|Sunday, April 18, 2004|
FOR the people of Chandigarh, who have easy access to the hills and get to see their different flora, there is always the temptation to own many of these plants. Who would not like to have the hydrangea at its flowery best (see the accompanying picture), the tuberous begonia with its vivid colours, the fuchsia with its obliquely hanging flowers, the elegant cyclamen, admired both for the foliage and blooms, and the strange-looking sedum and various bulbous plants?
Climatically speaking, Chandigarh and its surrounding areas — Ambala, Dera Bassi, Ropar, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Pathankot etc — are conducive for the growth of temperate plants too.
All that is needed to grow hill plants in this submontaneous zone is patience and creation of near-similar conditions. Thus, occasionally, one comes across gardens in this city where the hydrangea has come to survive.
The plants brought from the hills need to be placed in a cool place with plenty of humidity. This can be done by planting them in the shade of trees. Keeping these plants in groups along with local shade-loving plants that are growing well will provide them the necessary shade besides a good amount of humidity.
In the initial year, the growth of the plants may not be very encouraging. They may need a little pampering to begin with. They may even wilt in the heat or suffer from some disease. But after some time, they will get acclimatised and start flowering too. Hydrangeas bloom in early spring and keep doing so for nearly three months. The hydrangeas are usually pink, blue or even white. The soil may play a role in deciding the colour of the blooms. Under acidic conditions, they become blue and under alkaline ones, they may be pink. The former occurs mostly in case of hilly soil and the latter kind in the plains.
The hydrangeas need plenty of moisture, more so when grown in the plains. Make sure the soil is rich in manure to ensure a good supply of nutrients and also conserve moisture. The plants develop a thick root system. The plants go dormant in winter and that is also the time to plant and multiply them. The plant is then pruned, leaving behind three to four buds on a stem that had flowered during the year. This is apart from the routine removal of dead and diseased wood. The stems that failed to bloom during the year should be left as such so as to get blooms in the new season. The plant can be propagated through hardwood cutting, which should be placed two-thirds under the ground and kept moist.