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Gardening: Scent and sensibility

July 14, 2013

Q: When I have friends visiting me, I like to take them to my small patch of land which has a few plants but these are not fragrant. Please guide me as to which fragrant plants to grow in Karachi so that I can further delight my friends.

A: How delightful! Your friends are lucky indeed. If you are looking for perennials then you may like to put in some motia, brunfelsia (intriguingly known as yesterday, today and tomorrow), champa (frangipani), kamni (Murraya exotica), chandni (Tabernamontana) and, if your friends visit in the evening, raat-ki-rani (queen of the night). If you prefer purely seasonal flowers then there are lots to select from depending on the time of year: sweet sultan, phlox, nicotiana, sweet peas, Virginia stock, stocks, sweet Williams, scented petunias and annual pinks/dianthus. These, in seedling form, should all be easily available in your local nurseries during the correct planting season and should not be too costly. They can also be grown from seed at home without too much trouble and seed will be easily found in seed stores in the right season to sow them.

Q: I want to start growing seasonal vegetables in my backyard in Karachi. How should I begin? What kind of pots are needed and what type of soil, and how much sunlight will they require? How much water to give them and how to care for them generally, please?

A: Your backyard should have at least six hours of direct sunlight each day for vegetables to thrive. The size of pots all depends on which kind of vegetables you choose to grow but clay pots are far preferable to plastic ones and, even better are the wooden crates used to transport fruit and vegetables to the bazaars which, lined with newspaper, are ideal for vegetable cultivation. Soil should be rich in organic matter such as compost or old, well-rotted, organic manure as vegetable plants need a good source of nutrients if they are to crop well. Watering depends on the ambient temperature but an easy guide is to apply a little water to the soil, not on the actual plants, each evening during hot weather and two to three times per week during the winter months. If the soil is already visibly wet then do not water more. Please keep an eye on this column to see what can be planted and when. Good luck!

Q: Is it possible to grow gladiolus in Karachi or the immediate vicinity keeping in view the climate?

A: The answer is yes, with care you can, but the flowers do not last as long as when cultivated in the relatively cooler climes of the northern parts of the country.

Q: I enjoy growing plants indoors and recently bought some money plants to add to my collection. I water them daily and they get sufficient light but I do not observe any change in their growth. Kindly guide me as to how best to care for them so that they will flourish.

A: Give them time to settle in their new home and, I’m sure, they will reward you. It is rarely necessary to water money plants each and every day when they are being grown indoors. Watering them two to three times a week should suffice. You might like to add a very little, liquid, organic plant food when you water them but only do this every two to three weeks at the very most.

Q: I would like to cultivate gerberas in Lahore. Is the climate suitable and which season is the best for sowing seeds or for purchasing plants?

A: Gerberas do very well in Lahore providing that they are cultivated in partial shade — underneath trees is ideal — and that the growing area is very well-drained. Seed can be sown from August to the end of September or March to April. Established plants are available in nurseries throughout the year but it can be best to make your selection when the plants are in flower from late winter through to early summer.

Q: I have been growing geraniums, from seed, for the last three years in Lahore and the results are usually very satisfying. Last season, however, they suffered from bacterial wilt and it broke my heart to see them die. I love all of my plants but especially my geraniums. Please tell me how to stop bacterial wilt from reoccurring.

A: Geraniums tend to develop bacterial wilt during periods of high humidity or when the free circulation of air is somehow restricted, such as if grown in overcrowded conditions. Ensure that your plants are kept in as dry an atmosphere as possible and that air circulates freely around each plant and the chances of bacterial wilt will be very much ruled out.

Q: Is there an online link to all of your articles? This would be of great help to so many gardeners here.

A: There is no link as such but the magazine archives are simple to access online.

Please send your gardening queries to Remember to include your location. The writer will not respond directly by e-mail. E-mails with attachments will not be opened.