Friday, August 29, 2014

Tuberose Update

You may remember that a while ago I posted about the tuberoses I planted beginning to flower and how I was surprised that a pot which I thought I had planted with the double variety 'The Pearl' produced single flowers. Well, it appears that I simply mixed up the pots, because another one has now produced beautiful double flowers.

Double tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa 'The Pearl')

Pots of tuberoses in a sheltered corner in the garden, with lots more flowers coming

There are several more - and, by the looks of it, bigger - flower spikes coming up from all the pots of tuberoses that have been sitting in a sunny, sheltered corner of the garden, but even another pot up on the balcony, with less direct sun, more wind, and no heat-retaining walls, is beginning to send up flower spikes. Hopefully this should mean that I get to enjoy those lovely flowers and that decadently luscious evening fragrance for quite a while longer. There really is nothing quite like it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I did not really plan to plant zinnias this year but then I found an old leftover packet of seeds of some tall double mix of Zinnia elegans and decided to give them a chance instead of just throwing them out. Of all the seeds thrown in a little pot in the sun room only one germinated, but it quickly made a nice sturdy seedling. When the weather had warmed up in mid-May I planted it out at the edge of one of the raised beds - and the very next day a bird plucked off the growing tip, leaving nothing but a little stump. I thought that was that for zinnias this year, but that little seedling was not going to give up so easily. It resprouted and branched and grew and blossomed and is quite a beauty now.

My determined magenta zinnia (Zinnia elegans) - notice how some flowers are single or semi-double while others are fully double

Maybe I can save some seed from this fighter of a plant. And/or buy seed of some more colors and flower shapes. Either way, there will probably be more zinnias next year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Harvest Time...

... for my eggplants, that is. They have taken quite a while to really take off - maybe because it has not been a very hot summer? - but now they are quite productive. I planted three Indian varieties with seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, namely 'Kashmiri Brinjal', 'Arumugam's Eggplant', and 'Udmalbet'. The Kashmiri variety was for a long time a much stronger grower and started flowering earlier but the first flowers did not set fruit. Eventually the two other varieties, which hail from the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India, not only caught up but actually grew into bigger, stockier plants.

The first harvest - 'Kashmiri Brinjal' in light purple at the top, 'Udmalbet' with deep purple stripes, and 'Arumugam's Eggplant' in light green

We used most of these first eggplants in a vegetable chili that turned out quite delicious, and I do think they were more tender and flavorful than store-bought ones. I think I will grow these varieties again next year, although I might also want to try some more varieties. In any case I will sow the seeds a few weeks later than I did this year because while my seedlings developed nicely, they ended up having to wait on the windowsill for the weather outside to warm up for longer than they would have liked.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Writing About Plants

Ānand Rām Mukhliṣ (1699-1750) was a North Indian courtier and official of the Mughal Empire. He was born in Sodhra in what is now Pakistan into a Hindu Kayasth family of munshīs, or scribal clerks, with  a long history of high-level civil service. He, too, successfully pursued such a career and spent much of his life close to the imperial court in Delhi. A prolific writer in Persian, he left behind a slew of prose and poetry, ranging from travel accounts and chronicles of contemporary events to traditional romantic poetry. For the purposes of my research, I have been particularly interested in his lexicographical work. With the intention of elucidating and fixing proper usage of Persian vocabulary, especially in poetry, Mukhliṣ produced in his Mir’āt-ul-Iṣṭilāḥ or "Mirror of Terminology" (1745) a detailed account of the world around him, including its elite material culture and - this is where it gets really exciting! - its plants and horticultural practices. Mukhliṣ appears to have been rather interested in botanical and gardening matters; his tone and anecdotes are often unusually personal when it comes to these things. He discusses many plants at some length, including a few historically important garden ornamentals that I have begun growing this year. Here is what he has to say about China roses, which I have recently posted about here and here, first in the original Persian and then in my attempt at a translation:


