Wonderful weeds in the waiting

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Wonderful weeds in the waiting

These plants withstand adverse climatic, soil and water conditions and yet grow very well. Some of the so called weeds bear more beautiful flowers than some of the popular garden plants do. They do not need any maintenance at all and it is wise to use them as garden plants, writes Rashmi Shrinivas

Monsoon has finally set in and brought greenery all around. Plants within the gardens as well as the weeds are flourishing. While we admire the garden plants blooming, the so called weeds do not enjoy the same kind of attention and admiration their counterparts in gardens do. And what are weeds after all? Weeds are the plants that can withstand adverse climatic, soil and water conditions and yet grow very well. In fact, some of the so called weeds bear more beautiful flowers than some of the popular garden plants do. And since the former do not need any maintenance at all, it is wise to use them as garden plants. Lot of such beautiful weeds are waiting to enter your garden.

One such plant that has faced utter negligence since decades is the ‘Four o’clock plant’ that is commonly seen to grow very well in all vacant sites and bear attractive flowers.

Since the flowers bloom around four in the evening, it has gained its name. It is also known as Marvel of Peru. Botanically known as Mirabilis jalapa, it belongs to the family Nyctaginaceae (Bougainvillea family). Mirabilis in Latin means wonderful and jalapa is the name of a place in Central America where the plant was found in abundance. It is known as Madhyahna Mallige in Kannada and Sabdalli in Konkani.

Of late, some of the garden enthusiasts have acknowledged its beauty and merits such as zero maintenance and as a result, this plant is grown as ornamental plant by some residents. It is a small bushy shrub with profusely branching stems and light green leaves, somewhat triangular in shape tapering at the tip. In fact, its tube like flowers were my childhood favourites since they could be tied into a garland using their own tube like lower portion without using any thread at all, just as we can in case of Quisqualis (Akash Mallige). Basically it was seen in three colours viz., white, magenta and cream. However, due to cross pollination, numerous shades of these colours are seen at present.

Easy to grow

It is very easy to grow. It can be grown in any kind of well drained soil. It can be propagated by its black coloured spherical seeds collected from the parent plant or seedlings appearing to grow below the parent plant or by its tubers found underneath. Raising the plants with tubers,however is not advisable, since the tubers may attract uninvited guests like rodents and bandicoots.

It can easily be grown in pots. Every year you can collect the seeds that dry on the plant and acquire black colour and sow them when pre-monsoon showers start. It is in no way less attractive than any popular garden plant.

Another so called weed that bears equally beautiful flowers is Mexican Petunia. It is in no way related to the real Petunia. Botanically known as Ruellia brittoniana, it belongs to the family Acanthaceae (Kanakambara family). It is named after the 16th century French botanist Jean Ruel. This small plant is extremely drought-resistant and grows erect initially and then droops. Its hard stem and leaves acquire a metallic bluish colour in sunlight and the plant bears attractive lavender coloured trumpet shaped flowers of the size of about two inches in length. Its petals are not soft like those of any other flowers. They are somewhat paper like and do not wilt easily.

It propagates by underground stems as well as seeds and grows like a weed in almost all vacant sites. When I first sighted this plant growing luxuriantly in vacant sites near my sister’s house in Hubli a few years back, I was very much impressed by its stunningly beautiful lavender coloured flowers and I decided to introduce it in my little garden. My sister and some of her neighbours there had already done so and were harvesting flowers every day. I was happy to note that it grew very well and started flowering even in my garden.

Ideal for gardening

Its drought-resistant quality and high rate of propagation makes it ideal for home gardeners facing water and time constraints. In summer, however, they are infected by white flies, like any other plants and this can be addressed by spraying diluted soap solution mixed with a drop of neem oil. Though it is a weed growing uncontrollably everywhere, space constraint in cities is a blessing in disguise for us, for it can hardly get extra space to expand. Its another plus point is that it can even be grown in containers.

To sum up, one need not hesitate to grow the so called weed in their garden, if it is otherwise suitable. Its qualities like drought resistance, needing zero maintenance and high propagation rate which does not eat our valuable time, are also to be considered. After all even the most exotic plants are grown as weeds in some or the other part of the world.

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