Icky, sticky, muggy, and buggy. That's what the Monsoon is like here in Nepal. Alternating between scorching heat and torrential downpours it is absolutely miserable! This time of year about half of my garden turns to a mouldering mess and gets tossed upon the compost heap. I don't dare plant anything until September.
The first to go was the Autumn Beauty sunflowers. I salvaged what was left of them for a lovely bouquet that lasted/festered for about 3 days on the breakfast table.
The next to go were these lovely Candy Cane Mix zinnias. These were from Burpee's heirloom cut'n'grow collection and indeed the more I cut them the more they grew! Ranging from 3 to 4 inches across they're an excellent variety for long lasting cut flowers. The packet said they'd grow to about 18 inches in height so I planted the seeds in pots. Mine grew to an astonishing forty inches in height and had to be transplanted to a bed. Unfortunately they weren't as fungus resistant as promised. Not much is around here though. Off to the compost pile they went.
Here's my favorite vine that puts up with just about everything. Ipomoea alba or moonflower is a night blooming member of the morning glory family. These enormous 6-8 inch blooms open around four in the afternoon remaining open until the morning sun hits them. Supposedly they are fragrant, I've grown them for years and never caught a whiff of any scent from them.
This is a rare breed of moonflower. It also opens around four in the afternoon and remains open until dawn. It's lavender blooms are only an inch across and are supposedly fragrant also. They look beautiful intertwined with the larger white moonflowers in the evening. No fragrance detected with this variety either.
These are the fragrance bombshells in my garden. Don't let those diminutive tiny pale yellowish trumpets fool you. This is raat ki rani, queen of the night, night-blooming jasmine, or Cestrum nocturnum. It is not a true jasmine but a member of the potato family, Solanaceae. It lets out sporadic nightly blasts of the most powerful, sweet, honey-like fragrance I've ever smelled. Why it blooms some nights and not others I don't understand. When it really gets going some nights it develops a salicylate/wintergreen tinge to it's fragrance in addition to it's sweetness as tuberoses do. I bought a tiny start of this in a pot at a local nursery. It looked dead after a week so I chucked it in a back flowerbed. Now it is an eight by twelve foot monster.
Possibly the happiest plant of all during the Monsoon months is the sacred blue lotus! A native of Egypt this Nymphaea caerulea resides in a bucket/mosquito farm in the neighbors' yard. What makes this stunning plant sacred you ask? Well, the ancient Egyptians figured out the plant contained the psychoactive alkaloid apomorphine. The mildly sedating effects of N. caerulea make it a likely candidate (among several) for the lotus plant eaten by the mythical Lotophagi in Homer's Odyssey. It is also fragrant and has been used in perfumes since ancient times. So not only will it make you happy and but it'll make you smell good too!
On a not so happy note:
On Monday, August 15th a bus that was going from Kathmandu towards the village of Madan Kundari veered off the road and rolled for about 1,000 feet. The bus had skidded backwards on a steep and muddy grade even though the driver applied the brakes according to eyewitnesses. About ninety passengers were traveling on the thirty-five seater bus some of which were riding on the roof. Twenty-seven passengers were killed and forty-three were injured in the accident. Most of the passengers were survivors of the 2015 earthquakes going home to sign agreements to receive government grants for reconstruction of their homes. How anyone survived this crash is a miracle to me. It was said that many of those who were traveling on the roof jumped off the vehicle and survived. Road disasters are quite common in Nepal, particularly during the monsoon. An average of around five people die daily in vehicular accidents in Nepal. Another bus crash that same Monday killed three passengers in far western Nepal.