16 April 2016

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

 Let me be clear—while I like green things as pleasant, restful objects to look at when you're tired, I've never been interested in cultivating them myself. Plant after plant came into my house and most died of neglect or maybe over enthusiasm. In one flat, I had a cactus, given to me by a friend, which I placed on an outside window and remembered only when I had to open or close it. This cactus literally spat out thorns each time my hand passed it, that's how much it hated me. I liked the idea of plants, but they became a sort of out of sight, out of mind thing. If I remembered, I watered them, if I didn't, they wilted.

#notmyplants


I do have this one plant tree thing—it has a fancy scientific name, but I have always referred to it by the name of the person who gave it to me, let's call him Pranav. Pranav's Tree not only does not die, it willingly resurrects itself every summer and grows taller and taller, putting out new leaves and flowers. My mother, who has the same tree and is a good gardener, came over and looked over my Pranav Tree with some envy. “It's doing very well,” she said and I looked smug, but truth be told, I literally just leave it alone.

However, our new house has several very accessible windows with ledges for plants and a balcony that we actually spend time on, so I decided it was time to get a garden. (Worry not, plant loving reader, I have already engaged a man who will come to take care of my plants for me.) We—the architect, my partner and I—made a trip on the hottest afternoon so far this April to a wholesale nursery away in a side road by Delhi's farmhouses.

A few weeks prior to this excursion, Partner and I had been browsing in one of those fancy gourmet food stores, when I saw they had live plants in pots. Extremely excited, I went home with a basil plant in a grocery bag and placed it on the balcony and watered it for a bit, and then forgot to water it the next day. The basil plant is a delicate darling, one day of not being watered and the leaves shrivel up, the plant droops pathetically and you think all is lost, until you water it again and suddenly it's perky and the life of the party. Partner has had a basil plant before, and being generally more organised at these things, he reminded me to water it every day and we moved it to the kitchen window where I'd see it every time I went in. I grew so confident, I even snagged a money plant stem off a neighbour's creeper, placed it in an old gin bottle and hoped it would grow enough to cover the lattice iron window.

Which is probably why I was so confident at this wholesale garden centre. The basil seemed so easy—and so useful, just pick a few leaves each time you make pasta—that I wanted to grow more food. That's what we were both really excited about actually, so we got two seed trays and teeny tiny tomato and chilli plants. For the rest of it, we got large trees and hanging pots of ferns—small sweet jasmine and large fleshy hibiscus. A champa tree for that one corner in a big pot. An Andhra ficus with dark green leaves and a regular local ficus with light green ones. And finally a banana tree, although there are myths about how it's supposed to stop babies, although I can't find any mention of that on the internet. (Also great contraception!)


Although gardening is all about patience and waiting for things to sprout and so on, I'm already fastforwarding five months ahead, sitting under a creeper laden terrace, with all my trees in full bloom.

(A version of this appeared as my column on mydigitalfc.com)  

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