Say it with home-grown flowers

| Updated on: May 12, 2011
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Whether you live in a house or a high-rise, this book motivates you to stick your hands in the mud even if it is of a potted variety.

Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul”, says the Koran . And yes, here is a humble example of a feast for the soul. Though you pick up the book out of curiosity, attracted by pictures of flowers that have bedecked gardens in India for so many years, it soon turns out to be extremely absorbing. If nature is your calling and a colourful garden your desire, despite living in a house or a high rise, Amarjeet Singh Batth's book motivates you to stick your hands in the mud even if it is of a potted variety.

He proceeds to guide you in a systematic manner — from the selection of flowers, the time plan to be followed, the ideal condition of the soil and the choices that a grower can make.

So you spend the night learning that sweat peas need a shady location devoid of water logging, and carnations need pinching if you want side branches to grow and the stems to harden. You learn that in both outer locations and terrace gardens, it's best to structure the garden according to the height of the flowering plant and its time of bloom. The secret to an ever-flowering garden, he reveals, is in intricate planning.

Though we Indians are the worst when it comes to detailed planning, if you look at our track record in the infrastructure space, Batth teaches you the virtues of designing the garden areas into formal and informal, symmetrical and asymmetrical. “Knowledge of plant material is not enough to design a garden, the sense of interpreting the design is equally important,” he writes, taking you step-by-step through the planning stages.

Once the basics are done with, the book bursts into a profusion of colour, literally. You have the white daisies overtaking the French marigolds, brushing past the velvety cockscombs to compete with the bright red balsam. Every flipping of the page takes you to another flower, another shape, another colour, with every detail on the method and timings to make it part of your blooms.

The author does some other good things for readers too. He handholds you through raising a nursery so that transplantation can be done at the apt time. Details on how raised beds are made, how much manure is needed for the delicate seeds, when they are ready for sowing and how the soil should be readied for seedling transfer makes the book that much more valuable. Besides elaborating on weeding, pinching, disbudding, he also takes you through what can go wrong with your plant. Not only will that help you identify a diseased plant or when it is overtaken by pests, equally important are the pre-emptive control measures he outlines. How to collect seeds from each flower is also information vital to those who would prefer to use their own seedlings year after year, ensuring the health and resplendence of the flowering crop.

However, being a revised edition, it would have been nice if the author had devoted a chapter to kitchen gardens and herbal plants. These are dealt with in passing.

With terrace and balcony gardens increasingly adding herbs such as mint, parsley, celery and curry leaves to their plant collection, the chapter would have been vital to home growers. In fact it would be a good idea if Batth works on another handholder for kitchen gardens. Till then, many of us will let the plethora of flowers guide us through our gardens. For don't they say, ‘Say it with flowers'.

Published on May 12, 2011

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