Gardens of delight

Gardens of delight

Every day, I come across home owners who love to grow plants but are not confident about maintenance. The most commonly cited reasons are “it must take lot of maintenance”, “I hate to see a plant die” or “I know nothing about how to grow plants”.
To all those who have similar reasons that keep them from the pleasure of creating their own green patch, my answer is that there is always a plant that will suit your limitations. It is just a matter of knowing, and an expert can help.

The common mistake is to buy plants based only on fancy – judging them by their looks, flowers, and fragrance. Most nursery people will tell you anything to sell their stock. It helps big time to know which plants are meant for you. Many times, certain plants are not even considered aesthetic because one has seen them growing unchecked and therefore perceives them as unattractive weed. I must say each and every plant, even the most prized ones, grow somewhere in the world just like weeds – in abundance. The same plant when placed in a controlled and aesthetic format starts to look appealing.

Openness helps in making the right choice. Listed below are a good number of non fussy, hardy, resilient, disease resistant, abuse resistant choices from creepers to mature looking trees that will fit your taste and limitations.

The starting point is a correct container and good soil mix. One criterion that determines success directly is the pot size. In general, bigger is better but proportion to the plant root ball and its foliage spread are good indicators to guide your choice. When buying a plant ask the nursery person to show the root ball. A well grown plant will easily slip out from the container, unless it’s several years old. Roots should form a nice mesh holding the dark mixed medium. Upgrade pot size by choosing a pot with radii ¾ to 1 finger larger than that of root ball. This allows the plant roots to develop just right, along with the foliage growth. The next critical step is filling it up with proper soil mix ie. 60:40 good soil and organic matter mix. If using vermicompost, you may even make it 50:50. Once growth is ensured by providing space and food, moderate light, water and climate are all that complete the recipe for successfully raising these plants.

Low-input, high-reward plants

Plants make any space look alive. Listed below are some of the many low input high reward plants. Many thrive without direct sun while others acclimatise themselves to the available light.

Spathiphyllum aka peace lily will reward you with white leaf shaped long-lasting flower. Aspidistra or cast iron plant is really hardy and is one of the few that thrive in really low light or when it is almost dark. Caladium gives a seasonal speckled white or red single stemmed handsome foliage. Boston fern or Nephrolipis is one no fuss fern, suitable both for pots and hanging baskets. If you are looking at a bonsai look minus the hard work and maintenance, opt for oriental Jade/ Crassula plant. It grows slowly and slow growers are less demanding. Then, there is the Sanseveria, or mother-in-law’s tongue that gives a modern, contemporary look. The species S trifascaita / dwarf species has amazed me personally. In my garden, it grows covered by a glass top in a huge ceramic pot which I use as glass top table. It goes without any watering for months and continues to grow and multiply inside my table. Pony tail palm is a specimen that does not even ask for pot size upgrade as this one loves to live in tight containers. Aglonema or Chinese evergreen plant, spider plant, Diffenbachia, Schefflera or umbrella plant, live happily without full sun plus infuse yellow, gold, and silver colour to the greenery. Asparagus officinalis / densiflorus offer a feathery look whether in a pot or hanging basket.

The creeping burgundy striped Tradescantia zebrine will thrive even without the sun and are best planted in hanging pots or surface cover, while T. bicolour will make tight clumps with burgundy on the underside of the leaf but the colour is best in the sun.
Chaemedorea spp. are a boon to any palm lover. For the deep green or white leaf tree feel in a pot, opt for ficus benjamina. I have seen it come back to life after days of drought-like conditions, when it is exposed to blazing sunlight. It adapts to light conditions very well.

Ficus lyrata is a bold and large-leaved potted tree that gives the feel of a mature tree and looks absolutely gorgeous indoors or anywhere away from the direct sun.
Architecturally-valued agave does not ask for much at all. You can easily afford to skip watering. Ajuga reptans and syngonium offer burgundy and whitish green respectively while covering a soil surface or hanging down.

Cordyline spp. is the answer if you are looking at a modern no fuss bold burgundy colour infusion. Portulaca are bright flowering plants and spread easily. Stick a stem and it will soon take over. In conditions where lots of water is available, cyperus and colacasia are fantastic.

(The writer is a landscape designer.)

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