Container gardening…..part 1.

For garden enthusiasts especially in metropolitan cities , finding ample space to grow a variety of plants can be quite an exercise. A bit of green around us is always nice but when we look at the multistoreyed residential and commercial buildings, a sprawling garden is usually a distant dream. Planting in containers (popularly defined as container gardening) is an easy and versatile way to fulfill our gardening desires. Beautiful displays can be achieved in small spaces available outside. With a little imagination, we can transform the insides of our offices and every room of our home as well. This art is an expansion of the horticultural horizon because container gardening defies space and time..Succulents in a cup and saucer planter

There are various types of containers such as planters, window boxes, hanging baskets and terrariums to creative containers like tin cans, bottles and a pair of old boots. In the next few blogs, I want to share some container gardening ideas, which have come through trial and error , are easy to maintain and very economic. (click on the images to see full photo).

Ivy planted in a slim tall glass..Glassware of different shapes and sizes make very interesting containers. They are more suitable to serve as indoor displays preferably in safe areas around the home and office. Most of the glass containers I have used in the photographs do not have drainage holes, hence,a combination of holding media for the roots is tried. Pebbles and decorative gravel is one of my favorite ingredients for glass containers as they look good and when placed appropriately, prevent unnecessary evaporation from the soil.

To plant in a glass container , ensure that it is clean and thoroughly dry before planting. Chlorophytum in a glass vase...Place a bit of gravel at the base. You can alternate layers of larger pebbles and finer gravel to give a layered effect. Then add a layer of activated charcoal which is usually found in pet stores. Charcoal adsorbs toxic gases released from the potting mix and helps keep the roots healthy. Top this layer with a bit of good quality potting mix and place the desired plant. Surround the base of the plant with more gravel or decorative stones to prevent water loss by evaporation.

The same technique is used to make terrariums which can house more than one plant at a time.  All these containers require little water which can be sprayed on rather than poured in the potting mix. Too much water can lead to decay and rot and care must be taken not to flood the containers.

A terrarium using five different varieties of plants..

The most popular indoor plants for glass containers are variegated ivy, Chlorophytum, cacti and succulents, baby’s tears (Soleirolia spp), ferns like maiden hair and button ferns, Pilea, some grasses… the list goes on. A fern in a jug of soil at all...Ferns can be planted or ‘kept’ in water like cut flowers in a vase. One of the ferns on my kitchen window sill is only placed in water without any soil or gravel.

To sum up today’s story, container gardening is a large avenue to explore. I would love a feedback as well as some more novel ideas from you……A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL !!!!

January 2, 2013Permalink 3 Comments

Home made ginger and lemon candy…good for sore throats..

This recipe is easy to make and especially useful in winter…so my friends from the North Hemisphere, this is for you right now !

You will need

1 cup fresh root ginger peeled and sliced

juice and grated rind of 1 lemon

3 cups sugar

Blend the above ingredients to a smooth paste without using water. Place the paste in a thick bottom pan on low to medium heat with constant stirring. When the sugar bubbles and starts to crystallize at the sides of the pan, remove from heat and keep stirring till slightly viscous. Pour onto a greased plate and allow to cool. Cut the candy into small bite sized squares. Stores well in an air tight container.

P.S I use these squares to sweeten my cup of tea at times !

December 25, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

Tuberous begonias….the summer season beauties….






There are more than a thousand species of Begonia found growing wild all over the world especially in the tropics and subtropics. One of the largest genus in the plant kingdom, begonias come in various forms and sizes. Some popular varieties are the smaller begonias used as bedding plants. They promise a continuous supply of flowers throughout summer. Some varieties of begonias are in demand for their  variegated and colored foliage. Tuberous begonias are larger, more voluptuous and glamorous than their other cousins, used mainly as potted plants or in floral displays. These plants are meant to catch the onlooker’s eye…and they certainly do ! 

Tuberous begonias are available in mostly all shades of red, orange, pink, yellow and white : in combinations, as picotees from dark crimson to the palest pinks, from bright orange to the palest peach and from bright yellow to the palest cream to pure white. A shade of blue in these plants has not yet been developed, but the day is not far away when we may see blue begonias.

The  plant forms a fat ugly tuber at its base when it goes into dormancy in winter. This acts as a storage organ for food necessary to kick start growth on the onset of the next summer. Surprisingly, the plants do not catch unnecessary attention from pests or fungi as much as other summer flowers. This makes them relatively easy maintenance plants. Tubers grow in size every year and are viable over several years. Many of the begonias with me are over five years old and they are still giving me the same display of color and beauty every summer.

