Inside view Society

Orchids are Forever

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar  

Flowering glory and some behind-the-scenes action that keeps it in bloom

A student mentioned that every time she goes past my house, she admires the orchids. “Orchids? You must be kidding,” I replied. “You’ve been admiring some other house’s garden.”

There is only a singular orchid in my garden, or rather, an orchid in the singular, not a wealth of orchids. I’m no gardener, and the only orchid lending grace to my weedy garden is a gift that had left me perplexed when I received it. The lady who did the honours held the flowerpot at an angle with her delicate, manicured fingers. Believing she didn’t wish to soil her hands, I promptly straightened the pot when I got it.

A dainty, elderly lady watching this frowned and exclaimed, “Hang it!” I looked at her, surprised. What language in one so dignified! Thankfully an angel standing nearby came to my rescue and clarified, “She means you’ve to hang the plant somewhere. It’s an orchid and has to be suspended at this angle.”

“Oh, thanks!” I beamed. Orchid! I was elated. It figured high in my list of exotic plants, more to be admired from a distance than possessed, never mind that I couldn’t identify one. “What else?” I asked. Having already exposed my ignorance, I decided to go the whole hog. “Don’t overdo the watering,” I was advised, “just pour some water over it once or twice a week.” My heart warmed towards the orchid. How thoughtful and concerned about the time crunch of its caretakers! I love plants that aren’t demanding. “And once in a while,” the helpful orchid expert continued, “sprinkle it with coconut water or rice gruel.” That’s it? So simple. No fancy manure here. And I had believed orchids were high-maintenance plants. What a plant! I beamed at her again.

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar

Illustration: Sreejith R. Kumar  

Armed with the angled pot and my freshly acquired knowledge, I returned home to scout for the right place to hang it. From the terrace? Not possible. From the wall? Not advisable. Where then? A close examination of my garden yielded no result. I had no idea my front yard was so hanging-pot-unfriendly. I widened my search to include prospective trees whose branches could serve the purpose. Vetoing the coconut trees, the sapota and the olive tree as impractical, I finally zeroed in on the branches of the bilimbi (pulinjaka) tree and fastened the pot securely on a suitable branch.

There it flourishes, hidden among the branches, the flowerpot bent at an angle of 45 degrees, the bright green leaves drooping sensuously to one side, and I swish water over it with a hose whenever I remember. I adore that orchid, it’s always got a bunch of mauve blossoms at the end of its long stem. Someone who chanced to glimpse it identified it as “Vanda.” Apt name, in fact, ‘vandarful’. Eagle-eyed friends ‘vandar’ why I have punished such a lovely plant, why I allow it to blush unseen. To them I say it blushes only because it is unseen. Else it would have disappeared, like my rose plant.

The few flowerpots standing on a cemented curve near the gate include an anthurium that has willy-nilly survived and a few apologies of rose plants. Rose plants have never been successes in my garden but I always have a few sorry specimens. When I noticed one actually looking healthy, I bestowed all my energies on it, tending it with great care, nurturing it, pruning it and nourishing it with tea dust water and crushed egg shells. I even went after a cow on the road to collect some dung.

Just when a few buds began to appear, it disappeared and in its place I found a pot of weeds. I had rejoiced over the buds in the morning, so who could have spirited it away during the day? Had it changed magically into weeds? I had suffered five minutes of a horror movie the previous day. Impatiently I waited for my husband to return from work to pour out my woes.

“Gone!” I said dramatically. “Stolen! And in broad daylight!” His eyes went instantly to his scooter. Reassured, he asked for details. “...Someone with a weird sense of humour has stolen it,” I ended my breathless narration.

“It broke,” he confessed sheepishly. “The hose pulled it down while I was washing the car. The space looked empty, so I placed that pot there.”

I discovered the rose plant nestling among the shrubs and have decided to hang it near the orchid. Safe place, unless the coconut picker has an unerring aim...

(A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academician and author of the Butterfingers series. The author can be contacted at khyrubutter@yahoo.com )

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:01:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/strongOrchids-are-Foreverstrong/article16093803.ece

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