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Sunday, Nov 18, 2001

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Casual arrangements

A display with Euphoria antiquorum.

MANY plant specimens have come home to be sketched, painted or to be studied. While I worked on the plants many of them, in the warm Chennai weather, wilted and ended up in the wastebasket. But for a piece of the succulent Euphorbia antiquorum with its long lasting flowers collected from the scrub jungle after identification and sketching, and kept in a terracotta pot, it was different.

A flower arrangement enthusiast who saw the plant exclaimed: ``What a beautiful arrangement!'' It was only then that I realised that placing the plant in a pot had enhanced its beauty.

While walking on the beach near Injambakkam (on the outskirts of Chennai), I picked up a dry inflorescence of the sandbinder known in Tamil as Ravanan Meesai (botanists know it as Spinifex squarrosus). The spiky globus head was rolling about in the sand like tumbleweed in the American deserts.

The flowering head set in a piece of bamboo with a dried branch of Rhododendron nilagiricum collected from Kodaikanal along with some dried Bullrushes Typha angustata from a marsh near Chennai became an intriguing dry arrangement. Many of the common roadside plants when collected and dried make excellent material for dry arrangements.

The long flower branches of the square-stemmed plant Leonotis nepetifolia, known to the gardener as ``Lion's Ear'', are also good for arrangements.

The tropical African plant arrived in our country as an ornamental and is now seen as a garden escape with its orange-red flowers standing sentinel by our roads in dry areas. After sketching, I kept a bunch of the flowering branches in a container and thus an arrangement was unintentionally created. There is abundant and beautiful material for arrangements all around us. What was the secret of forgotten plants looking so attractive when arranged?

Plants, especially the natural ones (as opposed to those artificially made) have a vibrancy of their own. They only need our help to bring out the beauty in them. Even the weed growing unnoticed in the thicket is strikingly beautiful.

Plant them, sketch them and arrange them and they become pieces of fine art. Art, whatever man may claim it to be, is nothing but his sincere effort to imitate the unattainable perfection that is Nature.

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