Peacock Flower, Pride of Barbados, Dwarf Poincinia, Mexican Bird of Paradise are all common names of "Caesalpinia pulcherrima'. In Kannada it is called ಕೆಂಜಿಗೆ [kenjige]. But I never knew any of these names during my school days, from where my memory of this little tree-like shrubby plant starts. See this picture of 2011 and notice the compound wall in the background. During my days there in the 1960s all along that compound wall were several of these shrubs, which were looking beautiful.
The people you see in the foreground were all in the same class and we had gathered there at the First Alumni Meet of Christ the King Convent . What a grand and thrilling occasion it was, as many old mates were seeing each other after 41 years. We were children again! We were together from Class 1 till 7.
Among other highly nostalgic memories many of us recalled that row of Peacock Flower plants. In our smaller classes, we were plucking the leaves and buds from the drooping tips of slender branches. I later learnt in College Botany that it was called 'inflorescence'.
Why did we pluck? Because, there was a funny 'belief' among the kids that if this was kept pressed in our school books for some days, it would turn into a lovely little kitten!! Most of us remembered how we used to do keep it in the book with a mantra "Gulteria gulteria, give me a kitten". We knew that plant as 'Gulteria'. In fact in Hindi, it is 'Guletura'.
It was my favourite plant also. For some reasons that I could not think of at that tender age I used to look at it often. It was most probably for its neatness in the flower and bud arrangement and even the compound leaves.
Later wherever I saw this, I could not help extending my glance and reminiscing those days.
In my workplace campus also there are a few planted at strategic spots so that they stand out against the architecture. I think it was from one of these I got seeds in 1999 or so. I had moved over to our ancestral house in 1998 where I could have at least three of these growing along our own compound wall. It was something like a dream-come-true.
In ten years I had grown 3 of these and other shrubs to look like that [above]. 2008 photo. Will continue with this short story after you see some of the pictures of the flowers I had taken in their full glory.
I had 3 varieties. Red-yellow...
The yard used to look like this at the time of property division in 2008. I used to call it as 'green tunnel'.
With the other portion of the house being literally divided and most of my gardening area gone to that portion, this narrow yard was the only suitable space to pursue my gardening. So, the only option left was to chop down all the shrubby plants I had grown for about 8 years.
Simultaneously while renovation work went on, I had slowly shifted some plants to this side after completely removing the roots also.
You saw a long shot of our house up there.... now it became like this, after the house got ready and white-washed.
My new-look garden did not last long. In 2010, we planned a small new house in the place where the tiled structure just behind our big house was. The last surviving Peacock Flower plant was in jeopardy. Seen above. It was in the corner of the plot and had grown quite tall. [Below]
This was the start - the axing of it to make way for the new house.
Basement diggers take a short break at where roots of my last favourite Peacock Flower plant had grown.
Now, with all the old plants gone, but two [another two stories], my garden shrunk in area....
I miss the lovely plant as much as the Rose-ringed parakeets - they were very fond of the raw seeds.
The Sunbirds too relished the nectar... not to speak of several butterflies and bees.
I continue to cherish the memory of bringing the plucked part home to make a kitten!