Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Gardening Story - 1

I lived in our old house for my first 40 years in Chamarajapuram, an old locality.  I will begin with this place and then take you to "My Eden", at the now century old ancestral house in neighbouring Lakshmipuram where I later shifted.  The story will be a 3-part serial


Our house had open spaces on all four sides having trees of mango, rose apple, jackfruit, coconut [six old and tall ones], pomegranate, bitter lime, guava, hibiscuses, Champaka, Parijata, yellow rose, flowering shrubs like Barleria, Taberneamontana, Oleander, rain lilies, some varieties of Jasmine, etc. 

Let me show a few pictures I captured before we vacated the house in 2008.

 Jackfruit tree which I climbed only once or twice.

 Rose Apple Tree which I used to climb.

Mango Tree I did not venture to climb since a branch was reachable from the asbestos roof.

As a very young kid, I used to watch my grandmother water the plants. The old rubber hose pipe had to be connected to the nearest tap which was in the latrine on the opposite side of the large house, through the window.  The pipe could reach only up to the first few plants.  The gradual slope in the yard took the water to the bases of all the plants further down along the groovy path made in the soil. I used to enjoy the water stream along, often clearing blockages caused by little twigs and dry leaves. Later, I floated my paper boats in this narrow stream and had great fun.

Water gushed out of taps with high pressure necessitating securing the hose to the tap tightly with a thread.  Even that got pushed away at times and we had to run in to fix it again!  Those were great days in the 1960s when stoppage of municipal water during daytime was unimaginable news.  It was as good as 24x7.  Storage tanks or big containers were neither needed nor even existed.  There used to be a loud 'whooosh' when it was released at about 4 every morning, which also alerted us that someone had failed to close back the tap at night when it used to be stopped for a few hours.

Water was definitely sweeter.  So my grandfather always said 'sihineeru', meaning 'sweet water'. Water was directly potable from the tap itself. There were no water filters either.

Fifty years on, this tool, the little hand-rake remains a favourite, despite a missing 'finger'.

Neither pests nor weeds bothered much in the garden.  The hairy caterpillars were a nuisance only during the rainy season. Ants also did not pose a big problem.  We had seemingly perpetual monkey menace in our locality.  If you just thought 'today the monkeys were not here..', presto, they would appear!  They left a small share of jackfruit, rose apple, pomegranate and guava for us.  But they made us tense when they went up the tall coconut trees for having their drink.  They sometimes would leave the empty nut on a frond and climb down.  We were afraid if the wind made the nut fall on the neighbour's tiled roof on which two trees overhung!   Watching their antics through the kitchen window was great fun.  My favourites were the youngsters. They broke branches and sometimes entered the house also in search of food. They also damaged young plants by running over, much to our chagrin.

A distant relative of our visitors, taken near Pashchimavahini, Srirangapatna

The southern yard was somewhat wild.  Sometimes, the castor plant would grow as a volunteer.  Growing castor by will was taboo.  Volunteer plants were accepted!  In summer, I used to watch from the room window the seed pods explode every now and then.  I used to sit for study beside it for its clear view of the neighbour's yard which was our little playground!  There is an Aegle marmelos tree in their otherwise bald yard where I enjoyed watching the squirrels chasing each other or mynahs making their many calls or hoopoes looking for insects.

[Pic from Wiki]

Hoopoe, with its long beak and peculiar head feather was amusing to watch!  They have become rare now.  I was also fond of watching the sparrows which happily nested in crevices inside our house.  They would often noisily chirp around looking for food which they got abundantly in the form of seeds and grains. Cawing of crows early in the morning indicated dawn hour.

Only those that are inclined to Gardening and Nature develop such an interest to enjoy. I was to know later that gardening was in me!

Green thumb:
It was my mother who had recognized that I had a 'green thumb'.  When something needed to be planted or transplanted, she would often refer me for such jobs.  She would say in simple terms: 'give it to him, let him plant, it grows nicely.'  I could only correlate  this when I heard the phrase 'green thumb' long later when I joined a gardening website of which you will know in the next part.

My earliest sowing:
The first flower seed I sowed was Cosmos which someone in the neighbourhood gave.  I think it was my friend Rajendra who lived in the opposite house.  It was in the small space behind the white structure [Tulasi katte - Holy Basil for worship] seen in the following picture.  This is the front right yard.  Also in the backyard, I remember sowing seeds of bean, observing their growth and also eating the bean. It was exiting to match what I studied in class.

[Seen here are brother and his friend, 1969 picture, just to show the area]

This is a picture of the same place.  Notice the same Tulasi Katte.on the left.  A room came up in 1975.  The small area where you see plants is where I actually started to grow plants and felt like a 'gardener'.  This was in the early 80s.  Since I had left the place earlier in to my new abode, this piece of garden is seen unattended. 

A little introduction to gardening was already in our text book of 4th class, but I had completely forgotten. When an old classmate visited me more than 40 years later, I was so happy to be fingering through those chapters again!  Look here!

There was a line of plants of Peacock flower along the compound of our school.  We primary school children believed if a bud spike of this was kept in our books for some days it would produce kitten! 

For my 12th class Botany, I had made a nice collection of plant specimens mounted in a book.  This was in great demand among my classmates. Someone borrowed it during our exam time but never returned.

I knew that gardening was in me.  It blossomed when I was old enough to start digging the earth.  It took colours much later when the internet arrived!

I could not have thought or done what I did esp. in the garden because of the good fortune of having some greenery around the house, which was the result of my forefathers' hard earned savings.

The great satisfaction of making the garden in our Chamarajapuram house green was with me.  I moved over to my now 100-years old ancestral house in 1998 that had become vacant from tenancy.  It was another large area to maintain!  So, let's go over to a more eventful Part 2 and see what I did to the yard space at Lakshmipuram.

Go over to Part -2. [Click]


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