MANJRI SHARMA has been an avid gardener since her teen years. She has been growing greens, exotic flowers and trees in her home’s lush garden in Rishikesh

Hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.

– Alfred Austin

Gardening is fun and relaxes me even as it keeps me in touch with nature. Digging in the dirt one might be, but growing your own living plants helps to settle your soul and makes you feel rejuvenated and alive. It is such a pleasure to watch your plants grow. Gardening not only keeps you busy but also creates positive vibes. Whether you grow flowers or fruits or vegetables or even perhaps nurture a small terrace garden or tend to potted plants in the balcony or maintain a full-fledged lawn garden, the gains and benefits are uncountable. Plants give you immense joy as they liven up even the dullest corner of the house. “Nature has a huge impact on health and wellness,” says Gwenn Fried, manager of horticulture therapy at a New York rehabilitation centre. She adds: “Growing something real, something alive is a hopeful thing to do.”

Avid gardener Manjri Sharma

Gardening is a hobby that I took to in my teenage days, though at that time back in the 70s there were hardly any nurseries and very little means to procure plants as we have now. But even in those restricted days, and with those very limited means, I would manage to get plants from here and there. My hobby took wings after my marriage and I got more into it when my children went away to boarding school.

Usually, my evenings used to be free since there was nothing much to do in a small town. Slowly my collection of plants and actively tending to them gave me the opportunity to learn about the different needs and wants of plants during different seasons.

Like we humans, plants too are different in nature and requirements. Some may like sunlight and some shy away from the sun, unable to tolerate too much sun. Some maybe happy sitting under the tree or in a verandah stealing just a few hours of the morning sun. It’s the same with their requirement for water.

Plants such as succulents, cactus, snake plant, adenium, bougainvillea, jade, crassula, dracaenas, diffenbachias, and aglaonemas are happier if you leave them alone. But on the other hand, peace lily, spider plant, ferns, cana, fibre optic grass are some plants that you need to fuss over and given them loads of water – in fact, they suck a lot of water and their soil needs to be kept moist consistently.

Evergreen plants are a delight

Ornamental plants generally grow round the year, but growing seasonal plants especially in winters is sometimes very difficult. It requires a lot of hard work from preparing the soil to planting the saplings, and then to concentrate on the fertilizing, watering, and at the same time, controlling pests and so on. But the end result is always deeply rewarding. It is easy enough to grow annuals such as marigold, calendula, petunia, verbena, sweet pea, and vincia. These colorful flowers are enough to have you gazing endlessly at your garden and to click photographs. Just looking at them is enough to brighten anyone’s day. These are hardy plants and it is not really necessary to plant them in flower beds as they do equally well in pots too which can be arranged later just the way you like them. If you don’t get enough sun in your house, don’t despair for you can always try impatiens. These cheerful annuals tend to brighten up any dark shady part of your house.

Then there are bulbous plants and many of them bloom in winters. These plants are very attractive and produce some gorgeous blooms. You can try your hand at growing gladiolus, freesias, and dahlias and not many know that dahlias can be grown from cuttings too. Amaryllis, hyacinth, crocus, narcissus, and tulips are other favourites of mine.

A majestic rose from Manjri’s garden

But nothing can replace the majestic rose. It is my all-time favourite and I can never tire of capturing their majestic beauty on camera. I have reproduced some gems here. Roses come in several varieties –erect, climbing or trailing and in whichever form you choose to adorn your garden with, it is always the centerpiece of your garden. I have a collection of about fifty rose plants in different colours. They bloom best in winters. The season for roses flags off in October when the pruning and fertilizing is done and if you follow this routine, you will be rewarded with impressive, fragrant flowers. But they do need care, especially from pests such as powdery mildew, so use of the correct pesticide is recommended.

Bougainvillea is another eternal favourite. It is a no-fuss, low maintenance plant that grows effortlessly and comes in several captivating hues. The plants bloom almost round the year, except during the rainy season. To do well, they must be bathed in sunlight. It is the most important factor that adds to their growth.

This article wouldn’t be complete if I don’t mention chrysanthemums. They certainly brighten up your garden. The flowers are so showy that the Japanese proclaim it as their national symbol. If you are planning to grow them, do so right away, for they will soon start blooming by mid-October.

Scented plants and vines like lavenders, rosemary, basil, raat ki rani, clematis, madhumalti, jasmine, champa, kewda delight your senses and refresh your mind and soul with their calming fragrance.

Loving and caring for plants is a wonderful experience. Try your hand at growing flowers this winter. It will take your joy to another level, besides filling you up with satisfaction and relieving stress. October is the right month to start growing them and nurturing the plants till they flower.

Manjri Sharma, who lives with her family in Rishikesh, is a homemaker. She loves nature and everything about it. Travelling is her hobby.