در واقع به امتحان رسیده (که) هر نخل ثمرداری که گل صدبرگ دارد آن را ثمر نمی باشد


روزی شخصی شکوفهٔ صدبرگ شفتالو در چنگیری چیده به فقیر فرستاده بود. بسیار مشابهت با گل گلاب داشته تفاوت همین قدر بود که بوی گل نداشته است. چون نوعی از گل گلاب به هندوستان است که سداگلاب نام دارد و آن را نیز بو نمی باشد لهذا بعض اعزهٔ محفل را گمان آن شد که گل مذکور است. غرض که بعد طیّ مراتب تحقیق معلوم گردید که شکوفهٔ شفتالو است و نهالش بار نمی بندد. این سداگلاب را بته و برگ و گل بعینه به صورت بتهٔ گل است. نهایتش رنگ گل سداگلاب نسبت به رنگ گل شوختر و مایل به رنگ قرمزی می باشد و سالی دوازده ماه می شکفد. به همین جهت سداگلاب نام دارد زیرا که در هندی سدا به معنی همیشه است و واضح باد فقیر که در این مبحث دو سه جا گل گلاب به جای گل استعمال کرده ام بنا بر سهولیت عوام است. زیرا که به هندوستان گل به همین نام شهرت دارد. مبادا یاران خورده گیر غلط فارسی بر فقیر ثابت کنند و نیز در هند گل گلاب شرابی را گویند که از گلبرگ و قند و اجزای دیگر به موجب نسخه ای که مقرّر است بکشند و اقسام شراب هندوستان بسیار است لیکن به طعم و کیفیت گل گلاب هیچ یکی نمی رسد. امّا نسبت به شرابهای دیگر این ضرر بیشتر دارد و رعشه می آرد


As a matter of fact it has been proven that any fruiting plant that has double flowers does not bear fruit.


One day a person sent a double peach blossom placed in a small vase to this poor one. It was very similar to a rose flower, the difference being that it did not have the fragrance of a rose. Since there is a variety of rose in India named sadāgulāb ("eternal rose", i.e. China rose) and it also does not have a fragrance, some excellent ones of the assembly came to think that it is that aforementioned flower. In short, after thorough investigation it became known that it was a bud of peach and that its plant would not set fruit. This China rose has a shrub, leaf, and flower exactly like the rose bush in appearance. The color of flower of the China rose is much darker compared to the color of the rose and tends towards red and it blossoms twelve months a year. For this very reason it is called sadāgulāb, for sadā in Hindi means "always" and may it be clear that if I poor one have in this discussion used gul-i gulāb ("rose flower" in Indian (Hindi/Urdu) usage but, nonsensically, "flower of rose water" in Iran) two or three times in place of gul (flower/rose), it is for the convenience of the public. For in India, the rose is known by that very name. Let it not be that fault-finding friends accuse this poor one of a flaw in his Persian. And in India they also call a liquor gul-i gulāb which they make from rose petals and sugar and other ingredients according to a fixed recipe, and the types of liquor of India are many, but in taste and effect none reaches gul-i gulāb. However, compared to other liquors, it has more harmful effects and causes tremors.

Interestingly, Mukhliṣ is writing right around the time that the ever-blooming China roses are beginning to reach Europe. A red China rose was likely in cultivation in Italy since the mid-17th century, 'Old Blush' reached Sweden in 1752, and 'Slater's Crimson China' is documented in England from 1792 onwards. It is noteworthy in this context that many of these early China roses to make it to the West did so via India, specifically via the British colony in Bengal. They are still often referred to as Bengalrosen in German and rosiers du Bengale in French because of this association. The sadāgulāb that Mukhliṣ knew seems to have been a cultivar very similar to 'Slater's Crimson China' - deep pink tending to red, somewhat double,  blooming as long as conditions permit, and not setting seed - though it also appears to have been devoid of scent, like 'Old Blush' and many other China roses. That all of these traits would have stood out to Mukhliṣ as remarkable makes sense since the typical garden rose of northern India in his day was likely a damask of some sort, light pink, intensely fragrant, and once-blooming. It is also interesting that Mukhliṣ and his circle noted the connection between double flowers and sterility in many plant varieties, though obviously he overstates the fact by claiming that no double-flowered plant produces fruit.

An older bloom of 'Slater's Crimson China'

An opening bud of 'Old Blush'

An older flower of 'Old Blush'

Another garden flower of long-standing popularity which Mukhliṣ discusses and which I am growing this year is the four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa):

 لالهٔ عبّاسی

به معنی گل عبّاسی است که به هندوستان هنگام شام بشکفد و جوش بهارش در موسم برشکال است و به هند بهتر از همه جا در دکن می شود. محسن تأثیر گفته

