Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Withered blooms

How green is my garden!


Our gardener and I share a love-hate relationship. I love seasonal flowers and he hates them. He thinks of flowers as pests and keeps wondering what earthly use are they. If he could have his way he’d transform our little garden into a vegetable patch. “You can eat fresh vegetables everyday!” is his standing argument, for which he has encroached a third of the area and planted his utter favorites – gourds, methi and spinach.

No amount of persuasion with this ‘maali baba’ works, so I usually pitch in myself, while he watches with a disdainful sneer. My experiments always start with sowing the seeds, waiting patiently for a month for the plants to sprout, losing patience and invariably ending with a shamefaced visit to the nursery for plants ready to bloom. Despite the fiascos which happen every year with monotonous regularity I haven’t lost faith in myself- one day I’ll grow, and not buy, my seasonal flowers.
And a month ago I found the big polythene bag bulging with seeds. They were not labeled but I was sure that they were the same I had painstakingly collected last year. I rushed with it to the garden- getting our all-in-one office boy to strew them in the characteristically empty flower- bed was a matter of minutes. And then the wait began.

This year it looked like my persistence was about to be paid off. Tiny, bright green plants sprouted and soon covered the barren flower-bed. Excited I emptied a bucketful of fertilizer and was rewarded with a fresh burst of growth which threatened to choke the bed. Getting to thinning down the plants, I carefully plucked plants by handfuls and replanted them in all the flower-pots and remaining flower beds. Still there was a surplus and working on the ‘do unto your neighbors ….’ principle, I distributed it freely to neighbours, advising them sagely to plant not more than four plants per pot.
“What is it?” one of the ladies asked, eyeing the tender green plants.
“Oh, flowers…,” I said with a superior smile, these people knew so little about plants, “multicolored flowered, they’ll bloom in March!”
“They look familiar, you know…” she said a bit doubtfully. I couldn’t help laughing, “Oh, they do, but don’t worry they’re those lovely flowers…”

I rediscovered the joys of nurturing- watering the plants diligently, swatting away our pet when he tried to eat the labours of love and everywhere in our garden I could see the pearls of my hard-work.

But something was missing. The one thing I do know about flowering plants is that they start budding when the weather turns warm. And mine were just going on sprouting more and more leaves. Maybe they would bloom late, I told myself and sprinkled some more fertilizer in the hope that it’d hasten flowering. They became positively luxuriant but still no budding.
And then, the other night it suddenly struck me, how come we had such a huge packet of seeds? Our measly buys from the nursery yielded hardly a spoonful, so where had that big polythene come from?
The next morning I surreptitiously compared the leaves of Baba’s spinach patch and my plants- they looked distressingly, alarmingly similar. I bit of tiny pieces of both- they tasted exactly the same!

I brought out the offending polythene bag and held it under Baba’s nose, “Which seeds are these?” I asked him, half-sure of his answer myself.
He took out a handful, peered carefully and put it back, “Spinach” he said happily, ”Keep it safely, we’ll use it next year,” he beamed more broadly, “this year you’ve done a very good thing by filling all those silly flower-beds and pots with spinach….”

Did I wait to hear more? I did not.
I was on my way on the oft-beaten track to the nursery.
And the neighbors are yet to know the truth.

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