Massed seasonal potted plants | Photos by the writer
Massed seasonal potted plants | Photos by the writer

It is natural to want to beautify your home surroundings and how better to do this than with plants!

Nurseries, irrespective of the time of year, always seem to stock a wide range of potted plants although, admittedly, at some times of the year, the plants on offer are far more colourful than at others.

This, you will be happy to know, is one of those times when potted plants are very colourful indeed. Plus, prices for most of them are, all things considered, very reasonable.

Potted plants, for both inside and outside your home, brighten up your surroundings instantly, and they provide a natural aid to your overall health and wellbeing.

Beautifying your home with plants has been scientifically proven to relieve stress, ease tension, help banish depression and promote happiness

Bringing nature into your home has been scientifically proven to relieve stress, ease tension, help banish depression and promote happiness. Plants on tables, on window ledges and shelves, arranged on balconies, in verandas and anywhere else there is enough suitable space and natural light, really can have a life-changing impact. The positive quality exuded by plants is needed by everyone during these difficult times of a global pandemic, and the various hardships they have brought with them.

You don’t need to fill your home to bursting point with plants to feel the difference they make: the presence of even a single plant can bring so much joy to a room that change is inevitable.

The exact same applies to adding new plants to an existing garden, as long as you spend time out there, in the open air, appreciating and nurturing the varied life forms that surround you — the flowers, ferns, shrubs, trees, birds, bees, butterflies and insects that also inhabit the patch of earth you are guardians of.

Taking our increasingly fickle climate into account, if you are not yet an experienced gardener, stick to a range of simple-to-care-for, bright and cheerful, seasonal potted plants for starters. These will only last a few weeks before dying back when the intense summer heat makes its presence known, but the pleasure they provide is well worth the relatively small financial investment necessary.

These seasonal potted plants are not suited for the indoors but are perfectly at home, in their pots, in porches and verandas, on balconies and rooftops if they have shade, alongside driveways, arranged in courtyards and any other outdoor space you have at your disposal.

They can, of course, be carefully removed, with roots and attached soil intact, and be transplanted into the garden proper but, unless the pots are very small, they are happy to flower away in the pots they have been grown in. Watering them, each evening towards sunset, is the only essential care.

Shrub of the month; Hydrangea lacecap
Shrub of the month; Hydrangea lacecap

Cheap and cheerful, flowering pot plants falling into this category, include: pansies, petunias, gazanias, zinnias, matricaria, carnations, geraniums, tagetes, mesembryanthemums, calendulas, nasturtiums, lobelia, celosia and amaranthus, to name but a few.

Indoor plants fall into a separate category and are often, but not always, perennial — meaning that they can live for a number of years. The price for these is higher than for their purely seasonal/annual plants, but their health-boosting properties make them equally as worthwhile.

If buying plants is not a budgetary proposition for you, there are options.

Growing plants from seed is far cheaper than buying nursery-grown potted plants. All you have to buy is seeds and suitable soil/compost. Instead of purchasing plant pots, you can recycle a variety of containers; wooden vegetable/fruit crates from the bazaar, lined with newspaper, filled with soil/compost make ideal miniature gardens, for example.

Another alternative is to grow perennial plants from cuttings, but please do ask their owner for permission before taking them!

Seed sowing guide for April

The flower garden: Zinnias, sunflowers, Californian poppies, cosmos, gomphrena, cockscomb amaranthus, celosia, gaillardia, rudbeckia, salpigloss, nicotiana, matricaria, petunias, French and African marigolds, tagetes, coreopsis, tithonia, mesembryanthemums, carnations, pelargoniums, buzzy-lizzies and flax/alsi are just some of the gorgeous flowers to sow this month for a stunning summer garden.

The vegetable garden: Hot weather lettuce varieties, endive, chicory, radicchio, Swiss chard/leaf beet, spinach, Japanese and Chinese mixed salad leaves, Mesclun salad mixes, tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, mooli and crisp French radish. Then there are aubergines, cayenne peppers, pimentos, bitter gourd/karela, okra/bhindi, green onions, climbing beans, bush beans, open-hearted cabbage and summer cauliflower. Sweetcorn is always worth growing, as are courgettes/zucchini, marrows, pumpkins, spaghetti squash and other kinds of summer squash too. Sweet potato slips can also go in this month, as can fenugreek and ginger.

Summer fruits: Chinese gooseberries, melons and watermelons, plus propagate pineapple tops for a juicy reward in two to three years’ time.

The herb garden: Lots of nasturtiums, chillies, coriander, borage, basil, chives, garlic chives, rocket/arugula, calendulas, aniseed, summer savoury, lemon grass, dill, feverfew, chervil and turmeric.

Shrub of the month: Hydrangea — a perennial shrub, native to China, Japan, Korea, South America and the US. The most common of the 70-75 varieties in this family is Hydrangea macrophylla which is found with two flower forms: mop-head and lace-cap with blooms in white, pink shades and pale to bright blue. Requiring acidic soil conditions, with lots of compost mixed in, the plants must have excellent drainage, yet be watered regularly during dry/hot weather. Admired by plant lovers everywhere, imported Hydrangeas are sometimes sold as pot plants in Pakistan and, aside from flourishing outdoors in Kalat, the Galiyat and hills further north, rarely survive for long elsewhere in the country, a combination of heat and humidity tending to kill them off. Treated as a short-lived, outdoor pot plant, and kept in a location that gets morning sun only, they will be stunning for a few weeks only but, if you are okay with this, then by all means enjoy them while you can.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened

Published in Dawn, EOS, April 4th, 2021

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