  برد اندوه ز دل تهمت زرداری هم
داغ بر دل نبود لالهٔ عبّاسی را

و ظاهر است که لاله داغ دارد نه لالهٔ عبّاسی و عباسی نیز آن را گویند. راضی گفته

    بر گل رو ز مقیّش خالت
تخم عبّاسی افشان شده است

و نیز عبّاسی نوعی از زر است که منسوب به شاه عبّاس است و در ایران رواج دارد

احوال لالهٔ عبّاسی

باید دانست که اقسام لالهٔ عبّاسی که عبارت است از گل عباسی بسیار است. بعض گل را نصف رنگ زرد و نصف رنگ سرخ می باشد و بعض نیمی ابیض و نیمی گلابی می شود. علی هذا القیاس و یک نوعش آن است که اگر رنگ گل سرخ است نقاط سفید یا زرد مثل افشان دارد و اگر رنگ گل زرد است افشان سرخ مانند نقاط شنجرف دارد. گویی نقش بندان قضا و قدر حریرپاره های رنگارنگ را گلبندی ساخته اند یا مصوّران کارخانهٔ قدرت بر صفحه کاغذی به افشاندن قلم آلوده به رنگ پرداخته اند. باری تعلّق به سیر دارد

Lāle-ye 'abbāsī (four o'clock, Mirabilis jalapa)

 It means the gul-i 'abbāsī which in India flowers in the evening time and grows most lushly during the monsoon. And in India it grows better in the Deccan than anywhere else. Muḥsin Taʼs̲īr has said:

Grief carried even the suspicion of wealth from the heart
The  four o'clock did not have a burn mark on the heart

And it is apparent that the lāle (tulip) has a mark and the lāle-ye 'abbāsī (four o'clock) does not and they also call it 'abbāsī. Raz̤ī has said:

On your rose face is a freckle of gold embroidery
The seed of 'abbāsī has been scattered

 And an 'abbāsī is also a type of coin named for Shāh 'Abbās which is current in Iran. 

Account of the four o'clock

One ought to know that the varieties of lāle-ye 'abbāsī ("'Abbāsī tulip"), which is another name for gul-i 'abbāsī ("'Abbāsī flower/rose"), are numerous. Some flowers are half yellow and half red and some are half white and half pink and so on. And one variety of it is such that if the color of the flower is yellow, it has red sprinkles like dots of vermillion. It appears as though divine embroiderers have made flowers from multicolored strips of silk, or as if the painters of the workshop of nature had set to sprinkling on a page of paper with a pen dipped in color. In short, it is worth beholding. 

A florid description for a fancy flower. I love it. 


Haynes, Jerry. "History of Roses: China Roses."

 Mukhli, Ānand Rām. Mir’āt-ul-Iṣṭilāḥ. Prakashika Series. Delhi: National Mission for Manuscripts, 2013.


Praying mantises are great favorites of mine and quite a few seem to be making the downstairs garden their home this summer. I started noticing them in June when they were only inch-long miniatures and then kept seeing them get bigger and bigger and finding their shed skins clinging to my plants. Most of the time when I come across them they are bright green, sitting in the cosmos foliage. Today, though, I found one turned brown while sitting among the flowers of the orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) and watched it catch a bee that had unwisely landed on the flower right in front of it.

A praying mantis, green among Cosmos bipinnatus foliage and flowering lettuce

A mantis feasting on a bee it just caught on a flower of orange cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)

In other news of garden wildlife, I harvested my sun flower heads today because the squirrels had discovered them and were gorging themselves on the seeds. Hopefully they are ripe enough...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Rice Update

The rice of the variety 'Duborskian' continues to develop perfectly. Heavy with grain, the nodding heads are slowly beginning to change color from light green to yellow.

'Duborskian' rice (Oryza sativa 'Duborskian')

The other varieties of rice I planted appear to be nowhere near heading, although 'Hmong Sticky' is putting out beautiful lush foliage. It seems that 'Duborskian' will be a clear winner.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Other Rose

The other week I wrote about the antique China rose 'Slater's Crimson China' which has been flowering for quite some time now. Bought at the same time, 'Old Blush', another very old China rose, has taken a bit longer to really get growing. It finally opened its first flower today.

Rosa 'Old Blush'

Both varieties have lots more buds and so far even the foliage is nice and healthy - hardly a given at this time of year for many varieties of roses. We will see if 'Old Blush' and 'Slater's Crimson China' can keep up this excellent performance in the long run. Up until now they are being perfect container roses.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Slightly Different Morning Glory

Those varieties of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) that have become as popular as ornamental annuals over the last couple of years are largely grown for their foliage and do not seem to flower very often, but when they do it becomes really apparent that they are, in fact, morning glories:

A flower on a purple-leaved sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)

I wonder if the tubers produced by these ornamental varieties are any good, or whether they are insipid or unpalatable like ornamental selections of some other food plants.