Saturday, June 14, 2014

Buying seeds and plants from Abroad

There is an increasing trend in gardeners in Pakistan to buy seeds and plants online and grow them in Pakistan. While there is no harm in doing that but one must keep in mind that local indigenous flora must be protected and alien species should not take over them. Here are some of the tips when buying seeds and plants from internet. Just a slight note here

What is Pakistan plant zone? Zone 9?
When buying seeds and plants online then every website has categorized the plant into various zones. Generally speaking the lower the zone, the colder it is. And higher the zone, warmer it is. But one must kept in mind that these zones were created keeping in mind the USA climate and not the climate of Pakistan. Basically plant zone (Also known as hardiness zone) tells you whether a plant growing in this zone will survive its winters or not? It does not tell you whether it will survive the summers or humidity of that area.
So zone 9 or zone 10 does give you a hint that a plant has potential to grow in that area but it does not give you guarantee that it will grow well there. So always consult your local horticultural society or Facebook group or any gardening forum whether this plant/seed is suitable to the area or not, before you buy. Remember, not only hardiness zone but relative humidity in that area, day night temperature difference also play an important role in success of a plant.

The higher you go in altitude, the zone goes lower, so Islamabad is cooler than Lahore and hardiness zone of Islamabad is 9 which is lower than zone 10 of Lahore. Similarly Murree might be in Zone 8 and Skardu might be in Zone 7 (approximate). So your motia cannot survive the winter of murree but grows very good in Lahore. Similarly plants like clematis and hydrangea do not grow in Lahore but feel at home in Murree and high altitudes.

In my experience, for Lahore, see if the plant grows well in Phoenix, Arizona, USA then it will survive the summers of lahore. Because phoenix arizona is also a semi desert city and Lahore is semi desert in summers. Lahore has subtropical and semi arid climate. Karachi is more tropical than Lahore. Hawai USA is zone 11 and it is pure topical, has lots of beaches and humid climate. Srilanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and all tropical in nature and this is the reason most of plant containers bought by big nurseries are always from this cities/countries :)

There is a relatively better measure than winter hardiness zone and that is called heat zone. Heat zone combined with hardiness zone are better indicator of plant success in that area.

From where to buy
Apart from local seeds vendors there are many online international seeds vendors who will deliver to Pakistan. Whenever you will buy from an online seeds/plant shop, first check if the website has Pakistan in its country list both in the delivery address and in the billing address. If Pakistan is not in country list in delivery address then it cannot ship to Pakistan. If Pakistan is not present in country list in Billing address then it means Credit/Debit card of Pakistan cannot be used for making transaction.
Always always mention to the seller website that the seeds packet must be marked as a gift item for horticulture use and must not mention seeds price. This will avoid custom issues :)
Online shops will send you through air mail but may not send you the tracking code. Tracking code can be checked on that country's postal website.

some of the reliable seeds shops which deliver to Pakistan include Chiltern Seeds UK, Thompson and morgran UK, Georgia Vines USA, Sunshine Seeds Germany etc. Also find some of my reviews of international seeds vendors here and here

Restrictions on importing seeds and plants
When importing seeds or plants through post or mail office, your package might get seized by the GPO specially if it is large order or a live plant. Either you can bribe the guys at GPO (not recommended) or go the official way. The official way is that you have to get certificates from both Environment Protection department and from seeds corporation department. The guys from environment protection department will physically check your package and then approve it.

Generally speaking small orders reach home directly. I have ordered up till 25 seeds packet to Lahore but never had a problem.

When bringing plants through luggage, there is not restriction, you can bring whatever you want unless it is a huge plant noticeable by everyone and some official stops you:)

For importing live plants through Post, phytosanitary certificate is required. This certificate is issued by the seller website and they charge extra for that. Again, there are workaround to resolve this issue in GPO :)

Remember, the GPO will always impose customs duty on your plants and seeds too, if they seize your package.

Best time to import bulbs/seeds
Never buy bulbs from abroad during hottest months specially Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar etc. Unless the bulbs are of summer planting like gloriosa lily, tube rose etc. Bare roots, try to get in cooler months, cooler the climate, better it is. Remember, and i repeat again, Spring of UK and most Europe is not our spring .Their summer is cooler than ours and not our summers. If you get bulbs from abroad, plant them as soon as possible. In case of bulbs, try to dispatch the bulbs to some relative of yours in the seller country like UK, USA etc and ask them to bring the package in their luggage. Buying bulbs through post creates many issues. Just to give you a hint, most south african bulbs do very good here. And some australian too.

