Some unusual mediums for gardening from RUPA GOPAL

With shrinking living spaces and zooming land prices, even a small garden seems out of reach for many in the city. The idea is think out of the box and get a garden, any which way.

Alternative mediums to grow plants are a constant creative challenge. From soggy heavy mud, heavy earthen pots and fussy flower beds, a keen gardener can progress to light-weight, non-messy mediums — coconut husk, coco peat, moss, fern bark, vermiculite, wood pieces, and even a bottle. An old canvas shoe, a bag, a shell—they all become plant holders, planted with very light-weight, and retentive moss, or bark. An easy possibility is a hollowed-out whole coconut, filled with coconut fibre, perfect as a hanging planter. Such alternatives can be placed on the window sill, or on a grilled frame, or even hung from the tree that’s branching into your area from the neighbour’s lot.

A row of suspended planters creates a green vista against a blank wall, or helps conceal a bad view. In many cases, these small plants can become quite a full-time passion.

The trick is to have small rooted plant systems for small shells, and larger ones, or epiphytes, if the container is bigger. Spider plants (chlorophytums), pileas, small peperomias, episcias, portulacas, small cacti and succulents, ficus primula, trailing verbena — all these are attractive plants that do well in such mediums.

One of the most attractive of such unusual mediums is fondly called a ‘lollipop’. A ball of moss, a little bark, or strong vine, a little binding mud, and some thin wire is all that’s needed. Bunch the mediums within the moss, perhaps kept in shape with a thin chicken mesh, and bind. Push a small plant or cactus into the centre, tamp it down, and water gently. The ball is suspended on a strong, long wire, ready to hang anywhere, but best in a somewhat sheltered place. The plant soon settles in, and grows, needing little attention and light watering on alternate days. A cactus could well sit in a lollipop for about three years before needing more root space. Go on and create an unusual green corner this season. The signal is green!

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