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My alluring garden - my love, my place of escape, my abode for solace, introspection, rejuvenation

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body but the soul – Alfred Austin

Gardening, is one of my favorite hobbies and my garden is truly my go to place for my morning walks, to stay connected with Mother Nature, to rejuvenate my body and soul and to show-off to my friends and family during their visits to my home. Growing up at Salem (my hometown) in Tamil Nadu, India I had watched my mom’s eyes illuminate at the sights of any variety of roses, her heart laden with immense love for scented flowers such as various types of jasmine, her curiosity around colorful annuals, perennials and crotons, her dedication to raise and maintain home gardens in all the homes that we lived in as a family through my growing up years. Much of my mom’s interest in gardening was credited to her parents (my maternal grandparents) who had a sprawling rose garden around their mansion in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India during my mom’s growing up years. Hence this passion/hobby was diligently passed on through at least a couple of generations. My mom and her love for plants and Nature are evident below.

My mom was well-known for her passionate love for gardening in our extended families, and following in her foot-steps is my older sister who brainstormed ideas with my mom when they were both developing our new garden around our new home that my parents first owned in late nineties. All these times, I was only a passive observer with occasional help extended to picking flowers and tying garlands with the same which we then wore on our braids (young girls and adult women wearing such flower garlands on their braids/pony tails/short hair is a cultural aspect in South India) which is closer to my heart that I have deeply missed since my immigration to the US.

Fragrant jasmine garlands - a representative collage from the internet

Home grown jasmine garland
Awww - this is a small jasmine garland from the jasmine plant in my home garden

Years later after immigration to the US, and after moving into a property that came with a generous space to garden, gardening bug inside me was revealed. I realized then that among the many genetic traits I had inherited from my mom, gardening was definitely one of them – an epiphany moment…….hooray! I was a graduate student in 2010 when I first started gardening in the US, this new found hobby was a positive stress buster at that time. As a novice gardener I realized that the plants I had planted responded in direct proportion to my care, attention and love towards them and their needs. When I inadvertently ignored them, they died and that was a heartbreak to the novice gardener in me. I learned that vegetables such as Tomatoes would wither really quickly in the summer heat if I did not give them the water they needed on a daily basis, Marigolds were natural pest controls for Tomatoes; Roses and Camelias needed a year to get established for copious yields; Day lilies needed almost a couple of years for profound yields; and perennials were a better choice for flower beds for consistent and continuous growth year after year without having to replant after every winter; flower bulbs such as Tulips and Daffodils needed a cold weather incubation before they begin to bloom towards the tail end of winter season.

Even after a couple of moves into different properties, gardening continues to be my constant companion, one of the hobbies that has been by my side through thick and thin of my life. Myriad of daffodils are always the first signs of life in my flower beds following a dormant 4.5 months of winter. In my perspective daffodils symbolize hope and optimism after a dormant and dark winter, a metaphor indicating that bright times in life follow suit dark and challenging times and change is the only permanence. These easy to grow, proliferating, minimal maintenance bulbs are must haves in our flowerbeds, a harbinger that spring season is just around the corner.

Tulips are my other regulars during the spring season. Spectacular variety of colors and flower shapes/sizes are my weaknesses to these fascinating bulbs that has made me to buy these bulbs every fall for planting. They are best observed in crowds in garden beds, however due to the space limitations in my garden beds I grow these bulbs in containers.

Theoretically and as per a few YouTube videos, after the growing season tulip bulbs need a little more care and attention such as retrieval from the dirt, cleaning and preserving them in moderately colder places like a garage to successfully regrow them the following year. I have tried this a couple of times and wasn’t successful in reviving growth from the same bulb the following year. I have learned through this experience that tulips are not an easy maintenance like daffodils, hence I buy these bulbs from the nursery every fall for the spring blooms.

Clematis is a hardy climbing perennial with beautiful flowers at the dawn of spring, an easy maintenance climber that is popular for growing around the mail boxes, pillars in the porch and patios. Doesn’t yield copious blooms in the summer because it doesn’t do well in the southern summer heat, but blooms better in the fall before going dormant in the winter.

Large lovely blooms of light violet Clematis - please know that this is a close up picture of the blooms which elicits a giant look.

Like my mom, I am magnetically drawn to any type and color of Rosesdwarfs, low spreaders, genetically modified double knockouts, non-genetically modified, climbers, tree roses, etc. And my flower beds are a living proof of the same. From a tall growing multi-layered large white rose through coral drift, pink drift, petite red knockout, orange, yellow, pink David Austin, deep purple, roses are a galore in my flower beds around my house, a sight to wake up for every morning and be immensely grateful for the joy and fulfillment it brings to my senses. Roses flourish in spring and fall while becoming an annual victim to the feisty Japanese beetles which devour the roses in summer months. Neem oil spray sometimes deter these beetles away from the roses, but most times the relentless beetles win the battle regardless of the different insecticides used to minimize their ravage on my roses. As the rose plants are resilient, they survive the rough summer months and yield beautiful growths in the fall followed by dormancy between late December through early April. First sights of roses are witnessed around early-mid April.

