I started interviewing master gardeners last year and posted nice conversations with a couple of gardeners. To resume the activity, I am posting a candid interview with Izahr ul Haq. He is a gardening enthusiast and an active member of Gardening Pakistan forum.
Here goes the conversation –
Tell me something about your garden (is it a lawn, terrace garden, rooftop garden, backyard, and what grows there, vegetables, perennials etc.)?
I started my gardening from balcony pots as I used to live in an apartment, we used to get eastern sun exposure so many of the plants did pretty well there. I am partial toward ornamentals and I learned that key to success is the potting mix that you use, mixing the soil initially with well rotted manure plus adding a little NPK fertilizer kept my plants green, healthy and blooming. Many seasonal plants tend to decline their blooming cycle quiet early in small pots as their nutrients level drops, I solved this issue by dissolving small quantities of NPK fertilizers with watering and it made a lot of difference.
Cosmos in Izhar's Garden
We shifted to another place where I had three gardening places, one was an 11’ x 22’ lawn, another was 11’ x 5’ bed and the third one was 70’ x 2’ long bed containing 6 tall Asoka trees. The lawn and small beds were eastern sun exposures with some parts in shade and the long bed had a south west sun exposure. Careful selection of the plants was necessary according to the sun exposure they prefer. During the winter season in the eastern sun exposure area, I planted Dahlias, Asters, Petunias, Pansies, Shirley Poppies, Nasturtiums and Chrysanthemums while in the shadier spot I planted Impatiens, all these plants did beautifully, in the long bed I planted Salvias, Coleus, Ti-plants and Mirabilis jalapa (4’O clocks) and I was rewarded with some beautiful blooms and foliage. In the summer season the eastern exposure area was filled with Cosmos, Zinnias, Portulacas, Vincas, Tuberose and Cocks comb (Celosia plumosa) the shadier spot I planted Caladiums, plants looked gorgeous until the mid of season in July when portulacas and Celosia started to die but Zinnias, Cosmos and Vincas became more gorgeous with time and covered up the space. In the longer bed I planted multicolored Sunflowers and Gaillardia.
Salvias in Izhar's Garden
The Sunflowers grew tall and had to support them with thin bamboo canes, the problem arrived when they started blooming as lots of birds trying to feast on the seed heads destroyed many blooms and plants, so it proved to be a not-so-good choice, while Gaillardia did well and bloomed entire season. The Mirabilis which were planted in winter season were still growing but they haven’t produced any blooms, by August end we left that house so the watering and nurturing was ended for these plants, after a month later in October I went to the same place and was amazed by the flower power of Mirabilis as each of the plant was literally covered with hundreds of blooms and it was an amazing sight.
In the present place I have made 11 beds in an open area in front of my house each bed is 10’ x 3’ and has south eastern sun exposure, the plants I am growing nowadays include Dahlias, Cosmos, Petunias, Hibiscus (from seeds), Antirrhinums, Marigolds (French & African), Rudbeckias, Holly hocks, Daturas, Mirabilis, Begonias, Ranunculus, Gladiolus, Gazania, Salvia, Geranium, Impatiens, Sweet peas, Nasturtiums, Pentas, Bellis, Poppies and some others. Dahlias, Cosmos, Petunias, Hibiscus, Daturas and French Marigolds have started blooming.
What is gardening to you (how important is it you to have a garden in your home)?
Gardening has become my major hobby (as I have other hobbies of pets keeping and fish keeping). As the size of my garden is increasing the involvement is also increasing my father supports me in this and we do not acquire services of any gardener and do all the work by ourselves. It’s been a great hobby and I love acquiring more knowledge about the plants and their needs through internet and books. Being member of international and national gardening forum helps me greatly in understanding the how-to stuff. Growing plants makes me feel the sense of accomplishment and I feel great pleasure just watching my garden and plants.
When and how did you start gardening?
I started gardening very early during my early school days, I use to save my pocket money to buy potted plants from nursery near my school.
What is blooming in your garden today?
Dahlias, French Marigolds, Petunias, Pentas, Mirabilis, Impatiens, Begonia, Salvia, Hibiscus and Cosmos
What type(s) of plants do you grow (flowering, fruits, cacti)?
I am partial towards ornamentals including annuals and perennials, but right now with some larger space I am growing Bell peppers, Tomatoes and Spinach as well.
What grows in your dream garden (if climate allows, what would you love to grow in your garden)?
Flowers and lots of flowers… including Tuberous Begonias, Daffodils, Bearded Iris etc
Name your favorites?
I love almost everything I grow, so nothing but all are favorites
Why is it your favorite?
Any plant growing healthy and vigorously becomes by favorite
How much personal time do you spare for your garden every week?
One hour daily and 8 hours on weekends
Who/what inspired you the most towards gardening?
Gardens of home gardeners around the world inspire me most, like if they can do this why cant I.
Do you have a specific monthly budget for your hobby?
No not specifically
What is you take on organic and inorganic gardening?
For Vegetables I stick strongly to organic and for ornamentals both.
What is your major challenge as a gardener?
Workforce, with expansion of garden we sometimes think to have an additional hand as it takes a big chunk of time in cleaning and watering the beds
What was your last purchase (gardening item)?
Do you remember your first plant?
Jasmine sambac (Motia)
Are you an experimental gardener?
No but like trying techniques referred by other gardeners.
What is your most memorable achievement as a gardener?
Nothing as such
What is the mission behind gardening forum that you run?
The forum encourages every gardener to be successful in the hobby by learning techniques and sharing experiences, it leads to a sense of satisfaction and relaxes mind. Displaying the pictures of garden and blooms creates a feeling of pride and accomplishment, the complimentary remarks encourages the gardeners to pursue more in this field creating a pleasurable sight for themselves and acquaintance around them.