Bleak midwinter?

We don't have a bleak midwinter here in Houston...

Who will buy?

Seems as though poor August is all but a holding period - a no-man's land of gardening, of dormancy, where we all just wait for Summer to do its worst and be done with it so that we can come to September and begin dreaming for the Fall. Well, that's not entirely true, but it does seem that most of the folks I talk to or read about are tired of the summer and tired of the heat.

Not so for me! Yes, it has been hot, though not as hot as it could have been. Yes, I haven't taken nearly as much time outside as I would have wanted to. But there has been adequate rain, and there is plenty happening in the garden.

Growing okra for the first time ever though, I have marvelled at how we have been able to harvest pods, quite literally, by the hour. And I never thought of okra as being such an ornamental, dainty, beautiful plant. But it so is.

IMGP3627The seven plants we grew this summer produced abundantly enough for us to have a steady supply of okra once a week. Next summer, 3 more plants will assure enough to give away to a friend or two, as the real and true virtues of gardeners are to be found in their spirit of sharing.

IMGP4648Speaking of sharing, we have, this past year, discovered how very much indeed we can enjoy the bounty of the natural world through our senses. Feast your eyes upon the most recent sojourner in this garden - one of three hummingbirds who seems to have called this place home, for the time being. In the background are the dwarf okra plants, and in the foreground, are beans and the yellow pear tomato who has braved the entire summer and is fully seven feet tall now with no sign of stopping. But this little friend loves her/his little perch:
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And darts between the sugar syrup feeder and the tomato tree branch supports time and time again.IMGP4603
IMGP4664IMGP4665IMGP4666IMGP4667Being still, and screened by the bean vines scarcely 3 feet away, how thrilling it was to behold this happy little creature. Now I know what these hummingbirds who stay around our garden sound like - and hear them all the time. Once, bending down to pick some thyme for an evening meal, I not only heard but felt the incredible buzz of their wings as one swooped past me, above my head.

Such riches can't ever be bought.IMGP4668Sunchoke flowers and plants tower above us, well on their way past the roof of the house.

IMGP4651A bumblebee visits the eggplant flowers on this Wednesday morning.

IMGP4670Here, an anole rests on the spent stalks of the blue Agapanthus in the front garden.

IMGP4673The very first Echinacea coneflower has blossomed in the front. Little does this flower know how incredibly beautiful, precious, and transient s/he is.

IMGP4674And the tiny front garden bed is awash with colour from salvias blue and red, buddleia, pentas, malviviscus, rudbeckias, one single coneflower (can you spot it?) and pink gauras.

A Lepidopteran Love Affair

It's confirmed. My better half and I are have fallen in love with the butterflies we have chanced to see over the past year of living in our new house. I knew this to be true for myself - but wasn't sure about my other half until he asked me whether I wouldn't be bringing more caterpillars/eggs in to shelter. That's when I knew...

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A Sunday is for gardening

A Sunday is for gardening. Never mind the heat. There's just a hint of a breeze, and there's cool water, and there's wonder to be found outside!

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Christmas in July!

Following this post on planting a tree that's so essential to Indian cooking, I must go back in time a bit and tell you about a visit earlier this month to a dear friend's house in Missouri City, TX, just a few miles from us in Houston, who veritably loaded up our little car with plants she had been saving for us.

One of these days, I am going to do a blog post devoted to Malar's garden - but for now, see these lovely plants that she and her husand, Julius, gave to us:

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Meet, from left to right: Drumstick, Turmeric, Cardamom, Jasmine, Tequila Agave, more Jasmine, Bay, and Sugar Cane!

SO EXCITED!

Malar and Julius's garden is definitely and uniquely and beautifully theirs - it reminds me of India in its practicality and its choice of plants. And, they were so generous with their pots and digging things up for us (Gardeners tend to be such a great bunch of folks, I might add here). Here are some close-ups:

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This is the drumstick tree, Moringa oleifera, முருங்கைக்காய் -- Murungai, anglicized into Moringa, whose leaves and immature seedpods are used in cooking throughout the world. I had no idea that these leaves are highly nutritious, containing high levels of plant protein and other substances that are good for you. She's a rapid grower and a tree, to boot, so we'll have to think carefully about where in the garden to place her. For now, doesn't she look happy? I can't wait to harvest and eat some of her nutritional leaves.

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Next up is a swath of turmeric - auspicious to have, just for the sake of having, as I have been brought up to believe. She is such a beautiful plant - how can she not be auspicious? I look forward to brewing tea from the harvested rhizomes. She thrives in shade, and I've already planted most of these plants in the front courtyard garden, next to her cousin, Ginger.

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I don't know where Malar & Julius picked this lovely one up - a cardamom plant, also a relative of Turmeric and Ginger. We'll keep her in a pot in the hopes that bringing her indoors over the winter will enable her to flower - and fruit. For the first time in my life, I tasted fresh dill seeds this year - at the ripe old age of 35; I can't wait to taste a fresh cardamom seed! More on this in time to come, I hope.

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A variety of jasmine we Tamil folk know as பிச்சிபூவு - picchi-poovu. Intensely fragrant, delicate, umbrella-shaped jasmine flowers.

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A few bay leaf plants - yes, the ones to cook with!

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An incredible, surprise gift of sugar cane! My better-half is a planner, so many of these plants that eventually need to go into the ground are, for now, staying put in pots.

IMGP3713Another jasmine variety.

I've never felt as lucky in all my life as I do now. It's been just over a year since we signed the papers to purchase this house we now live in. There are a lot of things I'll never be sure about in my life, except for this one: going into debt to care for a piece of land and a garden was totally worth it.

See you in Arcadia!

A home is a plant is a home

We garden for all sorts of reasons known and unknown to us. For people like me, who have lived severally in place, gardening with plants from these special places becomes an extremely important link connecting ourselves, the plants, and that sometimes elusive place called Home. Meet Kari leaf tree, Murraya koenegii - the one plant that is most likely to be found in an Indian household, if any is to be found at all. Here she is, to the left, on our window sill in New York, in 2007:

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Hello, Maypop!

Twas in the merry month of June, I was driving home from...somewhere, and spied what I thought looked beguilingly like the cover of the River Oaks Garden Club's fantastic book, A Garden Book for Houston, and it turned out, yes, to actually be...

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