So last weekend I blogged about my first attempts at planting. But I’m not one to let the grass grow under my feet – though I wish it would, for once – and so… once the boug were looking healthier, we decided the time was right to expand our portfolio. Amit’s leg was still in the pretty blue fibre-glass cast when we went to the Lalbagh nursery one Sunday and came back loaded. We got:
Two Neem trees (for Amit, obviously; he thinks they will keep mosquitos away)
Four canna lilies (because our water-conservationist architect’s firm says they will help with phytoremediation and can be grown hydroponically – more on both topics in a later post)
Two pots of petunias (because Amit likes pretty little flowers)
A frangipani tree, which consists of two dried-up and rather dead-looking stalks in a pot (I don’t know why exactly we got these, but it appears we had all somehow agreed to get them)
A lemon tree (again, Amit’s idea – don’t ask me why).
And a friend had casually handed me a curry patta sapling a day earlier.
Naturally, Lalbagh didn’t have any of the trees I wanted, so clearly another trip will have to be made at a future date.
Meanwhile, there was a full-fledged nursery in our back lawn now, which all needed to be given water and admiration on a daily basis. And most of them needed to be planted, too, which, since Amit was in no position to do such a thing, would have to be done by me. Me. With my own lilly-white hands that had never hitherto been sullied by common garden dirt, much less with gross things like compost. I mean, doing all that mucky stuff once is bad enough, but at least it was for my darling bougainvilleas, which I very much wanted. Do all that work for stuff I didn’t even want?
Well, at least by now I had a spade to help with the digging. And though Amit was out of action, I had two other pairs of hands, albeit small ones, that had not the slightest objection to getting into dirty and mucky stuff.
And so, incredible as it may seem to those who know me, and incredible as it seems to me, I did it.
The petunias went down first, and they were easy. They didn’t have a deep root, and in one place we had loose, sandy soil that didn’t need digging. We put one plant out in the blazing sun, and the other we put in a shadier spot where it gets little direct sunlight. The one in the shady spot looked hopelessly wilted and defeated when I planted it, but by the end of the day it was smiling happily and had new flowers to offer.
Then I planted the lemon tree. I have no idea how these things grow – websites mention mysterious things about soil types and pests and diseases which all leave me nonplussed. So I’m still more-or-less going with my “water it and leave it alone” approach. The lemon tree had small white flowers when we got it, but these fell off some ten days later. Is it unhappy or is this normal? No clue. But it has some new shiny green leaves and the browning of the tips, which Amit diagnosed as malnutrition, has reduced or maybe those leaves have fallen off. Whatever. To the untrained eye, it looks ok.
Then I planted the curry patta sapling. It’s a fairly tall creature, with several twigs ending in leaves, but it seems to be in a comatose condition. It doesn’t seem to be growing or dying. The leaves have not fallen off, nor have any new leaves come. The poor thing has a weak backbone and clearly needs some support, but even assuming I do eventually get around to tying it to something, will that help it grow? I’ve been watering it most days, and it’s not in a full-sunshine spot, and I don’t know whether I need to do something for it, or whether it’s just a slow-growing plant. I had a curry patta plant in one of those government bungalows my father was in just before I got married. All I remember about it was that it flourished, grew to be taller than me, and produced plenty of leaves. I don’t recall ever giving it any special attention or even watering it, but heck – that was 15 years ago and I was busy starting my career and planning my wedding, so I might just have missed something.
By the time I was done with those, I was exhausted. But I was also, surprisingly… it’s difficult to find the right word, but the closest I can think of is satisfied. Far from being yucky and mucky and gross, I found being in the dirt, digging, planting, even the compost sprinkling thing was all – satisfying. It gave me a strange sense of release. It was completely unexpected. I’ve never been a very earthy sort of person. The closest I’ve come to nature is when I trek, but, though I enjoy the earthiness of trekking, I’m still a city gal at heart. I have as healthy an aversion to dust, dirt, and creepy-crawlies as anyone else. Yet here I was, plunging my hands into soil, then into compost, then into water, getting truly muddy in the process, getting brown in my fingernails… and coming away feeling satisfied with it all.
There’s still lots to do. I have to figure out the hydroponics of canna lilies. I have to figure out how to get two dead-looking stumps to grow into an actual flower-bearing frangipani tree. I have to throw some chickoo (sapota) seeds into the ground and see if I can get a sapota tree out of it. Likewise for various other plants that I’m now willing and eager to try. I’m even game to get some more flowers and have little patches of colour in our lawn. Growing plants in our garden is clearly going to be a whole lot of work. That much I was prepared for. What I hadn’t expected was to actually enjoy it. Even the fact that there are two neem trees, four canna lilies, and two dead-looking frangipani stumps waiting to be planted – none of which was originally on my wishlist – doesn’t seem so bad any more. It might even, just possibly, be something I’m looking forward to.