Bold and Beautiful Balcony Beauties

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”

Hans Christian Anderson

I had been noticing the plant for a couple of days that lay abandoned in the common passage area outside my flat. The soil in the flowering pot was hard and dry, devoid of any signs of moisture content. I wondered if it was left behind by the tenant of my neighbouring flat, who had vacated a few days ago. The plant had a strange appearance. There were hardly any leaves, perhaps just 4 or 5. It had a thick stem of about 30 cm. arising from a bulbous and twisted base. I had no clue what plant this was but it’s unusual look attracted me.

This was before the pandemic, more than 2 years back. I got it inside my home, replanted it in a different pot and found a place for it in my balcony. Soon enough the very few leaves of the plant withered away and the stems wore a bare look. I wondered if the plant was about to die. A few days passed and it remained the same, even though I watered it regularly. The thick stem and its bulbous base seemed alive, but I was certain that its days were numbered. I let it be without bothering to give any special care.

More flowers than leaves!

A few weeks passed and one day the leaves reappeared, just three or four. Needless to say, I was very happy. A few months down the line, the plant threw up a huge surprise for me. I noticed tiny buds appearing and there were several of them. Extremely excited and intrigued beyond words, I spent the next few days in patient eagerness. I had no idea this was a flowering plant! I have always had only green plants and succulents in my balcony, which was quite by choice. I always maintained that flowering plants need more maintenance and they look good only when the flowers bloom. Ornamental greens on the other hand are evergreen. An opinion that was about to change.

The first thing I did every morning was observing the buds as they grew and changed every single day. One morning radiant bright pink flowers bloomed in my small plant. And there wasn’t just one, but multiple. Luscious and ravishingly attractive. My elation knew no bounds. Each flower lasted several days, before withering away. The blooming continued profusely for few weeks adding colour to my balcony and joy to my heart. I learnt this was Desert Rose or Adenium obesum.

Right now, my Desert Rose plant has bloomed once again. The resplendent, pink, trumpet-shaped flowers are adding exuberance and profound joy to the monotone called life!

The bud flowers!
Random Tit-Bits About Desert Rose or Adenium obesum
  • It’s not a Rose and has no similarity to the Rose Plant in any way.
  • It is an evergreen xerophytic succulent shrub, native to Africa, the Middle East, and Madagascar.
  • It’s a good candidate for bonsai plants, given the thick succulent trunk, thin and delicate leaves.
  • It typically blooms for several weeks throughout spring and summer.
  • Its flowers may be red, pink, or white. Pink being the most common.
  • Its sap is toxic and if ingested can be lethal but has medicinal properties too.
  • It is a sun-lover and thrives in bright sunshine.
  • The pink flowers symbolize rejuvenation and is associated with peace, happiness, and prosperity.

The Good Old Pumpkin

Remember the pumpkin coach built by Cinderella’s fairy godmother so that she could attend the ball? And, which had turned back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight, to be trampled by the palace horses?

Like many little girls of my time, Cinderella used to be my favourite childhood fairy tale. It was her glass shoes and the pumpkin coach that fascinated me. There was another favourite too, Rapunzel. Her long tresses allured me, and I would dream of having the same long golden plait. That was probably because my thick glossy jet-black hair was trimmed to the shortest, so that it could be easily managed. I can clearly remember the glossy feel of the pages of those childhood books. I have no idea if children today are still fascinated by these fairy tales. I only hear of Doraemon, Shizuka, Nobita, Elsa, Barbie, and so on. These characters never existed during our childhood.

My childhood memories of Cindrella’s carriage was rekindled by a pumpkin – a very special pumpkin. Not the orange-red Cinderella pumpkin but the green one with scattered spots of yellow.

We have a small little kitchen garden in our Shillong home. It’s an extended part of my father’s garden that he tended with a lot of love and care. The kitchen garden boasts of a variety of produce. Some of these are chayotes, beans, colocasia, chilies, lemons, tree tomatoes, corns, and the good old pumpkin. The pumpkin vine happened to be his eternal favourite and he nurtured a special attachment to it. His bias towards the vine and the pumpkins would sometimes reach unreasonable heights. The full-grown pumpkins would never be allowed an immediate entry into the kitchen. They would be safely kept, carefully guarded and shielded on the terrace. They would often be smeared with a dash of lime. Probably to ward off insect attacks – I really don’t know. Never asked him. The pumpkins would grace the kitchen only on special occasions.

When I came home in August, I did notice the yellow flowers of the pumpkin vine. It’s quite a common site during this time of the year and I didn’t pay much attention. One day I spotted a tiny little round ball popping out of a flower. It was way too adorable and impossible to ignore. There on, I would take stock of it every single day and watching it grow was sheer delight. In the meanwhile, several other tiny green rounded baby pumpkins made their appearance, but my eyes remain glued to the first one. I was partial in my love and adulation. And, I think I now understand my father’s over-protective attitude towards his pumpkins.

It does surprise me significantly to think that the pumpkin vine was always there, but I never ever bothered to take a close look. The garden was my father’s arena. I loved the greenery all around and admired his passion but never really participated alongside him. My father is surely smiling watching his pumpkins grow.

Now for some Google-gyan, attributed to my new-found pumpkin interest. Pumpkins or Cucurbita, as they are known scientifically, have originated from Central America over 7,500 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico. Green pumpkins come in two varieties – Japanese pumpkin or ‘Kabocha’ and Italian pumpkin or ‘Marina di Chioggia’. It’s the sweet-tasting Asian pumpkin that grows in our kitchen garden. The Italian counterpart is small, dark green with a very warty outer rind. There’s also a pear-shaped variety, known as Lakota squash. Pumpkins possess abundant vitamins and nutrients besides being anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antifungal. Pumpkins are high in protein and fiber. They are an excellent source of iron and vitamin A.

Pumpkins are extraordinarily versatile when it comes to cooking. They can be cooked in a variety of ways on their own and also in combination with other vegetables. Pumpkins make great combination with fresh-water fish and dry fish too. Pumpkins make for great desserts too!

Here are two simple pumpkin recipes from my mother’s kitchen.