More Columns From This Author

January 21, 2015

As I began preparing this column a week or so back, we were treated to our share of wintry weather precipitation, which really is not very uncommon for this time of the year; with sleet falling since wee hours of the morning and continuing for a good part of the day including the following night

January 7, 2015

So as to take advantage of one of those pleasant sunny days we recently had, just as I stepped in the yard to shake the listless feeling I was having from a stubborn cold, little did I know what a delightful treat I was in for when, merely out of impulse, I glanced at our hellebores patch

December 17, 2014

Though not as commonly grown as some other ornamentals, a pomegranate — whether a shrub or small tree as the case may be — is, I think, one of the most showy edible landscaping plants to have in a garden: spectacular orange-red flowers are borne during bloom season

December 10, 2014

Whereas every so often I wish we had grown more evergreens including cone-bearing ones some forty years back when we bought the property we presently live at, nevertheless I am thankful for whatever we did plant and that quite a few have survived despite

November 19, 2014

The day of the event, as announced in the flyer, was Thursday, November 6, 2014 – rain or shine – and the venue, which really shouldn’t be a surprise, was Randolph Farm at VSU; so, unless an unexpected situation arose, I was all set to attend the mini conference I had been waiting for all summer long for it to happen.

October 23, 2014

Each season, with little doubt, always has something special to offer. So does fall: with summer heat behind us, it is a time to enjoy, to make the most of. Though short, days are delightfully crisp, especially when the sun is out, making one want to be outdoors

October 9, 2014

Tucked in an obscure corner, near the 40-some-year old English Boxwoods which line the front foundation of our home, we have a magical patch. I think of it as magical because, while bare in summer, but just when fall arrives, as if on cue

September 30, 2014

A while back – perhaps a good while back – I noticed a shrub, fairly large in size, growing in an area adjacent to the building of our post office along with some other vegetation. And, every time I parked the car on a small street, which I still find as a convenient place to park to access the post office

September 11, 2014

Just as spring fever was at its peak this growing season, when I mentioned to our son, who likes to grow hot peppers on the deck of his DC home, that I have purchased one called Ghost Pepper, basically because I liked the looks of the plant, his immediate response was that in case I didn’t know, it is the hottest pepper on earth.

August 29, 2014

For as long as I can remember, of all the volunteer plants I have come across in our garden, few have surprised me more than that of flowering annual, Datura, I accidentally found this summer, basically because of two reasons

July 30, 2014

Although I am not a commercial vegetable or berry grower, I rarely miss the opportunity of attending events held at the Randolph Farm of Virginia State University, which explains why the pouring rain and thunderstorm prediction on July 24, the day of the 2014 Commercial Vegetable and

July 16, 2014

Whereas fads come and go, edible landscaping is by no means a fad, rather here to stay, as more and more gardeners are getting on the edible landscaping bandwagon. Besides, it makes sense to have a garden not just for aesthetic reasons, but to let the plants play a dual role

July 3, 2014

Whereas each plant in our garden feels special to me, I cannot stop myself from raving about the Variegated Solomon’s Seal, one of the perennials I got on impulse a while back with little knowledge about it

June 17, 2014

Though we do it at rather a conservative scale, when it comes to growing vegetables during summer, I am invariably tempted to try a new item or two, therefore I wish we had more space to play with.

June 4, 2014

As defined in my old, perhaps outdated-by-now copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, a volunteer can be “ A person who renders aid, performs a service, or assumes an obligation voluntarily” or “A cultivated plant growing from self-sown or accidentally dropped seed.”

May 21, 2014

Now that another gardening season is in full gear, so is the frequency of making trips to garden centers, and while I hate to admit, for me it is at times not to miss the fun.

May 7, 2014

Contrary to my usual gentle way of working in the garden, this past fall I got tough. The reason is that some plants had grown out of control, literally, such as the dwarf Deutzia “Nikko” we have.

