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ISLAMABAD, Feb 26: Lined beautifully and shinning in the soft sunshine, the colourful flowers in the nurseries at H-8 are bound to attract the citizens of Islamabad who have a prime taste for flora and fauna. As the weather is beginning to come out of the cold, a large number of people, including women, children and the elderly, can be seen taking keen interest in the wide variety of plants and flowers in these nurseries.

With changing times, the demand for local flowering plants is on the decline and the exotic ones have already taken over the likes of chambeli (jasmine), motia (another jasmine variety), champa (plumeria), raat ki rani (cestrum), roses, nargis and the less-known din ka raja (cestrum diurnum).

“The most important aspect of our traditional flowers is that they are not only attractive but also have great fragrance,” said Mian Imran, the owner of a nursery. “But now people are beginning to prefer the beautiful and bright coloured flowers instead.”

The key attractions nowadays are the originally exotic varieties of pansy, petunia antirrhinum, calendula, dog flowers and many other flowering and non-flowering plants as the spring arrives. “But the value of roses and ‘nargis’ remains high among the more conventional flower lovers,” Mr Imran added.

He said the trend was changing in favour of colourful flowers as they were seasonal and permanent plants which remained active for a couple of years.

The gardeners in the nurseries said the traditional flowers demanded active care of plants almost round the year and people were busier nowadays compared to a few years back.

Availability of space, efforts of the Capital Development Authority and a supportive role of nature have developed a tradition of love for plants in Islamabad; as a result, the nursery business is booming and becoming competitive.

Nurseries are concentrated at three spots in Islamabad with the largest number of around 30 at H-8 and the other two at Rawal Dam and Chak Shazad, which were established in 1960s.

“The residents can easily differentiate between a local flower and an exotic variety,” said Dilawar Hussain, another nursery owner.

Apart from the local sales, the nurseries here supply plants and saplings and flowers to a wide area stretching from Attock to Jhelum, including Murree and Hazara. This is mainly because nurseries in these areas cannot invest and manage vast varieties as is done in Islamabad.

“The major advantage for Islamabad is the central location of the city, secondly the overall business environment is proactive here,” said Rehmatuallah Shakir, President Islamabad Nurseries Welfare Association.

Apart from the individuals, another major clientele for the nurseries were government departments, including the CDA, and armed forces, which have large administrative offices around the twin cities.

The nursery owners said the overall sale of flowering plants had declined significantly in the ongoing spring season.

“Two years back we planted seeds worth Rs1.5 million and all was sold, this year we planted seeds worth Rs300,000 only and a lot of stock is still available,” said Mian Imran. “We can all see that even the CDA has planted a lot less flowers this year.”

However, the nursery owners are expecting business improvement in coming days from embassies and the armed forces as the ongoing cold spell is over and during the Pakistan Day celebrations.