Today we’re heading all the way to India to visit with Atoorva, who works as a civil servant for the government of India and gets transferred to a different city every three to four years. Atoorva currently lives in Jaipur, where the summers are hot, the winters are mild, and most of the rain falls in the summer monsoon season.
Two and a half years ago when I came to Jaipur, the pink city of India, and learnt that my new house has a garden, I was thrilled. After living in apartments for years, here was my chance to do real gardening and go back to my gardening genes—inherited from my parents. The garden did not disappoint me despite the summer temperature rising to 48°C (118°F) and the soil being largely desert sand. In the summer months, we had giant sunflowers and zinnias all around, and rains brought enchanting waterlilies and rain lilies.
An abundance of petunias (Petunia hybrid, annual). The most beautiful season in the garden in India is winter. Winter is mild in this part of the world, and most annuals—from marigolds to petunias to pansies to calendulas—bloom during November to March.
An Indian kingfisher. The garden is located near Jhalana Bird Sanctuary, and therefore the branches are always full of bulbuls, rufous treepies, grey hornbills, black-rumped flame back, hoopoes, parakeets, and kingfishers. An occasional sighting of migratory winter birds can brighten up the day.
Jaipur has a sizable peacock population, and my garden has a resident family of them. These birds often find a home on the huge mango tree, which is the most prominent part of the garden. While there are a couple of gooseberry trees, neem trees, and a golden shower tree, the mango tree remains a favorite with birds—even more so when it is full of mangoes.
One of my first experiments in this garden was to make eight small water planters to accommodate the waterlilies. Within a few months, with the arrival of summer, waterlilies were blooming in these planters, surrounded by portulaca on the ground nearby.
In winter the garden is full of flowers, such as cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus, annual) and marigolds (Tagetes patula, annual).
My pride as a gardener last winter was the medley of colors around a decorative stone fountain. This display included dianthus, verbena, daisies, pansies, and even a red geranium. The chaos of colors was somehow beautiful to my eyes.
In the early months of the year, tall smiling larkspurs attract plenty of sunbirds, and these purple beauties swaying together in the spring breeze is a sight to behold.
A diversity of marigolds (Tagetes, annual). This winter, I am going to plant freesia, chinkerichee and ixia for the first time. The decision was partly due to the lockdown effect, which made availability of the usual seedlings very limited in local plant stores, and so I decided to try these bulbs. At the moment the garden is full of marigolds—orange, red, yellow, and my favorite, vanilla.
The garden has its moods in every season, and even in the harshest days of summer it is a peaceful refuge to birds and other creatures. In many ways, it is they who own the garden, and we are just the tenants, lucky enough to enjoy it for a short while.
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