The view from my bedroom window was a good one! The rains had come and gone. The ground was suitably soaked and tiny tufts of new grass sprung up, fiercely and independently through the crevices in the cracked cement. The old frog figure watched myopically as the marigolds bloomed at his feet. Even the burgeoning tomato dared cut across past him towards the herb garden. September’s spring floral feasts had bloomed and still held. There is a trick here, always choose blooms at different stages for their lives, this way, there will always be something to coo over.
In the herb garden, the thyme flourished, he just spread himself across to the now flowering basil. Extracts of thyme were gifted to special people. Wisely, I have saved most of the thyme for the roasted chicken for my birthday this month and the turkey in December. The spring onions reached for his share of the sun and not to be outdone, the frilly lettuce shuffled for some space too. They were loved, watered and content.
Directly in front of the herb planter, the red, yellow and green peppers had begun their growth. I counted 5 yesterday. I am ridiculously pleased about that as they are terribly pricey at the markets. Here, mine are the real deal, honest to goodness healthy and free from pesticides. Just ready for the salad bowl. No wait, first I shall let them preen and bloom into their intended colours.
The double beans have spread again and spilled over into the neighbour’s yard. I can imagine them gleefully waiting for the spoils of my labour, they are keen gardeners themselves.
Sick, deplete and out of action for a week, I had enlisted the assistance of a young Malawi gentleman, Rashid to weed the garden. Best decision I made and an excellent investment. No doubt, he will be brought in again to assist.
The two stalwarts, the Sheena’s Gold (Duranta) had looked tired. However, after the pruning, I could imagine them say to themselves that Rashid’s treatment was as good as a new hairstyle. Happy again, they allow the birds and kitten to take their shade, obviously not at the same time! Meanwhile the Jacaranda tree continued to bless us with her purple blooms, they just fluttered their scent onto the washed floor.
If the Brunfelsia was marvellous in her Spring glory last month, she is absolutely stupendously glorious after the rain. I absorb her fragrance daily before leaving for work, sometimes I just stand there lost in the memories of the gift that came from my Dad.
My garden has many gems in it, some inspired by people who have left and left us from the world. I need this for longevity, remembrance and support for myself. Before Barbara Swanby passed, Shaun let me have bulbs. Some ten years later, they still bloom for me. Once my eye was caught by expansive bougainvilleas and despite the husband’s admonishment, I befriended the distinguished old gentleman and came home with a car full of plants. From him, I gleaned the best methods on pruning my kumkuma, vermillion bougainvilleas. I have travelled that road since and sadly he is no longer there. Since his plants were his passion and given his considerable age, I fear, he has passed. What a beautiful remembrance for a beautiful man.
My tulsi (holy basil) tree will be babied again. I extracted their leaves, packeted and delivered them to my friend Saira, who had the nastiest cough for over three months. All Saira did was wash and wipe their leaves, smear on a bit of honey and gently sucked and chewed on them. Cough over. Marvellous. So the next time, you come across this tree, remember that besides the “protection” it brings to the home, it has definite herbal healing qualities. The tulsi tree, considered an exilir of life, was originally cultivated for religious reason as it plays an important role within the tradition of Hinduism. Devotees perform worship with these leaves. Their leaves, even when dried are fragrant. It is used as a mosquito repellent in Sri Lanka. On your walks next time, look out for an Indian household, they are sure to have this little revered tree foremost in the garden.
Thanks to the rains, the curry leave tree was trying to do outgrow the mango tree. There are only a handful of mangoes this year. Strong September winds chased away their buds and the few that remain are lovingly watched and will be shared with the neighbours again this year. Mangoes are usually cut by Owen (without my permission), with his Dad’s fishing rod and collected into huge bowls. When I return home from work, these bowls are to be attended to. Some to be pickled, some to be peeled and cut into wedges and tossed with curry powder, salt, sugar and a sprinkle of vinegar. Perfect summer treats. Needless to say, Owen never cleans up the broken leaves and twigs. Mangoes are packaged into sixes and Father and Son, Owen walk up the driveway, call out for the neighbours and our fruits are warmly received.
