Last Bloom, April 2017
Early 1998, I visited Bhopal for some work. Bhopal has a lot of plant nurseries and supplies them to many places in India. I also decided to buy some plants. I knew little about exotic plants then. A friend of mine helped me select some nice plants and one of them was a small sapling of adenium (native to Africa) bought for a meagre Rs. 20/-. I carried the plants back to Delhi in a train with great care. After reaching Delhi I transplanted them and generally forgot about them. I would barely manage to water the plants once a week.
During periods of long depression I went through till 2005, sometimes plants will not get watered for weeks. At times I would go out of Delhi for months at a stretch. My sister living nearby would get my house plants watered occasionally in my absence. I added organic fertilizers to the plants once or twice in a decade. Many of my plants died in this general atmosphere of neglect. However, the adenium thrived. By default it was placed at the most sunny spot in the balcony which suited the alluring desert rose perfectly. It bloomed regularly every year with lovely pink & white flowers. Its caudex became big and intriguing. Occasionally I would admire the twists and turns of its caudex. It was tall and graceful. Very different from the hybrid/grafted variety sold in the nurseries these days. Every year in the month of June I would notice thin, hairy things flying around in my balcony and wonder where these have come from. In my colossal ignorance I did not realize that these were adenium seeds. The seedpods had opened and precious seeds dispersed all over.
In April 2017 as a diversion from life’s travails my interest in gardening got revived after decades. Soon my small balcony was full of new plants. At that time the adenium was in full bloom and pride of my balcony garden. Its flowers exquisite! I had finally begun to fully appreciate the mystique of the desert rose. That year for the first time I enthusiastically waited for the seedpods to emerge. By then I had educated myself on the subject. The adenium plant gave three seedpods that year. I planted 50 odd adeniums seeds. Gave one seedpod to my sister. Soon I had several seedlings. I distributed them to my friends and relatives. Unfortunately most of them died over a period of time except two at my sister’s place. Apparently in my impatience I had harvested the two seedpods before they matured fully.
In May 2018 the adenium started to die. My over caring for a year and lack of Sun (as my adjoining neighbour constructed a wall that year which blocked the morning Sun and light in my balcony) smothered it. I noticed the soft caudex but failed to act in time. Too late I made efforts to save it but to no avail. I desperately planted its stems, roots in separate pots hoping for some new growth but to my utter despair nothing happened. After 20 years I lost it. Deserted it had bloomed, cared for it perished!
Unable to bear the loss I bought several new adenium plants to replace my old adenium. They all adorn my small balcony. But it just does not feel the same. How I wish that the old neglected adenium, I had taken for granted for so many years, had aged with me!
Shobha Aggarwal can be contacted at [email protected]