The Penguin Book of Gardening in India
New Delhi, 2002
Price: Rs 295 (Paperback)
Want to have a garden and don’t have place for one? Or facing a losing battle with weeds and pests in your garden? Want to make aesthetic improvements to your greenery? Here is a book that has answers to your queries.
This is easily one of the most comprehensive books on gardening in India, and covers just about every aspect of gardening. It includes some areas you don’t see in the usual gardening books eg recipes (So you can make marigold pulao or bauhinia subzi), or a guide to presenting the appropriate flowers for different occasions. Or how to make a moonlight garden!
But most of the surprises are very pleasant and for someone with green fingers, this would be an ideal book to possess. Not only does one encounter the usual suspects of a gardening book, ‘Gardeners’ Jargon’, or ‘Cultivation and Watering’, or even ‘Amateur Gardeners’ Common Mistakes’, but also chapters like ‘Small-Space Gardening’, ‘Bulbs, Corms, Tubers and Rhizomes’ and even ‘A Brief History of Gardening’ (it is not all that brief and makes for an excellent read).
And this is a book both for those who are familiar with their greens and those who aren’t. Uberoi helpfully points out the mistakes a greenhorn is likely to make and the best possible ways to avoid the usual pitfalls. There are any number of do’s and don’ts of gardening, sections on soil preparation, manuring, mulching, grafting and pruning techniques, layering, planting, seeding… But it is the little sections-- like a chart for which plants gel and which don’t-- that make the book worth having. Did you know cabbage should not be grown near onions or that carrots do well near beans, lettuce, garlic or mint but dislike strawberries?
Pests and diseases are extensively dealt with, as are fertilizers. There is even a section on traditional Indian fertilizers. Garden styles and tips on laying them out, including suggestions on various ways water could be made part of the garden are there, as are the methods for laying out sundials, arbours and garden paths. The chapters on terrace and indoor gardening too have practical suggestions.
There is a chapter on rockeries, cacti and succulents for those interested, and, rather unusually, a section on bamboos, grasses and reeds! The author, also a painter, has done some beautiful bamboo illustrations. Indeed the book has a strong visual content, including photographs, illustrations and diagrams, some of which are in colour. Roses have a large section to themselves, where the author bemoans the current trend of sacrificing scent for colour. Orchids and other exotic flowers find mention, as does how to make a ‘perfumed garden’. Garden trees are not neglected either.
For city-dwellers longing for fresh veggies, there is a section on how to make vegetable and herb gardens. Also what could be even more helpful, a section on plants that act as air purifiers.
So if you have the inclination and the space, get going. The only thing better than the book would be the garden itself. For the realisation of which this book could help considerably.