The Grumpy Naturalist

A Rose by Another Name : 90 second read by Farriz Mashudi 18/01/2021

My desert rose plant may as well be the crystalline kind compressed from rock-hard sand for all the flowering it wasn’t doing.

Is it over-watering if the soil is hard and all the moisture I’m pouring so earnestly runs straight through? No, there’s no leaf-rot on the foliage, I’ve checked … Its leaves aren’t yellowing (anymore) and aren’t dropping now that it’s out from under the porch. With the less shade, does it still want more sun?

Mocking me, I chance upon a pair with an abundance of flowers framed by manifold clusters of shiny paddle-shaped leaves. Standing guard and doing their house proud, they’re stunning in a giddy fuchsia and the most intense green. (I’m meant to collect my child from a playdate, but have completely forgotten now why I’m here). —Bonsai only in shape, these two are giants! It’s me who’s stumped.

“They like to be left alone,” their proud mum shares. HAH! A likely story.

Camel dung, horse manure pellets, organic drops … I’m still searching for the right plant food. Seems everyone’s got a special formula their babies like. What more can I do?

Next stop, on our way home, at my friend V’s: with their fat bulbous roots, hers, I have to say, are even more amazing. There must be a secret to this. She smiles, knowingly.

“Come,” she calls, “But be quiet.” Her gardener speaks no English, V adds, as if to make a point.

Today in Messilah Gardens —Could we do with some tlc?

Only allowed to watch, at first, I’m mystified, then enthralled. Seems there is a magic going on. —Smiling enchantingly, singing softly at times, never raising his voice, he was tenderly chatting … with the plants. But also caressing and patting, blowing sweet nothings, even kissing them.

“Why not?” V says. “You’ve tried everything else.”

She was right. My painfully suffering Adenium at home all those years ago couldn’t get much worse— and happily, soon showed signs of appreciating the cheering up.

Also called the ‘Desert Azalea’ or ‘Mock Azalea’, click here for more stats on Adenium obesum.

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