April 23, 2014

I have a passion for plants with fragrant flowers; perhaps it goes back to my earlier days in our family home in New Delhi where, in the modest but well-kept garden, sweet smelling flowers could always be found.

April 16, 2014

At last, spring, it seems like it’s here to stay. While the daffodils in the yard across the street from us have been blooming for some time, ours took a little longer, but every bit worth the wait; the maple trees are now gradually breaking dormancy, clusters of iris leaves showing up in all kinds

March 26, 2014

Tucked in the corner of a small court yard style garden on one side of our home is a Japanese camellia which has had a tough, bumpy ride: Before it finally found home in the partially shaded spot last spring, it was left in a container way too small for the size of the plant, partially due to procrastination on my part.

March 12, 2014

Now that spring is almost here, most of us find ourselves making frequent trips to garden centers, whether to browse, buy or just be on the bandwagon. In all fairness, I think we deserve the pleasure after being cooped up inside during winter months, especially this winter which doesn’t seem to want to go away.

February 26, 2014

Though a tad bit early, the recent relatively mild temperatures have put some of us in the “think spring” mode. True, it might be a wishful feeling, but wishful or not, signs of spring are indeed in the air now

February 12, 2014

Unlike in the past, our mailbox is not jammed with catalogs from gardening mail-order companies nowadays; earlier, in my younger days, when I used to garden tirelessly, holiday season would barely be over when catalogs from various sources started showing up in the mail.

January 29, 2014

When it comes to being a “regular outside gardener,” I am indeed thankful to have learned a trick or two as years have gone by. Not that everything I grow lives or flourishes.

January 15, 2014

Ever since I planted my first Lenten Rose over a decade and a half ago, Hellebores have been one of my favorite winter blooming plants; so much so, that I have written about them several times in the past because I can’t seem to get enough.

December 18, 2013

For making wreaths to outdoor decorations to table top arrangements, evergreens, with little doubt, provide the most generously used live material – especially during the holiday season; it is no surprise, therefore, that garden centers sell fresh cut greens at this time of the year and that garden clubs organize “greens sale” as one of their projects.

December 4, 2013

Camellias are, indeed, very versatile additions to any garden, for just as cold weather arrives, the great majority of flowering plants become dormant, but not the camellias; from early fall to the middle of winter, depending upon the species, these evergreen shrubs come to life by setting spectacular blooms so much so that it is not easy for a gardener to stop at growing just one in the garden.

November 20, 2013

Prior to acquiring a potted plant about three winters back, whenever I saw a fruiting winterberry, I would drool over the bare woody branches studded with bright red berries and wished I had one growing in our yard where I could see it all the time, and also harvest some branches to bring inside for decorating purposes.

October 23, 2013

Weather, nowadays, is typical of fall: cool and crisp. Leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are beginning to show their spectacular colors before they eventually drop. Fall, with little doubt, is the time to plant, too, therefore the urge to visit garden centers rises after the brief hiatus at the tail end of summer.

October 9, 2013

Whereas the beginning and the present experience have turned out to be beyond expectation in our very first attempt to grow vegetables in raised beds, the events that took place in the middle, though now behind us, caused us a fair amount of heartache.

September 25, 2013

A good while back, when I attended a gardening seminar where one of the noted speakers was Mr. Brent Heath, a well-known authority on bulbs, I remember wanting to plant one of everything he highlighted. Back then, even though I had a lot more energy, realistically, of course, I couldn’t.

September 11, 2013

Whereas hostas are grown primarily for their spectacular foliage, I always look forward to the blooms which are usually set in early summer. Now, while most of the hostas in the neighborhood seem to be getting ready to rest until next spring

August 28, 2013

As summer comes to an end, the flowering annuals and perennials give us a signal that it is time for them to retire for the season. They do, however, leave a legacy behind: The seeds.

August 14, 2013

Almost four decades back, when we moved in the home we currently live in, the lot was practically bare. Moreover, the soil didn’t look very vegetation-friendly. So, we did two things once we got settled: got a load of top soil and planted trees, fruit trees in particular. And, a fig tree was one of them.

