Good fences make good gardens

Good fences make good gardens

Have a nice garden, but wondering what kind of fencing to use? You don’t have to use metal or other kind of fencing. You could use plants as live fencing.

Thunbergia erecta is one such plant used for fencing in the Western Ghats and bears exotic blue flowers in pairs. This plant, unlike its other cousins like T fragrance, T alata, T grandiflora and T. mysorensis, is not a creeper. With small oval leaves of about two inches in length and one inch in width with a pointed tip, its stem is generally dark bluish black in colour, reminding us of the dark stem of eclipta alba.

This shrubby plant reaches a height of more than 5 ft in its natural habitat, where it is periodically trimmed in the fence. In Bangalore, it does not grow beyond 3-4 ft in height. It is slowly finding its place in public/private gardens, resorts etc. in metropolises, because of its easy-to-maintain quality and the bright attractive flowers it bears.

The flowers are typical of the family acanthaceae (kanakambara family), where the plant belongs. It is perhaps because of its dark blue colour that this flower is called ink flower in the Western Ghats, where it is often used in fencing the backyards.

Poinsettia power

Poinsettia is another fencing plant of the Western Ghats that is slowly finding its place in Bangalore’s gardens because of its attractive flowers, either red or white in colour. However, what is generally considered to be the flower in this plant, is not a flower. It is the outer whorl of tender leaves surrounding tiny button-sized yellow flowers called cyathia that acquire either dark red or white colour and perform the function of petals attracting the pollinators.

The actual flowers are devoid of any petals. Belonging to the family euphorbiaceae, this plant does not need much water and is very convenient to plant in cities where water is always a shortage. Also known as Christmas star plant, it is botanically known as euphorbia pulcherrima. Reaching a height of up to 5-10 ft, this plant has broadly dentate leaves of about 3-6 inch in length.

Being a member of euphorbiaceae, this plant contains latex. Whenever a small portion of either the stem or leaf is cut, latex oozes out. This plant is in great demand at the time of Christmas and commands a high price. It needs a lot of sunlight when its top leaves acquire dark colour. In Kodagu, it is used in fencing the coffee plantations and lends an exotic look to the fence with its dark red flowers!
‘Sleeping hibiscus’ is yet another fence plant of Western Ghats that is popularly grown in home gardens in Bangalore.

Though it is called ‘sleeping hibiscus’, technically speaking, it is not hibiscus at all. It is botanically known as malvaviscus penduliflorus, and belongs to the family malvaceae, where hibiscus also belongs. Flowers either in red or pink colour, are generally drooping. Some smaller varieties of plants are also seen in this genus.

Duranta (commonly known as pigeon berry), which has found its place in the city gardens long back from the fences of the Western Ghats does not need any introduction. It has already established itself as a border plant in all large gardens and with its light green young leaves and dark green dense older leaves gives an attractive look to the border of grass lawns.

Many youngsters may not even know that this was once a fence plant in the Western Ghats. This popular plant of the family verbenaceae, if not trimmed periodically, grows large and bears beautiful cluster of small blue flowers that transform into yellow small spherical fruits in due course.

All the above plants can be propagated by cuttings and grow well in full sunlight and well drained soil. Though in the Western Ghats where it rains copiously, they grow healthy, in cities they are prone to white flies which can be controlled by spraying dilute soap solution, mixed with dilute neem oil periodically.

When you go for trekking in the Western Ghats, don’t forget to bring a few cuttings of the above plants, especially the poinsettias ( which may cost you a fortune in Bangalore), for your garden and save money.

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