Growing tuberous begonias is very easy. Tubers are available at relatively low prices from garden centers. Once these are sown in a suitable potting mix, the plant springs into action. One to many shoots spring from the growing points on a tuber and continue tirelessly till the end of the season. As long as these plants are sheltered from frost, they do not complain much. Plants are happy in the sun or in shade. Flowering usually takes in about four to five weeks since planting. An occasional feed and regular watering is recommended.

The most popular displays of these beauty queens are in containers. The cascading varieties planted in hanging baskets or the ascending plants in individual pots guarantee a riot of color throughout summer.

From a big fat tuber to a picture of color and beauty…truly, ugly ducklings growing into swans..!!



December 16, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

Zucchini chilas..

The zucchini or courgette is a wonderful and versatile summer vegetable belonging to the cucurbit family. It makes a pleasant accompaniment in a barbecue with meat, in stir fries, and steamed dishes. Here, I am sharing a simple recipe using grated zucchini to make savory chilas or pancakes. This can be a good breakfast or brunch dish. Preparation and cooking time: 30 min.


1 medium sized zucchini grated

1 1/2 cups rice flour

1 tablespoon fine semolina

1 tablespoon roasted and crushed peanuts

3 cloves garlic crushed and chopped fine

1-2  green chilies chopped fine (as per taste)

1/2 cup plain yoghurt

salt to taste

a little oil to drizzle while cooking the chilas.

Mix all the above ingredients upto salt and make a batter of chila or pancake consistency. Heat a non stick fry pan and make the chilas by spreading the batter evenly . Drizzle a little oil while cooking to make the chilas slightly crisp. Flip and cook on both sides till done. Serve with tomato sauce or a relish.

Happy eating !!





A little about this blog…

This is the garden’s magic,
That through the sunny hours
The gardener who tends it, Himself outgrows his flowers.

He grows by gift of patience,
Since he who sows must know
That only in the Lord’s good time
Does any seedling grow.

He learns from buds unfolding,
From each tight leaf unfurled,
That his own heart, expanding,
Is one with all the world.

He bares his head to sunshine,
His bending back a sign
Of grace, and ev’ry shower becomes
His sacramental wine.

And when at last his labors
Bring forth the very stuff
And substance of all beauty
This is reward enough.

Plant personalities in my garden…:)

Carol Klein’s book on plant personalities has given a new insight to look deeper into the plants’ feelings, their emotions, their happiness and their grief.  The fact that plants respond to various happenings around them is not new. First proved by our very own Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose and then practiced all over the world, this knowledge has been rewarding in terms of returns. Remember the experiment conducted some years ago by Dorothy Retallack of Colorado? Plants leaned towards the soft soothing notes of classical and jazz music and flowered within two weeks. While those plants at the mercy of rock music clambered away and eventually died.

To make the long story short, yes, plants have ‘responsive’ personalities. And in my garden this summer, I have a complete party of them. There are the  easy going marigolds which endure the gales, rain and scorching sun with equal ease. Marigolds also  last throughout summer with their robust foliage and a constant crop of flowers. They make good borders as well as look good in hanging containers. Begonias are my ugly ducklings turning into swans. What starts as a thick fat tuber, becomes a glorious display of beautiful flowers and variegated foliage. They are also generous in behavior viz. the more you give them, the more they return with interest. Then there are the shy damsels like Justicia, blooming quickly and making a very early exit. The brief appearance is enchanting and enough to linger on our mind for a long time.

The suave, debonair dahlias are head turners in every sense. Such a star quality ! Every time there is a bloom, I am smitten by its perfect aestivation, color and grace. Like all suave debonairs who are aware of their charm, dahlias demand attention and need looking after. Californian poppies are like shooting stars. I do not have many, but when in flower they make an impact by adding a fleeting sparkle

The fuchsias  are my page three stars. They have dressed up and graced every summer party in the last five years trying to outdo each other in terms of blooms, color and lasting power. Last but not the least, my Cestrum nigrum or ‘raat rani’ is my comfort zone, almost like my best friend. I look forward to her charm and company the most every summer. And she has not failed me ever. My evenings are filled with the divine fragrance of her flowers reminding me of my home.

And I am not going to sing to my plants for they seem to enjoy the sound of silence !!

November 25, 2012Permalink 5 Comments