KOCHU VARTHAMANAM: How Does Your Garden Grow?
On Mar 30, 2012
When the world switches over from dull drab brown to beautiful beautiful green and an explosion of every colour on the rainbow, my imagination goes into overdrive.
And let me tell you this, I don’t just dream. I act. I rush to the nearest nursery and arm myself to the teeth with gardening supplies. Potting soil, mulch, fancy flower pots, solar lamps to line my drive way, landscaping rocks, quaint white picket fences to go around the flower bed under my mailbox, pot hangers to go up on the hooks around the porch, cute pieces of garden statuary including grinning tortoises, suave frogs, rabbits in straw hats and stained glass butterflies and of course gardening gloves and tools. As you can see, I leave no stone unturned. You name it I have it.
I drove back with visions of a bank of showy asters nodding their pretty heads in the breeze and daffodils that “flash upon that inward eye;” waxy tulips (oh, did I mention the miniature windmill I got to go on my bed of tulips?) and crocuses and camellias and geraniums and nasturtiums… well you get the idea. I had it all planned out. I knew exactly how my garden would look. The carefully cultivated ‘garden running wild’ look. That’s what I was aiming for.
I reached home lost in a swirl of color and fragrance and since it was a beautiful day meant to be spent outdoors, I set upon my task right away. I got into my gardening outfit, donned my gloves, dug up the soil, layered mulch and potting soil and reached for the seeds. The seeds… Ah I knew I had forgotten something!
One spring I actually got the seeds to sprout. I started having my morning tea in my garden, I walked along the flower beds, counting the new leaves, measuring how many inches centimeters millimeters they had grown overnight, watching out for new sprouts, it was such a calming feeling, a Zen moment almost. I couldn’t stop sharing my gardening experiences with anyone who did or did not care to listen. That was when someone said that talking to your plants promoted their growth. So talk to them I did. After I ran out of conversation topics, I started reading to them. I don’t know if it was the declamation of Mark Anthony at Julius Caesar’s death or excerpts from my old columns that did it… in a week all of them had left for that big garden up in the sky.
Another time, I got a Four o’ Clock flower seed to sprout. Being a hardy plant, a minor detail such as my poor gardening skills would not deter it. It grew strong and robust and my heart simply burst with pride as the small plant waved strong in the wind. I knew I had to reward this plucky plant for being such a sport and proving that I could be a gardener too. And I knew just what to reward it with – Miracle Gro. The next morning I was out there with my can of the miraculous plant food. I poured in a generous amount for the apple of my eye (err.. so to speak) and sat back to watch it shoot up like Jack’s Beanstalk. By that evening I had learnt that there is such a thing as ‘too much fertilizer’ and that it actually pays to read instructions.
A couple of summers ago, I focused on vegetables. I managed to get quite a few of them growing. The snake gourds and okras were even flowering. That’s when my husband decided to mow the backyard. He mowed the yard all right, including my vegetable beds. To this day I haven’t yet made up my mind whether to believe what he says about not being able to differentiate between the rows of flowering vegetable plants and the tall grass, or the tiny voice in my head, which says he did them in so that I would stop nagging him about watering them.
Last Onam however, most of the vegetables in the avial for my Onasadhya actually came from my back yard. But I think that is only because our friend took care of them for the better part of that summer, since we were travelling. The moment we got back home, the plants started dropping like flies. We just about managed to salvage that lot for the avial.
Be that as it may, I do have exceptional gardening skills when it comes to the highly specialised field of refrigerator gardening. At any given time there are at least a couple of boxes in my fridge with lush green stuff growing inside them. Maybe I should try putting those boxes on my windowsill.
While my gardening skills are bad, what’s worse is having friends who are great gardeners. By the time the first couple of leaves appear on my row of beans, my friend is knocking at my door with her first harvest that she generously shares with me. And when I do get around to harvesting, I realise that my snake gourds are the size of her beans and her cucumbers the size of my car. I also know whose garden Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother raided, to get that carriage-sized pumpkin.
I always thought having a brother who could turn a dry barren hill into a lush green forest would automatically qualify me as a gardener. Obviously not; as I learnt the hard way. Or maybe that is precisely why I cannot grow anything. My quota of ‘green thumbery’ too has been given to my brother. Probably the whole family’s green thumbery rests with him. Honestly, when he walks by, trees and plants actually try to sway closer to him, even when there is no breeze. Me? When I take a walk along the wooded trail in the neighbourhood, I have a sneaky feeling that the trees there are straining at the roots, trying to put as much distance between me and their immovable selves.
And the other day, as the wind blew among the leaves, I thought I heard a faint whisper rustle through the leaves all along the trail… “There she goes, the psycho. Did you know she gets her high murdering baby plants? After she carries out horrible experiments on them...” Apparently news travels fast on the grapevine.
No I am not going in there again. Have you seen the trees along that trail? What if they gang up on me?