Sunday, February 10, 2008

Everything happens for a reason

The beautiful vibrant leafed Saritaea Climber that had risen to the level of the lake view gallery died out on us a few months ago. This is the second climber that has grown to full size and died out at this very location. I wonder what the reason could be – too much water? , Something damaging the roots? Who knows! The answer will present itself at some time I presume.

It was difficult to move on though and I stubbornly let the hardened vine framework be, refusing to cut it out and plant something new just in case it decided to wake up from what I hoped was a period of hibernation. I soon began to enjoy the the stark look of this twiggy framework and decided to wait a while before growing something over it. And then just last week while sitting here and musing about it I noticed a beautifully crafted nest attached to one of the dead branches.
I instantly felt happy and excited to see this wonderful piece of architecture and also grateful for not having cut down the dead climber it was attached to. I took a few pictures of the nest, put my camera away and came back to look at it and puzzle over whom it belonged to.

Pretty soon I spotted a female sunbird, greenish brown above and yellowish below. It came by, hesitated for a micro second and then boldly flitted forward to perch before the nest and continue about its business as usual with me sitting there not even 8 feet away. I dared not get up to fetch my camera but simply sat there enjoying the special moment. Our questions about nature can be answered if we can simply take time to sit and stare.

Sunbirds are a tropical species, very small birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. The males are usually brilliantly plumaged in metallic colors. They find counterparts in two very distantly related groups: the hummingbirds of the Americas and the honeyeaters of Australia which share the similar nectar-feeding lifestyle. Unlike the hummingbird they perch to feed although they can take nectar while hovering. They are easy to spot from the lake view gallery and at the entrance garden in the late afternoon.

Mystery Climber

After a few trips to the nursery looking for a Jacquemontia climber to replace the one that died out bore no fruit I decided to go with another nameless climber that we had in our garden nursery growing in a large bag. I had purchased it a few months ago and by now had forgotten its name but the leaves looked attractive and the plant seemed to be healthy so we planted it in place of the Jacquemontia

The climber grew well and had soon got to the Lake View Gallery level above the kitchen and over the little trellis there. The leaves were shiny green and very attractive but even a year down the line there was no sign of flowers. I delved through many books hoping to learn more about the plant including its name and flowering habits but came up with nothing.

When Swati and Suchitra visited us in May 06’ we spent many enjoyable evenings looking out at spectacular sunsets from this lovely Look Out Gallery. We often admired the mystery climber with its dense dark green ornamental foliage and wondered when it would flower. I began to joke that maybe it’s a male and was never going to flower.

Then by early June I noticed something that had to be a spray of buds. They took their own time opening keeping me guessing a little longer and finally revealed bell shaped rose magenta mildly scented flowers.

I was ecstatic. Bunches of gracefully arranged flowers stood out against the shiny green foliage looking pretty stunning. A long wait it had been but a fruitful one. With a clear visual of the flowers I was once more inspired to hunt down its name. Armed with a visual of the flowers in I surfed the net for a few days and finally I hit pay dirt. The mystery climber had a name after all.
Botanical Name: Saritaea magnifica,
Family: Bignoniaceae,
Other names: Glow vine, purple bignonia, saritaea
Origin: Colombia

The mystery was solved but the case shut for good about a year later when the plant died out!!!

Astrid Rao

Sky Blue Cluster Vine

In September 2004 we had planted Jacquemontia pentantha' also known as the Sky Blue Cluster vine in the box below the kitchen window to dress up a drab corner and cover up some ugly piping. Within a year this fast growing vine with its tiny bell- shaped ultramarine blue flowers had grown to reach the lake view gallery above and had gracefully framed the tranquil sky, lake and hill view of this lovely area.

We enjoyed its beautiful appearance and its gorgeous year round flowering for over a year and then the suddenly after the monsoon the plant died out.
I was saddened when the beautiful ultramarine blue flowering Jacquemontia died out. I had not taken into consideration that a perennial tropical climber could die in my tropical paradise. It was something of a shock when this happened. What was once a profusely flowering gorgeous looking area was now plain and bare.

This picture is a reminder of a beautiful climber that once was.

More about Jacquemontia: Originally from tropical America, this profusely flowering tiny blue flowered climber is easy to maintain. The stem of the creeper is slender and green and the leaves are arranged alternatively. The leaves are small, shiny and heart-shaped with pointed tips. The bell-shaped white-throated ultramarine blue flowers are produced in clusters at the ends for long stalks. The creeper looks gorgeous with its many flowers spread on it after rains and in the cooler season.

Jacquemontia pentantha bears flowers in all seasons. The growth is moderate and hence it looks neat. And if the creeper grows out of control, it can be easily and lightly trimmed. Flowers appear on new branches. Jacquemontia pentantha is propagated through seeds, cuttings and by layering. Remove dried stems to enable fresh growth.

It is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. Being a hardy plant it does not demand too much attention. It grows in manured soil of any type. The plant needs moderate watering and requires full sun or partial shade. Given proper support, it can be easily grown on fences and balconies.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Celebrating the first flowering of the Jade Vine at Native Place, Kamshet

The Emerald jade vine - Strongylodon Macrobotrys was sourced by Hari and planted by the pergola facing the lake in January 2006. We stumbled across it while searching for Mucuna Bennetti another grand tropical vine.

Once planted I imagined how it would look to have these foot and a half long huge hanging clusters bearing their bluish green claw shaped flowers hanging through the pergola roof.

Two years down the line it has consented to put on a show of flowers for us and to finally see it in bloom is a spectacular, amazing and most satisfying sight.

Native to the Philippines, the Jade Vine is a climbing plant that scrambles up though the tropical forest canopy to reach the light. Sadly, extensive deforestation has meant that this stunning plant is now threatened in its natural habitat, as vast swathes of the tropical forest are cleared for agriculture or felled for timber

Thunbergia Mysorensis – Clock vine

I first came across this plant while gardening online i.e. surfing through nurseries and info banks across the world. The flowers were spectacular. No wonder it was mentioned as one of the most popular vines in the world. Now with a name like Mysorensis I had a clue as to where to start looking for it in India.

I sent the link to my architect Suchitra Sholapurker who is based in Bangalore – we are in the habit of making wish lists of plants and especially climbers for different areas in the garden. She wrote back saying it was the very same climber she had described to me on a previous visit, but had been unaware of its name.

So come December 2006 she brought me 2 little plants from Mysore in south India. WE planted both of them by the pergola outside the 2 lake front rooms and hoped they would not steal the thunder of the wonderful Thunbergia Alba also growing here. They have been fussy growers and barely reached the top of the pergola after a lot of coaxing and care. Finally in a rare show of appreciation for all the tending and attention one plant flowered in the 2nd week of November bringing joy and gratitude to our hearts.

The Thunbergia Mysorensis is a vine originating from India. There are close to 100 species of Thunbergia in tropical Africa and India. Some are shrubs, some are vines. The flowers hang from the vine in clusters that can reach several feet Excellent for arbors or trained along roof supports where hanging clusters of spectacular flowers may be admired at eye level.

Astrid Rao