While the coronavirus-induced lockdown may have put a damper on many spirits, residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have found a new hobby to fill their time at home. According to local garden centres and nurseries, residents seem to have grown a green thumb over the course of the shutdown, causing a surge in the sale of plants across the twin cities.
Haroon Ahmed from Gujar Khan, who has been associated with the nursery sector for the last 20 years sees the increase in sales as a happy coincidence amid otherwise sombre situations. “I worked for 15 years at a nursery in Karachi before I settled in Rawalpindi. Here I work at a garden centre during the day and at night, I sell my own plants around the city on a push-cart. Be it the nursery I work at or my push cart, there has been a sudden increase in business ever since the pandemic happened and people were made to stay at home,” the plantsman commented. “I think tending to plants is a wonderful hobby and more and more people are taking it up these days,” he added.
Samra, a university student in Islamabad said that she had never considered gardening as a hobby until the lockdown. “I love nature and greenery but without a garden at home, it never appeared to me that I could grow and take care of plants. But my friend gifted me a small desk plant- a succulent of some kind- as a parting gift before I left my hostel, which made me realise that I don’t necessarily need a huge lawn for my newfound interest in taking care of plants. There wasn’t much to do during the lockdown, so I got small pots and hydroponic plants which I could keep in my room and balcony…it looks quite refreshing now,” the student expressed.
On the other hand, seeing the increased demand for garden plants, it appears several twin-city nursery owners have also hiked-up their prices to exorbitant rates in a bid to make hay while the sun shines. “There is no fixed rate by the district administration of Rawalpindi for the sale of plants, so nursery owners can increase the price as they will,” Ahmed informed. Speaking further about recent trends in plant sales, Ahmed told that most ready-made plants can be bought for anywhere between Rs 50 to Rs 700 in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. “People here also like to buy fruit trees like pomegranate, guava, mango, berries and apple. Then there are flowering plants like bougainvilleas, which are quite popular here other than chamomile, pearls, roses, amal tas and etc.”
While nurseries may have jacked up their prices, local plant enthusiasts Chaudhry Arsalan and Matiul Haq, said that they prefer buying their plants from push-cart vendors who not only offer better rates but also the convenience of door-to-door service. “When the push-cart vendor comes to our neighbourhood, our entire family gets to have a say in what plant to buy so it becomes a lovely family activity. The government should work towards promoting such healthy hobbies in Pakistan,” Haq told The Express Tribune.