Seeds of change

THESE DAYS when a garden has become an integral part of one's dream home, the amount of time and money spent tending to the greens has increased manifold. For gardening enthusiasts, plants are somewhat like a collector's item - apart from the therapeutic values they possess, the plants are the neighbour's envy and the owners' pride.

So, what plants go into the making of gardens in the homes of city residents? If the first thing that came to your mind was orchid or anthurium, you couldn't be further away from the truth. Says Principal Agriculture Office joint director, S. Siva Prasad, "The days of anthurium and orchids are over. People now prefer a mixed kind of vegetation - those that require some amount of care and others that can be left to grow on their own."

Says horticulturalist K. L. Jacob, "Indian plants such as hibiscus, jasmine, ixora, nandiarvattam (Tabernaria Montana) and bougainvillaea are the in-thing now. These do not require constant monitoring and are popular with people who love plants but do not have much time for gardening."

Says Jacob, "Unlike Indian plants that flower throughout the year, orchids flower only once in three months or so. In fact, excessive care showered upon orchids can be, in a sense, held responsible for their decline."

Households in the city plant one or two orchids at the most. Says Siva Prasad, "People want to see as many diverse plants as possible in their gardens, and not just anthuriums or orchids. While the demand for them had peaked a few years ago, today, it is a different story."

Agrees Satheesh P. Nair of Meena nursery, "Orchids and anthuriums find very few takers these days. If at all households have them, you won't find more than a handful."

Only collectors such as Bhuvana Rajan of Canopy Gardens have a varied collection of orchids and anthuriums. Says Bhuvana Rajan, "Commercially, the going is good. We continue to supply to major hotels and offices. But sending them to metropolises such as Bangalore has not proved viable." Asked about the trend of moving away from orchids and anthuriums, she disagrees. "These are plants of high quality and are sure to remain in demand, especially as the culture of gifting flowers picks up."

The lack of market for orchids has dented their popularity as a household plant too, feels Mini of Soonam Florists, who grows orchids and anthuriums for domestic consumption and for transport to other cities.

The popularity of other plants also has a lot to do with more and more households opting for landscaping. "Landscaping necessitates the use of a variety of plants. Plumbago, lantana, alamanda, plumeria, ribbon grass, cactii, rajamalli (Caesalpinia Pulcherrima), mosandas and ficus are some of those being used these days. Then there are ferns and palms, a perennial favourite," says Jacob.

Says Satheesh, "People also like carpet grass, Duranda gola, which is used for hedges, and plants such as cufia for fencing."

They are moving away from foliages, says Beena Rajan of Beena Nursery. "Foliages have been seen in our homes for years. People are now moving towards flowering plants to add a dash of colour to their homes."

Says Satheesh, "Our surroundings are so green that foliages such as agloanema, calathea, cordyline and dracena do not sell at all in the city."

"Croutons, however, continue to remain popular, because of their bright hues," adds Jacob.

While denizens of the city show an affinity for local plants, in the outskirts, it is the ornamental plants that have everyone going gaga. Says Pradeep Naik, assistant director, Modern Floriculture Centre, Kazhakootam, "There is huge demand for anthuriums and orchids at our centre. But plants such as croutons, philodendrons, coleous, sicus, dracaena and phyllanthis do not sell at all. The reason could be that orchids here are tissue-cultured and are priced lower than what they are in nurseries in the city. On the other hand, the other plants are priced higher and so, do not attract many buyers."

So, whether you are going in for a new garden or want to give an existing one a face lift, make sure you know exactly what you want and why.


Illustration: Manoj

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