July 31, 2013

Whether purchased from a one-table produce stand or a conventional Farmers Market, fresh produce is one of summer’s greatest gifts. And, as more and more people are now becoming aware of the freshness and flavor of vegetables, berries, etc. obtained from a Farmers Markets

July 17, 2013

Heard the expression “crepe murder” made in reference to crepe myrtles? In case you haven’t, the cruel and at the same time sarcastic insinuation is made when crepe myrtles are pruned to bare limbs making them look like smooth, shiny stumps.

July 3, 2013

Being a gardener is not easy. So many choices, but at times there’s not enough space in the garden. For instance: a gardener might have always longed to grow a particular sun-loving plant; however, upon looking around in the garden, cannot seem to find the right spot.

June 19, 2013

A few summers back, when I saw a low-growing perennial in a friend’s front yard covered with dainty flowers in the most delicate shade of yellow, one of the first things I did upon returning home was to find the identity with the intent of obtaining a plant to add to our perennial garden.

June 5, 2013

Being nurturers by nature, one of the first reactions most gardeners have upon seeing a plant in distress, is to smother it with love by providing either water or fertilizer or both.

May 22, 2013

Now that I can blame my senior years for forgetting things, I think it seems befitting for me to say that as far back as I can remember, I have wanted to have raised beds in our garden to grow vegetables, flowers or whatever the heart so desire...

May 8, 2013

Now that spring is here to stay, the excitement and frequency of making trips to garden centers is rising exponentially, making temptations difficult to resist; so, while easier said than done, it makes sense to assess the available space, soil and light conditions, and microclimate of different areas of the garden before yielding to temptation.

April 24, 2013

Looking for a shrub which just as spring arrives bears the most unusual flowers not only in color but form as well and smell sweet, too? Then look no further, for the Sweetshrub, Calycanthus floridus, also know as Carolina Allspice is the one for you.

March 27, 2013

Towards the tail end of February, just as we begin to get restless and wish the old man winter will go away, flowers of early spring-blooming bulbs make their appearance giving us a sigh of relief.

March 13, 2013

First day of spring is just around the corner now. Even though it is still cold, we can look forward to nice, sunny days comfortable enough to step in the garden, do some tasks such as cleaning, preparing beds, planning etc.

February 27, 2013

Although I found this year’s flower and home show held annually in Richmond somewhat disappointing because of absence of several of my favorite gardening vendors, it did get me excited in the anticipation of spring.

February 13, 2013

On a cold, dreary day, few things seem more uplifting than bundling up and making an effort to step in the garden; and, while most of the vegetation is asleep or barely coming out of dormancy, I can find cheery blooms of crocus popping up at all sorts of unexpected places, a sure fix for the winter doldrums.

January 30, 2013

Being a gardener and a worrywart puts me at a distinct disadvantage. I get concerned for just about everything: a plant showing poor growth, leaves yellowing, curling or falling, and other problems houseplants tend to have.

January 16, 2013

Just the other day, as I was getting some dried Goji berries out to add to the breakfast cereal, it occurred to me how very versatile berries are: whereas summer berries like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are a treat for our palate and good for health too, fall and winter berries, with little doubt, are a feast for the eyes which we look forward to all year long.

January 2, 2013

January, as I understand from my copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, is the month of the ancient Roman god Janus who is depicted as looking in opposite directions. While not entirely a relevant analogy, it is interesting to note that each January, we do look ahead by making resolutions, but look back too, so as to continue the good work and avoid making mistakes made earlier.

December 19, 2012

For the special December meeting of the garden club I belong to, we met at a local garden center to hear one of the associates give pointers on taking care of holiday plants – a very season-appropriate topic indeed. And, while not a surprise, she started with a poinsettia, referring to the plant as the ‘Queen of Holiday Plants”.

December 5, 2012

A pomegranate shrub or a tree, as the case may be, I think is one of the most showy edible landscaping additions in a garden: the bright orange-red blooms that plants bear are spectacular, the foliage turns a pretty yellow in fall, and the mature fruit, aside from the exotic taste and health benefits, is so perfectly shaped that it can easily be mistaken for being not real.

