MY wife has inherited her love for gardening from her father, who maintained a charming garden at his house at Jabalpur. As a girl in the 1980s, she won many prizes in flower arrangement competitions with her creations of roses, gerberas and chrysanthemums from that garden.
After our marriage, she managed to create green spaces in all the houses, big or small, where we happened to live. Being particular about the care of plants, she prefers that no one touches, waters or moves a plant without her nod. So, while I was in service, I was content to be on the bench, but after retirement, I wanted to participate in her hobby.
The opportunity came when we shifted to our own house at Gandhinagar in 2022. One day, the gardener my wife had employed disappeared inexplicably. She could not find a replacement and it was already April.
So, she let me handle the watering of the garden. That’s when I learnt that watering a garden is actually rocket science. She took pains to explain which plant required how much water and at what interval. But with hundreds of plants of different varieties — including some very sensitive to under/over-watering — the task required some attention. But at the same time, I discovered the joys of watering the garden.
First, it made me wake up at dawn and come out when the air is the freshest, the birds the chirpiest and the grass at its moist best. The hour that one spends in the garden fills one with cheerfulness for the rest of the day. It also gives one light exercise in walking and handling the water pipe and one has the satisfaction of accomplishing something meaningful the first thing in the morning.
When I sprinkle water on the plants, I can feel them responding with freshness. Each morning, one happy surprise or the other awaits me in the garden — a new leaf, bud, flower or tendril of a creeper reaching out to the sky.
Small birds like sunbirds, warblers and white-eyes prefer to drink water from droplets on the leaves of trees and bushes. So, when I shower water upon the bougainvillea or oleander bush, they come out in a group and enjoy a drink and excitedly make a splash.
The garden attracts not only commonly seen birds — jungle babblers, magpie robins, mynas, cuckoos, doves and parakeets — but once in a while relatively less-sighted birds such as the golden oriole, woodpecker, Indian grey hornbill, green pigeon or coppersmith. Tracing them out from the foliage while following their distinctive calls and then capturing them on camera is fun.
The garden is also home to a mongoose family, which comes out in the morning to cavort on the lawn or around the lily pond. And finally, one enjoys the view of the sky bathed in the colours of dawn. The sight of the setting moon, Jupiter or Venus framed in that background is the cherry on the cake.
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