Sunday, June 25, 2017

Eid Mubarak!

عید مبارک

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - June 2017

I am afraid I do not have terribly much to report for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day from my little balcony garden in Delhi this month. This time of the year, at the end of the hottest part of the year,   flowering here is at a bit of a low point, and most of what is in bloom are woody vines and trees. My young plant collection lacks both of those so all I can offer at the moment are some Madagascar periwinkles (Catharanthus roseus) and Portulaca.

One color of Madagascar periwinkle...

... and another

Portulaca grandiflora flanked by Bassia scoparia

Meanwhile, in the garden back in New England quite a few things are of course blooming, and the husband extraordinaire sent some pictures:
A newly planted Lantana

Pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa), which I have been trying to establish in the garden for a few years, finally taking off

Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)

Hopefully next month I will have more flowers to show from my efforts here. In the meantime, head over to May Dreams Gardens to see what is blooming elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


I am back in my New England garden for a quick visit after having been away for six months; the garden is in great shape overall but what has been particularly interesting is to see which plants of questionable hardiness have made it through the winter and which have not. A lot of my plantings are  a bit of a gamble in that way. Moreover, since I was going to be away this year, last fall I planted out a few things that I would have otherwise overwintered indoors on the off chance that they might make it. There have been a few real surprises among those plants that made it and those that did not. Complete losses that I had not anticipated included all the fancy florist's chrysanthemums I grew last year as well as all my Parma violets. I knew their hardiness here would be borderline but in our relatively protected garden and with heavy mulching I was not expecting them to be gone entirely. Similarly, Opuntia cacanapa 'Ellisiana' is completely gone, while the native Opuntia humifusa is flourishing and  Opuntia phaecantha, too, is doing very well. Two year-old cuttings of 'Chicago Hardy' fig froze back a bit but are sprouting vigorously. The heirloom dahlia 'Mrs. I. de ver Warner', known for its atypical hardiness, survived its second winter in the ground unscathed, but another modern dahlia hybrid in a much more exposed spot also survived, even though it is much further behind in leafing out. The poppies Argemone platyceras and Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum also survived quite happily, and so did all my Kniphofia uvaria seedlings. A healthy 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' rose that should be hardy died while a Phygelius that had not even been happy during the summer is resprouting, if weakly. The foliage of my saffron crocuses, now in their third year, should still be green and photosynthesizing, making food reserves for the corms to power good flowering in the fall, but it has already disappeared almost entirely. I suspect a lack of snow cover during the coldest parts of winter and munching by the rabbits that usually stay in the neighbors' grassier yard are to blame. In any case, I will probably have to replant my saffron patch after this year. On the positive side, by far the most surprising survivals were two tuberoses in a raised bed and, completely unexpected, a seedling Canna indica in a clay pot completely exposed on the front steps of the house. Granted, they are small individual sprouts emerging from formerly sizeable root stocks but even so it is impressive.

Opuntia phaecantha

Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia humifusa) with a 'Color Guard' yucca sprout

'Chicago Hardy' fig

Dahlia 'Mrs. I. de ver Warner'

A tiny tuberose sprout 

A little Canna sprout emerging from a pot that spent the winter on the front steps

The lessons to be drawn from this, I guess, are to a) overwinter cuttings of all fancy chrysanthemums inside, b) experiment with tuberoses planted out and heavily mulched for winter, c) try more dahlias besides 'Mrs. I. de ver Warner' as permanently planted perennials with some winter protection. Always learning!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

La vie en rose

The balcony garden is still coming along slowly. There have been some new additions, and some of the plants that for a long time did not seem to do much are beginning to take off, perhaps finally over transplant shock and helped along by recent rains and a bit of a drop in temperatures. Here are just a few snapshots of mainly pink things providing color right now - I will have to make sure to add more other colors as I keep collecting plants:

A caladium I picked up on a whim

This Portulaca grandiflora had more deep-pink striations on the flowers when I bought it; hopefully it will return

One of three colors of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus rosea) that I have

My little heirloom rose reblooming just a bit in the heat

Hopefully with monsoon rains coming in a few weeks, the balcony will continue to get more lush. I recently got two banana saplings, which should add lots of foliage once they get going. Perhaps some fast-growing vines would also be good to extend the green upwards more...

