My Queen of Sheba vine, commonly called the Zimbabwe creeper, whose Botanical name is Podranea brycei, faded away gradually, the leaves first wilted, the stem then began brittle, the last to go was the hardy pink flowers. The creeper had been among the earliest plants that I brought to my garden from the Horticulture Society. Without any fuss it established itself in my garden , bearing flowers almost through the year. I had trained the shrub on a trellis very close to my dining room from where I step out into the terrace. So every day as I sat to sip my tea at the table, my eyes rested on the flowers and the creeper that had a certain poise as it grew on one side of the trellis while the large part of the trellis was occupied by the Rangoon creeper/ Madhu Malathi.
The cascade of pink flowers that hung at the end of the stems soothed me on tumultuous days, lending a permanent pink foliage to my garden. The flowers were trumpet shaped with a pale throat that had tender down of hairs. The flowers exhibited a strong and calming presence, it resisted an existence independent of the vine. I had tried floating the flowers on water, though the flowers remained fresh for a couple of days, they appeared listless. I stopped moving the flowers away from the vine since then.
I had been away at Hosur for a couple of days; before I left, I had watered the plants and stayed at the garden for more than an hour pruning away the dried jasmines and ixoras, training the vethalai kodi onto the sunshade and wondering why the water in the pot of tuber roses took inordinately long time to drain away. My Queen of Sheba vine had never at any point been a cause of concern. On days that I missed watering the plants for a day, when other plants drooped their leaves, Podranea brycei’s pinnate leaves stood fresh.
Although the pink presence of the flower permeated my consciousness, I never had to spend time near the vine, it found its way even when it was a young plant, it never was lost like my clittoria vine that hung helplessly sending out tendrils in search of support even when I dedicated an exclusive frame for it.
The jasmine vines needed a separate trellis, Indian spinach hounded other plants from its trellis, Madhu Malathi sulked and produced odourless flowers when I had it along with Kodi sampangi though the latter was companionable and not aggressive at all. For sometime Madhu Malathi had been sharing the trellis with Queen of Sheba vine, the latter kept its place to one side while Madhu Malathi has been spilling all over and like a spoilt child hadn’t cared to put out a single bunch of flower though all the Madhu Malathis in the city have filled the nights with their strong fragrance. But I always have a brood of these difficult and rebellious plants, I love them nonetheless.
The Queen was doing perfect when I left for Hosur, regally reigning from her corner of the garden. My domestic help watered the plants when I was away and my gardener came the Sunday that I was away and might have seen the plant dying. He left the plant after clearing away the dried leaves from the pot. He had dug and loosened the soil. I haven’t met him since, and I have seen the plant slowly dying away. I have no clue why it died. I will wait for him to do the honours for the queen. He will clear the pot and keep the pot away with the soil in memory of the plant. The corner that the vine occupied all these days in my mind will remain empty, losing a plant that has been part of my life is much like losing a very dear one.