Friday, January 16, 2009

My First Blog with my Green Thumb!

I have finally got the better of procrastination and writing my first blog. Hurrah!

My first blog! Many would say that this is not an achievement to make such a song and dance about. But then, it matters to me, it is a big deal! For me. Its my first blog and I will pen down my thoughts on any and every thing/topic/issue that interests me. Whether anyone reads it, agrees with it or agrees to disagree with it, thats secondary. Would I get 100 crores for blogging? Certainly not. I am an ordinary soul, an unknown Indian. I can't get my dog to lick anyone's feet either.

Amartya Sen, the nobel laureate in economics, wrote a book 'The Argumentative Indian.' Yes, we argue, we are opinionated. We value our opinion, value it very dearly indeed. Most of us express it through various channels: letters to the editor, seminars, drawing room and street corner discussions, the good old adda and last but not the least once every five years. Some of us appear or vie to appear on talk shows on TV. Mind you, Barkha Dutt is not the only one hosting them. Talk shows are mushrooming with every passing day, never mind that most of the time people seem to be talking only to hear the sound of their own voices! Still others simply blog and today I have become a proud member of this community.

Therefore, to me, my opinion is priceless!

I am also happy to write about something close to my heart, my garden. My terrace garden. A roof doubling up as a garden? Well, I get to enjoy the best of both worlds! I am a self confessed nature enthusiast. I love greenery notwithstanding the constraints of space and the ever increasing appetite of the Frankenstein monster called unplanned development which is leaving behind a trail of destruction/pollution courtesy the concrete jungle. The great poet and India's first nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had said "Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." Wonder what would be his reaction today. (Sigh)

No, I have never been a part of the Chipko movement, nor do I own acres of real estate to indulge in my favourite past-time. Nevertheless, in my own little way I contribute towards the cause of the environment. Preservation of the environment, that is. My better half shares this passion for gardening even more and has a greener thumb than mine!

We have many species of plants in our terrace garden: eliconia, zerbera, tuber-rose, gladiolus, dahlia, dwarf hibiscus, bonsai plants (peepal, banyan and other plants of the ficus species), anthorium, bird-of-paradise, passion flower, impatiens, geranium, lantana, caladium, lolipop plant, sencheria, lily, night queen, rex begonea, various cacti, spider grass, coleus, nalina, faccia, many ornamental plants with colourful leaves, spatifilum, almonda, poplet, dusty millar, ferns, table palm, ooty grass (this is apart from the grass laid out for the garden) and many more. Most of these are perennial plants with colourful flowers. It gives us immense pride when we receive compliments from friends and family on our healthy and happy garden. To quote the great English poet, John Keates, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness."
"A proverb is no proverb to you until life has illustrated it." So said John Keates. How true! Indeed, a profound insight from one of the most profound poets.

We love to watch the colourful butterflies flitting in and out between the leaves, playing hide and seek among the flowers. Bliss!

There are some rocks as well. Some rocks and others rock-like but actually wood. Due to certain natural events like earthquake, volcano, etc., trees fall into the interiors of the earth and remain there for years. Due to the heat, pressure, temperature and by the action of the insects, micro-organisms, etc., present in the interiors of the earth these barks/branches slowly take a rock-like hue. Then, some other natural events cause them to come up to the earth's surface. We have some of such rocks as well. I am terribly happy and proud of our terrace garden...will add some more plants to it in due course.

One of my favourites is the majestic bird-of-paradise: This uniquely shaped flower resembles a brightly colored bird in flight and due to it's brilliant orange and blue colors and unique form, it resembles not just any bird but a bird-of-paradise! So, not surprisingly Strelitzia reginae is known as the bird-of-paradise flower. It's other common name, crane flower, is another bow to its exotic avian shape. The bird-of-paradise is a real eyecatcher, in bloom or not.

Both the bird-of-paradise and the lantana plant are two of seven desert plants that is recommended for people who want desert plants that are perennial.

Yet another favourite is the Anthorium: Cut flowers are a wonderful gift, but after they die, all we are left with is an empty vase! An everlasting alternative is the Anthorium plant itself. The foliage is shiny and dark green, while the flowers are heart shaped and very showy. We have them in red, pink, lavender and white. Also known as Flamingo flower or Pigtail plant.

My passion is the bonsai: Here is Nature's stressbuster! Bonsai is the fascinating, ancient Asian art/practice of growing miniature trees in 'shallow' pots. An art believed to have originated in China and perfected in Japan. Many believe that it has Indian roots too. Our ancient physicians tried growing difficult to find plants/trees in their own homes in pots as 'vamana vrikshas' or miniature trees. There are also those that believe that visiting Buddhist monks who traveled back to China wanted to carry the sacred banyan and peepal trees with them and did so in small pots. By the time they reached their homes after years of travel, they had well developed Bonsai plants in their hands. With bonsai, regularly sized trees are trained to become miniature specimens. One can grow the miniature plant, visulaising it in its big tree form, thereby getting to see the change every day, even as the plant retains its genetic characteristics. This is what makes bonsai so beautiful, intriguing and unique.

Nature herself is the Grand Master/Creator of the Bonsai. Neem, banyan and peepal trees growing out of cracks in walls, wells and on rocks are proof enough. Bonsai is merely an imitation in a small scale, the grand scheme of Nature.

Over the past several years, millions of people have learnt the value of blending two ancient Asian art forms – Feng Shui and Bonsai. Both represent harmony, peace and prosperity. Feng Shui stands for 'wind' and 'water', which are two elements seen in this practice most. While Bonsai is an ancient Asian practice associated with the creation of miniature trees. 'Bonsai' is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier Chinese term 'penzai'. Bonsai literally means 'bon planted', where a 'bon' is a tray-like container/pot typically used in bonsai culture. As the Japanese regard trees as the most fundamental of plants, the term implies a 'bon-planted tree' or 'tree in a pot'.

No wonder they make such a great match!

Photograph: The 'Pachystachys lutea Nees' or the 'lollipop-plant' in bloom. We are no doubt impressed by these unusual little fellows.

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