November 25, 2012

The mild sunny days we recently had were truly a treat, much too pretty to stay indoors. For a gardener, being outdoors generally means catching up with yard work which, fortunately, is almost like second nature for most of us. Besides, even though the busiest gardening season is over, there are plenty of chores that need to be done in the fall.

November 7, 2012

As I began preparing this column, Sandy, the monstrous storm, was looming upon us, threatening to hit any time, bringing along torrential rain, strong winds, and the worst feared outcome – power outage.

October 10, 2012

The season, as I am preparing this column, is beginning to feel like autumn; days are getting shorter, leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs are starting to lose their green color, thus heading towards flaunting fall hues, mums are loaded with flower-buds, some already opened

September 26, 2012

We have a small “tropical jungle” in a cozy nook of our side yard: It houses a large clump of the perennial white ginger lily, potted oleander and jasmine plants, and, growing in a container, a plumeria, the focal point of the area, that looks like a small but interesting tree.

August 29, 2012

Whereas hostas are grown primarily for their spectacular foliage, I look forward to the blooms that are usually set in early summer; and, even though the ones growing in our garden are late bloomers, it is worth the wait, for just as the foliage begins to show signs of summer heat distress, tall but strong stalks rise from the clumps, each topped with whorls of huge flower buds.

August 15, 2012

Summer, at times, feels like a time of mixed feelings: though there is a definite sense of relief that all the planting is over with, I certainly miss the trips made earlier to various garden centers looking for the perfect plants to grow during the season.

August 3, 2012

Just about every morning, when I step outside all geared to catch up some routine yard work – watering, cleaning, aerating or weeding – or just to piddle around,

July 18, 2012

Some time back one winter, while browsing through the catalog of a mail-order nursery, a picture of Black-eyed Susan vine growing on an arbor, in full bloom, caught my eyes; right then and there, I decided on growing one as soon as spring arrived.

July 5, 2012

According to my old dog-eared, perhaps by now outdated copy of the American Heritage Dictionary, two of the definitions given of a volunteer are: “a person who renders aid, performs a service or assumes an obligation voluntarily,” and, “ a cultivated plant growing from self-sown or accidentally dropped seed.”

June 20, 2012

Although, true in general, these days, I find working in the garden exceptionally calming, perhaps because some of our trees and shrubs that bear fragrance-bearing flowers are in full bloom.

June 6, 2012

Being nurturers by nature, one of the first reactions most gardeners have upon seeing a plant in distress, is to smother it with love in the form of either water or fertilizer or both; but unfortunately, such acts of kindness are not always what the ailing plant needs.

May 23, 2012

Upon seeing me drooling over the display of Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, the 2012 Perennial Plant of the Year, at our local garden center, a senior associate casually asked me if I had a shade garden, to her chuckle, I replied instinctively “ I will find some”.

May 9, 2012

As soon as I got the e-mail about the sale, I circled the date, Friday, April 20, in red on my calendar. A first-timer to attend such a sale, I was excited like a child. In fact, my family members could tell how important this day apparently was to me as I kept mentioning it at any given chance.

April 25, 2012

Although I have to admit I haven’t done it yet, but just about every year, I like to grow the Perennial Plant of the Year selected by the Perennial Plant Association. As a matter of fact, as soon as I find out what the selection is, I start making mental plans about adding one in our garden, while looking for an appropriate planting location too.

April 13, 2012

Spring, the time of the year we eagerly wait for is here, not just on the calendar, but in the garden as well. As the camellias are completing the bloom cycle for the season, flowering trees and shrubs have burst into color, in particular the dogwoods and the azaleas.

March 28, 2012

After returning from a recent overseas trip, when on an unseasonable warm day, a record warm day to be exact, I eagerly stepped outside to check the garden. I was, first and foremost, greeted by zillions of weeds thriving everywhere, making me want to close my eyes with the hope that they will all go away on their own, which I know is not going to happen.

