City Season – Bougainvillea Bushes, Around Town
More heat, more flowers.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
As Delhi gets white hot in May, the multi-colored flowers of the thorny bougainvillea spread across the capital in shades of pink, white, brown, yellow, orange, purple and blue. These papery flowers are scentless.
“Bougainvilleas are hardy in nature,” says Dr SS Sandhu, secretary of the Delhi-based Bougainvillea Society of India, which was founded in 1962 by agricultural scientist B.P. Pal. “They neither need excessive irrigation nor moderate temperature and therefore they grow very well in rocky and desert areas. The hotter it is, the more flowers there are.”
Dr Sandhu describes bougainvillea as a decorative plant belonging to the family Nyctaginaceae. A native of Brazil, the drought-tolerant shrub holds on to Delhi like a long-lost lover. The pink bougainvillea is the most common while the blue and the purple are found in humid regions such as Goa.
The boundary wall of the Italian embassy in Chanakayapuri presents one of the most stunning gatherings of bougainvilleas in the city. The roundabout on Nyaya Marg that faces the residence of Thailand’s ambassador is another must-visit for bougainvillea affociniados. The circular garden has dozens of bushes in pink, brown and white – the vines with white bougainvillea seem to be dusted with snowflakes. One flower The Delhi Walla spotted had half of its petal in white and the rest in purplish pink.
The garden in MA Ansari Stadium, Jamia Millia University, too, cultivates variously colored bougainvilleas. A more moving sight falls immediately outside the eastern face of Jama Masjid in Old Delhi where a bunch of these ornamental creepers hang over the makeshift shelters of homeless families. If you happen to be walking around Khan Market, stop by at Sujan Singh Park apartment complex. The white ‘IN’ sign at the entrance gate is partially blocked by bougainvilleas.
One evening I came across orange bougainvillea flowers growing out of a garden pot at a bungalow in Jorbagh. A woman was lounging beside it with a cup of tea.
Other places in the city to watch the bougainvilleas in bloom – as I mentioned here in 2011 – are: Buddha Jayanti Park (near Dhaula Kuan), Deer Park (Hauz Khas Village), Ridge Road (Central Delhi), Sunder Nursery (near Humayun’s Tomb), Chirag Nursery (in Chirag Delhi), Hauz Khas Village Road (near Aurbindo Place Market), Roshanara Garden (North Delhi) and Lodhi Garden. The campus of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa, in West Delhi, has a garden dedicated to bougainvillea.
The colors of summer
There is a Bougainvillea Society?! Very interesting 🙂 What one calls ‘flowers’ are actually leaves that have evolved to become pink and showy, to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. They’re called bracts. The true flowers are the tiny, less resplendent, white tubular structures within the pink ‘petals’. Living away from Delhi at the moment, your pictures are a wonderful way for me to see the flora I miss out on. The post reminds me of a passage by Anita Desai from Games at Twilight:
“They faced the afternoon. It was too hot. Too bright. The white walls of the veranda glared stridently in the sun. The bougainvillea hung about it, purple and magenta, in livid balloons. The garden outside was like a tray made of beaten brass, flattened out on the red gravel and the stony soil in all shades of metal—aluminum, tin, copper, and brass. No life stirred at this arid time of day—the birds still drooped, like dead fruit, in the papery tents of the trees; some squirrels lay limp on the wet earth under the garden tap. The outdoor dog lay stretched as if dead on the veranda mat, his paws and ears and tail all reaching out like dying travelers in search of water. He rolled his eyes at the children—two white marbles rolling in the purple sockets, begging for sympathy—and attempted to lift his tail in a wag but could not. It only twitched and lay still.”
Do a series on the amaltas in bloom. One of my favourite sights in Delhi.
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