Green Bean

The Green Bean: Plagued by periwinkles

Periwinkles! Periwinkles everywhere!!
Periwinkles! Periwinkles everywhere!!

I’m being followed by periwinkles. I just know I am. I can’t walk a minute without seeing them. In people’s houses, office buildings, in the supermarket and even along the sidewalk! They seem to be everywhere, it would seem. Everywhere that is, except in the murderous pot in my garden.

A month ago, I picked out two periwinkle plants at the nursery. They were both healthy and beautiful. They were also in full bloom! The first one’s flowers were a lovely red in colour, while the other one’s were white with a pink ring in the centre.

“Sadafule,” my dad called them by their Marathi name. “They’re in bloom throughout the year and are really easy to maintain.”

I like it when my dad suggests plants that are “easy to maintain”. It usually means that they need nothing but water, sunshine, and the occasional smattering of compost to be chillin’ like villains.

But within a week of bringing them home, both the periwinkle plants started to wither. First, their flowers started to rot and then the leaves and stems followed. I tried my best to save them. Ok, so maybe “my best” involved adding a dash of vermicompost and saying a prayer. But don’t forget, I ‘m pretty new to this gardening gig.

They died on a Tuesday morning as the sunny skies started to cloud over. Just like my soul.

“I did everything I could, Dad. But I just couldn’t save them,” I told my father over the phone. “The sadafule have died.”

“It’s ok,” he said. “Sometimes, plants just die. Maybe the roots didn’t latch on properly or it was just a bad seed!”

“Or maybe your dad is just being a good father and avoiding having to tell you that your ‘green thumb’ is actually black,” my husband chirped from the background.

I’m being followed by periwinkles. Plagued, more like. It’s like they’re pointing at me and whispering, “There goes the killer of our kind! Beware her touch…”

Seriously! I have seen these flowers grow anywhere and everywhere. Even on the rims of gutters tended by nothing but dust, pollution and the occasional sprinkle of dog pee. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But you can see why the unfairness of the situation has me worked up, can’t you?

“You could have another go at it,” a friend of mine suggested the other day.

“No, I really don’t want to return to the nursery again. It’s too painful. And far.”

“Or you could just take a cutting from one of the many periwinkles you claim to see like Hamlet’s father’s ghost and plant it!”

“Wait. You can do that?”

Apparently, you can! Who would have thunk?

“Any experienced gardener, or even a child repeating the 4th grade could have told you that….” My husband quips as I tell him about this revelation.

I guess I’m not being plagued by periwinkles at all! I’m being summoned by them, more like, to have another go. Maybe I’ll steal a stem of the neighbour’s Bird of Paradise too while I’m at it!

Green Bean

The Green Bean: Green thumbs down


Bangalore is undoubtedly the best city for gardens and gardeners. So much so that it’s officially the city’s tag line, or something: Garden City. However, I have sold it as more of a ‘Beer Garden City’ to my friends, family and anyone who will listen, but that’s a sales pitch for another time.

I live in the best city in India to grow things. The sun is always shining. It rains on occasion. The temperatures are pretty balanced throughout the year. Basically, I have no idea what I’m talking about, just that if you plant things in Bangalore and care for them, they will grow. Really, really well.

So how do you end up torturing two tomato plants on the terrace and losing a baby lemon tree to weeds in the front yard?

I have a friend who used to say that before she decided to have a child, she would first buy a plant. “I will take care of it for a while, and if I don’t kill it, I will consider having a child.” I used to tell her this was a silly way to think it. You can’t compare a plant and a child. They’re both completely different things, not to mention their yields and maintenance are like comparing peaches and popcorn.

But having lost (interest in) the tomato plants once my Instagram ‘Likes’ reached double digits, I was made to feel very guilty on vacation recently, by concerned plant rights activists like my sister and husband.

“She doesn’t even water her own plants,” Sabaa stated my as she went about watering the dying orchids in her sun-deprived living room in Munich. “Her housekeeper does it for her! And if he sees something growing, like a tomato or a flower, he lets her know. Then, and only then, does she go up to the terrace to take a picture of it to post on social media.”

“Oh and she didn’t even use the tomatoes for in a salad or anything,” my husband chimed in. “She just totally forgot about them.”

At that moment, I detested the two of them for being right. I had let the tomatoes go. It was my fault that the mint – which, by the way, spreads like friggin’ weeds if you’re not a plant murderer – wilted. And where in the world did that lemon tree go to? Seriously?!

Gardening is hard work! Especially if you’re as slow on the uptake as I am. It’s just that all those growers, gardeners and green bloggers make it look so easy. But obviously it isn’t.

What’s more is that I now actually respect my friend’s decision to keep a plant alive before taking on the responsibility of nurturing a child. Of course, I’m hoping more than ever that my competency in nurturing one isn’t a reflection on how I will fare with the other. Regardless, as long as I have the intention to do better, be more hands-on, learn along the way and bear in mind that photos are merely the one perfect moment of a million imperfect shots, I should be golden. Or green. Or whatever.

So I have decided to stop being such a lazy person and really put my efforts into my little garden. You don’t have to believe me, really, even if I do show you the power point presentation I’ve made, chalking out my plans for a fresh start at a salad garden.

But I know that I am capable of making this happen if I really put my mind to it. It’s just a matter of hard work and determination. Actually, given my reputation across two continents, it is now a matter of saving face!

To add some accountability to my endeavours as an aspiring gardener, I’m going to post an update about my garden every Thursday! I’m calling this series, The Green Bean. It will document many of my own (mis)adventures in the garden and also feature tips, tricks and on occasion, solid advise from seasoned gardeners and friends.