Seeds can be bought year round. Although most of seeds mentioned in summer catalog of US and UK seeds shops are planted in Fall in hot climate cities like Lahore and Karachi however seeds like morning glory, rudbeckia etc are summer sown here. Seeds if need to be stored should be stored in fridge in zip lock baggie which are easily available. Here are some of my tips for successful seeds germination 

Making online transactions
Best option is to use your debit credit card. Remember Paypal does not support pakistan and for purchasing through paypal you need to have an international paypal account. Credit cards work fine but not all debit cards work. I have successfully used Standard Chartered debit card, UBL prepaid visa card, MCB prepaid visa debit card and i believe there are few others debit card as well. But not all debit cards work online. For some banks cards, you need to activate your card for internet shopping for limited time duration, always note that the website might complete your transaction immediately after completing your order but your card might be charged much later. Always use that website which make use of 3 digit CVV code on the back of your card.

I hope this guide was helpful to the newbies and gardeners interested in buying seeds, bulbs and plants online. Your comments are always welcome and i will try my best to give answers to any of your questions as soon as possible. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Flowers - My Garden 2014

Here are some pics from my container garden on roof top:

Dahlia fireworks mixed, From seeds.
All my roses are first year except double delight.

Burgundy iceberg, i am big fan of icebergs, they are top floribunda. First year, so kept only one bloom, rest pinching till next year.

Brilliant Pink Iceberg, Own root. I have planted another own root pin iceberg at bottom of my neem tree as iceberg is very shade tolerant, i will show its pics next year.

Fragrant plum grandiflora. Wonderful scent. I am enjoying my roses in pots a lot.

This is French Lace, a floribunda, i love its color and its compact size. Own root.

A miniature rose, my kid removed its tag, its a famous named variety. Own root.

Another mini rose, i think it is winsome. Own root.

Petunias and in center dimore.

Amaryllis Tres Chick

Carnation, I intend to keep them as perennial, lets see if they survive monsoons.

In my soil bed


Aster Pink tower, From seed. The actual plant has around 6 flowers but i could not take picture.

Brunfelsia, growing under neem tree, doing fine.

This post is included in Garden Blogger's bloom day, an online gardening event held on 15th of each month. Visit Carol's Blog May Dreams Gardens for other beautiful post.

This post is also included in Yellow mellow monday. Do visit the website for more beautiful flowers

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tips on Growing Roses

Roses like temperate climate, neither very hot nor very cold. In Lahore, the months of October to April are good for rose growth. Roses do not like humidity hence monsoon is hard for roses. Here are some tips on roses which are my personal experience. I would like to extend my thanks to Umar Khan from Mardan, Dr Amer and Umar from Lahore for giving me some valuable tips. You can see some of my roses below, all are growing in pots on my rooftop:

Jude the obscure, a David Austin rose, very fragrant

Double Delight, a Hybird tea rose, very fragrant

Pink Iceberg rose, most prolific bloomer, a floribunda. This is own root iceberg.

Shifting/ Planting Roses

Time to plant
Just like every plant is shifted when it is dormant, roses are no exception. Roses do not go fully dormant in lahore but are semi dormant in winter months. So always shift or buy roses in months of December or January. Second best months include November and February. Never ever shift your roses in hot months. When buying a grafted rose, always chose the one with healthy graft.

