Operation Desert Rose
By Sunita Raghu | Published: 04th November 2012 12:00 AM |
Around 60 km from Chennai, in a thoroughly pleasant bucolic setting nestles a farm, a nature lover’s paradise with many different species of trees and birds, a pretty-looking pond and bamboo thicket. However, what gets precedence on this 15-acre farm is the adenium flower. As far as the eye can see, it’s adenium country, rows and rows of pink, red, white, red with splotches of white, white with dashes of pink and yellow adeniums in all their single-petalled and double-petalled avatars. Given its exorbitant pricing, it’s a king’s ransom out there. Welcome to Reddy Farms, which boasts the single largest collection of adenium in perhaps the whole of India.
Lording over his adenium kingdom is the 50-plus Jalandar Reddy. So why this fascination for adeniums? “I owe this huge enterprise to a certain gentleman from Pune who being the only cultivator of adeniums in India at that time, refused to sell me any. I was so irked by his attitude that I then and there decided that I would not only make the flower available to all the households in India, but also price it competitively,” says Reddy.
That is no idle boast. In 2004, armed with 150 adenium plants, he started to cultivate them in earnest on his ancestral property. Since then the numbers have multiplied, from 150 to 300, 300 to 3,000 and 3,000 to 30,000.
Explaining its characteristics Reddy says, “Adeniums thrive in hot places. Sunlight is like a balm to their soul with water (poured indiscriminately) being its nemesis.” No wonder the adeniums planted in plastic bags, pots and other containers at the farm contain sandy soil so that the water can drain away. “There’s another name for this flower — desert rose,” he reveals, adding that these are hardy plants that can grow in any kind of soil.
The farm has a vast green house and it’s like a veritable factory — out of neatly laid out containers — rows and rows of them — peep out green little seedlings, which are then transported to black plastic bags after gaining in height and width. Paradoxically enough, the seedlings are vulnerable to the harsh sun and that’s why they need to be kept in the green house initially, informs Reddy.
In another section big-sized adeniums rest in gigantic pots. Reddy informs with pride that they sell easily over a lakh. Most of them are sporting pink flowers. Elsewhere, there are adeniums in different hues. “If someone wants 30 different colours in one plant. I can give that too,” says Reddy, adding that the answer lies in grafting. For the original colour of the adenium flower is pink. After much experimentation, the horticulturist has come up with the double petal variety.
First discovered in Africa, adenium cultivation is practised largely in Thailand and parts of southeast Asia. “We were 40 years behind these countries. Its only in the last few years that we have narrowed the gap by 10 years,” says Reddy whose aim is to spread awareness of the flower all over India with each household owning one. After all till a few years ago, adeniums were selling upwards of Rs 5,000 per plant, targeted only at exports. “I want to bring the price down to Rs 25 so that everybody can afford to buy the beautiful desert rose,” claims Reddy. Quite an altruistic motive.
Single petal variety: Rs 44
Double petal variety:Rs 66
For more info: www.adeniumsindia.com