Saturday, May 20, 2017

We Are in Trouble

Clearly nowhere and nothing is safe:

Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

We need to face climate change and address it because it is hard to even imagine or keep track of all the ways in which it can harm all of us and all we hold dear.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Summer Morning Walk

This time of year is in some ways a bit of an interlude in gardening here in North India. From late April onwards the day-time temperatures tend to hover decidedly above 40°C/105°F and there is very little precipitation before the onset of the monsoon in late June. In the face of these conditions, the cottage garden annuals and bulbous plants that are the stars of most Indian gardens and parks during the winter and spring - think sprawling expenses of petunias and annual phlox, nasturtiums clambering everywhere, blocks of fragrant stocks, whole armies of enormous dinner-plate dahlias - rapidly wither away. Their replacements - zinnias, cockscomb, Madagascar periwinkle, and so on - do not really kick in until the rain. The only time that is really pleasant to be outside is early in the morning. Even so, there are quite a few things in bloom. Yesterday morning I managed to get out early and take a walk around Lodi Gardens, one of Delhi's oldest and most elaborate parks, and the surrounding fairly posh area and there was plenty of vegetation looking its best.

A Pride of India or jarul tree (Lagerstroemia speciosa), the crape myrtles much bigger cousin, on a quiet residential street

A close-up of a jarul inflorescence

Shady green at the entrance to Lodi Gardens

Bonsai are really popular here

In the bonsai display area

Lots of growth in the herb garden this time of year

Gorgeous shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet)

Curcuma aeruginosa blooms with the emergence of the leaves 

Bauhinia tomentosa unfortunately only looks this lovely early in the morning as the flowers quickly wilt in the heat

Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac), now in bloom along many of the gardens' paths

My own little balcony garden is muddling along - the first plants I bought are finally beginning to take off; it seemingly took them a month to adjust to their new surroundings. Later additions are still not really doing much and many seedlings, contrary to what one would expect with eat and attentive watering, are growing excruciatingly slowly. As always, learning to garden in a new place brings new experiences and challenges.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Book Purchases

I was ordering something from Amazon the other day and was a few rupees short of the minimum amount to get free shipping. So what did I do? I added two Hindi gardening books to my order, Bāgvānī kalā or "Gardening Art" and Vārṣik bāgvānī or "Seasonal Gardening", both by one Prabha Bhargav.

The two new additions to my gardening library

Sample pages, some in black and white...

... and some in color

Like most Hindi books, and especially Hindi non-fiction, these are modest productions sold at a much lower price than local English-language works. Even so, I like getting these kind of books, just as I try to pick up local gardening books most places I go. Compared to the gardening books on offer in the US and some larger European countries like the UK, France, and Germany, in many other places they are fewer and less commonly available - and what is available are often British works, regardless of how ill-suited their instructions might be to the climate and other conditions of that place. For me that makes books like this treasures of  a sort because they actually reflect the local, even if they might seem quite basic.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Spring Garden Visits, Continued: Katz'scher Garten, Gernsbach, Germany

I have posted about the Katz'sche Garten, the historic garden now filled with botanical rarities and Mediterranean vegetation in my German hometown of Gernsbach before several years ago. Since then the collection has grown, the garden has become a bit more elaborate still, and a book documenting its development and extraordinary plantings has been published. I went to have a look on one of the first days after the garden reopened for spring and the winter coverings had been removed from the most tender plantings. This was in mid-March but the garden was already quite lovely.

 The central parterre with Magnolia x soulangeana just beginning to bloom

Edgeworthia chrysantha in full bloom

Just a small part of the palm collection...

... and more palms, with part of the old town in the background

Spring bedding

'General Coletti,' one of several camellia varieties at the shady end of the garden

Along the river bank

Musa basjoo leaving out

Throngs of narcissi

It is strange to think that I remember when this garden had not yet been resuscitated and to see how far along even truly daring plantings like the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), agaves, and eucalyptus have come. All the more impressive that this is primarily the result of a citizen's initiative and volunteer work, and that it continues to be free to the public.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rice Update

Nothing to report really but the rice seedlings have grown a bit so I thought I would post an update.

Three of my little rice seedlings - please excuse the makeshift pot, I did not have any other waterproof container on hand. Also, recycling!

