The gift of summer.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The beginning of Delhiâ€™s harsh summer has its comforts. In March and April as the temperature rises, the cityâ€™s green cover is taken over by bougainvillea flowers. The red buds and their brown thorny vines creep up the trees and bend across the fences. The flowers fall easily and cover the ground in a bed of red.
â€śEarly summer is the right time for their flowering,â€ť says Dr S.S. Sindhu, secretary of the Delhi-based Bougainvillea Society of India. â€śExcept in the winter, bougainvilleas grow all through the year and on different types of lands, from desert to mountains.â€ť In Indiaâ€™s northern plains, which include Delhi, the temperature in March-April hovers around 30 degree Celsius, the optimal condition for the sprouting of bougainvillea buds.
In Delhi, the most widely distributed specie of the plant is bougainvillea glabra. The flowers come in a range of colours. Red is the most common followed by pink, yellow, and white. Blue lilac is the rarest. Most species have no smell. Bougainvillea arborea, a thornless variety, is fragrant but not found in the city.
Bougainvillea blooms on soil that suffers from water scarcity. If you irrigate your garden too often, the flowers wonâ€™t appear. â€śFrequent watering promotes the plantâ€™s vegetative growth,â€ť says Dr Sindhu, â€śwhich suppresses flowering.â€ť
The petals of Bougainvillea flowers are delicate; their translucent surface is like that of onion skin paper. The best places in Delhi to watch them in bloom is in Buddha Jayanti Park (near Dhaula Kuan), Ridge Road (central Delhi), Sunder Nursery (near Humayunâ€™s Tomb), Chirag Nursery (in Chirag Delhi), Hauz Khas Village Road (near Aurbindo Place Market) and Lodhi Garden. The campus of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, in Pusa, west Delhi, has a bougainvillea garden.
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