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3rdWith winter truly on the cards, sweaters and shawls unearthed and steaming nihari topping the seasonal menu, it is easy to forget that tender plants – especially exotic imports – also need cool weather care.

Sunny days can be deceptively warm with brisk winds and chilly garden nights being blown completely out of mind and – perhaps not in a matter of hours but over a period of time – susceptible plant species such as orchids, exotic ferns and recently emerged seedlings, suffer badly and it is not unusual for them to curl up and die. Yet, such losses are easy to avoid; all it takes is forethought. Orchids for example – unless they are a particularly hardy species – should be moved, if not indoors, to a very sheltered spot where the wind cannot even think of penetrating. In the case of extremely delicate varieties, creating individual, ‘mini-greenhouses’ (which can be made out of lengths of bamboo shrouded in securely fastened, clear plastic to encase the pot in) are an ideal winter overcoat not only for orchids, but other fragile plants as well. However, if the humidity inside these becomes very high, remove the ‘greenhouses’ for a couple of hours around noon on sunny days to prevent the formation of fungal infections and rot.

Seedlings, be these of flowers grown for a colourful spring display or of warmth loving tomatoes, are much easier to cater to. Pot and tray-sown seedlings can be covered with a length of clear plastic or even discarded, light weight, bamboo blinds, from sunset until dawn – but not during daylight hours, unless temperatures are unacceptably low. This method can be used to protect garden seed beds as well, where it is advisable that the plastic is securely fixed over a supportive cane or metal frame so that it does not blow away with the wind.

Winter warmth is as essential to delicate plants as it is for their human counterparts.

– B. Khan

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 30, 2014.