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Notes from Garden and Life

  • Writer's picturesubhashini

Time Pause

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

When the lockdown happened in March this year, our world shrunk to within our

four walls. We were confined to our homes juggling between mounting

chores and work. Our living room morphed into an office, a classroom, and a play

area. While the internet was our virtual window to

stay connected with work and family, the freshly dusted home windows

opened to a vibrant scene. Copper pods, Gulmohar, Amaltas, Pongamia,

and other flowers were setting the sky ablaze with a riot of

colours. Cities that were noisy with vehicles were now teeming with the

songs of birds. A pollution-free air uncovered the mountains. The sky

sparkled a fresh blue. It was like nature had used a sharpening tool

to brighten the world. People identified Sunbirds, Bulbuls, Mynahs,

Sparrows, and Barbets in their neighbourhood. Even the ubiquitous crow

got noticed. Regardless of the lockdown and people at home, the

pigeons continued to lay eggs in flower pots. A small amount of

leisure that was lacking in normal life got created.

As a poet once said, people had finally found the time to stand and stare.

The most important skill any lover of nature should possess is observation.

Observation informs us and many a time surprises us.

There are a pair of rain trees in my neighbourhood which are a storehouse of fascinating stories.

They sport pink powder-puff flowers in summer and are also

called the five o'clock tree, for they close their leaves at

sunset. In the winter months of December and January, they shed their

leaves. When the Spring season begins, fresh foliage starts to

sprout. Flowers and seedpods seem to appear simultaneously. Parakeets

flock to eat the ripened pods, competing with the squirrels that are devouring them.

If the flowers had just bloomed, where then did the

seedpods appear from? I pondered. I was baffled. The resolution of

this mystery was more interesting than I had thought. The

flowers that bloomed the previous year, became seedpods eight months

later! So I was looking at fresh flowers, but the seedpods were from the

flowers of the previous year. What a marvel of nature!

Another quality of the rain tree is its sensitivity to close its

leaves when it rains. This allows rain to flow effortlessly down the

crown and reach the ground. The day after, the leaves open up preventing

sunlight from reaching the ground. This in turn slows down the

moisture from evaporating, making the area beneath the canopy

cool. For this reason, it is a preferred tree in parks, avenues and

school grounds.

Nature around us is forever trying to heal with its greenery. All that

we need to learn is slow down a bit and immerse in its serenity. A

walk in the park under the cover of trees relieves the pressures and

tension of daily life. In the 1980s, the Japanese started a practice

called Shinrin-Yoku, which meant “Forest-Bathing.” It is not

difficult to bathe our homes with some greenery. All it takes is a few

plants to convert a dull corner into a colourful one. It can be herbs

that you might want for the kitchen, a few succulents on the window

sill, house plants to add jazz to the living room or vines that will

sport colourful flowers in the balcony. The right type of plants and

flowers will invite bees and birds for a visit. The songs of nature

will surround you. This is the simplest way to practice Shinrin-Yoku.

Gardening is a peaceful activity that helps us relax. Once we get

accustomed to it and start spending time with our green friends, the

quality of our life will improve. “Motley Garden” is a series that

encourages you to grow a garden. People shy away from it thinking it is too difficult, a chore, and an onerous responsibility. It is not.

Instead, you will find it a joyous experience that heals the body and


In the coming months, we will talk more about plants and flowers. But

the first skill to learn is to observe. Do you have Rain trees too?

If not, what are the trees in your neighborhood?

Until next time,

Cheers from Flowers.


This article first appeared in DeccanHerald, under Motley Garden,

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Just because a tree doesn't bloom all year long, it doesn't mean it is silent.


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