Why this blog is called "Gallimaufry".

gal-uh-MAW-free\, noun.

Originally meaning "a hash of various kinds of meats," "gallimaufry" comes from French galimafrée; in Old French, from the word galer, "to rejoice, to make merry"; in old English: gala + mafrer: "to eat much," and from Medieval Dutch maffelen: "to open one's mouth wide."

It's also a dish made by hashing up odds and ends of food; a heterogeneous mixture; a hodge-podge; a ragout; a confused jumble; a ridiculous medley; a promiscuous (!) assemblage of persons.

Those of you who know me, will, I’m sure, understand how well some of these phrases (barring the "promiscuous" bit!) fit me.

More importantly, this blog is an ode to my love for Shimla. I hope to show you this little town through my eyes. If you don't see too many people in it, forgive me, because I'm a little chary of turning this into a human zoo.

Stop by for a spell, look at my pictures, ask me questions about Shimla, if you wish. I shall try and answer them as best as I can. Let's be friends for a while....

29 March 2010

The smallest flower is a thought...

My friend Sanjiv has a lovely garden. A garden I love because it grows happily, without the application of geometry or any semblance of order. It is higgledy-piggledy, but healthy. I love exploring it because it grown on several levels and its denizens change from month to month.
So imagine my happy surprise when, during my wanderings yesterday, I should chance upon these flowers which reminded me of lanterns I'd seen in Hong Kong. Sanjiv thought the plant is called japonica. But trawling through my favourite website Flowers of India and a quick look through my vade mecum, Flowers of the Himalayas (Polunin and Stainton), I found they are called "Chinese Lanterns" or "Trailing Abutilon".

Also called "winter cherry", abutilon megapotamicum is a species native to Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. The shrub I spotted in Sanjiv's garden is about 2 metres in height. The leaves are dark green, palmate, with a heart shape at the base. The buds resembled a fat red paper lantern. The fully-bloomed flower had five petals, these are actually enlarged sepals that have fused together to envelop the forming fruit. The fruit, resembling a cherry tomato., had a shiny skin , its flesh embedded with a rich harvest of seeds.
The delicate, five-petalled blossoms are bright crimson with bright yellow anthers. They soon are replaced by tiny green bladders that expand like balloons until they are nearly 2 inches in diameter. It was clear that the plant prefers to grow in a place where it gets some sun and light shadows in the afternoon.

My research tells me that this plant has myriad medical uses, such as bed-wetting, facial paralysis, nocturnal incontinence, hoarse voice and ... the desire to talk constantly. If you have bed-wetting, inexpressive visitors who won't shut up and cough too much, sneak a fruit in their dinner and call it a night.

Some scientific details:
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Abutilon
Species: Megapotamicum

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