Thursday, September 18, 2008
Every garden I grew up with in Jharkhand had a profusion of hibiscus plants. Not sure if it was because the soil there was conclusive to hibiscus or because the maalis liked having relatively low maintenance plants in their gardens, or simply because the memsahibs liked the stereotypical tropical flower - but hibiscus was one flower we never ran out of.
There was not too much you could do with hibiscus flowers - you could string them into garlands, but you rarely did that because the flowers were were so sticky you had to wash the needles before you could use them again. And besides, what do you do with garlands that are too large to pin to your hair?
The multiple hues of the flowers held great promise - you could perhaps use the flowers to colour the chalk drawings you made on the cement driveway. You never tried that except that once - the colours that looked so beautiful on the flowers turned out to be an ugly black when you tried painting with them.
Hibiscus flowers were pretty, but they were rather pointless. Or so I thought, till I discovered that it was possible to peel the 'stalk' away, and expose the entire reproductive system of the flower. Many are the hours I spent laboriously peeling the flower to expose the pistil - the style curving gently upwards to meet the anter and the filament.
How many flowers I destroyed in my quest for the perfect specimen, I do not even care to remember, but what I do know is that when we finally learnt about stamens and pistils in school, there was nothing the diagrams could teach me that I did not already know.
Any wonder then that my hibiscus plant is one of my favourites. It is a grafted variety where the flowers last only for a day, but I given the fact that I am rarely without hibiscus blooms, I am not complaining.