The banyan tree is central to several Asian religions including Hinduism & Buddhism. Banyan refers to many species of fig, but most specifically to the Indian banyan, Ficus benghalensis. Banyans also serve a practical purpose, as a shady place for merchants to meet – banya is from the Gujarati word for trader. The epiphytic tree starts by wrapping itself around a host tree before plunging roots into the ground – a convenient metaphor for forces beyond human control, or struggle more generally. The banyan is sacred to Buddhists as a place of reflection. After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha is said to have sat under a banyan for seven days, reflecting.
Gorgeous intense blue-purple flowers with pale centres borne in dense clusters & aromatic dark green evergreen leaves. A lovely small rhododendron shrub that would make a great focal point designed into a border, bed or standalone container.
I love Nelumbo nucifera for a multitude of reasons. Not only is its statuesque form truly iconic but it is a staple edible with a large geographical range from Asia, Iran eastwards to China, Japan and Australia. It is known for its myriad medicinal properties, natural chemicals & removing pollutants from water.
My enchantment with the Sacred Lotus feels very much a coming together, an intertwining of Dhamma & Horticulture. For the Sacred Lotus has many connections with ancient religions too (including Hinduism & Buddhism). Furnishing them with symbols for the mother goddess, purification & reincarnation. It is a preternatural plant yet as I have read relatively easy to grow so was delighted when some seeds were gifted to me by my sister Anju enabling me to experiment growing my very first Sacred Lotus.
Lotus seeds have an extremely thick seed coat that keeps water out enabling them to stay viable for hundreds if not thousands of years. One case in point being Sacred Lotus plants grown from 3,000-year-old seed found in a Jomon – era excavation in Japan.
The act of wearing down the seed coat to allow water in is called scarification. Because the seed coat is particularly thick for Nelumbo nucifera seeds I used a metal file (& a lot of elbow grease!) to get through the 3 layers before getting to the yellow embryo.
Place the scarified seeds into a bowl of water so that they swell & start to sprout. The water gets pretty cloudy so it is important to change the water daily to reduce risk of infections.
Now for patience & daily caring to nurture growth into flowering – so watch this space. In the meantime, I would love to hear from fellow Nelumbo nucifera enthusiasts out there – do get in touch.