The Philippine Violet

barleria cristata
The PHILIPPINE VIOLET also known as the DECEMBER FLOWER is an old-world garden favourite.  December is one of the most gorgeous months of the year in South India.  It’s chill, but just enough to make the heart sing.  The glorious pink Tabebuias and Poinsettias are in full bloom, as are some of their more terrestrial kin.
philippine-violetDecember shrubs themselves look fairly unremarkable throughout the year, until they burst into bloom in the winter.  They are hardy shrubs that grow to about three feet in height, making them excellent stand-alone plants to grow in pots, or even as box-hedges around lawns.
Phlippine violet
How can you grow some of these beauties in your garden ?  Well since they are native to this part of the world, they don’t need too much fussing over.  If you spot a December bush in a neighbour’s yard or growing wild by the roadside, take a nice woody cutting from the bottom of the plant, (if it is in your neighbour’s yard, please take their permission).  Make sure the cutting has at least a couple of leaf nodes from which it can produce new shoots once you plant it.  Strip the leaves off the plant, and plant it in a sunny spot, making sure you bury at least one of the nodes.  You can plant your cutting in a large 20 cm pot too, if you like.  Water it everyday, until you see tender shoots emerging, and keep up with the daily watering until the shoots are at least 10-15 cm in length.  You can ease up on the watering to once in three days, after that.
philippine violet 2
Decembers are perennials.  The upside is that you don’t have to replant a December bush every year.  But don’t be surprised if your plant doesn’t bloom for a couple of years.  Over time, it’ll adapt itself to its surroundings and sync up with the other Decembers in your neighbourhood.  And when it blooms, gather the flowers and string them up in a nice bunch and tuck the flowers in your hair.
————Sriram Aravamudan.  

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