The rice, incidentally, it is one of the only things that is growing with any sort of speed. I am quickly learning that even in this extreme climate - or maybe precisely because of the intense heat - warmth and water alone do not necessarily produce strong growth, especially in seedlings, cuttings, and recently transplanted saplings. On the other hand, the speed with which some of the established plants around the neighborhood put out flowers or new foliage as the season shifts is truly astonishing - it seems as though the amaltas or golden rain trees (Cassia fistula) and gulmohar or royal poincianas (Delonix regia) have gone from no discernible flower buds to full bloom in a matter of days,

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Old Ways and New Plants

First off, here is an article from about the successful preservation of a traditional irrigation system that is helping some farmers in northern Kerala and a part of Karnataka to deal with the effects of an ongoing drought:

How Farmers in North Kerala Are Using an Age-Old Water System to Beat the Drought

On the one hand, it is great when traditional, sustainable practices can be preserved and help people cope. At the same time, that even Kerala, usually one of India's less arid states, is struggling with ongoing drought is very worrying indeed.

On a perhaps more lighthearted note, here is another piece briefly profiling the work of several female Indian botanist-plant breeders who are developing new varieties to address particular needs of Indian agriculture and horticulture:

Meet the Women Who Make India's Chillies Hotter, Flowers Cheaper and Mangoes Last Longer

Not that I am always a fan of new hybrids - my love for and fascination with many heirloom flowers and crops should be rather evident on this blog - but this kind of work is still important and cool, and rarely gets any attention.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Acquisitions

After lunch with a friend yesterday I could not resist checking out another nursery that was *kind of* on the way back. I was hoping they would suitable waterproof yet tasteful pots for my little rice seedlings but unfortunately all their container options were not really to my taste and very pricey. However, of course I did not walk away entirely empty-handed. I picked up a lovely deep blue pigeon pea (Clitoria ternatea) full of buds, a nice clay pot with three different varieties of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) - one of the flowers commonly used here to provide color during this, the hottest time of the year - and a little curry leaf sapling (Murraya koenigii).

Butterfly pea buds opening

Three variations of the Madagascar periwinkle

Now off to the library... Of course, I still do not have suitable pots for the some of these new additions and some other things that need potting up, so I am going to have to detour to the  pottery and ceramics market on the way back. They have lovely stuff and by American standards most of it is incredibly cheap. However, lugging home half a dozen large terracotta pieces in an Uber can be a bit awkward.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rice Again

I was not planning to grow rice this year since I am not home in New England - although I did order seeds of a few more varieties from Wild Folk Farm for next year, out of a fear that those varieties might not be available then - but then a handful of rice seed essentially fell into my lap. A few days ago I bought a bundle of fresh mint at a small neighborhood supermarket here in my part of Delhi. Upon closer examination, I found that it had been tied with a shoot of a rice plant - complete with a ripe panicle of long-grained seeds still attached.

A first few seeds germinating on moist paper towel on the kitchen window sill, soon to be potted up with soil

I sowed a few of the seeds to see if they are indeed viable on some moist paper towel and they are all germinating. Obviously I will try to grow these on, to which end I will have to get some suitable waterproof containers. Even if this batch does not work out however - and I have never before gardened under quite these climatic conditions, so lots of learning for me to do across the board! - I luckily still have some more to try again.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Budding in Berlin: Botanischer Garten Berlin-Dahlem

More from my travels earlier this year, this time the massive Botanic Garden in the Berlin district of Lichterfelde, the largest in Germany - a country where every major university and every city of decent size seems to have an impressive botanical garden. Spring, not surprisingly, was a bit further along here than in Stockholm a week earlier, though not by terribly much. I headed to the massive greenhouse complex first, though afterwards I discovered that there was quite a bit in bloom in the many outdoor areas of the garden, a large part of which is organized geographically around plants' places and habitats of origin.

The steep, imposing Mediterranean House

A Cistus flower in the Mediterranean House

 A Canary Island bellflower (Canarina canariensis) - still always impressive when I see them

Tree ferns in the fernery attached to the Mediterranean House

A view towards the main greenhouse complex from the extensive rock gardens

Indoor tropics

In a wing dedicated mainly to bromeliads

The amazing camellia and azalea house

A particularly sumptuous white camellia

Pillows of azaleas

Lobster claw or kōwhai ngutu-kākā (Clianthus puniceus) in the greenhouse dedicated to plants from Australia and New Zealand

Back outside, spring meadow saffron (Colchicum bulbocodium) emerging

Another spring-blooming Colchicum, Colchicum kesselringii

Cyclamen coum bejeweling the ground

A young deodar or Himalayan cedar (Cedrus deodara)

The beautiful flowers of Amur adonis (Adonis amurensis)

Even with comparatively little to see in the outside areas I spent several hours in the garden. In later spring and summer one can probably spend the better part of a day discovering things. There is also a botanical museum to which I have not been since I was really craving being outside on one of the first nice spring days during my stay in Berlin and in between working inside at the Staatsbibliothek.