My 2019 Garden

I never planted a garden this year, because I put my time and energy into working in the Greenbelt, but I had a garden just the same. Even though they aren’t supposed to be perennial flowers, the pansies continue to come up in the spring and every year there more of them. And I have other beautiful perennials.

I didn’t take photos of the pansies this year, but I did take some of the others. I hope to take some microscopic photos of the echinacea flowers soon.

There have been more bees in my garden than there have been for years; bumblebees, mason bees, honey bees. They have particularly loved the echinacea, lavender, and marjoram plants.

I don’t seem to have a copy of the bee balm flower I took earlier in the summer but I took one this week of a frequent visitor to that plant. I wish the photos were clearer but the hummingbird moves faster than I do.

I planted a few lettuce plants in the front yard in early spring but nothing else. Nature apparently decided that wasn’t enough. Five cherry tomato plants came up in the front yard and potato plants came up in my back yard raised beds. Both were seeded by last year’s plants.

I have really appreciated the work that Ramana and I did in the back yard in the spring and early summer. It is so beautiful.

So there is beauty around me, both in my yard and in the Greenbelt, even though I didn’t plant a garden this year. As I wrote this post, I remembered Pete Seeger’s song Turn, Turn, Turn. I will end the post with a 1966 video of Pete Seeger and Judy Collins singing that song.

Walking Through the MA Center: Chicago Farmlands (July 2019)

This was the fourth year I attended Amma’s programs in Chicago. Once again, I spent time walking through the farmlands. This year my friend Gopika also came to Chicago; she explored the farm with me.

There were a lot of changes this year. The echinacea field is gone and new MA Center: Chicago plants are growing there. We were told part of the Center’s property is being leased out to a vegetable farmer. Another part is still being leased to a farmer who produces hay. The new focus for the MA Center: Chicago fields seems to be growing dye plants and tulasi.

Last year, there were tomato plants growing in the greenhouse. This year there were indigo, tulasi, and a few marigold plants.

The field that used to hold echinacea plants now consists of indigo and Hopi Black Dye Sunflower plants. The indigo plants will be used to make indigo colored dye and the Sunflower seeds will be used to make black dye. Yellow and orange dyes can be made from marigold flowers.

Beyond the indigo and sunflower field, there was a field of madder plants. The roots from those plants will produce a red dye.

I don’t remember what the field below contains. When I enlarge the photo, part of it looks like tulasi but there seems to be another kind of plant in the foreground. Tulasi is often called holy basil and is a sacred plant to Hindus. Tulasi is said to open the heart, cultivate devotion, boost immunity, and heal disease. 

On the far side of the above field, there was a field where both tulasi and marigold plants were growing.

Click on the photo galleries to enlarge the photos.

At the end of my visit to the fields that contained tulasi and dye plants, I walked to the orchard. There are many more fruit trees than there were the first year I attended Amma’s programs in Chicago. The trees have grown considerably since that time.

Early in our walk, Gopika and I were able to get help in plant identification from a volunteer who was working in the fields. I have many more questions though. Some year I will ask a resident to go with me!

Visiting Amma’s Vrindavan Field

On December 29, Gopika and I visited Vrindavan Field. This garden was started many years ago. At that time it was a tulasi garden. Over time, the devotees added many other kinds of plants. Several years ago, they discovered that some of the trees on the site were rudraksha trees. The seed that is inside of the rudraksha fruit is sacred. Since then, gardens all over the ashram have been raising rudraksha tree seedlings. The photo above shows an area that contains a combination of coconut palm trees and rudraksha trees. The tree in the foreground on the left is a rudraksha tree.

One of the first plants I was drawn to on this visit was a banana palm sprout that was growing out of a nearly dead banana palm stalk that was lying on the ground. You can see a tiny bit of the sprout on the left side of the first photo below; most of the photo is of the stalk. The second photo shows the full sprout. Banana palms only give fruit once; then they die and new sprouts take their place.

(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

The gardens and farms in this field have had to deal with so many problems over the years. For example: lack of water, flooding, disease, and poor soil.  The staff have experimented with so many processes to enrich the soil and to retain water. Their effort has definitely paid off, but challenges still come and go.

This year a lot of the tulasi plants died and the garden doesn’t seem as lush as it did last year. But there is still plenty of beauty and the site is producing a considerable amount of food. I saw bananas, coconuts, tapioca, many kinds of spinach, beans, eggplant, okra, basil and moringa growing. There were plants that I didn’t recognize and I suspect many of them are edible.

I didn’t see as many flowers as in the past, but there were some…

… and there were plenty of interesting plants.

As we were leaving, one of the staff offered to take us to see the rudraksha trees on the School of Ayurveda grounds. She said those trees were much smaller than the ones in Vrindavan Field. We  gladly took her up on her offer and it was well worth it; the trees were beautiful.

To read the previous posts in this series click here.