Its Spring

Don’t click away seeing a new pink and blue colour combination. With makeovers being ‘hot’ decided to try one out here too!
Spring is in the air. For us in Pune, heat has already set in but my plants are enjoying the weather with a surge of new shoots. Jacaranda is in its full purple glory. In Assam, I remember the ‘Seemal’ to be in full bloom now. Huge red flowers of the size of a man’s palm, crimson red and full of nectar. The monkeys in Tezpur drank from them as if partaking from a cup!
And a month later, the pods burst and the ground was covered with wispy cotton clouds- almost looks like a blanket of snow from afar. This has to be seen to be believed.
The ‘Flame of the Forest’ too blooms around this time. None of these have a overpowering perfume like Millingtonia hortensis and one has to look up to appreciate the red or purple canopy.
Poinsettias have begun to fade now. Time soon to repot them.

And yes, have learnt this trick to let you read my earlier relevant posts. So follow the beckoning hand for more information!

A blooming success

First published in Times of India, Pune Westside Plus on 16 Nov 2007
‘Florex India’ held at the Agricultural College grounds from 02-04 November 2007 was a treat for flower lovers.

The 3-day event organised by the Western India Floriculture Association showcased farmers, companies related to floriculture and industry experts from across the country and abroad. Poinsettias and Orchids were in full bloom despite only being early November reflecting the influence of plant-biotechnology over natural growth cycles.

The first sight on entering the huge air-conditioned hall was a map of India entirely prepared using exotic flowers. That set the tone for the visual feast in the around 200 stalls. The predominant flowers were Roses – huge long stemmed varieties in twin or multiple shades and each at least double the size of what is commonly available. All these beauties are grown specifically for export with expertise from Netherlands and other countries in specially equipped farms on the outskirts of Pune. Despite the presence of thousands of roses, there was no fragrance at all, probably as they were grown from tissue culture techniques.

Large plate-sized Gerberas were yet another eye-catching presence. Bunches available at local flower vendors paled in comparison to the huge, velvety flowers with multiple rows of petals and double colours.

The Kerala stall had some exclusive flowers. Champagne ginger (of the same family as the ginger we consume) was a unique feature in the entire exhibition. It was rather like pinecones and was used in a table arrangement. Spider Orchids and Coconut Rose on show here again are grown specifically for export. Flamboyant Heliconia in red and yellow or pink and orange, Bird of paradise and different coloured Anthurium left no doubt to the origins of catch line ‘Gods own country’. Tamil Nadu too had a beautiful stall. Carnation and Lilium (both pink and orange) arrangements here silently invited each visitor get him/herself photographed with the blooms. States from the North East too had imposing offerings.

The exhibition attracted participants from Netherlands, Israel, Spain, Belgium, Japan among others. It was an eye-opener to learn that post harvest technology is a field by itself and several products to protect and hasten blooming of buds were on show.

A remarkable feature was that almost none of the flowers were on sale. One could buy the occasional Anthurim plant, Cactii (from the Orissa stall) or Poinsettia but no blooms. What one could buy was a range of saplings, some rare bulbs like Daffodils and Iris. There was a separate enclosure for nurseries where one could buy other plants, plant equipment etc.

The event provided a venue for those in the field to carry out business discussions and was a testimony of India’s strides in floriculture and agri-business. Do make it a point to visit such an exhibition next time around, to get a first hand view of our farmers blooming success.

Millingtonia hortensis

A walk down roads in Pune these days brings wafts of a heavenly perfume. A strong breeze and the fortunate standing below a particular roadside tree are showered with rain of white long flowers! From a distance the falling flowers form a net curtain beyond which one can see the sun struggling to come out behind the clouds!

The tree locally known as ‘buccha’ that bears the botanical name ‘Millingtonia hortensis’ is in full bloom right now. Morning walkers can walk over a carpet of blooms that have fallen at night. The old trees stand majestically tall even towering over newer taller buildings. I am told the tree can grow up to 80 feet tall!

Just look up a tree squinting your eyes against the sunlight and you can see the upright open clusters with drooping blooms looking rather like stars. Each trumpet shaped flower has a waxy texture. Collect some and keep on your study table and bring some nature indoors.

This tree belongs to the Bignoniaceae family. Yet another tree that blooms at night and whose blooms carpet the roads at sunrise is ‘Prajakta’ or Nyctanthes arbor-tristis. That is also in bloom right now and the exquisite tiny star shaped flowers with orange stems do not take kindly to human handling!
So go out and enjoy nature’s treats. I only wish I could link up some of the divine fragrance for you! Till then lets make do with these pictures! (you can click on the picture to get full screen view)


Preparing your Poinsettias for Christmas!

Come the month of December, we find flaming red plants make a dramatic appearance everywhere even in India. The Poinsettias are typically associated with Christmas and retain their beauty for many weeks. However to ensure beautiful red flowers, its necessary to take some actions now itself.

This is a long night plant, which means it needs prolonged darkness to develop the flamboyant blooms. From now on (end September) ensure the plant gets about 14 hours of darkness everyday. If your plant is in a pot then you can even take it indoors at night as any additional light from street or yard lights will inhibit blooming.Make sure that the poinsettia receives only natural sunlight. Do not pinch or prune the plant after now.

Coloured bracts generally begin appear by early November and fully expand by end November.
The actual flower is yellow and is located at the base of the bracts. Plants with tightly-closed flowers that have not yet shed pollen will last the longest in your home.

Poinsettias belong to the Euphorbiaceae family. They ooze a milky sap which may cause skin irritation. Leaves and plants are not poisonous but not edible either!

Lovely red and white Poinsettias can be cultivated in a tropical country like India also. It only needs some care and nurturing. Begin today itself!