March 14, 2012

A while back when a fellow gardener called to ask the significance of Latin names of plants, I found myself fumbling for an answer even though Botany was my major in college.

February 29, 2012

Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I am so fond of the winter Daphne that it is one of the few plants I do not intend to give up on; in fact, the one blooming at present in our garden is actually my fourth attempt in the last ten years or so, in trying to raise a specimen which will maintain its beauty and vigor, thus becoming a long term asset.

February 15, 2012

Though not a total surprise due to the unseasonably warm weather we have been having lately, in addition to their tendency to flower during the bleakness of winter, it is always such a delight to see spring crocuses come to bloom.

February 1, 2012

On a recent, relatively mild afternoon, as I stepped into the back yard to gather some camellia flowers for an arrangement, I literally squealed with delight when I casually glanced at the clump of our hellebore, Lenten Rose to be specific, growing in the vicinity.

January 18, 2012

When, more than one of the dinner guests we recently had, commented, as to how healthy the potted plant kept on the kitchen floor looked, it suddenly dawned on me, that I have achieved something I earlier couldn’t: keep a houseplant alive and well!

January 4, 2012

January, as I have learned from the American Heritage Dictionary, is the month of the ancient Roman god Janus who is depicted as looking in opposite directions. While not exactly a relevant analogy, it is interesting to note that each January we look ahead by making resolutions but look back as well.

December 21, 2011

Unlike most fruits, pomegranates make AN appearance on a grocer’s produce shelves for a short period only, thus making us crave for them even more; ask anyone who has had the pleasure of consuming one, and be prepared to hear what an adventure it is to reach the edible part and how unique the taste is.

December 7, 2011

Just as another gardening season has come to an end and left us a little lost, the time to make holiday wreaths and decorations is here. The cue for me to get into wreath-making mode, this season, was our visit to Colonial Williamsburg on the gorgeous Saturday following Thanksgiving Day.

November 23, 2011

As cold weather approaches, a great portion of plants in the garden become either leafless or completely dormant; but not the camellias. In fact, these striking evergreens come to life by putting forth blooms from early fall through mid-winter, depending upon the kind grown.

November 9, 2011

Whereas the summer berries –blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and others – are a treat for our palate, fall and winter berries are a feast for the eyes as well, or even to have fun with.

October 26, 2011

While still dawn on one of those warm mornings we sometimes experience in early October, when I opened a window facing our back yard, a cloud of an intoxicating scent caught me off-guard completely: tucked with the other container-grown plants sitting on the patio, the potted night-blooming jasmine was in full bloom.

October 12, 2011

Tucked near the 30-some-year-old boxwoods in our front yard, we have a forgotten magical patch. Not only is it forgotten, but neglected too; because, over the course of time, the area has been walked upon to the extent that, except for some weeds, it generally stays bare, and just recently, has had clay dirt piled all around when a portion of the bed was dug due to a plumbing problem.

September 28, 2011

As summer comes to an end, the flowering annuals and perennials give us a signal that it is time for them to retire for the season. They do, however, leave a legacy behind: The seeds.

September 14, 2011

Now that fall, the season to plant, is almost here, just about all of us are eager to visit garden centers, either simply to browse or look for specific shrubs, trees, or perennials to add to the landscape.

September 7, 2011

Even though the two large hostas growing in our garden are not doing as well as they used to, partly due to age and partly due to neglect, it is worth the wait to see them come to bloom. Just as the leaves, which are magnificent in spring, start to peter-out because of summer heat, tall but strong stalks rise from the clumps, each topped with whorls of huge flower buds.

August 17, 2011

Although this summer so far has not been as challenging as summers can be, August always tends to test a gardener’s patience; by now we are worn out from removing weeds, making sure the annuals and perennials are tidy, and of course, keeping everything watered in the absence of a decent rain.