How to shift
  1. Always shift in evening. 
  2. Hoe twice as deep before placing the rootball at new location so that the newly plant rose will have soft, aerated soil beneath it to grow roots easily.
  3. Try not to break the root ball (gatchi). Although in winter months, breaking the gatchi or root ball will not kill your plant but it is best to plant with as much soil attached as possible. 
  4. Plant as soon as possible after getting the new rose or existing one removing from soil/pot. Although in winter months, roses can survive for weeks if they are kept moist with rootball and not left bone dry.
  5. After shifting your rose, it may yellow its leaves and shed all the leaves. It is normal and plant will being new growth in few weeks.
  6. Give ample water for the first time after shifting. And then water only when the soil goes dry. If you plant in pots then water freely until water goes to bottom of pot and you can see it coming from bottom.
Fertilizing Roses
  1.  Never fertilize your newly shifted roses until you see the new growth. 
  2. For first year, use dilute fertilizer and not full concentration recommended.
  3. Generally roses in pots require more fertilizer as compared to soil bed. Better to give 1/4th dosage every 2 weeks.
  4. Do not fertilize in winter months when plant is not growing actively. 
  5. Roses like phosphorus and magnesium so Epsom salt is good for roses as well as phosphorus based fertilizers. Give less nitrogen so for NPK based fertilizer first number should be low.  
  6. I personally use local 5-15-45 NPK based water soluble fertilizer with trace elements. Always choose a fertilizer having trace elements like magnesium, iron etc. 
  7. Another good feed is to give one teaspoon of SSP and half teaspoon of nitrophos to roses every month specially in areas which water is alkaline. I have personally tested this regimen and it is very effective.
  1. Roses full direct sun as much as possible. However give shade in after noon in hot summer months.
  2. Some roses tolerate partial shade, one example is iceberg.
  3. Roses will grow in around 4 hours direct sun but will give less flowers. If you have less than 4 hours direct sun, do not grow roses.
Watering / Drainage
  1. Roses love water but need good drainage. If water is standing in your pot for many hours after watering then it is not good drainage. Same applied to soil bed.  
  2. To improve drainage, mix organic matter like old rotted cow manure or leaf compost etc in the soil bed. I use local plant fert fetilizer for drainage. You can mix peat moss as well.
  3. Cow dung manure must be at least an year old. In punjabi it is called kamela. Cow dung manure is suitable in winter months while leaf compost is suitable in summer months.
  4. You can go for overhead watering but not in the evening. 
Diseases / Pests
  1. Insects:  Most common pests for roses are aphids (in spring specially), mites (mostly in hot dry months), mealy bugs etc. If it is an early attack of insects then use a strong force of water on underside of leaves in the morning (never in evening). If attack is severe then better to use organic home made sprays or as last resort use following insecticides:
    1. Acetamaprid kills aphids, mealybugs and mites
    2. Imidacloprid kills aphids (Tela) only
    3. Bayer Oberon kills all kind of mites
  2.  Fungus: Fungus attacks due to poor circulation of air or over head watering in the evening. Mildew is a fungus which is of two types, downy mildew and powdery mildew. Use Bayer's Aliette‎. 
  3. Blackspot: Choose those plants which are resistant to black spot. pick infected leaves and burn them otherwise it will spread fast.
Rose Classes
  1. Hyibrd Tea are large flowered roses. If you are after large flowers but do not care about number of flowers then go for hybird tea. Some famous examples are double delight, Peace, California dreaming, fragrant plum, Mr Lincon etc. If you are after most fragrant roses then go for hybird teas.
  2. Floribunda are prolific flowering roses. If you want a rose covered with flowers but do not care about very large size then choose floribunda type of rose. They do not carry as great scent as hybird teas but compensate that with the clusters of flowers. Floribundas are better candidate for pot growing as compared to hybird teas. some famous examples are iceberg, daybreaker, angel face. 
  3. Grandiflora are best of both worlds floribunda and Hybird tea. Flower shape is like hybird tea but shape of plant is bushy like floribunda. One famous grandiflora is Fragrant Plum.
  4. Miniature are small flowering roses suited to pot culture. Although the miniature does not refer to mini size of roots but generally speaking most miniatures can be grown in small pots. Some famous miniature roses are sunblaze, ballerina etc.
How roses are propagated:
Although there are many methods but two are most common.
- By cutting  Rose is grown from its cutting. Plant grown from cuttings is exact replica of parent, all traits. Own root roses take little more time to establish but are make better bush than grafted ones. Most miniatures are own root. Iceberg is also propagated by cuttings.
- By grafting Most of rose plants available at nurseries are grafted. Grafted roses are composed of two roses. Rose 1 is a common rose having roots while rose 2 is the-rose-you-want and both roses are combined so that your-wanted-rose grows on top of common rose. It grows faster than own root rose but you have to remove suckers from this rose. Suckers are shoots produced from the common rose and they take energy away from the-rose-you-want. Check this image for difference between the two
 General Tips
  1. Generally speaking, remove spent flowers will yield more flowers.
  2. Pruning and hoeing is recommended as soon as you see rose breaking its dormancy.
  3. Remove flower buds during May-September so that plant puts more energy in root development instead of poor flowers in hot summer months.
  4. You can also remove flower buds in first year of planting new rose for the above reason.
  5. Do not prune your plant first year. Second year, light pruning. 
  6. In hot climates you can keep graft bud just below the soil surface while in cold climates you should keep it much below the soil surface
This post i am linking to Macro Monday , Today's Flowers , Wordless Wednesday, , Fertilizer Friday, Floral Friday

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Kitchen Gardening Training (Dada pota show)

Dear All,

It is a pleasure for me to let you know that PAMCO ( is organizing a series of Kitchen gardening workshops with a collaboration from Data pota show website . You need to register yourself at  and then you will be contacted to participate in the training.

Training will be held every Saturday by Mr Imran (Horticulture officer at PAMCO) and this Saturday its venue is railway station, lahore.

For more details, keep listening to data pota show and dada pota website. I will keep updating you in this regard.

Winner of best photo blogger