Flowering shrubs for summer

Flowering shrubs for summer

Lawns are high-maintenance and need a lot of water — particularly difficult to manage during summer. How about some shrubs and small trees that require less water and bear some beautiful flowers? Rashmi Shrinivas offers suggestions.

At a time when water levels in our reservoirs are dropping and the water table is dipping, it is really difficult to maintain lush lawns. Also, with pre-monsoon showers not up to expectations, many delicate herbaceous plants and small shrubs with superficial roots can never survive.

The simple way to tackle such a problem is to substitute such plants in your small home garden with small sized trees and shrubs that need not be watered every day. Also, these trees are not as delicate as other smaller plants and they survive even in used water, like water used in the kitchen.

Not only do these small trees give shade to some extent, but also control soil erosion by way of its strong root system, besides, of course, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere like any other plants. At a time of water crisis, a smart gardener chooses traditional flowering trees and shrubs as substitutes to smaller delicate plants.

Ratnagandhi, Kanagale, Kepala, Nandibattalu, Dasavala, Parijata etc are some of the small trees or shrubs that are ideal substitutes of many smaller delicate herbaceous plants.

One additional advantage of these easy-to-maintain small trees/shrubs is that they flower profusely (some of them being intensely fragrant). Hence, these small trees/shrubs are definitely an asset in the garden, especially for those who use them in daily worship.

‘Ratnagandhi’         
                
Caesalpinia, popularly called Ratnagandhi in Kannada belongs to the sub family Caesalpiniaceae of the family leguminaceae. They flower almost throughout the year. Being of the same family, the leaves and flowers resemble that of gulmohar to some extent.

But unlike gulmohar, caesalpinia is smaller and the leaflets of the pinnately compound leaves are oval in shape. Mildly fragrant flowers borne in bunches have exceptionally large stamens that protrude out of the petals lending a fabulous look. It is often called Meese Hoovu (‘Moustache flower’) in Kannada. Orange-red shaded flowered variety is most commonly found and yellow flowered variety is also seen in this. Of late, pink-yellow shaded flowered variety is gaining popularity.

Older flowers attain darker colour like in many other plants. They are easy-to-grow small trees needing almost no maintenance. Propagation is by seeds borne in the pods. One additional advantage of growing this tree is that being a leguminous tree, its root nodules help in fixation of nitrogen.

‘Kanagale’

Nerium, also known as Oleander, is called Kanagale in Kannada. It belongs to the family apocyanaceae (Vinca or Nityapushpa family). It bears large clusters of flowers each of the size of about two inches in diameter. There are a number of varieties in this. While dark pink, pink, baby pink and white varieties with five petals are generally seen, yellow variety also is seen of late. At times, double petalled varieties are also seen of course only in white and dark pink colour. Propagation is generally by cuttings, though it occasionally produces seeds in pods.

‘Nandibattalu’

Another similar small tree that can be grown within your compound is ‘Crape Jasmine’ or nandibattalu, belonging to the same family apocyanaceae. It is botanically known as tabernaemontana. It has dark green shiny broad leaves, and pure white pinwheel like flowers with five petals, borne in clusters.

Kajal prepared out of its flowers is supposed to be of superior quality. It is seen in double petalled variety too. In older localities, they are still seen to grow in front of houses along with oleander. Propagation is by cuttings.

‘Kepala’

Mention may also be made of Ixora or ‘Jungle Geranium’ that has gained popularity in recent decades. It belongs to the family rubiaceae (coffee family).

This medium sized bush with woody stem bears spectacular clusters of around 150 small flowers with thin tube ending with four small petals usually in red, orange and  at times in light yellow shades. Its wild variety, commonly found in the Western Ghats, is smaller and its flower cluster bears lesser number of flowers.

But, it bears tasty small fruits in clusters unlike its garden variety. These flowers, called Kepala in some parts of the State, along with Kakada, are also offered to god in temples such as Mookambika at Kollur where it grows very well and it flowers attain dark red colour. Interestingly, the name Ixora is derived from ‘Eashwara’ one of the trinity of gods in mythology.

‘Dasavala’

Hibiscus or ‘shoe flower’ of malvaceae, of course, has been popular since ages, and given a chance, almost all of us would like to grow this in our compound. It is called ‘shoe flower’ because in olden days, a dye produced from it was used in polishing shoes. It is known as dasavala in Kannada. Some varieties grow into small trees. There are varieties of these flowers in almost all colours, except blue, in single and multiple layers of petals. One can choose a plant for a small garden. White variety is supposed to be medicinal too. Propagation is by cuttings.

‘Parijata’

Parijata, botanically known as nyctanthes is well known both for its mythological importance as well as for its strong but pleasant fragrance. Botanically, it belongs to the family oleaceae (jasmine family). Though its delicate fragrant flowers that bloom in the night generally fall by morning, they are a popular option. Nyctanthes refers to its quality of blooming at night.

‘Mithai Hoovu’

While all the above flowers are offered to god, there is also a plant that bears attractive flowers and not generally offered in worship. Mussaenda, a medium shrub with clusters of flowers in attractive baby pink and off white colour, is also ideal to grow, though it is purely ornamental. Belonging to the family rubiaceae (coffee family), it is called Mithai Hoovu in Coastal Karnataka.

Its wild variety with red flower and white single bract, commonly found in Western Ghats, locally called Bellatti, is used.

At the time of severe water shortage, these are ideal plants for small home gardens. Since they need not be watered every day, not only do you save water but also save money on flowers.

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