CHENNAI: The smell of fresh basil that wafts in the air whenever someone touches the plant, ah, it never fails to make me feel like a million bucks. Add to that the smell of freshly watered pots on a hot day. I’m convinced that having a few plants around you is the most inexpensive ticket to heaven!
More and more city folks are making their garden a little green nook. Thankfully, more and more people are also getting back to composting waste at home instead of throwing it out surreptitiously in street corners or leaving it out for door-to-door garbage collectors. The composter in our house, called Kambha, is over 12 years old, and I’ve been happily reaping ‘black gold’ or compost for that long now. One of the most common questions that people ask when they see a home composter is, “But doesn’t it stink?”
“Of course not!” I say, with a flourish, sometimes opening the composter to show off the merrily de-composting kitchen waste. Sometimes I answer with a flourish, but keep the lid on — not everyone can stay composed when they see maggots in the compost bin. Very hardworking and harmless these critters are, but not really pretty. If maintained properly, compost never stinks. A mild earthy smell, yes, but nothing revolting.
But we’re digressing. Today’s column is about filling your little space with good smells. Herbs such as mint, tulsi, fennel, lemongrass, and different varieties of basil are an easy choice. Flowers such as jasmine grow nicely in containers, though they need good sunlight. The nityamalli in our balcony is growing nicely in a pot, escaping the grill and flowering outside the balcony. The flowers are therefore out of reach on most days, but who cares, the beautiful mild fragrance knows no boundaries and wafts right in with the evening breeze.
If your balcony gets enough sun through the day, then you can grow rose, tuberose, sugandhi and many other flowering plants. But if there is partial or low sunlight then one has to keep trying to see which flowering plant does well. My dwarf Rangoon creeper has neither crept nor flowered in the balcony though it used to flower profusely when it was in the terrace. The paneer rose in the balcony flowered just once, but sadly, withered away. The smell of these roses lingers in my mind. Brahma Kamalam, the Queen of the Night, hasn’t graced our humble balcony yet, but I’m hoping this fragrant and ethereal beauty will bloom in a few months.
If you like the slightly sharp smell of marigolds and geraniums, go for them. They are easy to grow, colourful and great pest controllers. There is an elephant-foot yam growing in a growbag. I’m waiting with a sort of morbid interest for the flower to shoot up. It seems the purple inflorescence of the shenai (suran) plant is beautiful but gives out a putrid smell that attracts bees and other pollinating insects. Well, one can’t ask for everything, all the time. The lemongrass and basil nod their heads as I write this.
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Little space with good smell
If your balcony gets enough sun through the day, then you can grow rose, tuberose, sugandhi and many other flowering plants. But if there is low sunlight, then one has to try to see which flowering plant does well. If you like the slightly sharp smell of marigolds and geraniums, go for them. They are easy to grow, colourful and great pest controllers. With a bit of trial and error, most balconies can be a treat to all our senses.