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    Volume 9 Issue 24| June 11, 2010|

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Flowers in our Garden

Azizul Jalil

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” -- Iris Murdoch, English author and philosopher

Left: Japanese Cherry tree in our yard. Right: Roses, Climatiis and seasonal flowers.

After the terrible snow storms and blizzards in February this year in Washington and the suburbs, we were wondering how the flowers will be in the spring. To our delight, either due to the moisture retained by the soil or just our good luck the daffodils, forsythias, azaleas, Japanese cherries and cherry magnolias were blooming in great splendor in March and April. This was quite unlike in recent years. And then in May came the Roses and the lovely season flowers like the geraniums, dahlias, begonias, petunias, lilies and impatiens. These are also in high spirits and blooming profusely. Though it is only early June and too early to predict, the insects that usually damage the flowers, particularly the roses, have not been seen yet. It seems we would have a wonderful flowering season.

Our back yard in Bethesda, Maryland has large old trees and shady. Not much can be grown in terms of flowering plants. We have only a few azaleas, forsythias and hydrangeas there and they have done well this year. So what flowering and decorative plants we have are in the front yard-easy to see, enjoy and take care. In fact, I open the front door and stand there many times a day only to see the plants and flowers and the street. We know some gardeners and flower lovers have beautiful large, well-nurtured gardens in Dhaka, of course aided by experienced whole-time malis (gardeners). Admittedly, ours here is a modest affair but it is an affair of the heart with a lot of tender, loving care and commitment. We have some evergreen or perennial plants and beds for seasonal plants and a few climatis. The latter, blue in colour, climb by clinging to anything it can reach nearby. I use green-coloured jute twine and tempt them to catch on- they mostly take the hint. In the dark, cold, gloomy and short days of the never ending winter months, one looks forward longingly to the first days of spring in March when the crocuses, daffodils and tulips start modestly showing their head.

The roses were good and profuse this year. Most varieties bloom only till the first two weeks of June when the temperature gets up to the nineties. Though one may see roses in a few bushes here and there, bulk of the flowers are mostly gone. They come back again in a comparatively diminutive form in September. However, a new variety of rose, strangely called Knockout Roses, has been introduced in the Washington area in the last two years. These are supposed to bloom throughout the summer months and into the fall. I believe the claim as I have seen these do so last year in a house on our road. It is not me alone-there are many homeowners who have planted this variety in large numbers and I have seen these in front of shops, painting the commercial shopping patches with deep red. These rose plants have deep green, lively leaves and the flowers are single petal and rather small. They grow prolifically, which is their beauty and charm.

Hydrangeas and Asiatic Lilis

We have other roses too-like the Peace, which won an award in 1976. My wife obtained it by mail order, those days costing two dollars. We planted it prominently near our front door. Because of its good pedigree, it has borne lovely, fairly large pale pink flowers of many petals for the last thirty-four years, bringing peace to us year after year. We have some yellow and copper-tone roses-these are large, heavy flowers of numerous petals-during rain, they droop easily. The black prince rose bush we planted many years ago has survived but the dark black big rose has deteriorated into a smaller blackish flower but still very distinguished looking. I remember that my mother had one such plant in Eskaton Gardens. In 1964, I took my four-year-old nephew-Altaf, with one black prince rose in his hand to the flower show in the Paltan Maidan. To his great delight, the rose won a prize.

The hydrangeas are now in full bloom in mostly shades of blue but depending on the acidity in the soil, sometimes in a red brick colour. We will have to add some lime in our plants and may be later in the season we will have some reddish hydrangeas. The begonias we bought in the nursery this year are bigger with larger leaves-they came in beautiful dark pink, yellow and heavenly pomegranate colours-often giving the impression of flowers captured in fine bone china or ceramic pottery. The new guinea Impatiens is also much larger this yearwe brought home two of these, called Sonic Lilac, in dark striking purple and salmon colours. In past years, we had good luck with the large, prolific pink and yellow daisies but this year we could find only the smaller variety of daisies of many colours. They are not as pretty. Fortunately, daisies are perennial and two of our last year's survivors of cold and frost are giving us yellow flowers. By the way, we had planted some years ago a new variety of azaleas with maroon and pink flowers and deep green, large soft foliage. These are called Encore-they bloom three times a year with some interval in the spring, summer and fall.

I should also mention the lovely lilies. We have a few of these, about three feet tall with thin, long leaves which produce yellow, mustard and brownish flowers. But last year we planted a few Asiatic lilies. They are short, perennial plants, produce eight or ten large flowers at the same time of unique shape and colour with a faint, sophisticated scent. Some are light pink with a stripe in the middle as on a Zebra's skin- others are solid orange and maroon.

We have no gardener-only an occasional untrained hired help for a day a few times a season. One has to stay in the sun with these workers most of the time giving instructions and constantly supplying tools, soil, fertilizer and water etc. Consequently, most of the work and the maintenance of the plants, fertilizing, weeding and watering are done by us during the rest of the season. Like giving the baby milk at fixed hours, daily watering, particularly of the small seasonal plants, can hardly be neglected. Our eight-year-old grandson, Shezan, watered the plants of his uncle when they were gone on a short holiday and he would not let me help him throughout the thirty minutes it took. To him and even at an advanced stage of our life to us it is a work of love, joy and pleasure. Gardening also gives us enormous personal satisfaction and much needed movement and exercise.


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