August 3, 2011

Recently, as I was showing the garden to our daughter and son-in-law who were visiting us from DC for the day, the interesting subject of volunteer plants came up when they asked the name of a pretty plant in full bloom.

July 20, 2011

Containers, I think, play quite an important role in a gardener’s life. As we look for unique ways to grow plants, container gardening is a great way to do it. And, not only can containers create a “movable” garden such as on a patio or a balcony, they also allow us to have color and texture at places where the soil is difficult to work with.

July 6, 2011

With the popularity of specialty produce substantially on the rise, it’s not uncommon to come across fruits and vegetables – either at farmers markets or at super markets – that seem unfamiliar or at times even intriguing.

June 22, 2011

The Bee Balm we planted a few years back is truly a survivor. Since the site where the plant was initially grown was not marked properly as it should have been, I forgot its existence and disturbed the entire area last fall while digging a hole for an encore azalea.

June 8, 2011

Our Variegated Solomon’s Seal patch that began from a plant that had barely one branch at the time is now immense and is even trying to crawl under the fence to nearby areas.

May 25, 2011

Each spring, right when the last expected frost date passes and it is safe to plant tender plants outside, I invariably have to remind myself to keep the craving for annuals under control.

May 11, 2011

Named aptly because of their ability to cover bare ground, groundcovers are very versatile plants. Quite a few are low-growing, and multiply fairly rapidly to form a dense mat, not only enhancing the beauty of the garden but also discourages weeds from invading.

April 27, 2011

If you like blue, especially sky blue, then Amsonia hubrichtii is the one for you. Named the “2011 Perennial Plant of the Year,” this not-so-commonly known perennial, bearing other names such as Arkansas Blue Star or Arkansas amsonia, is sure to win the heart of gardeners once they get to know it.

April 14, 2011

With gardening season now in full swing, we come across terms in conversation or in articles written in horticulture-related publications that at times leave us a little baffled; for instance, did you know that the word “sport” might not necessarily mean football, soccer or tennis to a gardener, or that “deadheading” does not imply an act as cruel as it sounds?

March 30, 2011

Spring, the season we eagerly wait for, has arrived. Days are now getting longer, birds are chirping, looking for potential nesting sites, and most of all, the early-blooming trees, shrubs and bulbs are at their peak.

March 16, 2011

Our good friends, Jennifer and Jim Bumpas, who live down the street from us are always surprising us with their thoughtful gestures: Jennifer with her delectable baked treats, lovely fresh flowers to perk me up when a stubborn cold refuses to budge, or a plant I’ve always wanted.

March 2, 2011

Although the flower buds of our flowering quince have been slowly swelling for some time, at the first hint of winter thaw a week or so back, when the daytime temperatures became relatively mild, a few of them opened into lovely pink flowers, giving an anticipation that spring is not very far; now, more flower buds are trying to unfold along with abundant green shoots.

February 16, 2011

This past Christmas, as I excitedly began opening a gift shipped on behalf of an out-of-town relative, little did I anticipate the surprise I was in for: While the packing slip indicated a living amaryllis, the huge bulb planted in a 4-inch plastic container looked anything but living.

February 2, 2011

For last several years, my name has been struck off the lists of some of the gardening mail-order companies that used to send me their publications on a regular basis. The reason, I presume, is that I don’t order by mail as much as I did in the past.

January 20, 2011

The year 2010, evidently, was the year I finally acquired some selected holly plants I had been wanting ever since we cut down ours for various reasons. Hollies, as we know, are one of the most versatile, multipurpose landscape plants in any garden.

January 5, 2011

January, as I have learned by looking in the American Heritage Dictionary, is the month of the ancient Roman god Janus, who is depicted as looking in opposite directions.

December 22, 2010

Poinsettias, with little doubt, are one of the favorites among holiday plants, making their grand appearance during December. Therefore, as soon as I learnt about the Poinsettia Open House scheduled for the early part of the month at Virginia State University, I marked the date on my calendar in bold red to make sure not to miss the event, especially since we have the advantage of living fairly close to the campus.