Book Review: The Penguin Book Of Gardening In India

June 18, 2007
Deepti Lamba

If you happen to be a complete green horn when it comes to gardening and live in India then the book - The Penguin Book Of Gardening In India will probably ease you into the world of flowers, plants and trees quite easily.

Meera Uberoi has done a fantastic job of turning a subject that might seem to be boring to some into an interesting read by providing interesting historical
information about the respective flower or plant.

The Romans' passion for the rose was nothing short of excessive. According to Seneca, Romans constructed special greenhouses, heated pipes filled with hot water, to get out of season flowers. During their ceremonies, roses were used on an astonishing scale. At banquets, roses were worn in extravagant garlands and wreaths; rose petals were strewn on the couches and flours and were floated in cups of wine. When insufficient, shiploads of roses were imported from North Africa. Cicero writes that Verres, the governor of Sicily, was carried about in a litter, the cushions of which were stuffed with petals. ...In Sybaris (from which we get the word sybarite), the inhabitants were so given to luxury that people slept in mattresses filled with rose petals- literally a 'bed of roses'!

The book is a resourceful storehouse of vital gardening knowledge. The first few chapters deal with essential information that gardeners should be aware of, ranging from having a complete chapter on gardening Jargon where a newbie gets acquainted with words like Blanching, Bract, Dead Heading, Pleach etc to chapters on cultivation, watering, fertilizers, pests, diseases, designs for small or large gardens.

Entire Chapters are dedicated to Roses, Bamboos and even on Bonsai. My favorite chapter happens to be on trees that can thrive in large containers. Trees like Mandarin Orange and Coral Jasmine are a must have in Bangalorean gardens though I couldn't get them at Lal Baugh and I'm scouting around in other nurseries.

Ms Uberio has also done a good job of providing information on the type of plants and flowers that can survive the Indian climate. Information on perennials, annuals , bulbs, corms, tubers etc and essential information on potting has made gardening less overwhelming for a newbie like me.

The book, thankfully, is not a coffee table book filled with generic professionally landscaped garden pictures with little information instead it is stacked with minute details that seasoned gardeners know but those relatively new to gardening inevitable get wrong and having failed give up this pleasurable hobby even before they dig their hands into the earthy beauty of molding nature.

Newbies often tend to forget to make drainage holes in their pots or neglect to put crocks in the pot or fail to realize that the broken shards need to covered with a layer of sand or moss before the soil mixture is put in the soil. Many don't even know the importance of the top soil for a plant to thrive.

There is never enough information about gardening and I'm of the opinion that the more books one has on this subject the better chances one has of having a manageable if not a beautiful garden.

Another book that one can pick on gardening which pertain to fundamental queries about gardening is 1000 Handy Gardening Hints, the consultant editor is Alan Titchmarsh. The book provides solutions and tips on gardening which most people tend to learn by trial and error method.

I am told a laurel hedge should not be cut with shears or a mechanical hedge trimmer. Is this true?

Yes, because the leaves will unavoidably be cut in half by these methods and will turn brown. Eventually this damage may weaken the hedge, as such leaves will fall. Although rather laborious, it is better to use secateurs and cut stems individually.

The question and answers range on all fronts from Hedges to Trees to Roses and even though many of the plants and trees aren't available in India yet this book is a must have since it provides important gardening tips which are universal to gardening no matter what terrain, climate or soil one might have.
Another book which proved to be handy is about flowers is Indian Garden Flowers by Amarjeet Singh Baath. The pictures of flowers are breath taking and the information about which flowers to grow during which seasons is quite handy. At a glance one can recognize the type of flower one wants or has and the care it needs.

Thankfully this was one book that did not get obsessive about the Rose but provided information on flowers like Calendula, Treasure Flower, Sweet Peas, Larkspur etc and also talks about raising the plants from seeds, propagation etc.

In fact, I gained courage to buy Namdhari Seeds and plant my own seeds and within a few months reaped the benefits of seeing thriving plants and flowers.
My search for good gardening books is ongoing and I will continue to share reviews of books that have proved to be of help in my venture to restore some beauty to my neglected garden.

Deepti Lamba is a writer, an editor for Desicritics. She can be found at Things That Bang
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Book Review: The Penguin Book Of Gardening In India


Author: Deepti Lamba


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June 18, 2007
07:33 AM

Thanks Deepti for this post, I am sure there is one person I know, my maa, who would like this post as she maintains a garden on her own and spends close to 2 hours daily in pruning, watering, spraying pesticides, etc.

The next thing she would ask me over phone after she reads this post is can you get this book for me :)

Deepti Lamba
June 18, 2007
10:51 AM

Thanks Tanay, your mom seems to be an awesome gardener. Her garden looked magical in the pictures that you had forwarded some months back;)

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