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  • Writer's pictureKaren Divya Shekar

Letter to My ‘Garden’ + Gardening Advice

Dear Gethsemane/Eden,


You are not yet born, built or made, yet I have imagined you, nurtured you and created you in my head. You are my ideal garden, a mysterious Indian garden, the likes of which no one has ever seen before.


So far, there is a concept known as the Mughal gardens, full of fountains, walkways and flowers, but the concept of an Indian garden like a French, English, or Japanese garden is yet unknown. So I propose to create one like that. Gethsemane/Eden, you are that garden.


You will have all the aspects of a hot Indian summer. Gulmohar, rusty shield bearer, amaltash, jacaranda, you name it, I’ll accommodate it. Swings will hang from banyan trees, and there will be wells and pools of water hidden in nooks in the garden.


I thought a lot about the Indian jungle when I designed you in my head. The Indian jungle, and the only exposure I have to it is from the works of Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson, is my inspiration for the Indian garden. Ironic, no? I have never been to a jungle or observed one from afar. So, it’s these magical works that have inspired me to merge the jungle and the garden together.


I have always perceived India as quietly wild. There is none of the snobbery of the English or the French in her, nor is there the fastidiousness and fake naturality of the Japanese gardens about her.


She, in fact, is rather at home in a jungle than a garden.

She trods gently on the dried leaves and leaps across the fallen bark. Her anklets jangle with a dull tin-tin! I cannot perceive such a deity sipping tea under the branches of a weeping willow or daintily scurrying across manicured lawns.


India is wild, and any Indian garden representing her must be suitably untamed. When the summer storm breaks, the canopy of banyans, peepul and sal must brush aside to reveal grey, stormy clouds.


The swings must dangle precariously, in expectation of a spectacular display of lightning bolts.


When the rains lash, you, Gethsemane/Eden must release the sweet scent of the Earth which can never be bottled. For, now you are in my imagination, the jewels of my musings


Yours enchanted,


Karen.


HOW MY LOVE FOR GARDENING GREW


I credit both my grandfathers for inspiring in me a love of gardening. My maternal grandfather owned a small kitchen garden, while my paternal grandfather had his own backyard filled with fruit and flowering trees.


In comparison, I have my box windows, and I confess that I have also slightly encroached on common property. Some of my plants I keep on the rooftop (chaath).


The first plant I ever grew by myself was the cut end of a pui saag stalk. It developed a bit like Jack’s bean stalk in that it grew very tall. It even flowered. But it died before we could bring it to our new home. So that’s my first memory of growing something.


Apart from me, no one in my family has much luck growing snything, except maybe my Dad. I used to watch both my grandfathers tend to their plants lovingly and serenely, it was as if they had a special bond with the things.


That’s how I learnt to observe plants and memorised their special rhythm.


GARDENING ADVICE.


1. Never water trees.


I have picked up Gardening advice from a variety of places. I remember this one tidbit from a Reader’s Digest article. Never water trees. They won’t put out deep roots otherwise.


As a person who has grown a couple of trees in pots I know that you have to water them when they are grown in a pot!


I have two varieties of plumeria, one of which is a frangipani (silent for the winter). They produce white flowers with yellow centres. I want to see them grow into trees. I also have drumstick, and bougainvillea and a pomegranate.


2. Surprises from the Soil


Some trees grew by chance, others by care and nurturing. The wilder the origins, the hardier the plant.


That’s why try to grow plants from seed at home. Don’t buy them from a shop and expect them to adapt to your careless ways. I once spat out pomegranate seeds onto the soil.


Today, I have a thriving shrub.


Here are some common plants you can grow from seed at home:

· Limes

· Pomegranates

· Mustard

· Ajwain

· Peas

· Tomato

· Chilli

· Chickoo


3. The Bigger the Seed, the Deeper it Should Be Planted


Look at the seed. Is it chunky, small or wispy? Date palms, chickoo, mango, lychee all have chunky seeds. Plant these deeper into the soil. Chilli, tomato, and mustard are smaller seeds, they need to be put a few cms into the soil. Lemon will do well at one inch from the surface.


Don’t plant seeds in too deep, they will germinate and die there. I have witnessed this.


4. Like Plants, but Can’t be Bothered to Nurture Them?


Buy snake plants. Just try to kill these. Do try.


5. Use Organic Fertilisers


Chemicals were never meant for the soil, so don’t use them. While the quality of plants when using fertilisers is infinitely better, in the long run it destroys the soil. So try not to use them.


Adios!

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3 Comments


Guest
Feb 06, 2022

Loved the concept of your garden of Eden. Hope you'll see it come true. Well written.

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Guest
Feb 06, 2022

Awesome Karen. Appreciating your love for gardening!!!

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radha chinny
radha chinny
Feb 06, 2022

Good lesson for gardening.

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