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Found just about all over Pakistan, both in the wild and in cultivation, our national flower is truly a marvel, and tough cookie that it is, it is highly representative of our national spirit too!

Botanically known as jasminium, more commonly as jasmine and affectionately as chambeli in Urdu, this gorgeous, often fragrant shrub or spectacular climber comes in just about as many varieties as there are dialects in this hugely diverse country. With either white or yellow flowers, which can be single or double, large or small, these highly resilient plants have many uses too.

Top of the favourite list are the powerfully fragrant motia and mogra both of which are traditionally used in the perfume industry and are also woven into the garlands and bracelets so popular with women of all ages for weddings and other celebratory occasions, plus are merrily purchased from roadside vendors whenever an opportunity arises. Chamba, with its single, very perfumed, tiny white flowers is a popular tea ingredient which can also be used to flavour ice-creams, cold drinks and even salads.

The perfumed varieties are especially popular in gardens and can be cultivated directly in the ground or in large pots with traditional clay pots being the best option as they help keep the plant roots cool in hot weather. They are not especially fussy about soil conditions as long as drainage is adequate but all varieties do benefit from a decent feed of organic manure or compost during early spring or early autumn. Over feeding results in lots of lush green growth but diminishes flowering capacity.

The white flowered varieties tend to have a stronger fragrance than the yellow ones, and as a result, are cultivated far more widely. In the wild, however, it is the yellow flowered species which predominate and they are an absolute delight to the eye where they flourish en masse.

– B Khan

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on August 12, 2012.

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