Since the curry leaves are abundant, they will be pruned this Saturday, fashioned into unique bouquets and donated to the street vendors for their own use or even for re-sale. There are lots of smiles exchanged, all are excited to receive this fragrant herb. After all, what is an Indian curry without curry leaves?! I remember that my Naani (grandmother) saying that the roots were used for treating body aches and the bark used as relief for a snake bite.
All the other flowers seem to be happy, the anthuriums reach out to me as I arrive from, pink, fat and happy, their leaves thick and healthy. Nearby the cockatiels chirp their welcome. They are always annoyed that they are unable to nibble at the plants out of their reach. The old water pond has been transformed into a planter and all the greenery there, are lush and aromatic.
The twenty year old Ficus tree is still content in his cement planter. He lost his leaves but they are surfacing. There will be indignity later on. Come Christmas, his trunk will have shiny gold garlands interwoven and his hands will hold sparkling Christmas balls and bits of décor wherever they can be fitted in. The Ficus tolerates my décor. I think he is secretly proud that everyone pauses to admire him before they come through the living room sliding door.
Let me not regurgitate facts that you can easily find on the web. Rather let me tell you my herbs and their secrets that can help us all :
- Mint can help you washout your mouth and leave it clean and fresh smelling. Do not fret if you forgot to buy the toothpaste! Consider making your own mint tea with the leaves from your garden,
- Coriander, commonly known as Dhaniya in the Indian Subcontinent and Cilantro in the America serves not only as a garnish, it treats diarrhea as it has essential oils to aid digestion. It also regulates blood pressure, something I need to remind myself to use when Owen does not do his schoolwork! My late Grand Aunt advised that it treats Conjunctivitis, as it is a very good disinfectant.
- My spring onions, besides being used as garnish, is used in my savoury treat, chilli bites. The golden chilli bites look attractive with their shallot greens, cut coriander and garden chillies. Remember to take the membranes out of the chillies should you decide to make this savoury.
- Nothing is more satisfying than extracting home grown lettuce for the salad, My work colleagues are always thrilled to see my salad, all made from the ingredients fresh out of my garden. Unfortunately, one particular day, despite my careful washing of the frilly coloured lettuce, out crawled a fat, healthy worm from my chicken salad. I was devastated and had to settle for a boring yoghurt instead. I refused to eat even the sensitive basil.
- I relish the thought of having aloe on hand. The plumb juicy goodness is a miracle skin saver. I love sunshine but sunshine affects my sensitive skin. To help yourself, snip off the top of the aloe leaf and squeeze it onto your sunburn. It cools, eases and heals even eczema and psoriasis flare-ups. I have been told that it is also the perfect shaving cream but no, I didn’t try that! Apparently Cleopatra used it to reverse signs of her aging skin and wrinkles. Perhaps, I should make a note for my later years!
- The Camphor plant is also a necessary in my house. Its juice is sucked out of its fleshy leaves and used as a salve.
I revel in the garden. It IS therapy for the soul. Why is it though, that more schools do not remember this and allow garden plots in schools?! That little exercise is another education altogether. Recovery homes do it. Even apartment owners do it. If more people adopted a spot of land or just a dot of land and planted a fruit tree, say an apple tree like the tale of Apple John, remember that? How wonderful would that be?
It is SO easy and absolutely beneficial to grow our own produce. A large plot of land is not necessary. I am certain that the violets on the kitchen window sill will be happy for the company of healthy herbs. Feel a need to talk to someone? Forget the high priced psychologist, talk to the plants. Create outdoor bonding moments with the kids, let them get dirty and connect with Mother Nature.
It is said that to pray, the best way, is to get down on your knees and pray.
I say, to garden, get down on your knees and play.
It IS the best therapy for the mind, body and soul.