Hibiscus luna, is my all-time favorite perennial that continues to be one of the show stoppers in my garden beds with its numerous giant eye-catching colorful flowers. In my current garden bed, Hibiscus luna are giant magenta-colored flowers, and as this plant continues to grow wider it dominates the flower bed in spite of its neighboring tall white Rose plant and low spreading roses. This burgeoning plant is a giver more than a taker because of its easy maintenance. In summer 2022, I added Blue Chiffon Hibiscus, a perennial and a close relative of Hibiscus luna to my flower bed and needless to say its bluish violet silky blooms competed with the Hibiscus luna for attention.

Dahlias are majestic perennials that bloom from late summer through the beginning of first frost. My collection of Dahlias is from the local nursery and a few from the Swan Island Dahlias Swan Island Dahlias in Oregon (OR) – a small backstory to this follows. My liking and awareness for dahlias grew when I visited the Dahlias festival in Swan Island Dahlias in August 2014 along with my friend and her family who live in Portland, OR. I have ordered a few dahlia bulbs from Swan Island since then and have had about 70% success rate in growing giant blooms from the purchased bulbs. While it is fairly easy to revive growth from these bulbs year after year, it is not as consistent as the other perennials such as roses, hibiscus and day lilies. Those who have a liking for dahlias and have the space to grow these, definitely check out Swan Island Dahlias as they have a large collection of this beauty.

Dahlia grown from a bulb purchased from Swan Island Dahlias

Canna lilies, Cone flowers, Day lilies, Gardenias and Hydrangea are some of the other perennials in my flower beds. I have had challenges growing gardenias in my current garden, its pure white medium sized blooms with sweet jasmine like fragrance entices me to this plant despite continued lack of success of profound blooms from my Gardenias collection. Growing Canna lilies, Day lilies, Cone flowers and Hydrangea have been a smooth ride so far, and they add immense value to my flower beds by their captivating colorful blooms.

In my collection are a couple of Camelias (pink and red Camelias with yellow centers) that have been fairly easy to deal with. A year after they were planted, these Camelias popped up with gorgeous blooms in the fall. My favorite is the red Camelia with its contrasting yellow center. Camelias are a good choice for the early winter blooms when rest of the perennials goes into dormancy due to cold weather.

Begonias, Marigolds, Zinnias are some of the easy to grow annuals I have used over the years and they have hardly failed my expectations. Begonias and Marigolds are longer lasting from April through first frost and are pretty container fillers. (insert pic)

Finally, a little mention of my home-grown vegetables/fruits/herbs. Here we go……tomatoes of various kinds, peppers (Jalapeno, habanero, Thai chilies, bell peppers), Italian eggplants, okras, cucumbers, mint, rosemary, basil, strawberries are some of the home-grown produces I have tried and successfully grown over the years. Carrots, garlic and ginger were recent trials in 2022 and the yield was just ok. Garlic is supposedly an easy bulb to grow with a really long growing period of 7-8 months from the time the garlic cloves go in the soil in the fall. Note that garlic growth needs cold exposure during the winter months, so please sow the cloves in the soil in November if you live in the South East states of the US. The starter cloves must be healthy and large to yield larger bulbs, the size of the cloves is directly proportional to the size of the garlic bulbs harvested at the end of the growing season. When the garlic leaves begin to dry out and wither after 7+ months of sowing the cloves, it is an indication that the garlic bulbs are ready to be pulled out from the ground or to simply put they are ready to be harvested.

Most of my produce such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. were bought as baby plants from a nursery outlet. Copious amounts of a mix of compost (such as cow manure) and garden soil are essential for growing produce because clayey soil as in GA lack all the essential nutrients required for growth of plants.

Not to forget, feeding these plants with organic fertilizers every 3-4 months during the growing season + consistent watering + sunlight + a TON of LOVE and CARE and ATTENTION are the basics for a flourishing garden.

If you have read and stayed through the end of this blog post, my heartfelt thanks to your patience and interest for having read this post in its entirety. March is the month of the International Women’s Day and by publishing this post at the tail end of this month I extend the innate qualities of a woman such as nurturing, creating, caretaking, loving, giving, kindness, perseverance to my thriving garden. I conclude this post with a few images of my indoor beauties – Amaryllis (Holidays bulb) , Ponsettia and crotons. To my fellow gardeners, have a flourishing 2023 growing season and I would love to connect with you through our gardening journeys! Stay blessed my beautiful blog readers!



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