How does your garden grow?

Mine doesn’t, and neither have I ever had any interest in making it.

However, the green fingers around me here at Sambhavna must be soaking in, as I am full of good intentions for my return to the UK. Visions of  sunny window boxes full of herbs and lemongrass, and spending long summer days at one with nature in my parents’  garden growing pears and plums and tomatoes have filled my head of late (bearing in mind that I have NEVER planted anything in my life, except some cress when I was six; I fear this may be yet another case of endless procrastination) and I am hoping that writing about the plants in the garden at Sambhavna might give me, and you too if this sounds familiar, the encouragement to make it happen.

Since I am drinking hibiscus and lemongrass tea (left), which is what prompted me to stop procrastinating  for once and actually write this, and because it is one of my favourite flowers in the garden I thought I should start with hisbiscus.

The garden here is sprayed with vibrant red hibiscus flowers, lining pathways and creeping up bamboo canes. I am continually surprised by the rate at which it grows and re-flowers, it seems the flowers grow back almost faster than you can pick them.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, to give it its proper name, comes in many different varieties and is often grown purely for aesthetic purposes. It grows throughout Asia and can be found in red, pink, peach and white, several of which can be found here at Sambhavna.

However, its aesthetic pleasures are just the beginning as hibiscus has alot to offer. It is often used in salads in Southeast Asia and is considered to be a highly effective hair treatment, both to increase shiny healthy hair and to prevent hair fall (men all over India will be delighted to know this, the range of ‘hair fall’ treatments is almost as vast as skin bleaching products for women). I recently mashed some up with aloe vera and plastered it all over my head. I’m not actually sure how much difference a one-off application made but there’s nothing like applying fresh organic natural plants to your body to make you feel a bit smug and self-satisfied for being ‘at one with nature’! Hibiscus flowers are also used to shine shoes in India. The red flowers in particular are often used in tantric practices and for religious rights, they are the devotional flowers of the great Hindu goddess, Devi.

The medicinal properties are also bountiful. Hibiscus leaves have been proven to reduce blood sugar, and are used frequently as treatment here at Sambhavna, where diabetes is a major health concern.  The plant is also known to have anti-proliferative effects on cancer cells and can be used to treat kidney and heart disease.  Essential oil made from hibiscus has been successfully used to treat fungal infections of the feet, and in some countries it is used to treat sexually-transmitted infections.

Hibiscus tastes great in tea (especially with lemongrass), and the leaves can be eaten fresh off the plant or dried and used in Chinese medicine. Try this recipe, or just do as I do and chuck some in a pot of water with some lemongrass and boil it up. It looks a bit suspect as the dye comes out of the flowers and turns the water black but it tastes great and it’s really refreshing.

It appears that hibiscus is something that you graft, rather than plant. I’m afraid I can’t help you out with the ins and out of soil composition and I’m not even sure if it can grow in the UK but if you find out then let me know, and in the meantime perhaps I need to spend some more time with Ratna in the garden!

Happy Easter and happy planting (or grafting) from all of us at Sambhavna XO

Girl with candle Bhopal

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