Monday, August 31, 2009

The Feared Friend

Yesterday, I wanted to get some curry leaves for the curry I was making. I went to get some from the garden, when I saw this guy through the mesh door. I grabbed my camera and quietly opened the mesh door and took this shot. He was staring intently at something in my neighbour's garden and didn't hear me. But something made him sense my presence, because he immediately withdrew in a dignified manner and disappeared.
Although snakes are feared, most of them are non poisonous, like this Indian Rat Snake. They are friends of the garden because they keep the rats and bandicoots in check. The Indian Rat Snake,Ptyas mucosa is a tree climbing, non poisonous snake which hunts during the day. It eats rats, birds and other small animals, though frogs are its favourite.
A few days ago my neighbours saw two snakes dancing in the empty lot further down, both the snakes twining and leaping skywards. The dance went on for almost half an hour. The dance is not a mating dance as many suppose, but a dance for the control of territory between two males!
As for growing snake-repellant plants, our fellow was surrounded by the Snake plant Sanseveria which did nothing to repel him.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fibonacci Flowers for Friday

1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34....... This series of numbers is known as the Fibonacci sequence. Here, the next number is obtained by adding the previous two numbers. Like, 1+1=2, 2+1=3, 3+2=5,..8+13=21, 13+21=34 and so on . Fibonacci found that this mathematical series is followed extensively in nature.These are some of the Fibonacci flowers. Above is the Passion flower, the perfect example of the Fibonacci series in nature.
The five-petalled Pentas

The Bougainvillea flower with three bracts

The two- petalled Euphorbia milli

The Anthurium

Have a great mathematical day!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Potters' Town

Last Saturday I had been to Potters' Town, which is at the other end of the city. It is a centuries old settlement of potters, who make earthenware. There are decorative planters, figurines, jars and many other things in the shops, all made of terracotta. I bought these earthenware things besides some plant holders. The pot on top is an urli made of clay and painted to look like antique bronze. People in South India keep flowers in water in it and place in the entrance hall of their homes, to welcome visitors.
This is a clay bird feeder in which I have put flaked rice, moong beans and other seeds for the birds. I think the squirrles are polishing off the grains every day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Red berries

These are the Blood lilies or Fireball lilies,Scandoxus multiflorus katherinae which finished blooming in June. Now their red berries are on the plants. Can you guess which ?
These are red berries from an ornamental plant which has become a weed in the garden. Birds and the insects don' seem to fancy these berries.

Did you guess? Yes, these are the fruit of the blood lilies.

These look like something from another planet, don't they? They are the red berries of the Bird's nest Anthurium.You can see the big leaves behind.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


My papaya tree is tall and thin. It is difficult to bring down the papayas when they are mature, because neither I nor my gardener can climb the tree. Yesterday afternoon, some urchins from the nearby village quietly entered my garden to raid my fruit trees. They did not know I was home, and one little fellow climbed the papaya tree and brought down three fruit. I went out quietly and shouted at them suddenly. In their fright, they left the papayas and guavas they had stolen and ran away.
The papaya contains the enzyme papain which helps to digest proteins. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and beta carotene. It is good for the heart. It can make a good face pack too. It is believed to remove wrinkles. The papaya is a good breakfast fruit.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Wild Flowers from the West

The Lantana is a plant from the Americas, which has become so naturalized in the tropics that it has replaced many native plants. You can see the lantana growing wildly in the fields, woods and jungles. Birds love its black fruit and butterflies love its flowers. The ground beneath a lantana bush is very fertile because of the leaves it sheds. Tribals in northern Karnataka make lovely baskets and garden furniture from lantana canes.
The Sensitive Plant Mimosa pudica is another plant from South America which has become naturalized here. It is not prized by gardeners .In Percy Bysshe Shelley's immortal words,
For the Sensitive Plant has no bright flower,
Radiance and odour are not its dower.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blooming Friday

Yesteday, I went to my friend Vasantha's house. After photographing these flowers from her garden, we both went to the cinema . This is a Duranta.
After watching the rave-reviewed Hindi movie Kameeney, we both went to a restaurant for lunch.Later we visited a famous jewelry store, where she bought a gold bracelet. This is a golden Frangipani.

Then we went to an ice cream parlour and had ice creams which was the colour of this Allamanda. After a wonderful afternoon spent blowing up our money, we went back home in a city bus the colour of which was red like that of the Peacock flower below. We could do all this because the school is closed till Monday because of the fear of the 'flu.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Urban Forest

This is the urban forest near my house ,where I go searching for wild flowers. The pasture you see was earlier a lake, which has dried up. Cows from the neighbouring village are allowed to graze there.
There is a pond on the other side, where many aquatic plants grow. Many water birds visit the pond.

