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.


Bubbly Bala said...

What beautiful flowers and the plants are so healthy too. I love the beautiful colour. You sure have green fingers like your patti and your father. How Pops would have loved looking after your hibiscus plants. How come Nammu has left them on the plant.

Jaya & Liby said...

We had a profusion of hisbiscus while growing up in Calcutta - the red ones both single and multi petalled. Last year at IRMA I had the yellow variety with a tinge of red in the middle...I think till I got to my teens this was the chief ingredient for all hair wash - either the leaves or the flowers or both boiled and crushed in the mixie into a silky paste, mixed with besan and applied to the hair - lovely cool shampooie feeling. Though washing it off was tricky! In more recent times I've also come to value it for its benefits in regulating the menstrual cycle. Auroville makes hibiscus jams:)

Natasha said...

Thank you, Padma - I had forgotten all about the multi petalled ones - the ones I knew were dark pink in colour, and they were gorgeous.

I used hibiscus hair oil in my teens, but they came out of a bottle you got from the store. Am almost tempted to try to make some hair-product with the leaves from my plant.

Never knew about hibiscus jam - does it taste as good as it sounds?


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