Winter is the special time of the year when we love to spend our time with our family members. This year too, we visited my grandma’s place in Guwahati, Assam. As we reached house premises, the leaning bush laden with red hibiscus welcomed us with love galore. I was so happy to see my mother waiting for us in the courtyard.
The next morning, I couldn’t stop myself from reaching out to these plants and exploring. Each and every plant in the garden has memories associated, some memories fresh, while few faded away with each moment passing. In this blog, I will mention different trees in my grandmother’s courtyard. In the coming blogs, i will mention different herbs, shrubs and flowers which grow here.
The mango tree has grown so big, it was only a few years ago that my grandmother planted a mango seed in the front garden. Now it has grown big, providing shade from the scorching heat, home for little birds and insects and of course the delicious mangoes.
I was thrilled to see that the tiny sapling of the Oroxylum indicum tree that I planted in 2016 has also started fruiting. I barely believed that this tree would survive. Although this tree is reportedly endangered, vulnerable in different parts of India, it grows well in the climatic conditions of Assam. This tree was part of my research project where I was trying to conserve it in its natural environment. Looking at the majestic pods of the tree, I am happy that my research work was successful. Oroxylum is a highly medicinal forest tree species. Sometimes my mother also cooks the raw pods of the tree and it tastes delicious.
Do you know that bananas are berries? Look at these little bananas hanging over. Very soon they will be ripe. We have a year round supply of three different species of bananas right away from the garden. The entire banana plant is useful in many ways. I love to have food in banana leaves. Also at home, they make one alkaline solution from the bole, which is locally called as Khar, it is good for stomach ailments and maintains pH balance in the stomach. They also make vegetables with banana flowers and bole.
These tall trees are Areca nut trees. They are one of the most important trees in the homestead, home gardens in Assam. Alongside the tree grows the betel leaves. Areca nuts and betel leaves are not only mouth fresheners, they are an important part of Assamese culture and tradition. My mother and grandmother relish them quite often. But I am waiting for the little Baya birds who usually make their nests with these areca nut leaves. I still recall, that birds who tear away fine threads of these leaf blades and weave masterpiece nests, truly geniuses. Seems, mother is trying to grow some orchids on the tree bole.
The tiny seedling of Aegle marmelos or Bel tree has also grown big and started bearing fruits. This has high medicinal significance. The tree is worshipped by people and the leaves are offered to lord Shiva.
The Guava tree is also laden with tiny fruits which will ripen within a few weeks. Birds, especially parakeets are eagerly waiting for them to be ripe. My son likes to play with the tiny unripe fruits from the tree which drop on the ground. By the way, Guava is also a berry.
The Jackfruit tree, Annona reticulate or Soursop tree also known as Ramphal, Curry leaf tree, the Neem tree, Papaya and the Pomegranate tree, all are growing slowly and steadily in the backyard. The Pomegranate tree is flowering and very soon it will be laden with fruit.
There are around 11 different tree species in my grandmother’s courtyard. Nowadays, with rapid urbanization in remote cities, new apartments, multiple complexes and malls are sprawling. In the pursuit of happiness somewhere we are getting devoid of happiness as we gradually disconnect from nature. It’s a rare sight these days, to see so many trees growing in urban homesteads or home gardens. So, the modern urban landscaping and construction designs must incorporate homestead garden or urban forestry models for a better future and promote nature connections. These homestead gardens not only suffice the regular household requirements but also provide for environment and wildlife.
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