The mud structure is an ant hill, constructed by termites.It is an amazing structure with many stories and tunnels. When the termites abandon it, snakes take over.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lurking Danger

Flowers look so beautiful and innocent, but they are the stage for many of nature's ambushes. If you click on the dahlia, you can see the spider having ambushed the bee.

The lacy white blooms of the American Elder look too pretty to be dangerous. Click on the last picture and you will see the mantid waiting patiently to catch an unsuspecting prey.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sandalwood- the Most Prized Perfume

This is a 50 year old carved sandalwood box in which I keep my handkerchiefs. They smell devine. The sandalwood is one of the most prized and endangered trees in India. Sandalwood oil is used as a base for perfumes.
The sandalwood tree in my house is in a corner of the garden. The tiny, chocolate brown flowers have turned into green berries. In a few days, when the berries turn black, there will be hundreds of birds visiting the tree.

The sandalwood of Bangalore and Mysore districts are prized above all, because they contain the best quality oil. The oil is extracted from a mature tree of 80 years , but even a 35 year old tree can fetch a good price. The trees are all State property, wherever they are growing. I use its leaves as a pesticide.
The sandalwood paste is used in religious ceremonies of Hindus and Buddhists since thousands of years. It calms the mind and helps one to concentrate and meditate.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tanner's Plant and other Wild Flowers

Yesterday I went to a meadow which belongs to the Forest Department. The scene was incredible. There were wild flowers everywhere, and butterflies, dragonflies, bees and bumblebees besides hundreds of birds. I found a Tanner's Senna Cassia auriculata in full bloom, its golden flowers attracting butterflies and bumblebees.
There were the wild white plumbago and many other wild flowers.
Tanner's Senna flowers are used to make a tea for diabetics. The plant is used to make a rich ochre dye, and also in tanning.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Independence Day Flowers

Today is Indian Independence Day. The flowers depict the colours of the Indian flag. Orange is for Sacifice and Courage. White is for Peace and Purity, and green is for Prosperity and Harmony with nature.
Happy Independence Day to all my Indian friends!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday flowers

These roses are from my school's rose garden which is in full bloom now. The roses bloom three times a year here. The next display will be in December, when the display will be spectacular. I don't know the names of the individual roses.

Besides the rose garden, there are other gardens and play areas too . As the school is situated on a hill, the Head Gardener has created a beautiful, landscaped garden using the natural contours , slopes and rocks.
You can see the pink Powder Puff Calliandra in full bloom at the back of the white rose bush.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New flowers in my garden

The white Clerodendron Wallacii is the most beautiful Clerodendron. I have seen it hanging like a white screen in a Hong Kong garden. I got this from my sister's garden in Goa.

The mauve Tecoma has just started flowering. It flowers profusely for many days.
At last a blue flower in my garden! The Amazon Blue is new, and has flowered for the first time.
The red Fragrant Panama Rose, Rondelatia odorata looks like the ixora and the lantana, but prettier. These are the new flowers in my garden.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Old Faithfuls

There are some corners in my garden which get habitually neglected. Even watering becomes sporadic there. But these inhospitable places have been colonized by my old faithfuls who give me beautiful blooms in spite of the neglect. The tiny purple flower has brown leaves. I don't know its name, as it came piggy back with another plant I bought from the nursery. I wonder how it produces food, as its leaves are always brown!
The Asystasia produces lots of flowers in all seasons. It can flower in deep shade too. I got it from my sister's garden in Goa.

The old fashioned Milk-and -Wine Lily has pretty pink and white stripes , and produces abundant flowers even when there is a drought. Its bulbs are used for treating rheumatism. Its name in Hindi is Sudarshan, meaning 'good looking'.
I am gateful to these plants for their flowers .

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cinnamon, the Queen of Spices

This spice was the cause of major wars between the great powers of Europe. It inspired Vasco da Gama to discover the sea route to India, and this was the plant that was the inspiration behind the discovery of America.
The cinnamon is a small , handsome tree with shiny leaves, which is a native of India and Sri Lanka. Its bark is what we use in our cooking. Highly skilled workers in the cinnamon plantations of Kerala, peel the bark from lopped off branches.
This tree is planted as an ornamental roadside tree in my neighbourhood. Whenever there is a shower, I walk past it to inhale the fragrance of the leaves.
Cinnamon is very effective in controlling blood sugar levels. Honey and cinnamon taken together , reduce cholesterol levels and strengthen the immune system.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Some more wild flowers

When I go for my early morning walk, I invariably get a blocked nose. My yoga teacher suggested that I should put a drop of the juice of the wild leucas aspera leaves in my nostrils. It worked wonders! Now I am not troubled by blocked nose in the mornings.
The humble white flower attracts bees by droves.The juice of the leaves is used to treat skin diseases like psoriasis. The flowers are a good cough remedy. The whole plant is used by organic farmers to control pests.
The red variety is more attractive, though not so versatile.I have grown the red one in my garden to add colour during drought.