' glasshouse

A section of the historic Athpula bridge in Lodi Gardens

Lodi Gardens' fountains

Now I shall be off to exploring the city some more with one of my oldest friends finally here to visit... :)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2017

Of course I have once again been neglecting this blog - where oh where does the time go! - but at least I remembered Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and have a bit more to show for myself. My little balcony garden has grown up a bit and the arrival of the monsoon - which has brought more moderate temperatures, even if the rains so far have largely come in spurts separated by long days of drought - has encouraged growth and flowering.

The Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) continues to bloom reliably

A dwarf pomegranata (Punica granatum 'Nana') that I recently added to the collection

One heirloom rose flower, tiny due to the heat...

... and another

Seed-grown globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) getting started

The double butterfly pea (Clitoria ternatea), much happier in wet weather

 One basil variety... 

... and another

Also check out what others have blooming at May Dreams Gardens!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

When It Rains, It Pours

For most of the past three months, dry heat was the main challenge for my fledgling balcony garden, with most of my plants just surviving rather than really growing, despite my dutiful watering. Now that the rains have arrived that has certainly changed, which more moderate temperatures and high humidity making for some lush and rapid growth.

Some of my plants in the downpour this morning

However, now I am already starting to worry that some of my plants might be on the verge of drowning on particularly rainy days, despite clay pots with proper drainage holes. Some have water standing in them for hours after each thunderstorm if I do not keep pouring it out. At the same time, heavy raindrops - and manually pouring out the excess water again and again - of course also incrementally washes away soil...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Love Wins

Today the parliament of the country of my birth, and which I still consider home as much as the US, has finally decided that I, and millions like me, deserve to be equal citizens under the law, that love is love.

German Parliament Votes to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

It did so after years of sometimes downright petty opposition and obstruction from Chancellor Merkel and the more conservative sections of her party. Today even close to a quarter of her own party's parliamentarians chose to stand on the right side of history and to support love rather than discrimination, prejudice, and hate. The most die-hard of bigots will likely try to raise the issue to the Supreme Court. One can only hope that reason will prevail and nothing will come of these reactionary and malicious efforts.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Rice - A Lament

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will have probably noticed that I have a thing for rice. It is not only my favorite grain to eat but also my favorite grass to grow. To me, nothing quite compares to the brilliant green of rice foliage. I can obsess over the subtle differences between varieties - in habit, in the shape and size of the grain, in culinary characteristics. Not surprisingly, then, growing rice has always been an aspiration for me. As a child in Germany this was a challenge since unhulled rice capable of germinating, let alone any specifically sold as seed, was not available. When I finally got some seed it was by pulling it out of a dried flower arrangement featuring some panicles of rice in a restaurant in Portugal's main rice growing region near Alcácer do Sal and by writing to a botanical garden specializing in tropical crops - we have such a thing in Germany, oddly located in a small central German town called Witzenhausen - which eventually sent me a small packet of the Italian short grain variety 'Balilla'. I even once managed to extract a single grain that had somehow escaped hulling and polishing from a bag of white rice and got it to germinate. All of those resulted in vigorous plants but when it came to heading the panicles would never fully emerge and the little hulls become mottled with dark brown spots before even opening to flower. I never managed to harvest a single grain from all those plants.

Freshly planted rice in the New England garden two years ago

After moving to America I did not get my hands on rice seed for years, and then in college I also did not have an outdoor space where I could have grown rice. Only in recent years did I get to try again, after being so lucky as to get a balcony and a nice bit of garden space and coming across seeds of some rice varieties offered online - including seeds of the Russian variety 'Duborskian' grown in New England. Since then I have been experimenting with an ever larger variety of mostly heirloom rice varieties. The first two years they grew very well, though only some varieties - those less reliant on shorter days to induce heading - actually flowered in time to produce ripe grain.

My little plot of rice in early summer

Encouraged by these successes - and determined to succeed with a greater range of rice types - I added even more varieties and space dedicated to rice last year. However, there were problems right from the get-go. When the seedlings where just coming up in the sun room in April, a mouse got in the house and one night went on a devastating rice sprout binge. Thereafter not only did I have to restart a substantial portion of my transplants but in an effort to keep them safe from a mouse that forever escaped capture, I also kept them in places considerably less favorable to growth than the bright warm sun room. Consequently, the seedlings that eventually went outside were smaller and sicklier than they should be. Add to this a cool, wet June and they did not really take off until July. Even so, several varieties were ripening nicely by mid-fall; I managed to harvest most of the 'Duborskian' but just as other varieties started joining the party mice invaded the garden and within days decimated the harvest.

Ripe 'Duborskian' rice

In desperation, I dug up the best plants of the rarest varieties I was growing, potted them up and brought them inside to finish ripening. Some managed to; then the mice found their way inside once again and we battled an infestation until after Christmas. Here in Delhi I had not necessarily planned to grow any rice in my little balcony garden. Then I bought a bundle of mint at the neighborhood grocery store and it was tied with a rice stalk with a panicle full of ripe grain so of course I had to plant them. I started a few, the seedlings came up nicely, I bought some pots without drainage holes - the only ones I could find were plastic - and potted them up, only to the see them rapidly get sick and wither away. Birds destroyed two more seedlings. I started over and tried different soil but the same happened again. Finally I planted my last handful of seed but of these only one germinated. That seedling is now planted in a regular clay pot and so far is doing well, fingers crossed. Struggling to grow rice successfully in New England, where rice is hardly a long-standing crop - although there have been amateur growers for a while, and there are small commercial efforts in Vermont and Maine - is one thing, but failing in Delhi, a city surrounded by large-scale commercial rice growing in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh, is truly frustrating. So here is to hoping...