Gardens

The aura of water lilies

It is a joy to watch water lilies bloom with the rising sun, and gently close at dusk. This process continues for a few days, after which the petals of these exquisite flowers fold up for the last time, go underwater, settle down at the bottom of the pond and become one with the soil. Chennai is a great place to grow water lilies, as they thrive in sunny conditions.

While Thiru Alli Keni or Triplicane was once home to these lilies, water lilies can be rarely spotted in the city now. But visit the home of Amrutha Kumari and Roop Kumar at Purasawalkam and you will be taken by surprise. The couple grow as many as nine varieties of lilies — blue, violet, white, yellow, red, sandal and three shades of pink.

“It is always a thrill to wake up and discover which of our lilies are blooming that day. One day, it could be the blue one. The next week, it may be the yellow one or any of the others,” says Kumari, who has been growing water lilies for the past two decades. Water lilies don’t bloom as much during winter, as sunlight is lesser then. Chennai weather suits lotus plants too, but lotus plants need bigger ponds. On the other hand, water lilies can be grown in smaller tanks. This couple grows their lilies in cement tanks with dimensions ranging from diameter 3.5 feet to those that span just 1.75 feet.

The depth of these tanks varies between 1.5 feet and 2.5 feet.“To grow a lily plant, embed the rhizome of a young plant in clay and place it at the bottom of the tank. Add 3-4 inches of river sand and manure around the clay to hold the plant upright. The tip of the stalk should stay above the surface,” says gardening consultant Lakshmi Sriram who helped the couple set up the ponds. On the first day, the tank will appear muddy, but the water will clear up in a day and flowering begins in a year. In summer, the leaves may dry up a bit, but the underwater part of the plant will be in fine health. Lily plants self-propagate and you may have to remove a few plants from the tank over a period of time.

Their ponds don’t harbour a single mosquito larva because they have introduced goldfish and guppies into these ponds.

“The fish eat up mosquito eggs and other organic matter, keeping the water clean. At the same time, their droppings become manure for the plants. In fact apart from adding fresh manure while changing the water of the pond every six months, we never add manure to the pond. This plant is easy to maintain. You need to add the fish feed daily,” saysKumar. Their bigger tanks host as many as eight goldfish, while the guppies multiply rapidly.

“During the rainy season, we need to remove around six inches of water from the tank, to prevent the fish from spilling out. In case the area is prone to cats or birds like herons, it is good to keep the pond surface meshed to protect the fish from being eaten up,” says Kumari.


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 11:25:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/gardens/visit-to-the-water-lily-ponds-in-chennai/article7259763.ece

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