This month brought happy times for gardening enthusiasts: It hasn’t rained as much as it has poured, even if New Delhi gets less rainfall than where most of the exhibitors at the 3rd International Flora Expo and the 2nd International Landscape Expo came from. But Pragati Maidan is not a comfortable fair venue for most visitors, and the Expo—held 12-14 September—was a show that deserved far more publicity than it got.
The first two halls, full of flowers, drove one close to dizziness with a heady mix of exotic varieties spreading their perfume. Traders and state governments flaunted their floral heritage. The flowers were arranged imaginatively. Even someone who does not believe much in cut flowers would have to admit, this was as good an array of orchids, liliums, gerberas, roses, carnations and anthuriums as you could hope to see in New Delhi. Incidentally, September to May is the time to harvest and sow adenium seeds, so if you have some, get going.
Some stalls, of course, were happy to sell. That’s how you could lay your hands on some fuchsia-coloured azalea from Manipur and iris and daffodil bulbs from Kashmir. The adventurous picked up orchids. Others picked up elegant wooden planters. More professional-looking visitors walked away with an array of implements, accessories, furniture, fertilizer, even coconut coir products.
One of the happiest facets of this exhibition was how eager virtually every stallowner was to share information and exchange ideas. Wherever someone stopped to ask, out poured the advice. The Mumbai bonsai expert was happy to give you a crash course in the difference between Chinese and Japanese bonsais, while the sellers from Sikkim regaled you with the requirements of orchids. One came back much wiser about a variety of gardening topics from bonsais to bromeliads. One corner looked straight out of a tropical paradise, stacked with different types of palms. The memory of two areca palms I lost recently came flooding back. “Take this,” offered the nurseryman when I confessed the loss, “that’s the seaforthia palm and it’s so hardy, nothing will finish it off.”
The week ended with a tiny group of committed gardening enthusiasts collecting at Dilli Haat for the Udyan Mela organized by the Kitchen Garden Association. That’s where you could pick up medicinal herbs and plants for gifts, interesting planters, bonsais, seeds for vegetables and flowers, home composting bins and even ‘amla laddu’. Five invaluable reminders I came away with include:
• If you haven’t planted chrysanthemums already, perhaps that could be your task for the weekend.
• If you’re planning to grow freesias this winter—and given their heady fragrance and pretty blooms, I can hear a lot of ayes out there—plant the bulbs three inches deep so that you don’t need to stake them.
• Exotic plants are most often for exotic growers. If you are not particularly blessed with green fingers, go for plants proven hardy for New Delhi’s conditions.
• NKP (a chemical-based fertilizer) may be good for your plants, but if you have a toddler or pet at home, perhaps you would prefer to stick to bone meal and neem cakes for plant nourishment.
• If you are transplanting a recent purchase, try to keep the original soil intact. Pack local soil around it so that by the time the roots reach there, the plant would have stabilized. Benita Sen