Born and raised in Delhi, Mary George was always inclined towards gardening. She gives credit to her mother – an avid gardener who owned almost all varieties of indoor as well as outdoor plants. So, taking care of the plants was a ritual for Mary since her childhood.
“Setting up a garden and retaining its beauty is an arduous task in Delhi due to its extreme weather conditions. But once you get the hang of things, it will fall into place,” says Mary to The Better India.
The 63-year-old’s garden is divided into three parts – terrace, ground and balcony. Additionally, indoor plants are kept in all other rooms of the house. Today, at least 1,000 plants are seen in her garden, including succulents, roses, lilies, palms and several indoor plants.
“I collect new plant varieties from garden nurseries while visiting Kerala and from my friends’ gardens. I was only a helper while my mom did the majority of the work. Post her death last year, I’m in charge of all the plants and look after them with the utmost care,” says the retired biology teacher who now works as a freelance educational consultant.
Out of all types of plants in her garden, Mary is particularly proud of her orchid collection. This is due to the reason that orchids are rarely grown in Delhi. “I’m a part of many gardening groups in Delhi. But none of the members grows orchids. It is hard for these plants to survive the scorching heat and harsh winter,” shares the gardener.
It has been only a year since Mary started her orchid garden. At present, there are 25-30 varieties of orchids in her collection, all of which are placed in pots both inside and outside the house.
Apart from gardening, Mary enjoys writing blogs and tweeting tips about her hobby. “Gardening uplifts my mood instantly. I consider each plant as my child. Nurturing them gives me nothing but pure joy,” she gushes.
Mary has a good fan following on Twitter and she is part of many gardening clubs in Delhi too. “I share pictures of my garden and plants in the groups. I don’t venture to sell plants because there are limitations. Since I am not a professional, all plants wouldn’t be healthy enough to be sold,” she adds.
Her husband and daughter frequently assist her in the garden. Additionally, she hires a gardener once a week for in-depth care.
“But gardening, especially orchid gardening, is an expensive hobby. We need to purchase the plants which are always high-priced along with pots and fertilisers. Only those with time and passion for this activity should enter it,” recommends Mary.
Here are 10 steps the gardener shares to grow gorgeous orchids at home:
- Before setting up the garden, research extensively about orchid gardening and which types are suitable for the weather conditions of your place. For example, vanda orchids can’t withstand extreme heat. Refer to books or the Internet to find out more of this sort.
- Find the right spots in your house to place the pots based on the availability of sunlight. Make sure the morning/ evening sunlight is received by the plants.
- Choose the right pot for the plant. Terracotta pots are helpful if the atmospheric temperature is mostly high. Similarly, hanging pots can also be used.
- Choose the right potting mixture. Less soil and more cocopeat are preferred which can hold moisture for a long time.
- Select healthy orchid seedlings for planting. Collect them from a nearby nursery of experienced gardeners.
- Be sensitive to the needs of the plants. Overwatering and underwatering are common issues while gardening which are to be avoided.
- Rather than watering, spraying works well for plants.
- Look out for diseases or weeds. Never spare a day from closely looking at the plants.
- Liquid fertilisers are most effective on orchids. Spray them once every two weeks.
- As far as possible, stick to organic fertilisers. This will expand the lifespan of the plants.
Edited by Yoshita Rao
All photo credits: Mary George