Indian Plants : Easy, Aesthetic and Useful
Seeing places abroad as well as commercial establishments locally, influenced a lot of Indians to move away from fruit & flower bearing trees to landscaped gardens with exotic grass, palms and evergreen shrubs. Lets analyze this in detail and see what works well for us.
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Though Korean grass does not need periodic trimming it need a lot of water, periodic manuring, as well as well prepared landscape. Arugam Pull(used in prayers to Sri Ganapathy), is a versatile local variety that grows well without much personal attention, and does not need big investments nor maintenance. A big plus with this grass is that it is soft and cool to sit on. Crab grass from Malaysia or US ($10 seed+manure packet can cover 1000 sq feet) consumes less water, but needs periodic trimming to maintain the green patch.
Ornamental plants for landscaping
1. Ixora – This is a shrub endemic to India, and very popular in Europe as well. Ixora has thin stalks with star like flowers that comes as a bunch (as a child we used to take one by one and suck out the little honey out of these flowers). It comes in colours such as white, pink and coral red. It can be maintained as a small shrub or can be allowed to grow as a tree. A bunch of flowers remain fresh for at-least a week and adds a mild fragrance to the breeze. With this plant you will have tiny bees and butterflies visiting your home. The flowers can also be harvested to string garlands. This is a perennial, so you can see flowers throughout the year. A picture is shown below.
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2. Turmeric, Ginger, Chitharathai, Yam – All these plants have a similar look and grows very well in our climate. Suited for planting on the side of the pathways. These plants can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
3. Climbers – Sweet potato (Velli Kizhangu), Jasmine (Nitya Malli) are excellent climbers that need very little soil, manure and water, but offer extensive coverage. Nitya Malli flowers daily throughout the year.
4. Flowering plants – Chrysanthemum (Samanthi), Bhadrakshi, Jasmine (Gundu Malligai), Kanakambaram, Sampangi are nice flower bearing plants. My pick is Bhadrakshi for landscaping as it is easy to grow and is a perennial.
5.Exotics – If you have a large home with huge grass lawns, adding a lotus/lily pond would be very appealing. However you may have to populate the pond with some fishes and frogs to get rid of mosquitoes.
6.Trees – Arecanut (Paaku), Jackfruit (Palamaram), Gooseberry (Nellikai), Plantain/Banana, Casuarina, Bamboo, Teak, Badam are the best picks for trees that add to landscaping value as well as good utility value for homes. Mangoes, Coconuts, Sappotta, Maghizamaram, Shenbagham are very nice trees too, but may not necessarily fit into a landscaping profile.
7. Plants for remote spots – You may have noticed hard-to-reach points in your building that would look nice with some plants. At such places Perandai (Cactus variety, but can withstand downpours as well), Aloe Vera (Katrazhai) can grow well without letting in pests.
It is a long Indian tradition that food itself is treated as medicine, so lets look at landscaping the Indian way: Easy, Aesthetic and Useful.
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