Delhi has never seen as much rain in May as it did this year! I asked friends how they were celebrating, and some of them said they put their plants out for a rain dance. Now, at much the same time, there were reports that the new cars on our city roads are more polluting than the older ones. This ought to mean the rain we receive will be more acidic. But fortunately, that has not been evident yet.
I decide to go nursery-hopping for the joy of being with waves of green, pink and maroon, and chat up gardeners. With nature doing most of the watering, they have some spare time on their hands these days. Shankar, a gardener at a city nursery, says, “Even this untimely rain is good for plants.”
Enjoy the rain dance
All plants love rain. But from my sojourns through different nurseries, three plants caught my attention.
• One of the most beautiful sights is a sea of speckled caladium leaves. They almost make up for the lack of flowers this season. If you haven’t picked one up yet, you could still pick up the bulbs. They’re so happy with the rain that they have already started sprouting in their trays. But although the bulbs are cheap, you wouldn’t get much of a crop for about 20 days. You could pick up the plant to enjoy a ready-made crop.
• Talking of flowers, the red dwarf canna Doctor Eisler brings a burst of colour to the sea of green.
• Check out some unusual varieties of vinca. They’re in bloom now, so you can be sure of the colour that the gardener promises you.
• The ferns are celebrating the rain, too. Lace ferns, mini ferns and even the asparagus are tumbling out of their containers. If you don’t have one, this is the best time to grab your first fern. There are ferns to suit virtually every budget, depending on size. Although ferns, especially the Microlepia strigosa or lace fern, are quite common, their beauty is not.
• At one of the nurseries, a prospective client’s little son found a unique way to enjoy plants. He gently blew on to pots and tubs of the Mimosa pudica or touch-me-not and watched them shut their fronds at the intrusion! Shankar assures, “This is the best season for the touch-me-not.”
Dos and don’ts
• Rains are constantly washing away soil and nutrients. Fertilize, feed and replenish your garden. Potted plants need more nutrition than grounded ones, especially at this time of year. Try to avoid chemical fertilizers. Your plants will love a monthly dose of vermicompost or compost from organic matter.
• Water can leave the soil with algae or stifled roots. Shankar insists good old ‘gurhai’ or hoeing, loosening about two inches of the top soil once a month, will help your plant breathe better and grow faster.
• Growth will be shaggy and random at this time of year with the rain encouraging new leaves. Even if you are tempted to put things back into shape with a bit of pruning, stop yourself. You don’t want your plants to rot!
• After each shower, make sure there’s no water around any plant. If there is, you need to repot your plant and add more leaf mould and sand. Till you do that, tip the water off or keep the tub at a slant. As Shankar reminds me, “The soil needs to be moist, not wet.” Left to stand, water can kill your plant on a hot, sunny day. If the water heats up, it will kill the plant.
• Check out the city’s nurseries. They are at their greenest! This is a great time to bring home plants.
• Sit back and enjoy the pitter-patter on green, green leaves.